January 21, 2017

Approach Shots – Q & A with USTA Player Development GM Martin Blackman

Martin Blackman photo courtesy of the USTA

Martin Blackman photo courtesy of the USTA

 

 

(September 9, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Tennis Panorama News sat down with the General Manager of Player Development at the United States Tennis Association, Martin Blackman, to ask a few questions about his goals for Player Development.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News (TPN): I’d like to know how became involved in tennis in the first place?

Martin Blackman (MB): I was born in New York, while my dad was going to Columbia University. When I was two-years-old, we moved to Barbados, that’s where my father’s from and I had two older twin brothers who played tennis. They were very good players. So they basically coached me, when I was a kid in Barbados from 2-13.

When I was eleven, we started coming over to New York for the summers and I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to the Port Washington Tennis Academy. So I trained at Port in the summers, when I was 11 and 12, I was still living in Barbados.

When I was 12-years-old, I lost in the finals of the Orange Bowl and Nick Bollettieri offered me a scholarship to his academy. So I went to high school at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy from 13-17. And then I played at Stanford for two years – two NCAA championship teams. Had the pleasure of playing doubles with Patrick (McEnroe) my freshman year so we became great friends and then I played on the (ATP World) tour for six years.

Coming off the tour I finished my degree at GW (George Washington University). I thought I wanted to get out of tennis, but a head coaching position opened at American University, and was able to get tuition remission. I was doing graduate work so I took that job as head coach and I fell in love with coaching.

I’ve had three jobs – American University for five years – loved it. Had success there, really learned what it meant to be a coach and be a mentor of young men.

Then I ran the program at the Junior Tennis Champions Center at College Park (Maryland), a program that produced Frances Tiafoe and Denis Kudla.

Then I went to work for Patrick in Player Development as the Director of Player ID and Development. Then I left for three years to run my own tennis academy and then I’ve been back in Player Development as a GM for 16 months.

 

TPN: You played with Patrick McEnroe and you succeeded him in Player Development. That’s a big name to follow. When you came in, what were you looking at, at first and what challenges coming in did you see or do you still see and how are you tackling them?

MB: Well I think the benefit of having worked in Player Development before, was that I really understood how our division worked. I really understood how our coaches and performance staff and admin staff were doing on a day-to-day basis, so I understood the operations and I wanted to make sure that I provided continuity in the areas that were working already.

The two biggest most impactful things that Patrick did were one – to bring in Jose Higueras as our Director of Coaching and to really create a comprehensive teaching and coaching philosophy in collaboration with the private sector. I think that has really unified the country, not in a cookie cutter prescriptive approach to training players, but in a framework that kind of unifies us in terms of how we see the game, how we train players and how we talk about the game.

And the second is the Team USA initiative that started under Patrick about four years ago where we made a concerted effort to reach out to the private sector, be more collaborative, be more inclusive. Making sure that all of the information was going through private coaches and really build and strengthen that trust with private sector coaches who are the ones doing the work in the trenches with those young players.

So, when I came in, I definitely saw those two things as working, but I also saw some opportunities to invest more in areas where there is a need. So a few of the things that we did, one is we had a need to support our best players between 100 and 300. Those young pros just coming out, they’re doing well, can’t afford to travel with a full team and we know from doing studies that the faster a player breaks into the Top 100, the more likely they are to go farther to become a Top 50 or Top 20 player. So we created Team USA Pro Department, that provides supplemental support for all of our American pros between 100-300 and that’s been really successful.

Tom Gullickson on the men’s side, and Kathy Rinaldi on the women’s side, supported by Jeff Russell, have done a great job of helping those players to move a little bit faster, giving them support on the road.

The other thing that we’ve done is that we’ve really increased our investment financially and from a human resources perspective in college tennis. That was an area, obviously, you look at our rankings, you look at John Isner and Steve Johnson. They’re our top two Americans, both went to college for four years. We’ve got Nicole Gibbs, Irina Falconi, Jennifer Brady doing well. So that was an area where we really weren’t investing a lot. I think we were a little too focused on the players who could turn pro coming out of high school and I saw that as an opportunity that we needed to capitalize on.

So those are two moves that I made to capitalize on opportunities to help more players and to help them progress a little bit faster and make sure those college players are getting the emotional support as they go into college, and making sure that we are totally engaged with college coaches to help with the developmental process.

 

TPN: In years past really good juniors would go straight into the pro ranks. You see a lot of them now thinking about going to college, because you see with both the men and the women, they’re older when they make an impact in majors it seems.

MB: Absolutely. I think there are two factors – one, the physical demands of the game have increased so much. The game is so much more physical, so it’s hard for a girl or a boy to compete with women and men. The other piece of it is that players are taking such good care of their bodies. Their nutrition, they are traveling with a physio. They’re stretching more than they ever have been.

The average age of the Top 100 player has gone up, I think it’s about 28 and 1/2 on the men’s side and almost 25 on the women’s side. If we had said that 20 years ago, people would have thought that you were crazy, but those two factors, the physical demands of the game and the fact that players are taking really good care of their bodies are contributing to that. So that’s why I think you don’t see as many junior players bursting on to the tour the way we did in the 80’s and early 90’s.

 

TPN: Speaking of groups of “kids” as it were, its seems that on the men’s side, like the Tiafoes and the Taylor Fritzes are coming up together. I guess we haven’t seen that since, I don’t know Agassi, Sampras and Courier? Some of them are down in Florida. There must be a lot of camaraderie down there with them all coming up together.

MB: The great thing about this group of boys is that, there is a lot of camaraderie, there is a lot of positive peer pressure. You know, Reilly (Opelka) will have a good week and Taylor will have a good week, Frances will have a good week and that’s really the type of dynamic we want to see. We want to see a group of boys, a group of women, coming up together, pushing themselves.

And the other great thing is when the younger players play our established older players that really creates a lot of positive pressure as well. So when one of that group you mentioned plays Stevie (Johnson) or Sam (Querrey) or Donald (Young), they really, really want to win. The older guys want to win. They don’t want to lose to one of these young guys and the younger guys really want to make a breakthrough and beat one of those established guys and that’s a very healthy dynamic.

We’re seeing that on the women’s side as well. The women were a little bit ahead demographically. After this tournament we’ll have 15 women in the Top 100. We’ve got Madison (Keys) playing really well. We’ve got Christina McHale playing well. Sloane (Stephens) when she is healthy, will be back doing well. CoCo Vandeweghe has such a big game. Shelby Rogers breaking through at the French. Louisa Chirico. So all of these women, I think are really poised to get to the next level. And luckily we have two amazing champions in Serena and Venus (Williams) to really set the bar where it needs to be, right at the top.

 

TPN: The announcement from the other day about the Adidas partnership, how long was that in the making? Was it something that you prioritized? Reaching into the private sector as you mentioned before, was this a big goal for you, or was it something that you thought about before coming in?

MB: Coming in my first month, our Sponsorship department on the pro side told me that this was a partnership they had been looking to form, if they could find the right partner and design a deal with the right parameters. So I gave my input as it related to what would be beneficial to player development. I didn’t give my input specifically, it needs to be Adidas or it needs to be Nike, but just in terms of what would really help Player Development and then Lew Sherr (USTA Chief Revenue Officer) kind of reached out in the market place. Spoke to a lot of big companies and at the end of the day it was Adidas that wanted to make the direct investment, not just in Player Development, which is going to be very beneficial to us, but also in our junior competitive national tournaments, in the national campus, in leagues.

Again, as I said during the press conference, it’s really encouraging to see a global leader in our industry making a direct investment back into the game.

 

TPN: A lot has been done, what more do you want to do? What’s on your wish list for Player Development?

MB: If I kind of take a step back, I think what are the two big things that Player Development does or should do. I think on the one side, it’s to create really strong relationships with our players, parents and coaches across the board, from juniors all the way through to the pros.

On the other side it’s to make sure that the expertise and the performance support that we give to those players as a result of those strong relationships, is the best in the world. So there is a performance excellence component and there’s a relationship component and if you don’t have both of them, you are not going to be effective. Because it doesn’t matter how much you know or how good you are at what you do, if you don’t have relationships and trust with the players.

So we have to invest in both of those things and if we get it right, we have an unbelievable opportunity at the national campus in Orlando. And if we get both of those things right, you are going to see the resurgence of American tennis.

 

Related Articles:

USTA and ADIDAS Announce Partnership To Support US Tennis On Multiple Levels

Martin Blackman Named General Manager, USTA Player Development

 

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Serena Williams Stops Halep; Wawrinka Ends Del Potro’s Run at the US Open

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(September 8, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Serena Williams had to hold off a game Simona Halep to reach another major semifinal on Wednesday night, while No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka ended the run of 2009 US Open Juan Martin Del Potro.

 

No. 1 Serena Williams beat fifth seed Halep 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in her quarterfinal, and will play Karolina Pliskova next for a place in the final.

 

“I feel great,” said Williams. “I’m glad I got tested. The best part of it is I feel like — I mean, I think her level really picked up in the second, but I had some opportunities that I didn’t take.

“So what I gather from that is I really could have played better in that second set and maybe had an opportunity to win in straights.

“I think if anything, that’s the biggest silver lining I take.”

Williams had 18 aces and 50 winners and made a big effort to come to net to end points.

 

“I have been working on getting to the net,” she said. “Particularly today I couldn’t do too much off the groundstrokes. I felt maybe I should get in more. It worked for me.

“I don’t really like coming to the net, to be honest, but I’m good at the net, I guess. I guess I’ve got to do what I’m good at.”

 

“I think it was a good match, Halep said. “I played well. I could play better in those moments when I had chances. But I think the level was pretty high.

“I’m okay with the way that I was fighting till the end. It’s something normal now for me, so it’s a good thing. She played really well. She is the best player, so her serve was huge today.

“It was tough. Is tough. I’m a little bit sad, but I have just to take the positives, because I have a lot going ahead.”

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka beat Del Potro 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. He will face sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori on Friday for a chance at the final.  Wawrinka saved a match point against Dan Evans in the third round.

Del Potro, coming into the US Open ranked 142, due to being sideline with wrist injuries, is coming off winning the silver medal the Rio Olympics. Del Potro beat both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on the way to the gold medal round.

 

“I think my tennis is starting to respond as I want, but physically I’m still down,” said the Argentina. “You know, I’m not in the same level that these guys. I need to just to stay healthy and wait for the preseason to get 100% for next year.

“I’m already top 100, so that’s good. Never will ask for wildcard anymore,” he said smiling.

“And everything here is positive for me. I’m so glad for that.”

 

“Well, I’m starting to play tennis again after a long, long time,” he continued. “Like two months ago I was losing first round, second round, 80 players or different rankings.

“And now I’m fighting at the same level as the top guys, and I already beat Djokovic, Rafa. I played against Murray in a great match. Wawrinka is the No. 3 player in the world and I’m there. That’s means something good to me.

“But I need to keep working. I need to get my physical back as soon I can, and then I will have a chance to play in the same conditions.”

 

More to follow….

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US Open – Nishikori Beats Murray; Pliskova Reaches First Major Semifinal

 

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

(September 7, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Kei Nishikori upset No. 2 Andy Murray in five sets while 10 seed Karolina Pliskova dominated final eight newcomer Ana Konjuh to reach the semifinals of the US Open during Wednesday’s day session.

 

Sixth seeded Nishikori rallied to beat three-time major winner Andy Murray 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the final four of the US Open for just his second time. The man from Japan was a losing finalist in the 2014 US Open final.

 

Pliskova and her serve dominated her opponent 6-2, 6-2. For the Czech, it will be her first major semifinal. She’ll play the winner of the Serena Williams – Simona Halep match, which takes place on Wednesday evening.

 

The turning point in the Murray – Nishikori match seemed to have come when a loud gong-like sound echoed in the middle of a point during the fourth set. Murray lost seven straight games after a let was called on that point.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Murray argued with the umpire Marija Cicak’s decision to stop the point and replay it.

Murry then spoke to a tournament supervisor.

“Wayne McKewen told me that it happened four times during the match that the speakers had gone off like that,” Murray said. “I had only heard it one time before, which was on set point in the second set. That was it.”

A similar event took place on Monday night between Ana Konjuh and Agnieszka Radwanska. The point was not stopped.

The USTA said that the digital audio processor was at fault. Here is the official statement:

USTA STATEMENT REGARDING SOUND ISSUE IN ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM

 

One of the three digital audio sound processors in Arthur Ashe Stadium malfunctioned early in the fourth set of the Kei Nishikori – Andy Murray match. The malfunctioning unit is located at the court level. The three processors are linked, and work as a single unit. The malfunctioning unit could not be taken off-line without interrupting play. The malfunctioning unit will be replaced between the day and evening sessions. The replacement of the unit, which requires the shutting down and then re-booting of the system, can take up to thirty minutes.

 

The men’s match had been halted for rain in the second set and the roof was soon closed.

 

In the fifth set, Nishikori initially taking the break advantage until serving at 4-3, when after going up 40-0, he made several errors to give back the break. Both men held for 5-5 and Nishikori grabbed back the advantage breaking the Brit in the 11th game and holding for the victory.

 

Murray came into the US Open as the hottest player on the men’s tour, winning Wimbledon and the Olympic gold medal, going 26-1.

“I have not let anyone down,” he said.  “I tried my best. I fought as hard as I could with what I had today. I didn’t let anyone down. Certainly not myself. I pushed myself as hard as I could over the last few months, and I’m very proud of how I have done.

“You know, if someone had offered me the summer that I have had before Wimbledon, I probably would have signed for that. You know, asking me right now is pointless. I’m not going to have the best perspective on things right this minute, but, you know, after a few days, you know, away and stuff, I would imagine I’d be very happy with how I have done and, you know, learn from this match today and the summer as a whole, because, you know, it’s been tough. It’s been a hard summer.

“And, yeah, I’m happy with how it’s gone. There’s just a few things I could do differently next time.”

 

“I’m not disappointed in a way,” Murray said. “Obviously I would have loved to have won, but I have had a good run every match. I would have loved to have gone further, but it wasn’t to be today.”

 

 

“Yeah, it was really difficult match.,” Nishikori said. “I didn’t quite start well and lost 6-1. I felt it was really quick and I was rushing a little bit and missing too much unforced errors.

“But after rain delay I think I improve little bit with my coach, and I tried to change a little bit my tennis and start working a little bit better. I started get my rhythm back. Yeah, many breaks today.

“Especially fifth set it was really tough. I was up 4-3, 40- love and lost the game. So there was many up and downs, but I tried to calm. I think that’s the most important thing I did today. Even though there was many up and downs I tried to stay tough.

“Yeah, last couple games I took little chance, and, yeah, win the whole thing. So it was really tight game, but happy to win today.”

 

Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova

Pliskova came into the US Open as the only Top 20 player never to have been past the third round of a major.

 

“I don’t care at what time it came,” she said. “I’m just happy that it’s now and that it came. There are people saying that I could be there earlier, but right now I feel great and I feel it’s the right time for having the results like this.

 

“Obviously the title from Cincinnati helped me a lot. I was waiting for the bigger title for a few years, let’s say two, so that was next step.

“I think just everything is on time. I was practicing hard this year, and even the results in the beginning of this year were not that good as the last year. I’m happy that I could, you know, play my game on the biggest tournaments, which I didn’t play last year.”

 

Pliskova talked about the possibility of playing Serena Williams next:

“I played her once only, actually. I was in Stanford I think two or three years ago.

“I was completely different player at that time, so I am I improve a lot and obviously she probably as well. She’s a big hitter and she can, you know, have 50 winners and you cannot do much about it.

“But I still gonna hope that there is gonna be some chance in the match where I can get my chance and be the one who is playing aggressive. Obviously I played Venus this week, which is not probably that good as she is, but it’s very similar game.

“So I’ll just have to be ready for it, I think.”

 

If it’s Halep: “I have played her a few times. That would be probably — I don’t want to say easier for me. They are both really good. It’s going to be probably very close match tonight.

“But she’s not hitting that big and she’s not that dangerous as Serena is, so I would have more chances probably in the match to play my game and attack her serve and to going for the shots.

“But as I saw some statistics, she won last — from 24 matches, I think she won 22 or something like this, so she’s playing very good tennis right now. Probably she feels confidence. Will be tough to play her, as well.”

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Serena and Venus Williams Cruise into Fourth Round; Murray, Wawrinka Also Advance at US Open

(September 3, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Serena Williams moved into sole possession of most match wins at majors at 307 over Martina Navratilova when she defeated Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-1 in a third round match at the US Open on Saturday.

Williams is seeking her 23rd major title and seven US Open title. She came into the tournament with questions about the health of her shoulder. Those questions have seemed to have been answered by her dominant play.

“Definitely feels solid,” Williams said of her shoulder. “I’m doing a lot of work on it so I can keep it in this position. Definitely not going to stop doing all the rehab and therapy, so I don’t want to go down. It’s pretty good.”

The world’s top player will play No. 52 Yaroslava Shvedova, who beat Zhang Shuai 6-2, 7-5.

Venus Williams opened up the evening session with a display of dominance over No. 26 Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-2.

“I’m happy with putting wins under my belt,” Venus said. “I’m always in search for perfection. If it’s not perfect, I’m back to the drawing board, so…

“Today was a more straightforward win, but not perfect. So I’ll be working on perfection.”

Venus will play her fourth round match on Monday against big server No. 10 Karolina Pliskova.

“Each match is different,” Venus said. “I approach them differently. We play kind of a similar game. So it’s about one of us playing that game better.

“I haven’t played her that often. So go out there and put the ball in the court, try to win.”

I’ve had the experience of playing her. There’s people, like today I never played Laura. You never know what to expect. You have to see what happens. You never quite know what to expect.”

Match ups for the other women playing the fourth round on Monday include: No. 5 Simona Halep against No. 11 Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska versus Ana Konjuh.

On the men’s side of the draw No. 2 Andy Murray had to battle in the first two sets against Paolo Lorenzi 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 to move into the round of 16.

“He’s ranked 40 in the world,” Murray said. “He’s pretty good. So I expected a tough match. I expected long rallies. I’m just disappointed with the amount of errors I made. I was quite impatient at times. That cost me in the first and second sets.

“When I did sort of play like I was planning on when I went out there, to be more patient, wait for the right balls to go for, you know, played much, much better, dictated more of the points. I wasn’t going for too much.

“The unforced errors came down significantly and the winners went up. The third and fourth sets were comfortable. Obviously the first two were extremely, extremely tough.”

Murray will play No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Juan Martin del Potro came back from 2-5 down in the first set to beat No. 11 seed David Ferrer 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-3. The 2009 US Open champion, a wild card entry in the tournament, ranked 142nd, last played the US Open in 2013 due to wrist surgeries.

“Well, I got stronger mentally after the first set,” said Del Potro. “Against David you never know when is going to finish the match. He never give up. He’s a really fighter. Also it’s a pleasure to play against him because he puts me all the time in pressure. I should play my best tennis today. I think I did really well in the second and the third one.

“I’m so glad to be in the second week on the Grand Slam after three or four years. That’s means a lot of good things to myself. Of course, I’m looking forward to keep winning. But my next opponent will be really difficult.”

Del Potro will take on No. 8 Dominic Thiem, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

Stan Wawrinka won the most dramatic match of the day, coming back from two set to one and saving a match point in the fourth set tie break to beat Dan Evans 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), 6-2.

“I was frustrated, for sure, to be down two sets to one because I wasn’t playing my best tennis,” Wawrinka said. “But still had a chance. So I was trying to find the right way, how to keep fighting, how to stay in the match, and how to make it break.”

“In general, I think the second tiebreak was a little bit better from both sides. He was coming a lot to the net to try to finish the point. I had to play better, be a little bit more aggressive, more tough with myself. And I took it. I was, for sure, happy to took it.

“But I had the feeling in the fourth set that I was starting to play a little bit better. He was starting to be down a little bit, but still playing really well in those important points, still being there, still being tough.

“It wasn’t easy to stay calm with myself. But in general I think that was the key for the match. Was tough condition, windy against a talented player who is playing really well, who was pushing me a lot. He was coming with the right shot in the right moment.

“Yeah, the court was a little bit faster than normally, than the other big court. So I’m happy to get through. It’s an important win for me.”

Wawrinka will play next face llya Marchenko who was leading 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 when Nick Kyrgios retired with a hip injury.

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US Open to Use Serve Clock for Junior Championships and Collegiate Invitational

2011-US-Open-Tennis-Tournament

From the USTA – FLUSHING, N.Y., September 2, 2016 – The USTA today announced that it will utilize a serve clock for the first time at the 2016 US Open, timing how long servers take between points during the US Open Junior Championships and the American Collegiate Invitational.

 

The serve clocks will be used to objectively assess time violations, and any subsequent discipline, which are currently assessed at the discretion of the chair umpire for any given match. Twenty seconds between points is currently allowed for Grand Slam matches.

 

Two serve clocks will be utilized on the scoreboards for each junior and collegiate match. The chair umpire will control the shot clock and start it after the score of the previous point has been registered.

 

“We’re going to try out the serve clock. We are not changing the rules, but we are testing the technology and getting the umpires and players used to it,” said Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA. “We can use the events as incubators for innovation.”

 

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Eric Butorac, Former ATP Council President and Doubles Specialist is Retiring After the US Open

(September 1, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Former ATP Council President and doubles specialist Eric Butorac is calling it a career after the US Open. The 35-year-old Butorac won 18 doubles titles on the ATP World Tour reaching a career high ranking of 17 in 2011.

The man born in Rochester, Minnesota, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will go to work for the USTA beginning in October. He will become the Director of Professional Tennis Operations and Player Relations.

 

Tennis Panorama News asked Butorac a few questions about retirement and his future endeavors.

 

TPN: What are your feelings about your career? Retirement?

EB: Hard to sum it up in very few words. I never expected to have a career like this. Moved to France to play money tournaments and stumbled into Challengers and eventually got into Grand Slams. It was a surprise to be even out there doing it. To look back and say I did it for 13 years it’s… strange feeling but also reward I guess is the word. I don’t know how to sum it all up.

I’m proud about what I accomplished, worked really hard and got to live a great life, see the world, make great friends. It was an awesome experience.

 

TPN: What are some of the highlights of your career?

EB: On the court, making the finals of the (2014) Australian Open one year, it was not so much making the finals, just more having one of those runs where we beat the Bryans. We beat Hewitt and Rafter. We beat Murray/Peers. We beat Nestor and Zimonjic. We beat like all of these great teams playing on Center Court. Having to feel that you did one of those all the way down to the final day when everyone else is gone and you’re the only one in the lunch room with two other tables and you’re one of the last ones standing. It’s a really, really weird feeling. I didn’t have that often so. So that was great.

Off the court, being a part of the Player Council was something really special for me. It was something I stumbled into and someone nominated me for it. I took it very seriously, spending eight years on the council and doing two as president. That was something I’m very proud of. As much as anything I achieved on the court, for the good of the sport I was able to do a lot more off it.

That was something that was really great.

To end here and finish my playing career here at a place where I’ll now come and have an office. It’s kind of fitting in that way too.

 

TPN: Can you talk about your transition from player to working for the USTA? How did it come about?

 

EB: Gordon Smith approached me a couple of years ago and said when I was looking to wind things down to let him know. They were interested in finding a place for me and about a year ago, when my wife got pregnant with our second child, we knew that it was time we were going to be looking to get out of the game to be home more regularly.

One kid you can travel a little bit, but with two, way more logistically challenging.

I went back to him and said I’m very interested and we talked about what we’d like to do. He was able over quite a few months to create a job description that I felt was fitting to my current skill set as well as what I aspire to do. What better to do than to join an organization that has so much scope they cover from coaching and training players to running one of the biggest sporting events in the world.  I’m really into American tennis, how we can grow the sport in our country and what better way than to be our biggest showcase

 

TPN: What are some of the challenges that you anticipate in your new position?

 

EB: The US Open, I want to make the best tournament in the world, especially in the players’ eyes. I think that people here really want it to be that way. They want what’s best for players. Unfortunately, over the years for whatever many number of reasons, players are not seeing this as their favorite event to attend, so I really want to change that. In some it can be a mindset, in some financial additions here or there changing how players are treated or how they view this event but I think it can be done. I look forward to that challenge.

 

TPN: Doubles – what have been some of the changes that have taken place during your career? What would you do to improve the state of doubles.

The sport could be very powerful. When I first started there were a lot of smaller guys on the tour who were very “handsy”, very crafty, old school if you will, doubles players. Names you may know like Jeff Coetzee, guys who were really crafty and quick around the net. Todd Perry who is a friend of mine and nowadays it’s that bang, bang tennis. You’re seeing a lot of Horia Tecau, Bopanna who just bang serves, crush returns which is just an evolution of the game. There is still a Marc Lopez out there, there are still people. It’s become pretty physical, they’re big and strong and they bang the ball, which maybe isn’t great necessarily for the fans as much, but that’s okay, The game will always be changing and you never know what’s next.

 

What could be better? Guys need to know where doubles is at and they need to do a good job of making sure it’s a fan-friendly product. The Bryans do an unbelievable job. They do pro-ams, they do clinics, they high-five every fan. They do autographs. They rest of the guys need to make sure that they copy that same style, especially as the Bryans move on the next few years. They’re not going to play forever. But we have a few guys who don’t go the extra mile I think to be fan friendly and as a doubles player we need to make sure that we have that, because if we don’t our sport could be quickly wiped off the map.

 

TPN: You have two young sons who may someday ask you, Daddy why did you play tennis?

EB: I don’t even remember how I started. My father was a tennis coach. He never really pushed me to play, but I sort of enjoyed it.

Why did I play tennis? I think as I have gotten older, I realized that some of the things that tennis has the components of it, it’s an incredibly self-reliant sport and in doubles you have a partner but for the most part, you have to hold yourself accountable for how you perform. I’m a pretty self-motivated guy. I don’t need a huge team, or a coach to rah-rah me to work hard.

I’m pretty motivated, but at the end of the day I think I really enjoyed that I’m accountable for my own actions. I don’t rely on a team of 10 guys, or four guys or what they are doing. I pretty much have to rely on myself and I think that tennis really allows you to do that.

People sometimes focus on the negative side of an individual sport. You don’t have a team, that is missing. There’s times when that’s really fun. There’s something really great about the complete self-reliance that tennis allows you. So when you win, the satisfaction can be really high, when you lose it can be really low because there are not a lot of places to turn, except on yourself. But that’s what makes it so powerful and for me it was really special.

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USTA and ADIDAS Announce Partnership To Support US Tennis On Multiple Levels

 

ustaadidas

From the USTA: Overarching Multi-Year Agreement Makes adidas the Official Partner

of USTA Player Development and Sponsor of the newly named

USTA adidas National Junior Championship Series

 

Partnership includes a Prominent Presence at the USTA National Campus,

the Home of American Tennis

 

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., September 1, 2016 – The USTA and adidas today announced a multi-year agreement which will impact the future of American tennis through a number of key initiatives and programs. As part of this newly forged, expansive partnership, adidas will become an official sponsor of the USTA National Campus, USTA Player Development, and USTA League Tennis.  In addition, it will become the exclusive presenting sponsor of the USTA National Junior Rankings and newly named “USTA adidas Junior Championship Series,” comprised of five, L1 individual 16 & Under and 18 & Under junior tournaments that feature some of the top junior tennis players in the country.

 

adidas will have a strong presence throughout the USTA National Campus, the home of American tennis in Orlando, Fla. They will receive naming rights to, and have an extensive branding presence throughout, the “adidas Performance Center” which will serve as home to the USTA’s Player Development (USTA PD) division, which is tasked with developing the next generation of American champions.  adidas will also become the official outfitter and apparel partner for USTA PD, outfitting the coaching staff in adidas gear. They will also have a strong retail presence within the pro-shop of the USTA National Campus.

 

“We are very excited about partnering with the USTA,” said David Malinowski, Senior Director adidas Tennis US. “The USTA’s commitment to the player development program aligns with our mission as a brand and we are focused on helping make the next generation of athletes better from the grassroots level on up.”

 

adidas Tennis is dedicated to supporting grassroots programs, and this partnership allows the brand to be even more connected to some of the best young tennis players in the United States. As presenting sponsor of the adidas Easter Bowl tournament and the “USTA adidas Junior Championship Series,” adidas will be supporting some of the most prestigious junior tournaments throughout the U.S. The Series will consist of the following 16 & Under and 18 & Under national junior events:

  • adidas Easter Bowl
  • Boys’ National Hard Court Championships (Kalamazoo)
  • Girls’ National Hard Court Championships (San Diego)
  • Boys’ National Clay Court Championships
  • Girls’ National Clay Court Championships
  • Boys’ National Winter Championships
  • Girls’ National Winter Championships
  • Boys’ Indoor Nationals
  • Girls’ Indoor Nationals

“It’s incredibly exciting to have adidas coming on board to support ‘Team USA’ at both the USTA National Campus and at our top national junior competitions every year,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman. “The success of our sport depends on the success of the international tennis industry as a whole. We are fortunate that our game is supported by world class brands that produce tennis racquets, tennis balls, apparel and footwear. We are committed to working collaboratively with the entire industry to make sure that tennis players of every level and age have access to the equipment and sportswear that they want and need, to be able to enjoy the game. Our partnership with a global leader like adidas will enable our Player Development Team to reflect the look and professionalism that exemplifies Team USA. The partnership supports our Mission; to maximize the potential of every American player to ensure a successful future for American tennis.”

 

The partnership will also impact many of America’s most passionate adult players, as competitors in the USTA League program, the country’s largest recreational tennis league with more than 800,000 participants nationwide, will have the opportunity to take advantage of a new team uniform program beginning in 2017.

 

Beginning in 2016, adidas will have a dedicated retail location at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The store will carry the latest adidas Tennis apparel and will be open exclusively during the US Open tournament.

 

“This close partnership will prove tremendously beneficial for both the USTA and adidas,” said USTA Chief Revenue Officer Lew Sherr. “The USTA will have one of the leading brands in performance apparel supporting American tennis, and adidas will gain an increased foothold in both the high-performance and recreational tennis communities, while at the same time investing in the vitality of the future of the game in America.”

 

More to follow….

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Raonic Falls to Qualifier, Muguruza and Kuznetsova Also Lose at US Open

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

(August 31, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Wimbledon finalist and US Open fifth seed Milos Raonic along with French Open winner and third seed Garbine Muguruza became the biggest upset victims so far at the US Open on Wednesday. Ninth seed and 2004 US Open title holder Svetlana Kuznetsova also lost.

Top seed Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round when his opponent Jiri Vesely withdrew from the tournament with a left forearm injury.

Cramps caused Canadian Raonic a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 second round loss to American qualifier Ryan Harrison ranked 120th in the world. Raonic said the cramping began halfway through the second set.

“I don’t think hydration was an issue,” Raonic said. “I think I always take that precaution. Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of overexuberance rather than — probably more than it should.”

“I think I didn’t start off well in the match,” explained the Canadian. “I started off feeling a little bit heavy, which has happened to me before. You sort of get through the first set. You pull that one out and you sort of start to relax a little bit. I didn’t do that today. I just sort of compounded the stress. I kept trying to force the shots. I was hesitating mentally on the shots. I just felt a little bit a step slow.”

“I was my own worst enemy today. I tried the best I could to find my way out of it. My body didn’t let me.”

“The sort of expectation of pressure on myself to get out of that situation like I normally would in a situation like that, like happened to me in the beginning of Wimbledon, I didn’t do that.

“Then all that kind of forceful play caught up to me there in the end.”

Raonis hit 15 double faults in the match.

Raonic did credit his opponent: “He played well. He did a lot of things well. I think he stepped up and he played a solid match. There was a few breakpoints. I can’t remember if it was in the second or third. Hit three aces down the T; won three out of four of them.

“At the beginning of the second, a breakpoint. I hit a good forehand cross. He went for it down the line and made it. A reaction volley, made it as well. He stepped up and got through those important moments.

“I didn’t create this pressure for myself or this kind of stress on myself. He did that.”

Ryan Harrison

Ryan Harrison

“The cool and exciting thing was that I had a great win today, and there was no point where I felt like I was red lining or playing a level that wasn’t consistent,” Harrison said. “Kind of like going back to the first question I answered, when I broke early in the first set, I got broken back, there was no panic because I didn’t feel I was playing above my level to get up the break.

“That’s when I was just focused on staying the course. Lose a tight first set. Obviously a lot of people are going, you know, long, tight first set. The first couple games of the second are really important. I saved like four or five breakpoints in that first game of the second set. That was a huge hump, because you don’t want to be down a set and a break to that guy because he can just take the racquet out of your hand at times.

“That was another pivotal moment. I’m sure looking back there were plenty of times where it could have gotten away from me. I’m excited that emotionally and from an execution standpoint I was able to put enough in play and be aggressive enough to take the win.”

 

No. 3 Garbine Muguruza of Spain hit 38 unforced errors in losing 7-5, 6-4 in the first night match to Anastasija Sevastova from Latvia. Sevastova who retired and came back to tennis last after two years dealing with injuries, said she returned to play the majors.

“It still hasn’t settled in,” Noted the Latvian in regard to the upset win. “It feels great, but it’s still not like I won the tournament. It’s only second round.”

“We can enjoy it today, but tomorrow is a new day. There are other matches. Nobody thinks about the previous match. You have to think forward. Tonight I can enjoy.”

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

In another major surprise of the day, ninth seed and former US Open champion Kuznetsova jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but her opponent two-time US Open Finalist Caroline Wozniacki won 12 out of the next 15 games to seal the win 6-4, 6-4. Wozniaki, now ranked at 74th in the world is unseeded in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2007.

 

“I always believe in myself and I always think that in my head I belong to the top of the game,” she said. “You know, I’m going to have tough draws because of my ranking but in the end of the day I’m healthy, and that’s the main thing. Then I can start building from that.”

 

“I love playing here at the Open,” the Dane continued. “I have great memories here. I have had matches against Sveta so many times before here where she’s been killing literally on court 6-1, 4-1, and then I have managed to come back and win the match in three sets.

“It’s like, you know what? Just keep going, wait for your opportunity and your chance, and I did that today.”

 

Other seeds advancing to the third round included Australian Open champion and second seed Angelique Kerber, last year’s women’s finalist 7th seed Roberta Vinci, Madison Keys the eighth seed, the 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, Johanna Konta No. 13, 14th seed Petra Kvitova, No. 22 Elina Svitolina and No. 24 Belinda Bencic. Moving to the third round on the men’s side –  two-time US Open winner and fourth seed Rafael Nadal, 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic, No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 seed Gael Monfils, No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, 20th seed John Isner, No. 23 Kevin Anderson, No. 24 Lucas Pouille, and No. 26th seed Jack Sock.

 

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Serena Williams Soars Past Makarova, Sister Venus Advances in Three Sets at US Open

(August 30, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Whatever doubts people had about Serena Williams and a shoulder injury were put to rest on Tuesday night at the US Open.

Serena and Venus Williams moved into the second round of the US Open on Tuesday. No. 1 Serena looking for her 23rd major opened the night session with a dominating 6-3, 6-3 performance against No. 36 Ekaterina Makarova hitting 27 winning with 12 aces. It was Serena’s 85 match win at the US Open.

“I knew today I needed to be focused because I’ve played her,” Serena said. “She’s gotten to the semifinals. She goes deep in majors. She knows how to play big matches on big courts. She’s not intimidated. I knew I had to really come out today. It was my only option really.”

“I was pleased with my serve because I haven’t been hitting a lot of serves at all. In practice, none of them were going in, so I was definitely excited about that.”

Sister Venus, seeded sixth had to survive a three-set match against Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine, who is ranked 93rd 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. For the 36-year-old Venus she is now 18-0 in US Open first round matches, making a record 72 appearance at a major.

 

“The first round is never easy,” Venus said. “You’re trying to find a rhythm, get used to the court, you know, play an opponent I never played before.

“But it was great to be challenged and to be pushed because I had to get in those situations that you know you’re going to face in the tournament early on. So that felt good to come through.”

 

“I didn’t know much about her game at all, literally zero,” she continued. “And it’s hard. The first round is hard. I haven’t played a single match in, like, three weeks. Just getting out there and trying to play perfectly.

“I definitely had a lot more errors than I wanted. If I could cut those in half, it’s definitely a different story.

“The good part is I’m playing the game I want to play, I’m playing aggressively and moving forward. It’s just about making a few less errors and it’s a completely different story.”

 

Former world No. 1 and 29th seed Ana Ivanovic has lost in the first round for the second straight year, this time to Denisa Allertova 7-6(4), 6-1.

The recently married 2008 French Open winner was asked about possible retirement. “No, not at all,” she said. “I just need to really see why is this happening, you know. Because, I mean, I had struggles throughout my career; I had some tough times. This is not the first time I’m going through this.

“It just hurts because I know what I invested.”

 

Fifth seed Simona Halep had points for a 6-0, 6-0 win, but was broken and won 6-0, 6-2 over Kirsten Flipkens.

 

In the biggest upset on the men’s side, 12 seeded David Goffin lost to American teenage qualifier Jared Donaldson 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0. The 19-year-old is ranked 122 in the world.

Donaldson talked about getting his first US open win:”Obviously it was a really, really exciting atmosphere out there. I thought that I played really well. It was tough conditions. It was hot. I think we were both trying to move each other as much as possible and take time away from each other.

“So I think that, you know, I just was able to win a few more of the key points today. Obviously that fourth set I played really well.

“I think it was a really, really special victory for me.”

Fellow American Sam Querrey, who stunned Novak Djokovic in the third round of Wimbledon lost to Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (4), 6-7 (0), 6-3, 6-3.

 

In his first US Open since 2013, Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion beat fellow Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Del Potro who is ranked142nd was a wild card recipient. Del Potro won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics earlier this month, when he lost to Andy Murray in the final.

“I am so glad to be part of this tournament once again after three years,” said the former champion. “I really appreciate the wild card who give me to have the chance to play, and that’s important for me.

“Always, in every match here at the US Open, the crowd make me feels special. I really like the atmospheres down there. They create another things in every court.

“It’s amazing for me just having the chance to play here once again.”

Seeds Stan Wawrinka and 2014 US open finalist Kei Nishikori also advanced on Tuesday.

 

More to follow…

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US Open National Playoffs Begin on Friday at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale

 

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., August 18, 2016 – The USTA today announced the 16 men and 16 women who will compete in the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships, held Aug. 19-22 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale in New Haven, Conn. The tournament is held in conjunction with the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies, the final Emirates Airline US Open Series women’s event of the summer.

The respective men’s and women’s US Open National Playoffs winners will receive a wild card into the 2016 US Open Qualifying Tournament, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., the home of the US Open, Aug. 23-26.

In all, 1,127 players (735 men and 392 women) competed in the seventh year of the US Open National Playoffs in singles at one of 15 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments held throughout the United States, with the winners and select runners-up qualifying for the Championships. The US Open National Playoffs are designed to bring the spirit of the US Open to cities and sections across the country, making the US Open eligible to anyone and everyone 14 and over with the passion to compete, regardless of playing ability or nationality.

Men’s Singles Preview

Three men competing in the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship have competed at the US Open: Gage Brymer (2013 qualifying), Tyler Hochwalt (2005 and 2006 juniors) and Jesse Witten (2006 and 2009 singles; six times in qualifying).

Nearly all of the participants have played college tennis, and five will be playing collegiately this fall: Brymer (UCLA), Shawn Hadavi (Columbia), Martin Joyce (Ohio State), Eric Rutledge (Rice) and Terrence Whitehurst (Florida State). In addition, nine players were college standouts: Henry Craig (Denver), Hochwalt (Florida), Patrick Kawka (BYU), Evan King (Michigan), Hunter Koontz (Virginia Tech), Nicolas Meister (UCLA), Eric Quigley (Kentucky), Cameron Silverman (Elon) and Witten (Kentucky).

Four of these players will be participating in at least one other US Open National Playoffs Championship event. Kawka and Meister will also be competing in the Men’s Doubles Championship, while King will be competing in the Mixed Doubles Championship. Quigley will be competing in all three events.

The oldest player in the Men’s Singles Championship is the 33-year-old Witten, who won last year’s National Playoffs Men’s Singles Championship. Joyce and Rutledge are the youngest players at 19. 

Women’s Singles Preview

Four women competing in the Women’s Singles Championship will be vying for a chance to return to the US Open stage after competing at the US Open previously: Jacqueline Cako (2014 mixed doubles), Julia Elbaba (2010 and 2011 juniors), Ayaka Okuno (2011, 2012 and 2013 juniors), and Ashley Weinhold (2006 mixed and women’s doubles; 2007 singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles; 2006, 2011 and 2012 qualifying).

Five of the women competing will be participating in multiple events at this year’s US Open National Playoffs Championships. Sophie Chang, Nika Kukharchuk, Sanaz Marand and Ashley Weinhold will be playing in two events, while Jacqueline Cako will be taking part in all three championship events open to women: singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Cako, a former Arizona State University All-American, is the only woman at the US Open National Playoffs Championships who is a past National Playoffs champion; she teamed with Joel Kielbowicz in 2014 to win the Mixed Doubles Championship. Margaryta Bilokin, a standout junior player in New England, is the youngest player in the competition at age 15. She is joined by teenagers Sara Choy, 16; Elyse Lavender, 17; Daavettila, 18; Fernanda Contreras Gomez, 18; and Chang, 19. 

The oldest player in the Women’s Singles Championship is the 29-year-old Kukharchuk, who has been here before. Kukharchuk advanced past the sectional qualifying tournament stage each year from 2012 through 2014.

The US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Doubles Championship field will take place Aug. 20-23, the Men’s Doubles Championship field will take place Aug. 21-24, and the Mixed Doubles Championship will take place Aug. 24-27. The winning teams in the doubles draws earn main draw wild cards into the US Open. In all, 994 players (408 men’s doubles, 200 women’s doubles, 386 mixed doubles) competed in the seventh year of the US Open National Playoffs in doubles at one of 15 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments held throughout the United States, with the winners and select runners-up qualifying for the Championships. 

The US Open men’s and women’s doubles championships begin Aug. 30 and the US Open mixed doubles championship begins Aug. 31 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

The 2016 US Open is scheduled to take place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11.

US Open National Playoffs information is available at www.USOpen.org/NationalPlayoffs. 

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