June 28, 2017

Varvara Lepchenko Cleared After Positive Meldonium Tests


From the International Tennis Federation:


Tennis Anti-Doping Programme


20 September 2016 – London, ENGLAND


Decision in the case of Varvara Lepchenko


The International Tennis Federation announced today that Varvara Lepchenko has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (the “Programme”). It has been accepted by the ITF that Ms. Lepchenko bore no fault or negligence for the violation, and that any period of ineligibility that may otherwise have been imposed is eliminated.


Ms. Lepchenko, a 30-year-old American tennis player originally from Uzbekistan, provided samples on 7 January 2016 (In-Competition at the Brisbane International event) and 1 February, 1 March and 7 April 2016 (Out-of-Competition), all of which were found to contain meldonium at estimated concentrations of (respectively) 12,630 ng/mL, 931 ng/mL, 339 ng/mL and 29 ng/mL. Meldonium is a non-specified substance that was added to the WADA Prohibited List (in category S4.5) on 1 January 2016 and is therefore also prohibited under the Programme. Ms. Lepchenko was charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme, and was provisionally suspended on 12 March 2016.


WADA issued a Meldonium Notice on 13 April 2016, following which Ms. Lepchenko made a successful application to the Chairman of the Independent Tribunal established to hear the case to have her provisional suspension lifted. This was on the grounds that the meldonium present in her samples came from a course of Mildronate tablets that she stopped taking on or around 20 December 2015. WADA published a second Meldonium Notice on 30 June 2016, on the basis of which WADA advised the ITF that the concentrations found in Ms. Lepchenko’s samples are consistent with her account of pre-1 January 2016 use.


Accordingly, it was accepted by the ITF that Ms. Lepchenko bore no fault or negligence for the violation, and that any period of ineligibility that may otherwise have been imposed is eliminated entirely under Programme Article 10.4. The results that Ms. Lepchenko obtained at the 2016 Brisbane International event are automatically disqualified pursuant to TADP Article 9.1 and TADP Article 9.2.1, and the points and prize money that she won are forfeit. This presence violation will be disregarded for sanctioning purposes in the event that Ms. Lepchenko commits any further anti-doping rule violation.


The Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is a comprehensive and internationally recognised drug-testing programme that applies to all players competing at Grand Slam tournaments and events sanctioned by the ITF, ATP and WTA. Players are tested for substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and, upon a finding that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, sanctions are imposed in accordance with the requirements of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and World Anti-Doping Code. More background information on the Programme, sanctions, tennis statistics and related information can be found at www.itftennis.com/antidoping.


Pliskova Powers Past Lepchenko at Bank of the West Classic


Pliskova in press

By Curt Janka

(August 8, 2015) STANFORD, California – Karolina Pliskova swung freely into her fifth final of the year, beating Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-5. Most of the match boiled down to serves and return of serves. Pliskova continued her week of good serving with 72% of her first serves landing in while Lepchenko only managed 57%. Pliskova returned better as well, landing 72% of her returns in compared to the 56% Lepchenko struggled to get back in play.


Asked about what she did well today, Pliskova said “I think I served a little bit better. I don’t mean with the aces, but with the percentage of the first serve. She was really struggling with the return.”


The win puts Pliskova in her fifth final of the year, the most of any player on tour. Bigger still, she will advance to the Top 10 in the rankings for the first time on Monday. What does she think about being there? “I don’t really feel like I’m in the top 10,” she laughed. Mathematically, she was going to be there regardless of how she did at this event. She continued, “I know I belong there now, especially when I make the finals. I’m really happy to be in the Top 10, but I’m not going to think about it because it’s not my last goal. It was for a few years, but I don’t want to be satisfied with that. I want to be ready for the US Open and get a good result there.” She is also in the running to qualify for the year-end event in Singapore and hopes to be there.

Pliskova fistpump

Pliskova awaits the winner of the semifinal between Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina. Pliskova has won both of her previous encounters with Svitolina, but trails Kerber 2-3 head-to-head. Regardless of her opponent and the result, she has had a good week and will carry confidence to the US Open. “I’m feeling great now after I won three matches here and didn’t lose a set yet. Couldn’t be a better start to the hard court season.”

Curt Janka and David Sweet are covering the Bank of the West Classic. Follow their updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN


“Nobody beats me 5 times,” Lepchenko Upsets Wozniacki at Stanford

Varvara Lepchenko

Varvara Lepchenko

By Curt Janka

(August 6, 2015) STANFORD, CaliforniaVarvara Lepchenko played steady to beat top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki at the Bank of the West Classic 6-4, 6-2 despite a number of brief rain delays. Neither player exhibited much emotion on court, as Wozniacki appeared slowed by a leg taped heavily from the knee down. The win is Lepchenko’s third over a Top 5 player, but only her first over Wozniacki who held a 4-0 record over the qualifier.


“Nobody beats me 5 times,” Lepchenko finally cracked a smile in her on-court interview.


Asked if her leg was her main problem tonight, Wozniacki said “Physically, I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. It wasn’t pretty out there, that’s for sure. At the end of the day she played better. Hats off to her.” The injury did not seem to worry her too much, however, as she explained “Hopefully, a few days and I’ll be okay.”


Lepchenko, who battled illness early in the season, has worked hard to get back in good condition. “The very first day after Wimbledon I started my physical conditioning,” she said. “I worked pretty hard to get myself to this point. I think I’m in better condition now than at the beginning of the season.”


Both players remarked on how quick the court is playing here, but Wozniacki thought that might help her for her next event. “Now, hopefully everything will feel slow in Toronto.” At least she found a silver lining amidst tonight’s scattered showers.


Curt Janka is covering the Bank of the West Classic this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @CurtJanka.


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Varvara Lepchenko

Varvara Lepchenko



First Timers shine in the Birmingham sun

Victoria Azarekna

Victoria Azarekna

By Ros Satar

(June 16, 2015) The Birmingham field this year has been boosted by a couple of debutantes who certainly shone on a rare sunny day in the Midlands. First up was a pumped looking Victoria Azarenka, and if her exertions while waiting to walk out onto court were anything to go by, the former World No. 1 was more than up for this challenge.

Except her opponent Varvara Lepchenko had other ideas, racing out to a 4-0 lead, as Azarenka perhaps was over-pushing in her eagerness to make her mark, before Azarenka finally started to find the court, to put it bluntly.

From 4-0 up to coming out on the wrong side of a momentum-switching tie-break must have been galling to the American, as Azarenka powered on, and although she was pegged back by Lepchenko after she surged out to a 3-0 lead of her own, it was not enough to stop Azarenka making a winning start 7-6, 6-4.

The Belarusian can always be counted upon to give a full and frank assessment of her time out on court.

“I felt that I didn’t really start well. I wasn’t really there. I was missing too much,” Azarenka said. “Of course she played well and forced me to do a lot of things but I just didn’t feel that I put in enough energy or concentration. Something wasn’t quite working.”

She continued: “I just tried to stay positive as much as possible and try and fight through it. I think that was one thing that I did really well today. I made something happen in the important moments and tried to change the flow of the match in my favour.

Azarenka has been marching back up the rankings but there are still signs of rustiness, in closing out matches for example.

“I think I still have to sharpen my game, and as a perfectionist I’m always looking to improve.”

Meanwhile Simona Halep needed to sharpen up her own game after a clay court season she would have reasonably expected to sail through, Instead though, save for her run to the semi-final of Stuttgart, it was nowhere near a par with her run to the Madrid and Roland Garros finals. She was bounced out of Madrid, yet dealt with the loss maturely. She did better in Rome, but her French Open points were lost in the red clay as she fell in the second round.

She was up against British wildcard Naomi Broady, hoping to lift the crowd’s spirits after British No. 1 Heather Watson was ousted in two tight sets by Aleksandra Krunic, whose match sharpness coming through qualifiers proved to be too much for Watson on her comeback from injury at Roland Garros.

Give Broady her credit, she hung tough with Halep, making the top seed work hard for the break, but once she did, the Romanian went on a sprint through the next six games in a row. It was too much for the Brit to come back from, although she managed to at least get back on the board in the second set.

“I had a really tough opponent today. She played really well and her first serve is very big – it’s not easy to return her serve,” Halep said. “The first set was really tough, and I can say I was a little bit lucky to get the break in the end, but overall I’m happy how I did and that I could win this match today.

“It’s the first tournament of the year for me on grass, and it’s not easy to adapt my game on grass, but last year I had good results on it and I come here with confidence. I believe I have my chances.”

Play continues in Edgbaston from 11am BST.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.




A Conversation with Varvara Lepchenko


By Alana Mitchelson

(January 17, 2014) MELBOURNE – Varvara Lepchenko was left feeling very weak and light-headed after losing her second round Australian Open singles match on Thursday in the blistering 111 degree heat. She spent an hour after the match lying down in the locker room before making a media appearance, admittedly still feeling a little dazed and dizzy.


We caught up with Lepchenko the following day to see how she has been holding up and heard about her feelings toward the Extreme Heat Policy.


We talk tennis, citizenship, career goals and… figure skating.


Alana Mitchelson: Do you think you were fully recovered from yesterday to play doubles today?

Varvara Lepchenko: No, I think it’s too soon. Unfortunately, I don’t know why our organisers don’t look into this kind of thing. They make it worse for you rather than accommodating for you and giving you the best chance. I’m a little bit better today but I’m a little bit under the weather.


AM: Yeah, you made a few comments about the Extreme Heat Policy yesterday.

VL: Well I think, first of all, it’s already been a couple of days like this and they only started doing something about it when people started talking about it. They shouldn’t be waiting for people to start talking. Even though there are some doctors saying this is not dangerous, it is dangerous for the players. I see a lot of players struggling, and even just for the fans to sit around and watch, it’s hard. I mean, can you imagine us being down on the court in I don’t know how many degrees more. Nobody even shows up and we’re running in the heat all the time under the sun, so it’s definitely one of those things that the organizers of the tournament and the committee need to address and have meetings to know what exact temperature it is unbearable to play under.


This was very unfortunate because I had to go through this two days in a row and even today was the third day all up really and it’s not going to hurt anybody to start a little bit later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning to avoid peak heat.


AM: What did you do after you left Melbourne Park yesterday?

VL: I just rested up and I had ice all over my body, trying to stay really cold. I was pretty much laying down the whole time and didn’t do anything because I was just too hot. I didn’t sleep so well, you know what I mean? It was tough.


AM: Did you find it hard to cool down?

VL: It was really hard because I took an ice bath right after the match and it wasn’t easy to stay cold and keep my temperature down. It was only good for a couple of hours and then I started feeling like I was getting hot again during the night.


AM: When you came into the press conference yesterday, you said you still felt quite dizzy and that was an hour after your match. How long did it take for that feeling to pass?

VL: Yeah, I had a headache all day long yesterday and I was kind of worried about what was going to happen to me the next day, if I was going to wake up with the same headache as I had yesterday. Thankfully my body recovered a little bit so that I was able to perform today but it’s definitely something that pushes you all the way to the edge, testing your body limits when it shouldn’t be that way. It should be a test of your physical ability, not health wise of how well you can withstand the heat. It’s more about the medical preparation of your body for how long people can stay in the sun really and how many degrees it can get to and you still being able to compete.


AM: If we wind back the clock a fair bit now, I was wondering how you were first introduced to tennis?

VL: Well back in Uzbekistan, the tennis club was only a five minute walk away from our apartment building and that’s how I started. My dad brought me there and gave me a tennis racquet and ball. All I wanted to do was obviously just go and play with the other kids but he promised me if I hit so many shots against the wall, he would give me bubble gum which was a luxury for me at the time. So that’s how I pretty much started.


AM: And your father coaches you. Is it difficult trying to maintain a professional relationship with your father?

VL: Definitely, it’s very hard to have this kind of a relationship and we try to mix it up. He’s not coaching me full-time, I’m training with other coaches, so we try to mix it up a little bit to maintain our father-daughter relationship as well. But at the same time, there’s a lot of good things that come out of it. No one will work with you with as much heart as your father. You can definitely feel it. Until I can find another coach who can put all of that heart into coaching me then I’ll stick with my dad.


AM: Around last summer, you reached a career-high ranking of 19. What is it like when you best your own ranking record?

VL: It’s definitely one of those things that you’re just working and working on, and you don’t really think about the ranking at that point. You just keep working hard and then you’re all of a sudden at this level and you’re like ‘wow, how did this happen?’, you know, and then you just sit down and think ‘oh yeah, I’ve been working really hard in both the off season and this season.


AM: A couple of years ago, you upset former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic. Not many players can say they have beaten her. What do you remember about how you felt in that moment?

VL: Yeah, it’s definitely one of those amazing moments when you beat someone you kind of look up to. You’ve seen them succeeding in a lot of tournaments and then, all of a sudden, it’s you who’s beaten them. I just battled through that match and didn’t think about anything else. And when I won I was really excited about it.


AM: Of all the matches you’ve played in your career so far, which one has been your favourite?

VL: I would definitely look back and say round of 32 in the French Open 2012 against Francesca Schiavone. I was down in that match and I came back and won.


AM: Can you tell me a bit about your background. You only just became a US citizen a few years ago.

VL: Well, it wasn’t the easiest road to where I am right now. For many years, I was playing strictly Challengers because I couldn’t travel because I didn’t have any documents and I was waiting for my status to clear in the United States. Just waiting and waiting, and my tennis level was pretty much the same because you can’t really go far playing Challengers. Once I’d gotten my documents in November 2011, I started travelling more and started to improve my tennis a lot more.


It wasn’t the easiest time obviously, and I’m just grateful to be where I am right now, just because I started out playing tennis travelling and sleeping in the car during the early days and not being able to afford a hotel and other things. A lot of determination and just being lucky to have made it to where I am now from where I’ve been, not seeing my mum for four years. This kind of thing makes you tougher. Once I’d gotten the freedom of moving and playing the bigger tournaments, competing against tougher opponents and playing better tennis, I started seeing where my tennis could improve and what I can do better.


AM: So why the US?

VL: I came to the US to play Junior tournaments. I was playing some Challengers there and then I decided to play Orange Bowl. I’d entered into the event and my federation basically just pulled me out of the tournament because they needed to give approval to the US federation and they said that they didn’t want me to play.


That was a key moment for me being in the US who were not going to stop anybody from playing. There were so many opportunities for me there. Even though it wasn’t the easiest way, I was able to travel by car with my dad and sometimes we would get some housing and stay with some friends and some people would help us out with accommodation. That’s pretty much how we fell in love with USA and so we decided to stay there. I’ve been there for about 12 years now.


AM: You’ve said in a previous interview that you enjoy watching figure skating. Do you notice any similarities between figure skating and tennis?

VL: No, there’s not really much. I just like how the figure skaters move on the ice and their nice outfits. They have to do these really difficult lifts and they’re so fast. They’re under so much pressure and I think this is what I like because it’s one performance. You don’t get another chance and it’s really hard to put everything into one performance.


AM: Have you ever tried skating yourself?

VL: I know how to ice skate but I don’t know how to do all the jumps or all the little tricks they do. There’s no way I can do that. I’ve never tried and it’s too hard because I can’t even skate in a circle.


AM: Yeah, let’s try to avoid any injuries.

VL: Exactly.


AM: And I believe you’re a fan of karaoke as well?

VL: Oh yeah, I love karaoke. You don’t want to hear me sing though, I’m definitely one of the worst singers. But it just releases that energy and you feel free and it’s fun. I haven’t done that in a while but I prefer to go in a group. I need someone there to push me but once I start it’s hard to stop me, but it’s definitely one of the things I love to do.


AM: Back to talking tennis, what are some essential items you can’t live without having at court side during a match?

VL: I definitely need a towel, my drinks and my gels. I need my ice towel (laughs), especially for this tournament. I need to have a hat, I can’t play without a hat otherwise I just feel uncomfortable. Oh, and I always need to have new grips for my racquets – just in case.


AM: Do you feel the standard of women’s tennis has lifted dramatically since Serena Williams has come along?

VL: Yeah, definitely. She’s just such a great champion and she took the game to the next level. I think everybody is trying to play more aggressive – doing bigger serves and just physically better. I think she and Venus set such a huge example of what your level has to be to be one of the best players. You used to get players who didn’t hit the ball hard enough and now you never get that. It’s all about the speed, the power, the agility and the stamina. She’s been taking tennis to another level and everybody’s looking up to her.


AM: You played doubles this morning. What aspects of the doubles game do you like that you don’t necessarily get to experience in singles?

VL: I think what I like about doubles is that it’s a lot less pressure. You can enjoy it a lot more. I don’t put a lot of responsibility on myself, I just try to play the best that I can. So I think I like that I relax a lot more. It’s interesting, you have to have a really good reaction so it tests your reflexes. It’s almost like playing a chess game. You really have to think about what you have to do in order to win a match or a game. It’s interesting to have this combination of the court and tactics, it’s good for the game.


AM: What other tournaments do you have lined up for the summer?

VL: At the moment I’m signed up for Pattaya, Thailand, and this is what I’m looking forward to.


AM: What are your goals for this year?

VL: I really want to be seeded at my next Grand Slam. This is my goal.


AM: More generally speaking, where do you hope to take your game?

VL: Well, I would be a fool if I said I didn’t want to be up there with the top players because I’ve really got the game and I just need to pull a few things together. It’s just a matter of knowing that if I can pull it together, I can take my game to who knows where.


AM: Thank you for giving up so much of your time.

VL: No problem, thank you. Have a good day.


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

Related article:

Extreme Heat has Players Talking at Australian Open


Extreme Heat has Players Talking at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova


By Alana Mitchelson

(January 16, 2014) MELBOURNE – With players being treated for the heat throughout the morning and early afternoon at the Australian Open, the Extreme Heat Policy came into effect at about 2.50pm on Thursday. According to official statements, the conditions were not considered dangerous until this stage, but Maria Sharapova thinks the threshold point could be better explained to the tennis players.


The Extreme Heat Policy, in short, ensures that when humidity, temperature and wind speed reach a certain point, no new matches are to commence until further notice and that all sets already in progress must be completed in the same conditions in which they started. Thereafter, matches on outdoor courts will be suspended and the roof may be closed on major arenas.


On Thursday, Maria Sharapova and Karin Knapp had already begun their third, deciding set in the blistering heat when the policy was implemented. This meant the roof could not be closed until the conclusion of that set, however, in their case this would mean the end of the match.


Some of the players expressed their thoughts on the policy and made suggestions as to how they believed it could better serve the best interests of the athletes who carry the sport.


A light-headed Varvara Lepchenko had spent a full hour after her match lying down, trying to recover from the ordeal.


“The first thing I did was have an ice bath and I also drank a lot of water with salt. I just lay down in the locker room for the past hour and I just physically couldn’t get up,” Varvara said shakily.


“I’m feeling still a little bit weak and I just feel like I wanna sit down all the time and lay down.


“I think they definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place and the same goes a couple of days ago… I think they should’ve started the matches after the temperature cooled down a little bit because this is just too much.


“When the game kept going, I had many things in my mind. First of all, that I had a good chance and then I started feeling like that and I didn’t know how my body could recover from it during the match. The other thing I started thinking was, what if I’m just gonna drop right now. Then it’s going to take me even longer to recover from something like that.


“Obviously it’s very dangerous if somebody has a condition to the heart or anything like that. Being in this temperature’s almost like going to (a) sauna and it’s not good.


“It happened to me, for the first time in my life, that I was playing under these conditions… at first, I didn’t understand what was going on. But then my legs and my arms just started to get heavier and I couldn’t focus. And at one point I started feeling dizzier and dizzier.


“At 5-1, I started feeling a little bit weak but I thought that I was just feeling tired and I tried to push myself.. In the second set I couldn’t focus on my returns, I couldn’t see the ball… everything started going so fast like I felt like the time in between the points. I started feeling really hot on the top of my head and then at one point I completely lost it.


“I just couldn’t focus on the point. I felt like my arms weighed a ton and I started feeling dizzy and this one last point on her serve, I don’t remember what was the score, I started feeling really dizzy and I just didn’t know how to handle that.


Having experienced the hot, heavy air on court herself, Lepchenko had a lot of admiration for Sharapova’s ability to at last claim victory in her brutal three-setter under the scorching Melbourne sun, open roof in the Rod Laver Arena.


“Just watching Maria, I thought ‘wow’. She played under the same conditions.


“The temperature was rising every minute and every second of the hour.”


Sharapova acknowledged the fact that it would be difficult for anyone to pinpoint the exact limit for when conditions should be considered ‘extreme’.


“​It’s a tough call,” Sharapova said.


“I mean, I think the question I have is that no one really knows what the limit is, not the players. Even the trainers themselves, when you ask them, ‘when will the roof be closed?’ ​No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat. Sometimes you wish you know, because it just depends on, I’m not sure who, a referee or the meteorologist and there are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved.


“I would love to know a bit more detail before, not even before I get on the court but just in general, it’s good to know. I didn’t even know there was no play when I left the court. I mean, I had no idea. But it seems a little strange that the WTA Tour trainers don’t know what that threshold is.


“​We have never received any emails or, you know, warnings about the weather or what to do.”


The world No. 3 suddenly paused in recollection, with a bittersweet smile.


“Actually, I did receive one, I think, while I was in the ice bath a few minutes ago,” Sharapova laughed, “and I was like, that’s a little too late. It was a little late. It was probably when they were stopping the matches like, oh, maybe it’s about time we sent out a warning.”


She also thinks time violations handed down for lengthier water breaks, given the circumstances are a tad harsh and that breaks should either be extended or altogether suspended.


“I think it should be. For the safety of the players, definitely.


“On one hand you’re trying to get as much rest in between points as you can, but then you have an umpire who is giving you a time violation. Then you’re asking yourself whether that’s fair in whatever degree weather that was. So there is that mixed emotion of, okay, I need to get in the shade but then I need to be there when the time is up to be able to serve or return or whatever it is. There is a bit of pressure on the line as well in those conditions. Anywhere else it’s fine, if that’s the speed of the game, that’s absolutely fine. But in these conditions, let it go.”


Her main concern was that for a final set decider, in both the men’s and women’s draw, there should be special consideration given when there is no tie-break to put a quick, definitive end to the set.


“Everyone knows there is no tiebreaker in the third set. So once you start that set, you’re going to be out there until you’re done. That’s the question I have.


“I think in the third set for the women and the fifth set for the men, if you know that there is no tiebreaker, officials can’t just rely on maybe that the set will go fast, the set will be over and we will be off court because we have no tiebreaker in that last set. So that’s what you have to consider.”


Agnieszka Radwanska also made a comment about her thoughts on the heat rule after her match and offered insight into what the word of consensus was going around in the locker rooms at the moment.


“Today was really, really hard. Even (playing) indoors was ridiculous.


“I think everybody’s saying that sometimes it’s even too hot. Some of the girls can’t even talk after the match or practice.”


Friday is forecast to be another scorcher, with an expected high of 111 degrees F.


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


Vesnina Stuns Ivanovic in Eastbourne

Elena Vesnina

Elena Vesnina

By Ros Satar


(June 17, 2013) EASTBOURNE, England –


Elena Vesnina def. Ana Ivanovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3

Elena Vesnina overcame the seventh seed Ana Ivanovic in the first match on Centre Court as the women had to regroup and restart when rain halted the beginning of their match.


Ivanovic certainly started well, racing to the first set, but soon after she started to struggle with key aspects of her game – the ball toss and also crucially her first serve deserted her long enough to give Vesnina an all important break.


The loss of the second set seemed to deflate the Serb, as she handed over a break at the start of the deciding set on a double fault.


The wind was occasionally gusting, sometimes perhaps guiding the odd ball on its way out, and it certainly seemed for a while that the South Stand side was the problem side for both.


For a while it looked like Vesnina would defeat herself after delivering a shocker of a game with three double-faults and a lot of frazzled yelling.


Somehow, the Russian regrouped, edging ahead before a long, tortuous Ivanovic service game where even the umpire lost where she was.


Three match points later – Ivanovic was left to consider what she would need to do ahead of the start of Wimbledon next week.


“I think on grass it’s very hard to get rhythm,” she said.

“It’s something that I want to build towards and now hopefully have another few good days of practice before Wimbledon.”



Heather Watson

Heather Watson

Heather Watson def. Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4


British No. 2 Heather Watson delivered some home cheer in the sunshine, defeating Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4.


Watson gave the crowd a few reasons to utter a collective sigh while serving out the match, having to claw her way back to match point after being a break point down.


It just needed the one match point to set Heather on her way in this tournament, putting aside the disappointment of an early exit at the French Open, and only a couple of rounds in Birmingham.


“I felt very motivated this week,” she said.

“I was mentally up for this match.”


There is still some room, she feels, for improvement saying that she had felt she had not made a lot of returns and could have a higher first serve percentage.


Watson, who had to take time out to recover from glandular fever, confessed to sometimes still feeling a little tired, but is looking forward to the grass season.


“People don’t think grass matches my game,” she said, “but it’s one of my favourite surfaces.”


Kyle Edmund def. Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4


There was more British celebration when the junior sensation from Queens, Kyle Edmund, won his first round match against big serving qualifier Kenny De Schepper.


There are 360 places between him and his opponent today and he was very happy with his win.


“It’s nice to be able to know that I can play at that level,” he said, “but my goal is to play at that level and also have a ranking out of it.”


Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. She’s covering the AEGON International this week as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow her personal twitter at @rfsatar.


Eastbourne, England
June 17-22, 2013

Results – Monday, June 17, 2013
WTA Singles – First Round
(6) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) d. Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) 76(5) 61
Elena Vesnina (RUS) d. (7) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 26 64 63
Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 63 62
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Christina McHale (USA) 63 64
Heather Watson (GBR) d. Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 63 64

WTA Doubles – First Round
(1) Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) d. Raymond/Robson (USA/GBR) 46 64 105 (Match TB)
Hsieh/Lucic-Baroni (TPE/CRO) d. (WC) Kvitova/Wickmayer (CZE/BEL) 61 64
Niculescu/Zakopalova (ROU/CZE) d. Babos/Minella (HUN/LUX) 64 63

WTA Singles Qualifying – Final Round
(1) Jamie Hampton (USA) d. Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 62 61
Yulia Beygelzimer (UKR) d. (3) Jana Cepelova (SVK) 61 76(4)
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) d. (7) Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 76(5) 36 63
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 75 36 64

ATP Singles – First Round
F Verdasco (ESP) d [6] A Dolgopolov (UKR) 16 63 62
[7] A Seppi (ITA) d [Q] G Rufin (FRA) 36 63 64
[8] F Fognini (ITA) d G Zemlja (SLO) 67(6) 62 64
A Ramos (ESP) d [Q] J Blake (USA) 62 64
[Q] R Harrison (USA) d P Mathieu (FRA) 64 26 76(4)
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) d [Q] K De Schepper (FRA) 64 64

ATP Doubles – First Round

M Matkowski (POL) / F Nielsen (DEN) d [2] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 62 63
[3] L Paes (IND) / R Stepanek (CZE) d I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) 57 76(5) 10-6
M Klizan (SVK) / M Matosevic (AUS) d D Istomin (UZB) / J Monaco (ARG) 36 76(6) 10-2
P Hanley (AUS) / K Skupski (GBR) d T Bednarek (POL) / P Marx (GER) 26 64 10-8    

Order Of Play – Tuesday, June 18, 2013
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
B Tomic (AUS) vs [WC] J Ward (GBR) – ATP
Not Before 1:00 PM
A Cornet (FRA) vs [2] [WC] N Li (CHN) – WTA
[Q] Y Beygelzimer (UKR) vs L Robson (GBR) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
[5] K Anderson (RSA) vs J Benneteau (FRA) – ATP
[WC] J Delgado (GBR) / J Ward (GBR) vs [4] C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) – ATP

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
T Paszek (AUT) vs [5] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
J Nieminen (FIN) vs F Lopez (ESP) – ATP
V Troicki (SRB) vs M Klizan (SVK) – ATP
[1] A Radwanska (POL) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[3] A Kerber (GER) vs S Cirstea (ROU) – WTA
M Niculescu (ROU) vs [4] P Kvitova (CZE) – WTA
[WC] S Stosur (AUS) vs [8] N Petrova (RUS) – WTA
J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) vs F Fognini (ITA) / A Seppi (ITA) – ATP

COURT 3 start 11:00 am
[WC] J Konta (GBR) vs S Hsieh (TPE) – WTA
[WC] E Baltacha (GBR) vs [Q] K Pliskova (CZE) – WTA
D Istomin (UZB) vs I Dodig (CRO) – ATP
R Stepanek (CZE) vs M Matosevic (AUS) – ATP

COURT4 start 11:00 am
K Zakopalova (CZE) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA
D Jurak (CRO) / H Watson (GBR) vs [2] L Huber (USA) / S Mirza (IND) – WTA
[Q] O Puchkova (RUS) vs E Makarova (RUS) – WTA
[4] F Pennetta (ITA) / E Vesnina (RUS) vs C Black (ZIM) / M Erakovic (NZL) – WTA
N Grandin (RSA) / V Uhlirova (CZE) vs O Kalashnikova (GEO) / A Rosolska (POL) – WTA

COURT 5 start 12:00 noon
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) – ATP
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) / S Thornley (GBR) vs [PR] E Butorac (USA) / A Ram (ISR) – ATP
H Chan (TPE) / L Safarova (CZE) vs J Husarova (SVK) / V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA


Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros


Sloane Stephens

(May 27, 2013). Americans went 8-4 in Paris on the day 2 of the French Open. Here is a look at how they all fared:

First round: Sloane Stephens (17) (USA) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 6-2, 7-5

In a bit of a slump since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the recent coverage of her controversial comments during an ESPN magazine interview, Stephens said that she was positive about her win.

“Obviously really excited to be back here.  Had a great year last year, and this was one of my favorite tournaments.  So it’s good to be back and playing a lot better than a couple weeks ago.

Just excited to be back on the court and playing well again.

Stephens commented  on the media attention since her ESPN interview after aftermath off-court:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been okay for me.  Obviously I haven’t had that many good results leading up to the clay season, so to get some match in on my favorite surface and get some confidence back and kind of just start feeling ball better.

“It wasn’t that my mind wasn’t on the court.  I just needed to find a balance, and obviously that’s tough.

“I’m only 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.  Just finding the right balance is what we’re doing.

“It’s been fine for me.  My really good friend came and my mom is here.  I’m just having a good time.  It’s been fun.

“I mean, obviously attention is attention.  It comes, it goes.  When you’re winning they love it; when you’re losing they love it.  It’s all the same really.”


First round: John Isner (19) (USA) def. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4


First round: Varvara Lepchenko (29)(USA) def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-1, 6-2


First round: Martin Klizan def. Michael Russell (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-1 Ret. Left hamstring injury


First round: Madison Keys (USA) def. Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 6-2

At 18, Keys is the youngest of the American women in the main draw. She is No. 58 in the world.


First round: Jana Cepelova (SVK) def. Christina McHale (USA) 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4

McHale who was struck with glandular fever last year is ranked 53rd in the world.


First round: Albert Montanes(ESP)  def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

The former NCAA champion Johnson extended the recent Nice Open titlist to five sets.


First round: Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)

Harrison will play fellow American and Davis Cup teammate John Isner in the second round.


First round: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 6-4, 6-1

With 15 women in the main draw of the French Open at the beginning of the tournament, Mattek is proud of so many U. S. women moving up in the rankings. “It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities.”

She commented that just a few years ago, people kept asking her about the state of U.S. women’s tennis.


First round: Vania King (USA) def. Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) 7-6(3), 6-1

King made it through to the main draw by going through the qualifying tournament.


First round: Michal Przysiezny (POL) def. (LL) Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5

Williams who came into the tournament as a lucky loser, lost to the same person who defeated him in the final round of the Qualifying tournament.


First round: Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Tamira Paszek (28) (AUT) 6-4, 6-3

Almost four years ago Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U. S. Open as 17-year-old. She spoke about pressure on her then as an American player.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything, “she said to media. “It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me….I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, `Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, `OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”


Serena and Venus Williams Win to Wrap Up Fed Cup World Group Spot for the U.S.


Venus Williams

Venus Williams

By Nathalie Narcisse

(April 21, 2013) DELRAY BEACH, Florida – On a day where tennis legend Chris Evert was lauded for Federation Cup accomplishments, it was fitting that dynamic duo, Serena and Venus Williams carried their matches to prevent the U.S. from slipping out of the world group.

In the first match at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Serena crushed Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 6-1 while Venus hung tough against Johanna Larsson 6-3,7-5 to permit the Americans to compete for the Federation Cup title in 2014.

After Serena’s victory Saturday evening placed the U.S. on even terms with Sweden, captain Mary Joe Fernandez was hoping to maintain the momentum. The world number one did not disappoint.

In the early stages of the opening set, the sun seemed to be Serena’s biggest nemesis. She fought off three break points before finally putting a period on a long third game.

Subsequently, Serena manufactured triple break point and capitalized for 3-1. Then, with an ace, the world number one consolidated for 4-1. Serena went on to break Arvidsson a second time to bed the initial set.

Serena captured seven consecutive games before Arvidsson ultimately held in the sixth game of the second set to avoid posting a bagel. However, it was only a temporary reprieve. Soon, with her tenth ace, Serena arrived at triple match point. The world number one finished the proceedings with an unreturnable serve.

Overall a good performance by Serena considering the match lasted only 57 minutes, with 35 winners and 22 unforced errors. The third game in the first set was critical. Serena stated “if she had won that game, it would have been a tougher score or a different match. It was important for me to stay focused and fight for every point”.

While Serena does not use on court coaching with her WTA matches, she appreciates the support when it comes to team competition “it feels good, it’s different when you do call your coach on court. . .I take everything in, I just try to be like a sponge and listen”.

Since the sun was bothersome for both players, Arvidsson emphasized it was not a factor in her defeat “[Serena] was just too good. She showed why she’s number one”.

Serena was glad to see big sister in the position to seal the tie for the U.S. “Venus is a veteran and a great player. I hope she does really well”.

According to Fernandez, Venus was a “last minute decision . . after the warm-up today”, the gamble paid off.

Subsequent to a double fault to donate the opening game to Larsson, Venus regained her footing by promptly breaking herself. Later on, the American struck a forehand down the line winner up triple break point to capture he third successive game for 3-1. Despite being challenged, Venus consolidated for 4-1 and maintained the one break edge to finish off the first set.

Larsson warded off 0-40 to ultimately guard serve for 3-2 in the second set. Yet, with Larsson’s forehand pass landing long, Venus had her fifth break chance of the set. She converted when the Swede flubbed a backhand.

Soon with a hold at love, Venus raced to a 5-3 lead. However, with a love game of her own, the Swede forced Venus to serve out the match.

With a third double fault in the tenth game at 0-40, Venus opened the door for Larsson as the second set was now at 5 all.

Still, the American plugged away to regain the advantage. Serving for the tie the second time around, Venus went to nine deuces, had four double faults, salvaged three break points before striking gold on her eighth match point.

This was the maiden meeting between Venus and Larsson. The Swede was not surprised by the substitution “Sofia played a really good match yesterday. . .I was prepared mentally to play Venus. . .I was struggling the whole match to find a good rhythm. . I really tried to keep fighting”.

Despite the outcome, the Swedish coach felt “it’s the best experience you can ever have. [Johanna and Sofia] can keep [their] head up and be very proud. . .go back home with a lot of experience to use the rest of the year”.

After seeing a myriad of match points evaporate, Venus expressed “I was trying to stay focused. . .the game was very competitive, we were both going for the lines and missing them closely”.

Venus had not played Fed Cup singles since 2007. Ironically, the last time was also in South Florida. Moreover, Venus had never previously clinched the tie for her nation. The American cited “it’s a different kind of pressure being on a team, you just want to do more. I wanted to be out there”.

Venus felt a sense of relief wrapping thing up in straight sets “I needed it to be over in two. Mary Joe needed it to be over in two. She was having a heart attack on the sidelines”.

Now, the Americans will wait until next season to work together again in this format. Fernandez acknowledged “that’s the hardest thing about Fed Cup, the scheduling and how long it takes between the ties. You start building a chemistry with the team, a lot of bonding and you push each other. It’s fun. . .we’re still going to be watching each other, supporting each other. . .and we’ll regroup February of next year”.

With so many niggling physical issues, Fernandez withdrew her team from the doubles match. So, USA win over Sweden by a mark of 3-2.


Serena Williams Squares World Group Play-Off Tie versus Sweden


By Nathalie Narcisse


(April 20, 2013) DELRAY BEACH. Florida – After a three-hour setback due to showers at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Serena Williams sauntered on court to face Swede Johanna Larsson. The world No. 1 dusted off her opponent 6-2, 6-2 to knot the tie between the two nations.

This was the first meeting between these two players. With Sofia Arvidsson vanquishing Sloane Stephens in the opening rubber, it was Williams’ job to prevent the U.S. team from going into a 2-0 hole.

Although, this was Williams’ seventh tie compared to Larsson’s thirty third, the difference though was that Williams was undefeated in Fed Cup play 11-0 and not to mention double digit majors titles.

Subsequent to Larsson’s double fault, Williams had double break point. With a crosscourt backhand winner, the American converted and swiftly consolidated for 3-0.

Despite a grueling game, Larsson guarded serve to stay one break behind at 3-1. Quickly, Williams coasted on serve to arrive at 5-2.

By provoking miscues from Larsson, Williams had double set point. With a backhand down the line winner, Williams bedded the first set.

The second set was not a cakewalk for Williams. In the opening game, the American’s mistakes on serve found her staring at 15-40. As usual, Williams selected the right serves to bail herself out of trouble. Her second time serving, Williams fended off another break point to keep her nose in front, 2-1.

While Larsson competed better, the unforced errors by Williams also began to mount. But, in the fourth game, two double faults by the Swede helped Williams to eventually get to deuce. Soon, with a forehand winner, the American had break point and later Williams pocketed the game for 3-1.

After comfortably getting to 5-2, the American captured another break to close out the match.

Considering the firepower on the American side, Swedish captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren is ecstatic with the performance of his players so far “it’s a little bit of a surprise for the Swedish team, it’s 1-1. I always believe in my girls. I was hoping for even 2-0”.

Despite the outcome, Larsson felt it was a great experience to battle a player of Williams’ caliber “it’s definitely an experience for me today. I had a lot of fun. . .I had a few chances. . When you play those players who are extremely aggressive, you really need to take your chances. . .I did my best and I was fighting the whole match”.

While for other competitors being down 0-1 in team play may cause some angst, Williams stated “I don’t feel pressure. Not this time around. . .I feel even though we didn’t win our first match, we have a really good team”.

Williams agreed that the second set was much tougher “I think she played a lot better. I think I also made more errors. She’s a really good player. She’s a professional. You can’t get on this level without being solid”.

Certainly, a different atmosphere and sensation representing yourself versus one’s country. Williams commented “I just try to fight and do the best I can. I’m here for my team. I’m here to give 100 percent”.

With Williams’ win, captain Mary Joe Fernandez was finally able to breathe “it was big for Serena to get a quick start. I thought the first match could have gone either way. Sloane had opportunities and wasn’t able to capitalize. . .conditions were tough and the rain delay sort of slowed her down because she had the momentum”.

A lot on the line tomorrow. Does Fernandez believe that Stephens will require tactical, mental support or both? Fernandez replied “every time you step on the court it’s a chance to get better and improve. When you have a few ups and down, you have to mentally get a little bit stronger. It helps when you are tactically sound and clear on what you need to do. So, I try to support and give as clear advice as I can on what I see out there and hope that works”.

The first match on Sunday afternoon will feature Williams against Arvidsson, followed by Stephens versus Larsson and will culminate with doubles play. The U.S. pair of Venus Williams and Vavara Lepchenko will collide with Larsson and Arvidsson.

Nathalie Narcisse is in Delray Beach covering the Fed Cup tie for Tennis Panorama News as media. Follow her twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.