The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta



By Herman Wood

(July 17, 2014) ATLANTA – Preparation for the US Open is underway.  The BB&T Atlanta Open gets things started on Saturday, July 19th for the men.  Qualifying begins at 10 AM.  The BB&T Atlanta Open is an ATP 250 event, with a 28 player draw, four of which come from the qualifying tournament.  The qualifying field will have 32 players.  The doubles draw is a 16 team field.  Last year’s champ, John Isner, is returning, along with fellow Americans Sam Querrey, Wimbledon doubles champ Jack Sock, and Donald Young.  Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Radek Stepanek, Ivo Karlovic, Ivan Dodig, Lleyton Hewitt, and the other half of the Wimbledon doubles championship team, Vasek Pospisil, are also expected in the tournament.  The tournament aspires to be a mini US Open, with the venue set among the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta at Atlantic Station.  Atlantic Station is a community within downtown that provides homes for 10,000 people integrated with shopping, restaurants, and retailers that make it a hit with the players.  Besides the attractive venue, players will get a jump on the US Open Series Bonus Challenge, where nearly $40 million in prize money is up for grabs.  This is the third year the tournament has been held at Atlantic Station.

It is a familiar place for Americans, with Isner winning last year, Roddick in 2012, and Fish in 2011.  It has also been comfortable for big man tennis- last year Isner, at 6’10”, overcame Kevin Anderson at 6’8” in three tiebreaks.  Fans in the first couple of rows certainly had to pay attention with the huge serves coming their way.  It is especially familiar for Isner, who competed collegiately just an hour down the road for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, leading the team to a national championship and winning every possible team title in 2007.  He’s usually a fan favorite, with at least a couple of barks from Georgia fans in his favor at each match.  Isner may not be the only recipient of barks; University of Georgia player Austin Smith has accepted a wild card into the main draw. The sophomore from Cumming, Georgia excelled this season as the Bulldogs captured the 2014 SEC Championship. Smith finished with a 35-12 record, and went 9-1 in SEC matches. He has won four USTA Pro Circuit matches. A tournament qualifier in 2011, Smith will be playing his debut ATP main draw match.

Another American, Jack Sock, could very well get on a roll at this tournament.  After winning doubles with Pospisil at Wimbledon, he rolled into Newport and eliminated Isner in the Newport Hall of Fame event on grass just a week ago.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to keep that momentum and was eliminated by the veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who went on to win the tournament.  Hewitt’s feisty shouts of “C’mon!” have endeared him to the Atlanta fans in past years.  Fresh off his renewed success at Newport, he could very well win Atlanta.  The main draw was just rounded out with the addition of Ryan Harrison and Robby Ginepri.  “We’re ecstatic to welcome back two of our fan favorites in Ryan Harrison and Atlanta metro resident Robby Ginepri,” Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez said. “One of our goals is to highlight American talent and both of these players are great examples of the fine players this country has produced.”  Harrison won the doubles last year, partnering with Matthew Ebden.  Ginepri appears for the fourth time, with a onetime ranking of fifteen.  He is a graduate of Wheeler High School, just a few miles north of Atlantic Station.  He currently resides in Kennesaw, another couple of miles north.

The draw will be finalized over this weekend with the completion of the qualifying tournament.  Promising American junior Francis Tiafoe has accepted his first tournament qualifying wild card. Tiafoe, 16, is a talented young prodigy who rose to No. 2 in the world junior rankings this spring. Georgia Tech’s Nathan Rakitt and Alabama’s Becker O’Shaughnessey have also accepted qualifying wild cards. Rakitt, a Marietta native and All-ACC selectee, is competing again for the second year. O’Shaughnessey of Macon, Ga., led the Crimson Tide in singles wins (22) this season.

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


Del Potro Takes DC over Isner, Rybarikova Repeats as Women’s Champion


By Steve Fogleman

(August 4, 2013) WASHINGTON, DC – A rare temperate and gorgeous day in August in the Nation’s Capital was an extra incentive for fans in Washington to pack the house for Championship Sunday at the Citi Open. This year marked the first time that three title matches were played on the same Sunday at the event. Men’s Doubles began at noon, the Men’s singles final began at 3:00 p.m. and the Women’s Singles final started a little after 5:45 p.m. Though each final was exciting and close, only the match between Del Potro and Isner was not decided in straight sets.

In the opener, Julian Benneateau and Nenad Zimonjic scraped by Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek, 7-6(5), 7-5.

The men’s final featured former finalist John Isner and two-time event champion Juan Martin Del Potro, who had won the tournament in 2008 and 2009 when it was known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Isner’s serve was clearly a problem for Del Potro in the first set, and Del Potro looked to be on the verge of being upset as Isner commanded 6-3. Then, Isner’s first serve and accuracy quickly unraveled in the second. Isner hit 4 aces in the first set, but he only scored a single ace in each of the two remaining sets. Del Potro began standing a good 20 feet behind the baseline for a first serve and came very far forward on the second. Isner seem baffled by Del Potro coming so far in during the second serve, as it appeared to be a sign of disrespect to his usually scorching second attempts. Del Potro allowed Isner to win only 2 second service points in each of the final two sets.

“It’s amazing,” Del Potro said. “I’m so happy to win here once again. Always when you win a tournament, it’s special, it’s big. And after Wimbledon, to be in my first tournament on hard court, it means a lot. I’m looking forward to Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. That gives me big confidence to keep trying and getting closer to the top guys.”

Isner was gracious in defeat, and spent more time in press than Del Potro. Isner indicated that he believed Del Potro to be a favorite for the US Open, a suggestion that made Del Potro blush. Like the good guy that he is, Del Potro made it clear that he thought Isner was a leading contender for a US Open title as well.

Del Potro faced Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, Kevin Anderson and Tommy Haas before nabbing the title with the win over Isner.

Isner beat Alex Kuznetsov, Somdev Devvarman, Marcos Baghdatis and Dmitry Tursonov to reach the match with Del Potro.

The women’s final was expected to be close, too, and it was to some extent. Petkovic raced out to a 4-0 start in the first, but began to show the fatigue of having been on court at 2:15 a.m. the same morning in her rain-delayed win over Alize Cornet in the semifinals. She stated that she only got four hours sleep, and after she dropped the first set 6-4 and was down two breaks in the second, it looked like Rybarikova has already won the match. But Petkovic got those two breaks back as Rybarikova was not able to close it out. The set eventually went to a tie break which the defending champion won at 7-6(2). Fans expecting a championship Petko-dance were disappointed, but there were certainly more spectators pulling for Rybarikova than in last summer’s DC final, when most in the stands knew little about her. It appears that by winning the title in Washington last year, she was more of a known local commodity. By repeating her success, she will be talked about by DC tennis for years to come.

“I played great today – I couldn’t be happier,” said the women’s champion. “Today there were some really good parts of the match for me. Andrea was playing too well at the beginning so I’m happy I managed to win the first set – and then again at the end she started playing very well again, and I was getting a little tight and my arm was kind of shaking, so I’m really happy I could play a great tie-break there.”

“It was a pretty good week – all in all I’m quite satisfied,” Petkovic said. “I would have loved to win the title here to really feel like I’ve completely come back, but I’m really okay with this. Magda was really stepping up her game, not missing a lot and not giving me many free points. It was a really difficult match but all the credit to her, she really deserved to win the title today.”

For the championship, Rybarikova rolled past Christina Mc Hale, Jana Cepelova, top seed Angelique Kerber and 3 seed Ekaterina Makarova before defeating Andrea Petkovic for the trophy.

To reach the final, Petkovic had a tough road herself, beating Jessica Pegula, 6 seed Mona Barthel, Paula Ormaechea and 4 seed Alize Cornet.

The tournament featured a new stylish players lounge and cafeteria, which were major improvement on this leg of the tour which had long been considered by players a no-frills tournament. Media center staff was amazingly helpful and use an announcement system that I have not seen in the smaller tournaments I attend. They emailed all press conference times, so that even if you were on the grounds, you knew when to show up to the media center. That was a huge relief, since I have missed many post-match banter sessions because I wasn’t in the tent when someone screamed “John Isner 9:15!” I spend less time in the media center than many bloggers because I’m dying to see some of the great matches, and the matches go on no matter what time a player is in press.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and probably the best all around Washington tennis tournament in the twelve straight years that I have made the pilgrimage to Rock Creek Park for world class professional tennis. Thanks to Tennis Panorama for allowing me the opportunity to share my experiences with you.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He tweets from @TennisEastCoast.




Del Potro, Isner, Haas and Tursunov Advance to Citi Open Semis, Top Women’s Seed Kerber Ousted


By Steve Fogleman

(August 2, 2013) WASHINGTON, DC – The email sent to fans by the Citi Open this morning stated “Blockbuster Quarterfinals Begin at 1 p.m. Today!”

On its face, a Marinko Matosevic vs. Dmitry Tursunov match didn’t appear much of a blockbuster in any sense of the word.

Don’t judge a match by its cover.

Although there were plenty of errors throughout, the men wildly entertained the crowd for Friday’s Stadium Court opener. Tursunov prevailed in the third set tiebreak at 4 for a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 win.

That match was followed by another terrifyingly-close ATP three setter in Washington.

Tursunov will face Atlanta champion John Isner, because he dispatched Marcos Baghdatis in the proceeding match on Stadium Court, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4.

Isner’s serve was on and Baghdatis couldn’t close the deal on Isner’s service games today. Baghdatis never saw a break chance all day, and Baghdatis didn’t see many of the 18 aces Isner fired at him. Still, Baghdatis kept it close.

Isner will seek to reach his third Washington final.

Tommy Haas

Tommy Haas

Later, Tommy Haas made the semis over Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets but nearly two hours by a final of 7-6(5), 7-6(3). The German and former Citi Open finalist will take on top dog Juan Martin Del Potro, who concluded the all-male Stadium Court fraternity party/quarterfinals matches with a 7-6(0), 6-2 defeat of Kevin Anderson.

Andrea Petkovic

Andrea Petkovic

The women’s matches were just as wild on Grandstand 1.

It started with a grueling three-setter between Andrea Petkovic and Paula Ormaechea. Ormaechea came out with unusual speed in the first set, which required adjustments from Petkovic. Petkovic noticed the Argentinian’s big serves throughout the match and joked, “Nice match, Ivo Karlovic” to Ormaechea at the net after the 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory. For Petkovic, reaching each semifinal is a treat to be relished, and she displayed her emotions with another mini-Petko Dance to the delight of the fans on Grandstand.

Alize Cornet of France finished strong in a 7-6(5), 6-2 win against Sorana Cirstea. Cornet had never beaten the Romanian in hard courts in her career, but said that her mental confidence made all the difference this time. Both players have played some of the best tennis of their careers recently. Cornet moves on to do battle with Petkovic.

Defending champ Magdalena Rybarikova just plays well in Washington.

As the 7 seed, she knew she was always going to have to take out the 1 seed, Angelique Kerber, to advance to the semifinals. In a see-saw match, it was Rybarikova who laughed last in a 2 hour and 14 minute victory, 7-6(0), 3-6, 6-3.

She will meet a hardly-tired Ekaterina Makarova, who won when Monica Niculescu retired after the first game, 1-0.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He tweets from @TennisEastCoast.



Del Potro Does Double Duty in Wins Against Harrison and Tomic at Citi Open

JM Del Potro 812013

(August 1, 2013) WASHINGTON, DC – Juan Del Potro closed out two ATP tour matches in six hours on Thursday. Not too shabby for the man that everyone was worried about when he took that big spill during his match with Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last month. His first victim was Ryan Harrison, 6-1, 7-5. Then, it was it was Bernard Tomic, 6-3, 6-3.


Kei Nishikori also had to play two matches in even less time, but he couldn’t physically recover after knocking out Jack Sock 7-5, 6-2. He was a shell of his 2 o’ clock self in the nightcap, bowing out to Marcos Baghdatis 6-1, 6-2 in 58 minutes.


I am confounded by the dilemma that tournament organizers face in such rain delays. On the one hand, they want to showcase the top seeded players in prime time, meaning that they play late.

On the other hand, they not so secretly hope that the big names go deep in the tournament. So when you make a Kei Nishikori or a Del Potro play at 9:00 p.m., the chances are greater that their match is going to be postponed by weather than a player who starts at 2:00 or 4:00 p.m.


That’s the gamble you take. And the Citi Open was 1 for 2 today.


Del Potro pulled it off, but it was almost asking the impossible and Nishikori did not possess those same superpowers tonight. Look at Andrea Petkovic. She was the only singles player at the Citi Open to get a win on Wednesday, and she played at 2:00 p.m. Imagine how much better Nishikori would have done against Baghdatis tonight if he had the amount of rest that Petkovic had last night and this afternoon.


It was no small miracle that rain did not interrupt today’s matches today, whose order of play was cobbled together to compensate for yesterday’s almost-total rainout. Grey clouds threatened almost the entire session on Thursday, and there were rumbles of distant thunder throughout and a few lonesome drops. In fact, I checked the weather radar on my I-phone at one point, and it showed light rain all over the Washington area. Somehow, the tennis gods decided to give the Citi Open a break. A washout today would have almost guaranteed another crazy day on Friday and could have forced Monday Finals. And this isn’t the US Open, folks. A Monday Final for both the ATP and WTA titles would’ve been….crickets, both in terms of attendance and television ratings.


Marinko Matosevic shocked many by sending Milos Raonic home to Canada a little earlier than he’d expected before Rogers Cup. Matosevic won 7-5, 6-2. In a one on one interview after the match, he said “I don’t know if it’s the biggest win of my career, but it is definitely a big win beating Milos in a big tournament like Washington.” Later, he added, “I think I’m going in the right direction. I want to make that next push, not just to get back to my ranking (No. 39 in February), but seeded at the Slams and try to get to top 30 this year”.


Kevin Anderson finished off James Duckworth 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 from a match that was 99% complete on Wednesday night. He later beat Mardy Finish in the 3rd round by a count of 7-6(2), 6-1.


Tommy Haas pulled a similar move, completing a nearly-over match against Tim Smyczek, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 and later advancing to the quarterfinals over Ivan Dodig, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.


Grigor Dimitrov also made the quarters in  a surpisingly easy 6-3, 6-3 victory against Sam Querrey. Later, Dmitry Turnsonov eliminated 2011 Champion Radek Stepanek 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.


And BB&T Atlanta Open Champion John Isner advanced 7-5, 7-5 over a plucky Somdev Devvarman.


In WTA action, top seed Angelique Kerber overcame early difficulties to sweep Melanie Oudin, 7-5, 6-0.


Defending Champ Magdalena Rybarikova squeaked through to the quarters by the seat of her pants against fellow Slovakian Jana Cepolova, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 in an affair that lasted nearly three hours. Cepelova is always a tough out. Rybarikova beat Cepelova last year in the Citi Open quarterfinals en route to the title.


Like Rybarikova, Monica Niculescu nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory over tenacious Madison Keys, 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(6).


In yet another exciting match, Sorana Cirstea prevailed against Alison Riske of recent grass court success and new Washington-area resident Alison Riske, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.


Ekaterina Makarova simply destroyed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-2, 6-0 in 58 minutes and Monica Niculescu,


And Alize Cornet had a work-woman-like win over Heather Watson, 6-4, 6-4.


Friday’s quarterfinals are split into two sessions. It’s like a day-night doubleheader in baseball with a big difference. Like the US Open, they don’t clear out the venue before the evening session. And the only ticketed court at the venue is Stadium Court. And all of the matches on Stadium tomorrow are men’s quarterfinals. That means fans can catch two of the ATP quarters with a day session ticket, and stay late for two women’s quarterfinals, not to mention the doubles matches on outer courts.


The Friday Day session has Tursunov against Matosevic at 1:00 p.m. on Stadium Court, followed by Isner and Baghdatis not before 4:00 p.m. The Night session begins at 7:00 p.m. with Tommy Haas and Grigor Dimitrov and concludes with Del Potro versus Anderson not before 9:15.


The women are back to back to back to back on Grandstand 1 from 1:00 p.m., with Petkovic/Ormaechea, Cirstea/Cornet, Makarova/Niculescu and concluding with Kerber/Rybarikova.


Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He tweets from @TennisEastCoast.

USD 1,546,590.00 (ATP)
USD 235,000.00 (WTA)
JULY 27 – AUGUST 04, 2013

STADIUM COURT start 1:00 pm
D Tursunov (RUS) vs M Matosevic (AUS) – ATP

Not Before 4:00 PM
[8] J Isner (USA) vs [16] M Baghdatis (CYP) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[3] T Haas (GER) or [13] I Dodig (CRO) vs [11] G Dimitrov (BUL) – ATP

Not Before 9:15 PM
[1] [WC] J Del Potro (ARG) vs [7] K Anderson (RSA) – ATP

GRANDSTAND 1 start 1:00 pm
A Petkovic (GER) vs P Ormaechea (ARG) – WTA
[5] S Cirstea (ROU) vs [4] A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
[3] E Makarova (RUS) vs M Niculescu (ROU) – WTA
[1] [WC] A Kerber (GER) vs [7] M Rybarikova (SVK) – WTA
G Dimitrov (BUL) / M Llodra (FRA) vs [WC] S Johnson (USA) / S Querrey (USA) or [2] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) – ATP-After Suitable Rest

GRANDSTAND 2 start 1:00 pm
[1] S Aoyama (JPN) / V Dushevina (RUS) vs M Alvarez Teran (BOL) / K Wong (USA) – WTA
E Bouchard (CAN) / T Townsend (USA) vs [2] I Falconi (USA) / E Hrdinova (CZE) – WTA
J Benneteau (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) or [WC] J Blake (USA) / E Butorac (USA) – ATP
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) or A Begemann (GER) / R Bopanna (IND) vs T Huey (PHI) / D Inglot (GBR) – ATP


Citi Open – Wednesday Results, Thursday Schedule


Washington DC, USA
July 29-August 4, 2013

Results – Wednesday, July 31, 2013
WTA Singles – Second Round
Andrea Petkovic (GER) d. (6) Mona Barthel (GER) 62 62

Suspended due to rain
Paula Ormaechea (ARG) leads Olga Puchkova (RUS) 36 63 21

WTA Doubles – First Round
(2) Falconi/Hrdinova (USA/CZE) d. Cirstea/Wickmayer (ROU/BEL) 63 62
(3) Tatishvili/Watson (GEO/GBR) d. Barthel/Cornet (GER/FRA) 64 64
ATP Singles – Second Round
D Tursunov (RUS) d [5] G Simon (FRA) 64 62
[8] J Isner (USA) d [Q] A Kuznetsov (USA) 76(2) 76(4)
M Fish (USA) d [12] J Benneteau (FRA) 63 75
[13] I Dodig (CRO) d T Kamke (GER) 26 62 63
R Stepanek (CZE) d [17] M Llodra (FRA) 62 61

ATP Doubles – First Round
T Huey (PHI) / D Inglot (GBR) d C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) 64 67(4) 10-7


STADIUM COURT start 2:00 pm
[1] [WC] J del Potro (ARG) vs R Harrison (USA) – ATP
[3] T Haas (GER) vs [Q] T Smyczek (USA) 36 75 10
Not Before 4:00 PM
M Matosevic (AUS) vs [4] M Raonic (CAN) – ATP
[8] J Isner (USA) vs [Q] S Devvarman (IND) – ATP
[1] [WC] J Del Potro (ARG) or R Harrison (USA) vs [14] B Tomic (AUS) – ATP
[3] T Haas (GER) or [Q] T Smyczek (USA) vs [13] I Dodig (CRO) – ATP

GRANDSTAND 1 start 2:00 pm
[WC] J Sock (USA) vs [2] K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
[1] [WC] A Kerber (GER) vs M Oudin (USA) 00
Not Before 4:00 PM
M Fish (USA) vs [WC] J Duckworth (AUS) or [7] K Anderson (RSA) – ATP
[16] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs [WC] J Sock (USA) or [2] K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs M Fish (USA) / R Stepanek (CZE) 01 – ATP-After suitable rest

GRANDSTAND 2 start 2:00 pm
[WC] J Duckworth (AUS) vs [7] K Anderson (RSA) 36 63 45
[5] S Cirstea (ROU) vs A Riske (USA) – WTA
J Cepelova (SVK) vs [7] M Rybarikova (SVK) – WTA
[11] G Dimitrov (BUL) vs [6] S Querrey (USA) – ATP
S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) vs [WC] J Blake (USA) / E Butorac (USA) – ATP
[WC] S Johnson (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs [2] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) – ATP – after suitable rest

COURT 1 start 2:00 pm

H Watson (GBR) vs [4] A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
D Tursunov (RUS) vs R Stepanek (CZE) – ATP
M Niculescu (ROU) vs [8] M Keys (USA) – WTA
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs A Begemann (GER) / R Bopanna (IND) – ATP

COURT 2 start 2:00 pm

P Ormaechea (ARG) vs O Puchkova (RUS) 36 63 21
[3] E Makarova (RUS) vs C Garcia (FRA) – WTA
E Bouchard (CAN) / T Townsend (USA) vs [3] A Tatishvili (GEO) / H Watson (GBR) – WTA-After Suitable Rest

COURT 3 start 2:00 pm

[1] S Aoyama (JPN) / V Dushevina (RUS) vs A Mueller (USA) / A Perez (VEN) – WTA
[4] C Castano (COL) / J Pegula (USA) vs M Alvarez Teran (BOL) / K Wong (USA) – WTA
C Garcia (FRA) / C Mchale (USA) vs [2] I Falconi (USA) / E Hrdinova (CZE) – WTA-After Suitable Rest


Citi Open Interview: Sorana Cirstea: Happy Sorana Cirstea Has Sky-High Goals

By Steve Fogleman for Tennis Panorama

Citi Open Feature Interview: Sorana Cirstea


(July 31, 2013) WASHINGTON, DC – Sometimes words alone cannot capture the emotions of a human being as adequately as seeing and hearing the subject.

This is one of those times.

Sorana Cirstea is one happy tennis player.

I caught up with her yesterday after a 7-5, 1-1 over Lesia Tsurenko by retirement. She’ll face Alison Riske in the second round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. tomorrow for a spot in the quarters.


“I hope you don’t make me sing! I cannot sing!” she jokingly protested, as I handed her a microphone for the interview.


Sorana Cristea is so happy with her year so far and so excited to be in Washington for the first time that she comes across as one of the most genuine and well-balanced players I’ve ever met.

This is one of those times when I’m glad I’m about the only person who regularly shoots video interviews in the early rounds of the tournaments I attend. I know it’s more convenient to read a blog than watch a video on your Iphone or laptop. I mean, you might be at work or on a bus or watching a tennis match right now.


But please take time to hear Sorana’s infectious jubilance by watching the video at some point.

If you like Cirstea, you’ll like her even more. And if you don’t know anything about her, you’ll like her for the first time.


The 23-year-old Romanian is just off her new career high of #23 in the world. She has been in the late rounds of every other tournament I follow.


She’s only won one WTA singles title, and that was five year ago in Tashkent, but this year alone, she has made the semis at Pattaya and Stanford, the quarterfinals at Birmingham, and the Round of 16 in Charleston and Miami. She also made the third round at Roland Garros before falling to eventual champion Serena Williams.


And yet, it seems, no one in the English-speaking world can pronounce her name.

She even changed the pronunciation of Cirstea because non-Romanian speakers simply cannot pronounce it.

“However people can say it, as long as they get Sorana fine, that’s all good. I find it funny.

The funniest thing of all is when I go to grab a coffee. That’s always the worst place they spell my name. So for now on, I will be something like Bob or Michael!”


She’s definitely pleased with the results of her hard work on the circuit this year.

“It’s been a solid year. I’ve been quite consistent from tournament to tournament. I feel I am playing better and better from week to week. It’s nice knowing that when you put all that hard work in, you can see the results. I think that motivates. I’m just very excited and looking forward to what’s coming next.


I feel I’m ready. When I have a good day, I can beat anyone. I always say that the rankings show the truth. If I’m 28 right now, it means this is where I should be.”


This is her first time in Washington in any capacity. She’s thrilled with the beauty of the city and the friendliness of Citi Open staff.


“I’m very excited to be here for my first time in Washington. I’ve always wanted to come. It’s this thing about “The Capital”. I’ve been waiting 23 years to get here. As soon as I got in on Sunday night, we dropped our bags at the hotel and went to the White House.


There’s just so much history here. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to explore and be a tourist.”

I asked her if she might be a lawyer after her pro career concludes. She acknowledged that it might be too late to start schooling for such a job, and that she has some many interesting options after tennis.


“Once I have something in my mind, I try to put 100% in to make it.”

Of course, the reason I asked about a legal career was due to her brilliant closing arguments against bad calls in Stanford recently in a match with Dominkia Cibulkova. It was an argument she won, and won, and won, as the judges went her way six times in a single set.


“I think that’s more stubbornness!”, she joked. “Once I think I’m right, I usually go all the way. I knew I was right at that point. So I was really confident and I went for it. I have respect for the chair umpire and all the linesmen. The only reason why I argued is because I wanted that point. It was mine. I earned it. I’m one of those people where if something is mine, I won’t give it away.”I don’t know if about her stubbornness, but I am impressed with her fearlessness. She took a maiden sky-diving jump last year and loved it so much she had to do it again recently.


“I loved it. I always wanted to do it and never had the opportunity.The second time around was ten times better, because I actually knew what to expect. Everyone should jump at least once in their life. It’s an experience worth living. Don’t  be surprised if you see me jumping again.”


And don’t be surprised if you see her hoisting a trophy and winning another WTA title or two before the year is out.


Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He tweets from @TennisEastCoast.

Citi Open: One on One Video with Rhyne Williams on his First Washington Appearance

By Steve Fogleman

Rhyne Williams came off a first round main draw win in Atlanta to have to face Robby Ginepri, a man he has looked up to on the ATP tour. After having dinner with Ginepri in Washington on Friday night, Williams dispatched Ginepri in 3 sets on Saturday in first round qualies. Ginepri also had a main draw wild card in his hometown of Atlanta, but was also required to qualify in DC.

Read the rest over at TennisEastCoast.com.


Atlantic Station is a winner for fans at BB&T Atlanta Open

John and Robert Frierson at BB&T Atlanta Open

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia – Atlantic Station is a hopping place! The first semifinal has been completed, with Gilles Muller over Go Soeda 6-4, 6-3 and Ebden/Harrison over Fleming/Hutchins 6-3, 6-3. The stadium has emptied into Atlantic Station, where folks are shopping, eating, drinking, and generally having a great time. Kids are shooting hoops at the Atlanta Hawks tent, playing tennis at the 10 under courts and playing tennis at Publix family zone. John Frierson was taking the opportunity to teach tennis to his son Robert on the 10 and under courts. He was looking forward to the showdown tonight. Olympic folks are here with interactive booths for adults and kids to try their skills in various Olympic events.

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry tried their skills at basketball, Paralympic style! The event had them set up in wheelchairs trying to shoot baskets. They found the going significantly tougher than their typical basketball games, but several baskets were made. Their parents were having dinner at a restaurant somewhere at Atlantic Station while they had all kinds of fun! I asked if they were rooting for anyone in particular tonight. “Roddick!” Not for the Georgia boy John Isner? “No, Roddick is the best American.” I’m sure some Georgia Bulldog fans will have something to say about that. I expect a lot of barking!

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein, took in the first semifinal match today. Eduardo was sporting a Georgia hat. They didn’t have tickets for the night session but were planning lots of fun at Atlantic Station. He was definitely pulling for John Isner.

The official shirt vendor for the tourney pulled off a major coup overnight. They were able to work with John Isner and his foundation to have T-shirts printed out that say “Team Isner” in Georgia red and black. A portion of sales will go to Isner’s foundation. Sales were moving very briskly as they were already sold out of size large before the afternoon session was done.


Everyone seemed to be having a great time and we’re all very happy to be at Atlantic Station. It seems the players weren’t the only ones serving aces.



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


Meet Amber Lynn Smith – Super Tennis Fan, Super Roddick Fan

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia -Fans of any sport can be rabid. If you go to LSU for a football game dressed in opposition colors, you’ll be taunted with chants of “Tiger Bait”. In Athens, Georgia, home of the Bulldogs, you’ll be barked at. Duke basketball fans are famous for their imaginative cheers. Tennis fans? If the NCAA Collegiate Tournament is held in Athens, there is some barking and there’s a certain collegiate coach who famously held fans at bay from atop a car with a wooden racquet back in the day, though that’s another story. Professional tennis fans are usually a laid back lot (unless it’s Davis Cup!) They clap politely for any good shot and sigh with disappointment at near misses. Ask who they’re cheering for and you’re likely to get a shrug.

Then there’s Amber Lynn Smith. Amber is a typical college student, hoping to become a teacher, drinking lots of milk. Milk? I really don’t know if she drinks milk or not, but it has a lot to do with her being a tennis super fan. When she was ten, she got interested in the game because of friends, but took a special interest in Andy Roddick. In fact, she fell in love with tennis because of his passion for the game. She wanted to hit the ball as hard as he did, so she wanted to be a better athlete. There was one of the milk promotional pictures at her school, so she asked for it at the end of the school year and it was given to her. It’s huge and covers one wall of her room. She got another poster and put it up in her locker at school.

She was able to make it to Roddick’s first match in the BB&T Atlanta Open and had a chance to meet him. We’ve all heard of the spoiled athletes who won’t take the time for a kid, much less an adult. It makes them hard to cheer for. That wasn’t the case here. Roddick couldn’t have been more gracious. He noticed Amber. She was wearing a shirt she had made with a super “R” and “Roddick” above the logo. On the back, it says “Forget those other superheros…” He complimented her on the shirt and took time to take a quick picture before his press conference. She had to wait around because they didn’t realize the picture didn’t take the first time until after. Roddick was more than happy to pose again and to spend a few minutes talking with her and to autograph her shirt.

Amber hopes to become a teacher, and I expect she’ll be a very good one, especially if she brings the same passion to her chosen profession. She also hopes to one day be able to teach tennis to children so they can start at a younger age than she did. She thinks the current under 10 initiative would have helped her greatly. She feels if children start at a younger age, they’ll grow up healthier.

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


Blake finds new motivation to win

By Sam Crenshaw, Special to Tennis Panorama News

ATLANTA, Georgia – James Blake will be the first to admit that his first round victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open was match that he was supposed to lose. The 32 year-old tour veteran out lasted 20 year old Ryan Harrison for a 3 set win that delighted the crowd at the Atlantic Station venue.

On paper it didn’t seem close..Harrison is 20 years old, ranked 43rd and bound for London for the 2012 Olympics. Blake, at 32, has seen his ranking slip out of the top 100 to 110. “I starting to play guys who grew up watching me”, said a smiling Blake after the match.

Blake is not considered a threat to win ATP titles, but he remains a crowd favorite and on this night he showed that his wisdom, remaining skills and even couple of friendly bounces off the top of the net can result in victory..

Health has been an issue for James, who talked about his knee surgery back in November. He looked to be moving well. His serve was not as crisp as his fans would remember. That is due to a shoulder injury that he continues to play through..

But after the match he told me about his new inspiration to play good tennis, the recent birth of his daughter. Blake said” This is the first match that I have won since she was born. Tonight her daddy is a winner.”

Great playing “Pops”.. You did your baby girl proud…

Sam Crenshaw is a 25-year veteran of sports broadcasting. He started his career in Augusta, Ga., working as a sports reporter for WRDW-TV and later worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 to become a sports broadcaster at WXIA-TV and is now the weekend sports anchor for WXIA covering amateur and professional sports statewide.

Read his sports blog Sam’s Passing Shots and follow him on twitter @samcrenshawwxia.