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Washington Kastles Three-Peat as Mylan WTT Champions

Washington Kastles three-peat WTT

Washington Kastles 2WASHINGTON, DC (July 28, 2013) The Washington Kastles carved another notch in the Mylan World Team Tennis elite ranks Sunday, winning their third consecutive World Team Tennis championship and fourth in the past five years with a 25-12 win over the Springfield Laster, the largest victory margin in any WTT championship match.

The Kastles also became the first WTT franchise to win all five sets in a championship match since the league switched to the current format in 1999. further stamping the team as the premier franchise in the league. The Kastles started the 2013 season by winning their first two matches for a 34-match winning streak, the longest winning streak is U.S professional sports history.

“This year we walked right into it.  We made that incredible streak, and have an amazing part in history. You can’t put a price tag on that We lost, then started winning again,” Kastles’ coach Murphy Jensen said.  “This is a masterpiece. This is the best. four out of five years, it is out of control. We absolutely sacrificed every day to play for the Kastles.”

Even a two-hour rain delay did not slow the Kastles.

The three-peat makes Washington only the second to win three titles in a row. The four championships make Washington one of only two franchises to win four or more WTT titles.

“It’d be great if we had eight teams like (the Kastles),” Springfield Laser player Andy Roddick, a part-owner of WTT, said after the loss. “They deserve the success they get. They put a lot into it, and it’s a great atmosphere.”

The Kastles were uncertain as to which of the sets Roddick would play so Jensen reshuffled the order of play to have Bib by Reynolds, the team’s traditional closer, open the match with men’s singles. That way if Roddick played, it would dilute the advantage the Lasers could have by having their star close the contest in the final set.

But Reynolds, who was named the MVP of the championship, opened strong, breaking the Lasers’ Rik De Voest three times in a 5-1 win.

“You go out and get ready thinking you are going to play Andy and I knew I had to be ready for anything,” Reynolds said.  “I guess I am the opener now (not the closer),  I knew I had to bring a lot of energy no matter when I was in the lineup.”

Springfield has never won a WTT title. They last played for the title in 2009, where they lost to Washington 23-20 when the Kastles held off three match points to win.

“Coming in here (at the start of the season), there was a lot of pressure, in those first matches. You don’t want to be the one to destroy them. Now at the end all of the effort paid off,” Kastles player Martina Hingis said.

“I am a first time Kastle. It’s a great team. I love everyone and I hope I can play here again next year.”

Hingis said she had hoped she was ready for Roddick’s serve. “I know his serve is spectacular. I tried not to think too much about it. At first he started with a kick serve. I just tried to get a racquet on it,” she said.

She and team captain Leander Paes defeated Roddick and Alisa Kleybanova, the 2013 WTT female rookie of the year, 5-4 after winning a five point tiebreaker for the game, set and championship.

“I started off pretty well in the (mixed doubles) then my energy level dropped a little bit,” said Hingis. “And that’s when (Paes) kind of lifted his game amazingly, and it is pretty cool to have five perfect sets.”

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Springfield Lasers, 25-12
MEN’S SINGLES:  Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Rik de Voest (Lasers) 5-1
WOMEN’S DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Vania King (Lasers) 5-3
MEN’S DOUBLES:  Bobby Reynolds/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Jean-Julien Rojer/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-2
WOMEN’S SINGLES:  Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova (Lasers) 5-2
MIXED DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-4

Stephens, Townsend Play Tennis on National Mall; Players Hit the DC Practice Courts

DSC_79360001capitol-2

(July 26, 2013) Prior to the official draw ceremony for the Citi Open in Washington, DC with Marcos Baghdatis and DC Mayor Vincent Gray, WTA players Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend hit the National Mall.

The duo took part in a mini-tennis exhibition with some of DC’s youth set against the incredible backdrop of the US Capitol.

Earlier in the day, several players took advantage of the quiet surroundings and practice courts, including Grigor Dimitrov, Alison Riske, Mitchell Frank, Mona Barthel and more.

Qualifying play begins Saturday at 10am at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center. Stay tuned all week for full coverage direct from the grounds!

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

Alarm Calls for Roger Federer as Martina Hingis Storms Back into Tennis — The Friday Five

Roger Federer on a losing streak

By Maud Watson

Roger Federer on a losing streakTailspin

Another tournament and another surprising early exit for Federer, as the Swiss goes out in two routine sets to Daniel Brands in Gstaad.  The good news for Federer fans is that the Maestro has never been one to quickly panic and shows no signs of looking like he’s getting ready to throw the towel in anytime soon.  In fact, he’s already committed to Brisbane next season.  But this latest loss undoubtedly has some alarm bells sounding in Federer’s head.  He’s having some issues adjusting to the new racquet and is also unsure which stick he’ll be using on the summer hard courts.  In addition to Federer being in limbo regarding his racquet, his mental toughness has also taken a hit. You can read the increasing doubt on his face, and that doubt is creeping into his game as evidenced by the unforced errors that continue to mount in each match.  To say that the next few months are “do-or-die” might be an overstatement, but they are certainly critical.  How he fairs the remainder of 2013 could have a major impact on how long it takes him to right the ship and determine whether or not he hangs around for Rio in 2016.

Heartbreak

Another sentimental favorite who suffered a tough loss this week was Mardy Fish.  The American was in Atlanta, making just his fourth appearance since the US Open last season.  Up a set, it looked like Fish might be able to start his return to competition with a win.  But a rain delay and a refusal to fold from veteran Michael Russell saw the lower-ranked American upset his countryman and advance at his expense.  The defeat itself was understandable.  Fish played well all things considered, but he had been out of the game for over four months.  With no substitute for match play, nerves likely helped play a part in his loss.  What was troubling about Fish’s loss, however, was that he wasn’t available for comment afterwards – something that has happened in the past just prior to Fish taking an extended leave of absence.  American tennis fans will wait with baited breath to see how Fish follows up this latest setback and whether it will include the commitment to carry on or hang it up for good.

Give and Take

Thanks to an overwhelming 47-1 vote by the New York City Council, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has been approved for a $500 million expansion.  Not surprisingly, a large part of the expansion will be devoted to the renovation of the older facilities “that have reached the end of their useful lives.”  But the USTA isn’t the only one benefiting from the deal.  In exchange for the approval, the USTA has agreed   to start a non-profit group to help fund Flushing Meadows, host a yearly job fair for the residents in Queens, serve as a potential host to high school graduation ceremonies, and provide tennis coaching programs for area children.  All in all, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Changing Tunes

John Tomic has finally been brought to court for the much-publicized events that took place before the start of the Madrid Masters, and depending on who you believe, is possibly changing his story, along with his son, from what they originally told police back in May.  Bernard Tomic is claiming his father told him the day of the incident that it was the hitting partner, Drouet, who hit him.  John Tomic is also insisting that it was Drouet who started the fight and doesn’t “know how” Drouet fell down.  Both Tomics are blaming the alleged misunderstanding on police officers who had a poor grasp of English.  Time will tell if there really was a misunderstanding or if this is just John Tomic trying to weasel his way out of trouble – and given his track record, the latter seems more plausible.  If that is indeed the case, Bernard Tomic had better wise up, or the court is going to give him a lot more to worry about than his forehand.

Stay Awhile

It appears that Martina Hingis’ decision to play doubles with Hantuchova in California won’t be just a one-off.  The former No. 1 is planning to play doubles in some other big events this summer, including Toronto, Cincinnati, and the year’s last major, the US Open.  Say what you want about Hingis from a personal standpoint, but from a tennis perspective, there are few in the modern game who can match her court craft and guile.  What she lacks in size and power she makes up for with impossible angles and exquisite touch.  With any luck, these summer hard court events will be the start of something bigger, but if not, get your tickets and take the opportunity to see some of the greatest hands in the game work their magic one more time.

Sock, Baker, Oudin Lead Strong Men’s and Women’s Fields for Citi Open Qualifying

Citi Open 2013

Citi Open 2013WASHINGTON (July 23, 2013) A very strong and deep field of players will compete for a spot in the ATP and WTA main draws at the Citi Open’s qualifying rounds, held July 27 and 28 at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.

First round match play begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with National Parks Community Day, featuring fun family activities held throughout the day. Final qualifying round action begins Sunday at 10 a.m. with Celebrating our Heroes day, which offers complimentary tickets to active duty military, veterans, and first responders.

On the men’s side, Americans are among the must-watch of the qualifiers. The list includes former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri, former Washington tournament semifinalist Donald Young, and the next generation of U.S. tennis stars, Jack Sock and Rynne Williams. One of the best comeback players of the sport, Brian Baker, will also compete at the tournament for the fifth time in his career.

The men’s tournament has also granted singles qualifying wild cards to two promising young players from the University of Virginia: Mitchell Frank, of Annandale, Va., who trained at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., and helped to clinch the NCAA tennis championship for the Cavaliers; and Jarmere Jenkins, who was the No. 1 ranked NCAA player in 2013 and recently named the 2013 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National College Player of the Year.

International players looking to compete for the tournament title include Indian Somdev Devvarman, Croatian Ivo Karlovic, and Canadian Jesse Levine. University of Virginia champ Devvarman is a two-time NCAA champion. Karlovic, who at 6’10” is the tallest player in ATP history, won last week’s ATP tournament in Bogota, Colombia, after a two-month absence from the tour due to illness. Levine, who reached a career-high No. 69 in 2012, has played in the main draw of the Citi Open in two prior years (2008 and 2012).

The tradition of the tournament being a launching pad for many young stars’ careers continues in the women’s field. Young American hopefuls Alison RiskeMelanie Oudin, and Shelby Rogers are among those vying for a chance to win the women’s singles title. Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal is also on the list, on the heels of her triumph over No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon. Former top 10 player Shahar Peer, who reached the 2011 WTA Citi Open finals, will also compete in the qualifying rounds.

“For those who want a full slate of high-level professional tennis while enjoying family-oriented activities and ceremonies recognizing our national heroes, the tournament’s qualifying competition is for you,” said Jeff Newman, Citi Open Tournament Director. “We hope to see many area fans and residents out for a fun-filled weekend.”

The Citi Open, held from July 27 – August 4, is one of only 11 elite ATP World Tour 500-level events worldwide and the only one held in the United States. The event is also part of the prestigious Emirates Airline US Open Series, the five-week summer tennis season that links nine  North American hard-court tournaments to the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. In addition, the Citi Open features a WTA International Tournament which provides fans the opportunity to watch simultaneous competitions of both world-class men’s and women’s tennis throughout the nine-day event. The tournament features 48 men’s singles players and 16 doubles teams, 32 women’s singles players and 16 doubles teams.

The tournament’s owner and beneficiary, the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF), provides underserved children in the D.C. area with a safe environment to learn critical life skills both on and off the courts through academic and athletic enrichment.

Ticket pricing and package details plus a full listing of the player fields are now available atwww.citiopentennis.com, or by phone at 202-721-9500. Daily and single session tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Qualifying round prices start at just $10 for reserved tickets.

For more information, visit the Citi Open on the web at www.citiopentennis.com. The Citi Open is on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/CitiOpen and on Twitter at @CitiOpen. To receive news and updates about the tournament, join the growing Citi Open Text Club by texting DC to 25973. The 2013 Citi Open is a Lagardère Unlimited production.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: Meusburger Defeats Hlavackova for Maiden Title

Sgl_ceremony_019-2

(July 21, 2013) At 29-years-old, Austrian Yvonne Meusburger captured her first WTA title in Bad Gastein on Sunday, defeating Andrea Hlavackova, 7-5, 6-2.

Meusburger had previously made two WTA finals, with runner-up showings at Bad Gastein in 2007 and at Budapest a week ago. Twenty of Meusburger’s 46 WTA main draw wins have come at Bad Gastein, and this week she didn’t drop a set. She is projected to surpass her career-high of No. 60 in the new rankings on Monday.

This was Hlavackova’s first trip to a WTA final, and in fact, it was her first time past the quarterfinal round of an event. She is expected to climb roughly 25 ranking spots, back up to around world No. 83.

In the doubles final, Sandra Klemenschits and her partner Andreja Klepac took out Kristina Barrois and Eleni Daniilidou, 6-1, 6-4, for their maiden title both as a team and individually.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: Beck, Hlavackova, Martic, Rus and More

Hlav_qf_020-2

The Nurnberger Gastein Ladies WTA tournament this week in Austria has featured some great talent and stories, and the last of the second round as well as the quarterfinal action was no exception. Players such as Annika Beck, Karin Knapp, Arantxa Rus, Petra Martic, Mandy Minella, Yvonne Meusburger and more took the court the past two days.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

Novak Djokovic and Friends Vacation on the Coast of Croatia

Hvar, 19.07.2013 - Tenisac Novak Djokovic odmara se na Palmizani

What does the world No. 1 in tennis do for a relaxing vacation? He grabs his family and friends, and cruises the beautiful coast of Croatia!

With his best buds in tow, Novak Djokovic soaked up the sun and hit the scene in cities like Dubrovnik, and Hvar over the past week. Whether it was boating on the Adriatic Sea, stopping by for gelato on a neighboring island, enjoying a group dinner with a popular Croatian singer, or posing with the hundreds of eager fans looking to meet the star, Djokovic came ready with his Hollywood smile and charm.

Check out his adventures from the last few days on the Adriatic coast before he returns to the practice courts for his next tournament in Montreal!

Novak Djokovic Hvar Novak Djokovic Hvar 2 Novak Djokovic Hvar 4

Hvar, 19.07.2013 - Tenisac Novak Djokovic odmara se na Palmizani

Washington Kastles Continue Winning Ways with Martina Hingis

Washington Kastles

Washington KastlesWASHINGTON, D.C. (July 18, 2013) The shifting and the surprises seem to be over for the reigning Mylan World TeamTennis champs Washington Kastles. As the halfway point of the WTT passes, the Kastles are playing like a true team again.

Coach Murphy Jensen has altered the order of matches to play to his new strengths aimed at starting and finishing strong. Gone are those early matches of the season wondering who would be the newest Kastle-of-the-day. The team is finding matches tougher, yet still winnable.

“We had a couple of in and out, in and out, with players,” Kastles player Bobby Reynolds said following Washington’s 21-15 win over the Springfield Lasers, in a battle of WTT conference leaders on Wednesday. “We are a solid team now. We are clicking on all cylinders.”

Last week the Lasers dealt Washington its first ever loss at its current home court, Kastles Stadium on the Wharf. It was the second straight loss for the Kastles after they set a new streak in U.S. major professional sports of 34 straight wins earlier in the week.

Those losses came without Martina Hingis in the lineup and, as Jensen noted, a combination of understandable fatigue, the law of bad breaks and the determination of other teams to knock off the Kastles.

“We were coming in to win two matches to make history and that took a lot out of us,” Jensen said after Wednesday’s match.”These other teams don’t play to win the championship, they play to beat the Kastles.”

Halfway through the season, the 6-2 Kastles are two up on their closest conference rival, the New York Sportimes. After Friday’s away match against the Texas Wild – the team that ended the winning streak – the Kastles play out the season against with five matches against Eastern Conference foes in a home-away rotation, starting with the Sportimes Saturday at home. The Kastles are 4-0 against conference teams.

The loss dropped Springfield to 5-3 and back into the tight mix in the Western Conference in which three teams are within one-half game of the lead, and the squad in last is only two games out of first.

The Kastles got back to their winning ways on the road last Saturday, in a convincing 23-14 road victory over the Sacramento Capitals, who they beat by one point to win the 2012 championship.

Anastasia Rodionova, in the number one women’s role, had her first singles victory of the season, a 5-2 decision over 17-year-old American Taylor Townsend. Perhaps equally as key, symbolically in the Kastles lineup was substitute Raquel Kops-Jones, who was 4-0 last season in
mixed doubles with the Kastles.

She only returned for that match but Jensen inserted her into the lineup to team with Kastle captain Leander Paes in the closing mixed doubles set that sealed the victory.

Now Jensen is closing matches with the mixed doubles team of Paes and Hingis, who are undefeated. Their play has been so inspired that Hingis said it was what helped prompt her to come out of retirement to play doubles.

The regular season ends July 24, with conference championships scheduled for July 25. The 2013 Mylan WTT championship match is set for Sunday, July 28, at the home court of the Eastern Conference Champion.

“Every night is an important night,” Hingis said Wednesday. “The others are going to go out to give it to you. We just have to play hard.”

Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova’s Big Changes — The Friday Five

Maria Sharapova

By Maud Watson

Big(ger) Changes

Champions are frequently known for their stubbornness.  Sometimes it refers to their unwillingness to surrender a loss quietly, but it also often refers to their refusal to re-tool any part of the game that has brought them so much success.  Unfortunately, that refusal can often hamper an athlete’s career, which is something that Roger Federer apparently plans to avoid.  Federer is playing this week in Hamburg with a new racquet.  His new stick features a 98 square-inch frame, which represents a significant change from the much smaller 90 square-inch frame he has used throughout his career.  The larger frame means a bigger sweet spot and additional power, both of which should help him better compete with the young guns on tour.  We’ll see how he fairs during this brief stint on the clay, but if he’s able to make the adjustment to the new racquet quickly, expect him to be right back in the thick of it for the summer hard court season.

Maria SharapovaTrue Grit

One of the more interesting off-court tidbits to hit the news this past week was the announcement of Jimmy Connors becoming Maria Sharapova’s new full-time coach.  The two briefly worked together five years ago but were unable to come to a financial agreement to make it a full-time gig.  Circumstances have changed in 2013, and the two are teaming up to become one of the most intriguing coach/player relationships in the game today.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Both have strong egos and like to get things done their way, so it could flame out early.  But both also share the same inherit drive.  They’re both fighters who refuse to rollover in a match and will go to virtually any lengths – sometimes perhaps a little over the line of what’s considered proper – to come away with the win.  Both could feed off each other in those respects and prove quite the successful combo.  Sadly, fans will have to wait a little longer for this new partnership to make its debut, however, as Sharapova was forced to withdraw from the upcoming event in Stanford with a hip injury she sustained at Wimbledon.  But make no mistake.  This will be one of the key storylines to watch this summer.

False Hope

The good news is that the USTA has established a potential timeline for putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by August 2016.  The bad news is that you probably have a better shot at winning the lottery than that timeline coming to fruition.  As usual, one of the biggest hurdles to putting a roof over Ashe Stadium stems from cost.  The USTA is already currently in the market for an owner representative for its $500-million expansion plan that doesn’t include a roof, meaning that if they were to shift efforts towards building a roof for Ashe, other projects, such as replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand would be put on hold.  That’s a scenario that’s all the more unlikely when considering that the other issue facing Ashe is that it may not be able to support the weight of the roof in the first place.  So, while we can appreciate the USTA’s efforts to keep the roof possibility in the discussion, this once again appears to be much ado about nothing.

Egomaniac

At the front part of the week, in an interview with David Nadal, Toni Nadal told to the world that he talks to Rafa during matches and sees nothing wrong with it, because he figures he shouldn’t have to hide anything at his age.  Look, it’s common knowledge that Nadal, like some other players, receives illegal coaching from the stands.  And you could argue that such coaching frequently has little impact on the outcome of a match.  But nobody wins when Toni Nadal announces that he has no problem being a cheat – and as the generally willing recipient of his instructions, one could argue so is his nephew by extension.  Such an admission shows disrespect to the ATP and its rules.  It shows disrespect to Nadal’s opposition.  It teaches young up-and-comers that it’s okay to cheat, and most importantly, it hurts Rafa Nadal.  As previously noted, Rafa is no doubt one of the best in the history of the game, and he doesn’t need to use cheap tricks to accomplish great feats.  Utilizing illegal tactics should be beneath him and his camp, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.  Though unlikely, it would be nice if after this admission, the ATP would enforce some sort of discipline on the older Nadal to show that nobody, no matter how big the star they coach or their age, is above the rules.

Back for More

The terrorizing doll Chucky is making a return to movies, and as it happens, so is the woman Mary Carillo once referred to as Chucky, Martina Hingis.  Whether to promote her relatively recent clothing line, provide a distraction from the cheating allegations leveled at her by her estranged husband, or just for love of the game, the newly-elected Hall of Famer is planning to team with Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia at the Southern California Open.  Hingis continues to show that she has great hands around the net, and veteran Hantuchova has also proven worth her salt in the doubles arena as well.  If this partnership proves successful, perhaps we’ll be treated to a little more enthralling tennis from these two down the road.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: 1970s-Themed Player’s Party with Beck, Minella, Martic and More

Nurnberger Gastein Ladies Player's Party 1970s

(July 17 2013) In honor of the 40th anniversary of the WTA Tour, players of the Nurnberger Gastein Ladies tournament paid an homage to the decades in a 1970s-themed player’s party. The ladies really took to the event with glam, bold patterns, bandanas, and even peace sign necklaces.

Check out all the players, including Annika Beck, Mandy Minella, Aranxta Rus, Petra Martic and much more in the gallery below!

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