2014/09/02

Raonic Sets Up Semifinal Date Against Federer in Cincinnati

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

By Dave Gertler

 

(August 15, 2014) MASON, OHIO – After the disappointment of failing to reach the semifinal of his home Masters 1000 last week in Toronto, Milos Raonic has breezed into the Western & Southern Open semifinal today in Cincinnati. While Raonic’s 6-1, 6-0 win over Fabio Fognini might seem ominous, his semifinal opponent will be Roger Federer who defeated Andy Murray 6-3, 7-5 in the evening session.

 

Fognini – who had advanced to his first career quarterfinal in Cincinnati – ran out of luck as he stepped up against the big-serving Canadian. In a match lasting 57 minutes, Raonic’s serve statistics were troubling for his opponent. He only lost 4 points the whole match behind his first serve, and of the 10 he lost behind his second serve, 3 were double faults. “You can’t really control him,” said Raonic of his often erratic opponent, “It can be very sporadic at times. You just focus on yourself and make sure you do yourself and see and adjust to how things are coming from him as you go.”

 

Although the 27-year-old Italian forced Raonic to successfully defend 7 break points in the second set, he had fewer points than that won on his own serve, and was unable to get on the scoreboard. Despite having two game points in the last game of the match, Fognini double-faulted twice. The last play of the match was a Fognini foot-fault, reminiscent of his loss last year in Cincinnati to Radek Stepanek, where he deliberately foot-faulted to lose the match, before being booed off the court.

 

In Friday’s first men’s quarterfinal, Julien Benneteau scored an upset win over 3rd seed Stan Wawrinka in three sets on Center Court. Despite the Swiss racing away to a 6-1 lead, Benneteau drew on the confidence of his winning career record against Wawrinka, and was able to turn the match around, losing only three more games, taking the match 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.

 

“At the end of first set,” said the 32-year-old Frenchman, of how he turned the match around, “I talk to myself and I said, OK, if I don’t change anything it’s going to be 1 and 3 in 50 minutes and you’re going to lose it. So I said that I need to play harder from the baseline and to put a little bit more intensity in my strokes. Even if I miss it’s OK, but I have to play like this. I thought that the two, three first games of the second set are going to be tough. It’s going to be a tough fight, and I prepare myself to resist to that. I say, OK, you have to stay in the game. You have to take the score. And I broke in the first game, on his first service game in the second set.”
Making his first career appearance at a Masters 1000 semifinal, world No.41 Benneteau is looking forward to the opportunity, saying, “Of course it means something. But the tournament is not done, and I still have a lot to do. We will see.” His semifinal opponent will be David Ferrer, who ousted fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo earlier on Friday.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Djokovic Upset by Robredo, Murray Survives Isner in Cincinnati

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

By Dave Gertler

(August 14, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Two of the three Big Four players competing at this year’s Cincinnati Masters played their third-round matches during Thursday’s day sessions. One survived, one didn’t.

 

“The focus is winning right now,” said a composed Andy Murray after his 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2) win over John Isner, “Not so much how I’m hitting the ball or moving or anything like that. Just trying to win. That’s all that’s important just now.”

 

Since winning Wimbledon last year, Murray has seen his rank plunge from No. 2 to No. 9. First struggling with back surgery rehab, and then adjusting to a new coaching situation. He has regained peak physical condition, but collated a mixture of results that has not seen him advance past the semi-finals of any tournament in the last 14 months.

 

“I want to get back to winning events and being in the finals of the big tournaments,” said Murray, “And winning matches like today is a big step for me.” He and his opponent John Isner, last year’s Western & Southern Open runner-up, played for 2 hours and 23 minutes in front of a Grandstand Court that was packed to the rafters.

 

“Sort of like standing room only,” said Isner, who served 21 aces to Murray’s 14, “You could see people on Center Court at the top looking over and watching. It was great. The fans were unbelievable. I thought they were on my side the whole way, and they were.”

 

After losing the first set tiebreak, Murray then broke Isner for the only break of the match, holding on to win the second set. Then, with the sun in his eyes, serving to stay in the match, Murray served two double faults, allowing Isner his first of two match points. “When it’s 6‑5 in the third set,” said Murray, “Ideally you want to try and get some free points when you can. Maybe made a slight mistake trying to do that. Yeah, but I just managed to find a way to get through that game.”

 

While Murray cited “instinct” as what guided him to a third-set tiebreak, which he would ultimately win to advance to the quarterfinals, fellow Big Four member Novak Djokovic has faltered at the round-of-16 stage of his second consecutive hard court Masters 1000 event. The world No.1, who last bowed out in the third round in Toronto, today lost in straight sets to 16th seed Tommy Robredo.

 

“Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts,” said Djokovic, who fought back from being a break down to Robredo in the first set, before losing it in a tiebreak. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s more than obvious I’m not playing even close to what I’m supposed to play.”

 

In the second set, Djokovic was unable to make a dent on Robredo’s serve, winning only four points while receiving. While Djokovic was able to save two match points, serving at 4-5, Robredo would convert at his next opportunity, taking the second set 7-5.

 

“Well, maybe he didn’t play very good the last two matches that he played,” said Robredo after his second career win over a world No.1 – the first was against Lleyton Hewitt in 2003, “But anyway, he’s the world No. 1. He won in Wimbledon. He’s a great player. If you don’t play your best you’re gonna lose for sure. Even if you play your best, sometimes if he’s playing great, you’re gonna lose also.”

 

While Djokovic will head straight to New York to prepare for the US Open, where he is defending finalist, Murray will face either Gael Monfils or Roger Federer, who play their third-round match on Center Court this evening.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Aussies Bounced Out of Cincinnati

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

By Dave Gertler

(August 13, 2014) MASON, OHIO – The last three Australians left in the singles draw at the Cincinnati Masters all played their second-round matches on Wednesday, with Sam Stosur and Marinko Matosevic both bowing out to their American opponents in straight sets. Lleyton Hewitt also succumbed to the grinding baseline play of Italian Fabio Fognini.

 

Stosur and Serena Williams added another encounter to their storied rivalry, the Aussie receiving warm support from the crowd as she battled to stay in both sets, at times out-hitting her world No.1 opponent. In a match lasting almost two hours, where neither player dropped their serve, and Williams needed to come from behind in both tie-breaks to eventually win through to the next round. “She was up in both of the breakers,” said Williams, “I think it was just a great match, to be honest. She served unbelievable, and I was like, I can’t lose serve because she’s just serving great.”

 

Both players brought their big serves to the table, particularly Serena, who served 12 aces. “Really good quality match,” said Stosur, “I’m really pleased with the way I played. I’m disappointed when you have those couple of set points and don’t go through and at least win that set to take it into three. But I gave myself every chance to try and get through that one.  She came up with some really great stuff when it really counted.”

 

While Stosur was facing last year’s women’s runner up, Marinko Matosevic had to contend with the men’s runner up from last year, in a slightly less competitive 3-6, 6-7 loss to the American John Isner. That left Lleyton Hewitt in a familiar position as the last Australian in the singles draw.

LleytonHewittHOF

Hewitt would drop the first set against Fognini 6-1, before going up a break in the second set, a lead that he would ultimately relinquish, allowing Fognini back into the second set, which he won 6-4. “The second set I fought hard, I was up a break in the second set but couldn’t consolidate,” said Hewitt. The 33-year-old Australian served 9 double faults, saying, “I just didn’t hit my serve well today, especially early on,” said Hewitt, “He makes you play a lot of balls as well. He’s a confidence player, and when he’s hitting ball well, he’s tough to beat. He moves well, as well.”

 

Serena Williams’ next opponent will be Flavia Pennetta, while Isner faces No.8 seed Andy Murray. Fabio Fognini will face Yen-Hsun Lu, who had an upset victory over 4th seed Tomas Berdych. Also through to the round of 16, Roger Federer, who beat Canadian Vasek Pospisil 7-6, 5-7, 6-2 in 2 hours for his 300th win at a Masters Series 1000 event.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Three Seeds Fall Within Ten Minutes in Cincinnati

Tomas Berdych

By Dave Gertler

(August 13, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Within 10 minutes of each other, three of the biggest names in the tennis world have been bundled out of the draw at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

 

While Andy Murray was wasting no time on Center Court against Joao Sousa, for a straight sets 6-3, 6-3 win, other top seeds were getting some serious grief from their lower-ranked opponents on Grandstand, and courts 3 and 9.

 

Czech 3rd seed Petra Kvitova was up against Ukrainian world No. 39 Elina Svitolina and, having never faced her before, Kvitova went down an early break before losing the set 6-2 in just over half an hour. In the second set, it was the world No. 4 who got the upper hand early, and found herself leading 3-1 before handing back the break. Both players gave up three breaks on the way to a second-set tie-break, and although she didn’t serve any double faults in the breaker, Kvitova’s 9 in total was indicative of her inconsistency throughout the match, as she dropped the second set, and the match, to a more aggressive Svitolina. “From the beginning I didn’t feel very comfortable out there,” said Kvitova after the match, “And I was trying really fight, I just wasn’t able to do that today.”

 

Over on Court 9, Yen-Hsun Lu was attempting for the second time in a week to topple world No. 5 Tomas Berdych, having lost to him in three sets last week in Toronto. The Taiwanese world No. 43 served strongly throughout the match, serving 9 aces to Berdych’s 6, and saving 4 out of 5 break points, all in the first set, which he lost 3-6. Turning the match around in the second and third set, Lu would break his opponent once in each set, not facing any break points himself, taking the second and third sets, and the match in 1 hour, 44 minutes. Lu will face either Fabio Fognini or Lleyton Hewitt in the third round.

 

As they say, good/bad things happen in threes, so to cap off this threesome of upsets within ten minutes of each other, Jerzy Janowicz was in the final stages of a significant win over fellow 23-year-old Grigor Dimitrov. The two had never played each other outside of juniors, and while up until a year ago, the two were comparable as prospects, Dimitrov has been the first to break into the upper echelons of the game, recently breaking into the top 10 while Janowicz’s string of bad results and injury has relegated him to world No.65, his lowest rank since 2012.

 

Janowicz dictated on serve in the first and third sets, serving a total of 12 aces – none of which came in the second set, which was the only one he would lose on his way to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over the Bulgarian. Janowicz will now face Julien Benneteau in the third round.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Sharapova Fends Off Keys in Cincinnati

 

By Dave Gertler

(August 12, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Maria Sharapova, seeded 5th at the Western & Southern Open, has survived a second-set resurgence from home-grown up and coming star Madison Keys, to win in three sets in just under two hours. Sharapova is now the first women’s player into the third round.

 

The first set was a one-sided affair, Sharapova racing to a 5-0 lead and taking the set 6-1. “After a bad first set I could have gone away,” said Keys post-match, drawing positives from the loss, “But I kind of figured it out and started playing better. It’s definitely an improvement.”

 

At 2-1 in the second set, there was an exchange of breaks before Keys broke again, holding her serve for a 5-2 lead before serving out the set 6-3, the Lindner Tennis Center crowd well and truly behind her.

 

At that point, Sharapova left the court for a few minutes, saying afterwards that a change of clothes was required because of the humidity. “I guess maybe that’s just what dry clothes does to you,” said the 27-year-old, “It gets you a bit calmer.” Sharapova broke Keys in the second game of the third set, the 19-year-old adding to her unforced-error tally at key moments.

 

Playing a high-stakes game to compete with her grand slam-winning opponent, the world No. 28 Keys served 7 double faults to 5 aces throughout the match. In the decider, said Keys of Sharapova, “She definitely stepped up her game. I also think, you know, in big points I got a little tentative. I mean, that showed, you know. I mean, after I got broken at the very beginning it was really hard to try to break back.”

Final score for Sharapova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“I’m very happy with what I have been able to achieve this year,” said Sharapova, who has reached two finals here, winning one in 2011, “Because last year it was tough to miss the end of the season, you know, finding yourself in a position where you’re hurt again. I’m very happy with what I have been able to achieve this year.”

 

There’s a chance Sharapova might face fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who faces Italian Karin Knapp in the third round, while Keys heads back to Boca Raton to finish preparations for the US Open.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Venus Williams Falls in Opening Round of Cincinnati

By Dave Gertler

(August 12, 2014) MASON, OHIO – The Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, began its qualifying rounds on Saturday, and is now in the completion stages of first-round matches in both the men’s and women’s main draws. On Tuesday morning, the tournament confirmed that Victoria Azarenka – the defending champion – has withdrawn due to injury, thus adding her name to those of Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro and Li Na as notable absentees from the event, all due to injury.

 

“I’m going to get more treatment and get more work done,” said Azarenka about her plan for the remainder of the American hard court season, “And should be good for the US Open.”

 

Venus Williams, who last week in Montreal made it to her third WTA final in the last 12 months, won’t duplicate that success this week, having lost to 16th seed Lucie Safarova in the first round. In a match lasting 2.5 hours, Williams won the first set in a tie-break, but Safarova broke her opponent first each set, never giving up the lead, despite Williams breaking back in the second before Safarova served the match out.

 

“I think she just played so well,” said Venus Williams, “No matter what shot I hit she hit a winner, or if I hit it really deep she somehow managed to control it down the line.” Williams said in the third set, “I think she got a little tight at 5‑1. So I had some chances to come back, but it’s a deep hole.”

 

First-round men’s action saw Lleyton Hewitt and Alejandro Falla both advance before the end of the weekend, while Monday’s matches saw no significant upsets. American Jack Sock succumbed to Spaniard Tommy Robredo, while 23-year-old Ohio State graduate Chase Buchanan went down to Portugal’s Joao Sousa in an epic three-setter that lasted over 2.5 hours, touted match of the day by those who saw it.

 

British qualifier James Ward has provided the upset of the day so far on Tuesday, beating No.32-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. In the second round, the 27-year-old Brit will face either Julien Benneteau or another local favorite, Blaz Rola, another graduate of Ohio State.

14th seed Marin Cilic advanced past Feliciano Lopez in two tight sets to face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, who overcame compatriot Marcel Granollers in one of Grandstand Court’s most entertaining matches on Monday, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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2014 Rogers Cup Montreal Photo Gallery

MONTREAL – Photographer Marc-Andre Gauthier snapped photos of the Rogers Cup in Montreal this week, here is a gallery of his photos from the tournament so far. More to come.

Follow his photo coverage of the tournament on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Montreal Day 05 and 06 Wrap-Up: Crowd Pleasers

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

Montreal Day 05 and 06 Wrap-Up: Crowd Pleasers

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin | August 8th, 2014

(August 8, 2014) MONTREAL – The Montreal tennis crowd was treated to great matches on Thursday and Friday, as eight of the twelve presented singles matches which went the distance. Here is what stood out from those two days.

Patience is a Virtue (or XXV)

The Montreal-based Williams Sisters fans really didn’t have much to cheer about in the past, as Venus had never showed up to the event and Serena had not played a match at Uniprix Stadium in over 14 years. But patience is a virtue, and the crowd will now be witnessing a Williams showdown in the first semi-final Saturday. A dream match for the tournament organizers, who were understandably worried for the tournament’s storylines after the early defeat of local star Genie Bouchard.

Both sisters had a tough road to the semis: while Serena battled through Lucie Safarova and good friend Caroline Wozniacki (rallying from 6-4, 4-2 down) respectively, Venus played two long battles against Angelique Kerber and Carla Suarez Navarro. The Kerber-Venus match, played under the lights on Thursday, produced some standing-ovation worthy tennis, as both players fought skin and teeth to get the win.

Asked about her previous record of 0-4 at the Rogers Cup, all in Toronto, Venus replied: ‘If I would have known these last 20 years all I had to do was come to Montréal that would be the trick to winning in Canada, I would have done it a long time ago! You live, you learn. Sometimes it takes a couple of decades, but it was worth it!’. This semi-final will be the 25th encounter between the two sisters, Serena having the edge 14-10. It will be their first match in over a year, and only their second meeting since 2009.

3/8

Only three of the top 8 seeds advanced to the quarterfinals in this 2014 edition. After the surprise of Bouchard’s loss to Rogers in round 2, four top seeds lost in thrilling matches on Thursday: Petra Kvitova (2) against Makarova, Maria Sharapova(4) to Suarez-Navarro (14), Kerber (6) to Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic (7) to Coco Vandeweghe. For Sharapova and Kvitova, signs of rust were apparent in their first tournament on the summer hardcourts, as they couldn’t hit through their feisty, more consistent opponents. Other than Serena Williams, only Agniezska Radwanska (3) and Victoria Azarenka (8) sneaked through the quarters, facing each other in a pretty forgettable quarterfinal on Friday night. Azarenka was clearly hampered by a knee injury, and after missing most of 2014 already, things did not look good for the Belarussian out there. For Radwanska, this is her third semifinal in Canada and she will be looking to reach her first finals against Makarova in the night semifinal.

From Q to QF

Coco Vandeweghe was the revelation of the 2014 Rogers Cup, playing an astonishing 13 sets of tennis in 6 days. After getting comfortably through qualifying by winning two matches on the first Sunday, she handled Shuai Zhang in the first round, before beating the ‘Serbian Sisters’, 9th seed Ivanovic and 7th seed Jankovic, in consecutive battles to reach the quarterfinals. Both matches were classics, and probably two of the most dramatic of the week.

In her post-match interviews this week, she mentioned setting the goal to beat a top 10 player by the end of 2014: she accomplished just that, twice in less than 24 hours, and will be a player to watch for the upcoming hardcourt swing. Her big serve and forehand combination couldn’t get her through Makarova in the quarterfinals, who was solid throughout, but did impress the Montreal crowd. With her pure athleticism and a coach that became a star this week for his honest, very honest, feedback on her matches, Vandeweghe could well be on the way for a seeding position at the 2015 Australian Open.

Follow live twitter updates from the Coupe Rogers Montreal on @TennisNewsTPN throughout the week.

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Serena Williams Nets Third Stanford Title

 

(August 3, 2014) No. 1 Serena Williams claimed her fourth tournament title of 2014, beating No. 3 seed Angelique Kerber 7-6(1), 6-3 to win the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford on Sunday.

For Williams, it’s her third Stanford title.

Kerber had a 5-1 lead in the first set after taking five straight games and served for the set at 5-2. Williams served two set points and won five straight games herself, and ended the set by dominating the tiebreak.

“When I was down 5-1, I was just thinking I had to take it one point at a time,” said Williams. “I knew I just had to relax and not be so crazy. Up until that point I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, and what I had been doing in practice, so I knew I just had to start doing the right things. I feel like I’m on the right track again. I feel like I can play even better – I wasn’t serving my best, and I wasn’t making as many winners off the return as I wanted to, but I’m getting there.”

As of Monday, Williams will reach her 200th non-consecutive week at No. 1 in the world.

By winning her 61st tennis title, Williams has now netted the 7th most in history and 16 titles ahead of the nearest active player. The No. 1 player will head to Montreal to play the Rogers Cup, which begins on Monday.

 

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Raonic and Kuznetsova Claim Citi Open Crowns

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

 

(August 3, 2014) Milos Raonic and Svetlana Kuznetsova won the singles titles at the Citi Open on Sunday in Washington, DC.

In the first-ever all-Canadian final on the ATP World Tour in the Open Era, No. 7 Milos Raonic defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-4.

For Raonic it’s his sixth ATP title, his last coming last September in Bangkok.

“It’s great the way (the match) started, Raonic said. “I couldn’t have asked, really, for more. I had a chance to break in every single game in that first set. Then I continued to play solid after that. All in all, a very good performance and an important moment for me.”

“I wasn’t nervous about playing in the final,” Pospisil said. “It was a combination of (Raonic) playing very well and me being a little bit heavy-legged. It took me a little bit to get into the match, to get my groove and get the legs going a little bit. But credit to him, he played very well.”

Kuznetsova Wins

Svetlana Kuznetsova won her first WTA title in four years, her 14th overall, holding off Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Her last trophy came in San Diego in the summer of 2010.

“It feels like too long since my last title,” the Russian said. “I had a chance to win in Oeiras earlier this year and I got tight. The same thing happened today and I couldn’t play my best tennis at the end of the second and third sets. I was just hanging in there and in that last game I knew I just needed to get four points somehow. It’s a great feeling. I work very hard and winning titles is why you play tennis.”
“I did my best and I stuck to my plan out there, so I have no regrets,” Nara said. “She hits a very heavy ball so it made it difficult for me to get inside the court and attack. It was a great week for me and I like Washington very much and hopefully I’ll come here next year.”

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