Andrea Lubinsky

A Change of Ends

ATP Roland Garros Visions: Picks, Predictions, Dark Horses, Winners

(May 25, 2013) With tennis’ second Slam of the season about to get underway with main draw action, the dedicated panel of Tennis Grandstand writers have come together for a comprehensive preview of the men’s draw at Roland Garros. We’ve covered dark horses, seeded players crashing out early, first round upsets and matches to watch for, and potential semifinalists and eventual champion for the men’s tour.

In the table, you will find the entire Tennis Grandstand team’s “Quick Picks and Predictions” for the ATP draw, with further detailed analysis below by Lisa-Marie Burrows, James Crabtree, Romi Cvitkovic, Yeshayahu Ginsburg and Andrea Lubinsky.

Dark Horse

Lisa-Marie Burrows(6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga has the potential to sneak through to the quarterfinals relatively untroubled.  He may have Marin Cilic, Juan Mónaco and compatriot Jeremy Chardy in his section, but I feel that he can reach the quarters fairly easily. He could be a difficult quarterfinal opponent for Roger Federer to contend with.

James Crabtree: (12) Tommy Haas. The fairytale story has been waiting long enough, and Tommy Haas has the correct subplots to fulfill the fairytale. Not only that but his draw is favorable and rumor suggests he possesses magic beans, has a black cat, practices voodoo and is in fact Baron Samedi (James Bond reference for y’all).

Cvitkovic: Ernests Gulbis. The Latvian has a tough but very doable road to the semifinals. He could potentially take on Tomas Berdych in the second round, Tommy Robredo in the third and Nicolas Almagro in the fourth, before possibly outhitting David Ferrer in the quarterfinals if he has enough steam.  He may be a ticking time bomb on court, but Roland Garros has always been his best Slam result, having reached the quarterfinals in 2008. Now, more mature and experienced, he could make another solid run here.

Yeshayahu Ginsburg: (5) Tomas Berdych. Picking a dark horse in tennis is kind of an act of futility nowadays. When it comes to winning Grand Slams, it’s the “Big 4” and no one else. Take Andy Murray out of the equation due to injury (though he was weaker on clay anyway) and it’s Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or bust for the winner. But if I have to pick someone else, Berdych has been very strong recently, reaching the semifinals in both Madrid and Rome. He has a good chance at making a deep run—assuming he can get by Gael Monfils in the first round, that is.

Andrea Lubinsky(24) Benoit Paire. The good news? Paire is at a career high 26 in the rankings and scored wins over Juan Monaco, Julien Benneteau, and Juan Maritn del Potro en route to the semifinals in Rome, where he pushed Roger Federer in two close sets. The bad news? He’s in Nadal’s quarter. There are plenty of guys who have had a solid clay season, but what makes Paire a better Dark Horse is his inconsistency. His bad days are bad, but his great days are great…

Seeded Player Crashing Out Early

Burrows: (8) Janko Tipsarevic or (19) John Isner. For me it was a toss up between No.8 seed Tipsarevic losing to Verdasco in the second round and John Isner losing in the first.  I feel that an early exit may be on the cards for No.19 seed Isner as he faces Carlos Berlocq of Argentina in the opening round. He can prove to be a very tricky customer and enjoys playing on the clay.

Crabtree: It has to be (5) Tomas Berdych. If he doesn’t lose to Gael Monfils in the first round, a true son to his French faithful who is seemingly finding old form, he will have to battle Ernests Gulbis in the second round, another player destined for the top twenty.

Cvitkovic: (5) Tomas Berdych. If he can get past a newly in-form Gael Monfils in the first round, the Czech will likely encounter Ernests Gulbis, who took him out first round of Wimbledon last year and can easily out-play him again on the Latvian’s better surface.

Ginsburg: (8) Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic is not facing any particularly good players on clay until at least the third round (Verdasco can be a challenge but has been horribly inconsistent for a few years now), but Tipsarevic has been playing just awful tennis this year. He probably gets by Nicolas Mahut, but I can’t see him winning more than two matches here unless he turns around fast.

Lubinsky(8) Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic actually has a pretty cushy section of the draw, but for some reason I’m just not feeling it. That reason? He’s had an abysmal clay season, losing to the likes of Guido Pella, Daniel Brands, Guillermo Garcia Lopez, all ranked at least 50 places beneath him. If he beats Nicolas Mahut in the first round, the No. 8 seed could face Fernando Verdasco, who could pose a real challenge.

First Round Match to Watch For

Burrows(15) Gilles Simon vs Lleyton Hewitt.  The first thing that popped into my head when I saw their names drawn in the first round is ‘this is going to be a long match!’ Expect five long sets, each lasting around one hour each!  Both players are great defensive counter-punchers and it will be a battle of fitness on court to see who can edge out the other.

Crabtree: (1) Novak Djokovic vs David Goffin. It’s doubtful Novak will lose, but he should still be pushed by the rising Goffin who took a set off Federer last year. The other match is one that will get little press. Nevertheless watch out for qualifier James Duckworth and Blaz Kavcic. Their last encounter was a four hour and fifty two minute marathon in scolding heat at this years Aussie Open which Kavcic won 10-8 in the fifth.

Cvitkovic: (24) Benoit Paire vs Marcos Baghdatis. Both have eccentric personalities, so I would watch this match as much for the tennis as the hilarity or drama that could ensue. With Paire becoming a surprise semifinalist in Rome two weeks ago and Baghdatis the usual fan favorite, both are sure to bring crowds and opinionated people as well.

Ginsburg: (5) Tomas Berdych vs Gael Monfils. Can there be any better first-round match? Monfils was a top ten player before injuries stalled his career for a bit. He’s on the way back and isn’t fully at top form yet, but he always plays well in front of his home Paris crowd—at least in the early rounds. Both guys play hard-hitting power games and this should be some fun clay court tennis.

Lubinsky: (5) Tomas Berdych v. Gael Monfils. Gael Monfils is a wildcard. Yes, you read that correctly. After an extended injury break, the once world No. 7 has fallen to 109 in the rankings, but he’s working his way back up, winning a challenger in Bordeaux last week and reaching the finals in Nice. Will he win? Probably not. Berdych is in fine form, but generally any Monfils match provides plenty of entertainment. This is one not to be missed.

First Round Upset Special

Burrows: Gael Monfils d. (6) Tomas Berdych.  This match has entertainment written all over it.  This is a tough first round draw against the enigmatic Monfils, who would love to delight his home crowd with a victory over the fifth seed.  Should Monfils be feeling physically fit, this match has the potential to bring a closely fought contest, with the crowd firmly behind their man.

Crabtree: Lleyton Hewitt d. (15) Gilles Simon. Too much Aussie loyalty here. Hewitt will take down Gilles Simon in 5 brutally boring sets! Hewitt never has done much on clay, but he is a grand slam type player who hasn’t got too many of these chances left.

Cvitkovic: Dmitry Tursunov d. (22) Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dolgopolov has been struggling this year, barely winning over 50% of his matches and was defeated by both Robin Haase and Ivan Dodig on clay within the last month. What’s more, Tursunov took Dologopolov to two tiebreak sets in the second round of Munich where he eventually lost. It may be time to plot his revenge and garner more noise surrounding his comeback.

Ginsburg: Ricardas Berankis d. (30) Julien Benneteau. There are some good choices here, especially given Wawrinka’s injury. But I’ll take someone a little lower in the rankings. Ricardas Berankis is in a good position against Julien Benneteau, who is better on hard courts than clay. Berankis is a young player in his first French Open main draw and he has a real chance to make a splash by starting with an upset.

LubinskyPablo Andujar d. (29) Mikhail Youzhny. The No. 29 seed isn’t exactly a clay court specialist and while his clay court relsults this season haven’t been awful, they haven’t been great either. On the other hand, Andujar excels on the the red dirt. He reached the semi finals in Nice this week and even more impressively, the semi finals in Madrid earlier this month. Should he pull the upset, he has real potential to make the 4th round.

Semifinalists

Burrows: I have a feeling it will involve the two players that many expect to meet: Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal. Neither player has got a particularly easy route to the final, but it will make for a mouthwatering encounter. It could be the dream final – but a round earlier.

The bottom half of the draw may see David Ferrer take on Roger Federer for a place in the final. If Ferrer can battle past a possible quarter-final meeting with Berdych or Almagro,  I think it would provide an interesting semifinal between him and Federer.

Crabtree: I am probably very alone on this but I see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reunited with Roger Federer for another epic slam semi. Now I promise I am not on medication but Jo will take the winner of the Rafael Nadal and Tommy Haas match.

Cvitkovic: Outside of the top three who I expect to make the semifinals, Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, the fourth spot in Ferrer’s quarter is up for grabs. You could give the semifinal slot to Berdych, Almagro or Ferrer, but I’m going with Gulbis. He must be physical fit and be able to sustain all of his previous matches, then take it to Ferrer’s grinding game by hitting his signature wild winners.

Ginsburg: It would be foolish to pick Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal to lose early, but Djokovic has an absolutely brutal draw. If Tommy Haas ever had a chance for one last hurrah at a Major, this is it. I think he comes out of that quarter whether or not someone beats Djokovic before Haas would meet him. The other sections have some intrigue, with Federer/Tsonga and Berdych/Ferrer two very good potential quarterfinal matches, but I don’t know that there’s as much potential for an upset that massive in the other sections. Give me Haas, Nadal, Ferrer, and Federer as the four semifinalists.

Lubinsky: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer. One of these things is not like the others. When one of the Top 4 misses a Grand Slam, it creates a huge void in the draw, a void for someone to take advantage of. Theoretically this section belongs to David Ferrer, but it’s tough to determine his form since he’s been impeded by Nadal in both Madrid and Rome. Berdych on the other hand made the semi finals at both tournaments, putting him in a prime location to take advantage of Andy Murray’s withdrawal. However, he does have a very tough draw including the likes of Monfils, Gulbis, Robredo and Almagro so he will have to find his best form yet.

And the Champion is …

Burrows(3) Rafael Nadal. Despite a potential tough meeting against Djokovic in the semis, I feel that if Nadal can surpass the world No.1 he will have beaten his biggest nemesis out there. Roland Garros is his stomping ground and I have a feeling Nadal is not willing to give up his crown in Paris just yet.

Crabtree: (3) Rafael Nadal. Nadal will defeat Tsonga in 4 sets, bite his trophy and tell everyone that it was ‘more than a dream!’

Cvitkovic: (3) Rafael Nadal. Ever since coming back from his injury layoff in January, the Spaniard seems to be a man on a mission. Racking up six titles already this year, and holding a record 31-2 on clay in 2013, one would be hard-pressed to pick an alternative. He could face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, but given the Serbs tough road and any lingering ankle issue, Nadal should be able to get past him to the final with the hunger we’ve learned to love in the Spaniard.

Ginsburg: (3) Rafael Nadal. It would be foolish to pick anyone other than Nadal to win it all, especially with Djokovic’s draw. The only person I see with a decent chance to beat Nadal before the semis is Kei Nishikori, and he just isn’t good enough on clay (though a potential third-round match with Lukas Rosol will generate a lot of hype, that’s for sure). The only player I can see beating Nadal on clay this year in a Slam is David Ferrer (he sure came close twice this year already on clay) and Ferrer just can’t get that far because it means going through Federer. And we all know how Federer/Nadal French Open finals end.

Lubinsky(3) Rafael Nadal. Nadal is 52-1 at Roland Garros. Let that sink in. In 8 years, he has lost just once. Yes, he was out for an extended period of time, but the rust is all gone. He’s already won 6 titles since his return earlier this year and he’s already leading the race to London, despite having missed this year’s only Grand Slam.

Interesting matches, lopsided score lines on day 7 in Indian Wells

In the early rounds of most tournaments, you can expect the main stadium matches to be blowouts. They generally feature low ranked players against the very best and often turn out to be some of the least interesting matches. Tuesday’s schedule featured third and fourth round matches on the main stadium, just about the right time for the matches to get competitive. On paper, the main stadium match ups for Day 7 should have been no trouble for the higher ranked player and while all of them won, the matches provided some pretty entertaining tennis.

Novak Djokovic d. Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(4) 6-1

Novak Djokovic hasn’t lost a match yet this year. The Australian Open champion is the number 1 player in the world and very rarely troubled by anyone outside the Top 4. Grigor Dimitrov has been steadily working his way up the rankings and the 21 year old now sits at a career high 31 in the world. It looked like he came with his A game when he broke Djokovic in the first set. He had the chance to serve it out at 5-3 and it seemed like almost a sure thing, but that’s where experience comes into play. Dimitrov served up four double faults in that game to put them back on serve. Things dropped off quickly from there. Djokovic held and Dimitrov doubled faulted to open the tie break, which he ended up losing 7-4. The second set slipped away just as fast. Djokovic didn’t have to pull out his usual extraordinary play because Dimitrov was beating himself. “He started off well today, but then, you know, I think he gave me the break with four double faults. You know, I haven’t done much really in the match in the second set when I made two breaks. It was all of his unforced errors, so I just needed to hang in there and try to be patient” said Djokovic in his post match press conference. Dimitrov has plenty of talent to make a splash over the next few years, but today the more experience player definitely had the upper hand. 

Maria Sharapova d. Lara Arruabarrena Vecino 7-5 6-0

Are you unfamiliar with the name Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino? You’re not alone. The 20 year old from Spain is currently ranked 87 in the world. No one thought she had much of a chance against Sharapova, the number 2 seed. Sharapova was stumped when asked about Arrubarrena-Vecino after her last match, saying, “well, I hope my coach was out there watching the end of that one.” Sometimes the unknown players can provide the best challenge and despite being broken early in the first set, Arrubarrena-Vecino was able to come back. Once again, the wheels fell off after the lower ranked player lost the first set and Maria Sharapova was able to roll through the next set 6-0. Sharapova explained her early slips, saying, “I think maybe I was going for the lines a little bit more than I had to, especially in the first few games when you haven’t really don’t know too much about your opponent or haven’t played her.” 

Jo Wilfried Tsonga d. Mardy Fish 7-6(4) 7-6(0)

The score line may not be lopsided but the tie breaks certainly were. Perhaps the closest match of the day on paper, this one did not disappoint. A year or two ago, these players would not have met so early in the tournament as they were both Top 10. Mardy Fish is playing his first tournament back after an extended break for health reasons and was seeded number 32 at this event. As it should have been the match was extremely close, but it came down more to Fish’s errors than Tsonga’s winners. After losing the first set tie break, Fish went up a quick 4-0 in the second set before being broken back twice. When asked if those breaks could be attributed to lack of match play, Fish responded, “maybe. I mean, I usually don’t lose 4-0 sets very often. I can’t remember the last one. So, yeah.” Fish was visibly disappointed with the loss, admitting it would’ve been a different story if he had lost 3 and 2. In the long run, this isn’t such a shabby start to Fish’s comeback. There’s certainly no shame losing to a player of Tsonga’s calibre. Tsonga will play Milos Raonic in the fourth round. 

 

Lucky 13: Ernests Gulbis’ win streak continues in Indian Wells

It hasn’t been often over the last year that Ernests Gulbis has been faced with a room full of reporters after a match. More often than not, he’s been packing a bag and heading off to the next tournament. That’s how few and far between his wins had become. The 24 year old Latvian, whose ranking peaked at 21 in 2011, had bottomed out at 159 in October of 2012, a ranking that often relegated him to playing challengers or qualifying for the ATP events. Perhaps the biggest low came just last month in Bergamo, Italy where Gulbis fell to world number 234, Michal Przysiezny, in the opening round of a challenger. Gulbis said he mother had a suggestion after that particular loss, “she told me that I should quit tennis. I told her, give me one more month. So now at least she’s happy.” She’s not the only one that’s happy these days. Gulbis has displayed his charming grin all week in press, getting all sorts of questions about his win streak, which has now reached thirteen matches, including qualifying and winning the Delray Beach tournament and qualifying and subsequently reaching the fourth round here in Indian Wells. 

After his second round win against 9th seed, Janko Tipsarevic, talked about some of his struggles, the highs and lows of reaching a peak so early in your career, saying, “so story of my life, you know. I reach something, and then I destroy it.” He spoke with the wisdom of someone who made childish mistakes but is finally starting to grow up. He seems dedicated to his routine. He’s hired a new coach, Gunter Bresnik, and the results speak for themselves. It appears he has no intention of destroying things this time around, what he considers more like a fourth chance than a second or third. “I hope it’s my last one. I hope that this is the one where I make it.” It’s a long climb back to the top, but it seems like he’s doing things the right way this time around. But, that doesn’t mean he’s being hard of himself about taking so long to figure things out, saying, “somebody doesn’t figure it out all his life. I figured it out after 24 years. I think it’s quick enough.”

The normally light hearted Gulbis turned serious in Saturday’s press conference when he was asked about the differences between playing tour level tournaments and challengers. He quickly shot back, “When was the last time you were in challenger? Go to it. Really.” There’s likely no greater difference than a tournament like the BNP Paribas Open, which pampers its players to the nth, and a 50k challenger housed in a college gym. Perhaps heading back to that world helped develop this new found drive for the Latvian, who has beaten three Top 20 players in his current streak, the longest of his career.

Certainly his next opponent will be the toughest challenge he has faced yet. His fourth round opponent is none other than Rafael Nadal, who received a walkover from Leonardo Mayer on Monday. Gulbis has a 0-4 record against the number 5 seed, who is playing just his third tournament this season after being sidelined with an injury since last July. Gulbis is confident that he has a good chance of beating Nadal the way he’s playing right now, but a loss would not be devastating because he’s on the right track. He said, “idoesn’t, okay, it matters if I win or not, but I want to play as much as matches as possible against these top guys. Sooner or later I’m going to win something, you know, it’s gonna give me extra confidence, and then just to keep it there, you know.”

Isner’s struggles continue with loss to Hewitt

“Not great.” That’s how John Isner described his season to date in press on Saturday after losing his opening match 7-6, 3-6, 4-6 to Lleyton Hewitt. After today’s defeat, Isner has a 6-6 win/loss record for the 2013 season thus far. After the Indian Wells event last year, the American had a 14-5 record and his finals appearance here at the BNP Paribas Open sent him into the Top 10. Saturday’s loss will catapult him out of the Top 20… The American’s troubles started early this season when he had to sit out the Australian Open with a knee injury; however, Isner is adamant that his current struggles have nothing to do with health, it’s all about the confidence.

After his five set loss to Thomaz Bellucci in last month’s USA-Brazil Davis Cup tie, Isner said, “For me, you know, my confidence, it sort of comes and goes very quickly for me it seems like. I think a lot of that out there today was between the ears.” He uttered similar sentiments in press after his Indian Wells defeat saying he’s been practicing well but can’t seem to bring that momentum into his matches. When asked why, he quipped back, “You tell me. I don’t know.” Confidence certainly wasn’t the only factor in the match considering Isner’s opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, is a two time Grand Slam champion and well known for his ‘never say die’ attitude on the court. The Australian veteran may be ranked 98 in the world, but there is no sure thing when it comes to facing Hewitt. At 32, he can still give even the best players a run for their money. As Isner put it, “there’s no shame in losing to him, certainly.” 

John Isner isn’t ready to throw in the towel on this season quite yet, saying, “I believe things will get better. As long as I continue to believe that, then you know, I just hope that things will get better, and I do believe that they will. Just gotta keep plugging away.” He’s only defending 45 points in Miami (1 match win) so that’s a great chance for Isner to win back some of the points that will drop off after his poor showing this week in Indian Wells. Isner was unwilling to comment on the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Serbia, which will take place in Boise, Idaho from April 5th-7th. After his disappointing loss in Jacksonville, a good showing against Serbia could be just the confidence boost he needs. 

Disco in the Desert: Indian Wells Players’ Party

Players like Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Victoria Azarenka took time out of their busy schedules on Thursday evening to walk the “green” carpet at the IW Club for the annual BNP Paribas Open players’ party. This years theme? Disco. But don’t expect many disco themed outfits. As usual, the green carpet saw everything from players in jeans and sweatshirts to mini skirts and six inch stilettos. Let us know what you think of the players’ fashion.

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USA-Brazil Davis Cup Reflections

If the USA wins a hotly contested, live, fifth rubber against Brazil, and no one’s there to see it, did it still happen? This past weekend’s first round Davis Cup tie is a fine example of why you can never count on anything in tennis. On paper, the USA should’ve had no trouble dispatching the Brazilians. Not only did they have the privilege of choosing the venue and surface, Team USA has two Top 20 singles players and the best doubles team in the world. Surely it should’ve been no problem to win three matches against a team whose singles players were ranked 36 and 141 and are generally considered clay court specialists. But that’s the magic of Davis Cup.

While the United States rushed to an easy 2-0 lead on Friday, Saturday’s doubles rubber brought the drama. The Brazilian doubles team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares played lights out in the five set match to keep their team alive. Suddenly Brazilian fans surfaced in the crowd and there was a real Davis Cup atmosphere going in the stadium, complete with drama between the two teams. Could the Brazilians maintain focus and possibly carry their winning momentum into Sunday’s reverse singles?

Sunday had a decidedly more reserved atmosphere, possibly due to the sparse crowd. It was Super Bowl Sunday after all… John Isner had the first chance to clinch the tie for the US and set up a second round tie against 2010 Davis Cup champions, Serbia. After winning the first set against Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, the momentum should’ve been securely with the Americans. They were just two sets away from victory. All of the sudden it looked as if the weight of the world was dropped on the American’s shoulders. He simply didn’t look like a man who intended to win a tennis match. Although, with John Isner that can mean anything. He’s spoken to the fact that his body language is often misconstrued as negative. That wasn’t quite the case here as Bellucci came back to take the second set. Rinse and repeat as the two once again exchanged sets and the match went to the decisive no tie break fifth set. As it would happen Bellucci wouldn’t have needed the tie break anyway, as he broke Isner to take the set 6-3. This was a devastating blow to the US team, who had once had a 2-0 lead in the tie and was now facing a live fifth rubber at 2-2.

John Isner did not mince words about his loss. He was quick to point out his not so stellar five set record, saying, “today was extremely disappointing for me. You know, can’t sugarcoat it with me. My five-set record is atrocious, it’s simple as that. It falls on me 100%. You know, I got to try to get better personally with that. I feel bad. I didn’t come through for the team today.” Isner was clearly pretty devastated by this loss, a match he was not only expected to win, a match that would’ve meant victory for his team. That’s what sets Davis Cup apart from regular tournament play. The players are dependent on each other. No one can win a Davis Cup tie on their own. At the end of his press conference, he was asked about his personal goals for the year and was quick to point out that his first responsibility was to his team in that moment, “I’m not thinking about my personal goals this year right now at all. Sam lost the first set, I don’t know if y’all know that. Got to try to pull him through. I didn’t do my part today, and that’s what’s tough about being on a team. It feels a lot worse than it does had this been a regular tournament.”

The good news was that the lost set Isner was referring to would be the team’s last. Sam Querrey came back to win the next three sets against Brazilian Thiago Alves, who made quite an impressive showing over the weekend. Post match, Querrey also wanted to point out the team effort that goes into Davis Cup, telling reporters, “I was thrilled I could help the guys out. It’s a team thing. We’re all moving on to the next round.” He’s absolutely right. Anyone can have a bad day and that’s what the other guys are there for. As captain Jim Courier put it, “That’s what these teams are all about, catching each other when we fall down, helping each other over the line.”

The Americans face a much tougher foe in their quarter final tie against Serbia, a team which will likely feature world No. 1, Novak Djokovic. The tie will be played April 5th-7th in Boise, Idaho.

Brazilians Melo/Soares stun the Bryans in day 2 Davis Cup action

With an impeccable 22-2 record in Davis Cup doubles going into today’s match, most people had penned in a US victory for the Bryan brothers in yesterday’s doubles rubber against Brazil. But in tennis it’s never safe to count on the better team on paper. Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares have had success playing the Bryans in the past, having beaten the brothers twice, although on clay. This was a whole new ballgame, playing to keep their country alive in the tie, on foreign soil, against the best doubles team in the world. It was almost inconceivable that Brazil could pull off such a victory under the circumstances.

Team Brazil came out to play from the first point, as Bruno Soares put in it the post match press conference, “to beat these guys, you have to be 110%. Today we showed we were 110%, most important for five sets. We didn’t drop for one second.” He was correct. Even when the team went down three set points in the first set tiebreak, they kept calm and were able to go on to win the breaker and take the first set. Things got more heated at the end of the second set tie break, won by the Americans, when their was some controversy over an exclamation by Bob Bryan, seemingly towards Marcelo Melo. The crowd made more of a fuss about the exchange than either team did.

Both teams played down the incident in their post match interviews. Bob Bryan cited the charged environment, saying, “Davis Cup is an emotional atmosphere. They got passionate after they thought they won the set. I got passionate to them. There were some words said. You know, no hard feelings, no grudges.” The sentiment was similar from the Brazilians. Marcelo Melo seemed a bit confused about what happened, saying, “Bob never did this before. We have really good relationship. I have him as a friend. In that moment I got in shock. How Bob did this, is not normal.” He mentioned he would have to review the footage later to see what really happened, but he seemed fairly certain that Bob meant no harm to him directly. 

The overall atmosphere in the arena could not have been any more different from Day 1, where the crowd never seemed able to get into the singles matches. The crowd was firmly behind the home team, but there were a few Brazilian fans in the house which made for an even livelier air. The Americans on the Team USA bench were just as pumped up as the crowd, up on their feet as often as not. Ryan Harrison did a particularly good job getting the crowd cheering.

While Team USA would’ve been thrilled to capture the tie on Saturday, fans attending Sunday’s event somewhat benefit from Brazil’s doubles victory. What would’ve been dead rubbers will now be more exciting events. Sunday’s matches begin at 12PM EST and feature reverse singles John Isner v. Thomaz Bellucci followed directly by Sam Querrey v. Thiago Alves.

Isner and Querrey give USA 2-0 lead against Brazil

The USA Davis Cup squad got off to a quick start on Friday in their first round tie against Brazil. Sam Querrey easily overcame Brazil’s No. 1 player, Thomaz Bellucci, in straight sets. Sam Querrey served very well, but Bellucci definitely handed him a few games. He admitted to being a bit nervous in the first few games, but settled in after the first break.

This is the first home tie for both Querrey and Isner and this was Sam Querrey’s first victory in a live singles rubber. Unfortunately, the crowd for the first match was about as flat as Bellucci’s game. However, the sparse audience did a great job of supporting the home team. When asked about the crowd support, Querrey responded, “they got surprisingly loud there at the end for an arena that wasn’t full.” He also urged fans to come out tomorrow to watch the Bryan brothers, who he unequivocally deemed the greatest doubles team of all time.

The crowd had an easier time getting into the second match, which was surprisingly less one sided than the first. Where Thomaz Bellucci seemed resigned to lose, Thiago Alves maintained a very positive attitude against John Isner, a player ranked 125 spots higher than him. After losing the first set 6-3, Alves hung in there in the second and had plenty of chances against the American. All of the sudden the Brazilian bench was on its feet and Brazilian fans surfaced in the crowd, forcing the US fans to step up their game.

Based on the players’ body language, an onlooker would have easily mistaken the score of the match in favor of Brazil. Alves was fist pumping after every winning point, while Isner lumbered around the court, a point he was quick to address in his post match press conference, saying, “ I don’t realize it when I’m out there, but I guess I am pretty slow and pretty deliberate, especially in a three-out-of-five-set match.” The good news was that the attitude had nothing to do with the knee pain that sidelined Isner during the Australian Open. Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, John Isner stated that he plans to play the reverse singles rubber on Sunday. 

Saturday’s schedule features Bob and Mike Bryan against Brazilian players Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. This match gives the brothers a chances to clinch the tie for the United States. The last time the Bryan brothers lost a Davis Cup match was 2008, but their not prepared to write in that “W” quite yet. In Thursday’s post-draw press conference, Bob Bryan said, “we have to go out there and play good tennis, have to execute. This is a team that has beaten us before. They beat us in a big match at the French. We really respect them. We know a lot about them, they know a lot about us.” It’s smart never to take the competition likely, but the Bryans have an impressive 22-2 record in Davis Cup doubles.

Novak Djokovic greets fans at NYC UNIQLO

By Andrea Lubinksky

On Wednesday morning, Novak Djokovic teamed up with UNIQLO CEO Shin Odake and Creative Direcor Naoki Takizawa to give the press a look at his new tennis apparel line. First, Odake explained how appointing Djokovic global brand ambassador is a key part of breaking into the US and global markets. Then the guest of honor joined Odake on stage to talk about his US Open kit and his partnership with the company. Creative Director Takizawa discussed his inspiration for the line, saying, “the national flag of Serbia inspired me when I was thinking about the color and design of his match wear. In particular, I was inspired by the shapes of the wings of the eagles that are on the flag, and with this in mind I began to draw lines in his match wear.” Djokovic demonstrated some of the more unique aspects of his US Open kit, which features a quick open zipper on the jacket and towel lined pockets.

 

Following the press conference, Djokovic hosted a photo session with fans, some of whom had waited in line for several hours. The 30 minute session started at 10:10am and by 10:40am, the line was still wrapped around the building and most of the way down 53rd Street. Excited fans were thrilled to get their photo taken with the tennis star. Some lucky fans got an autograph or a hug with their photo. The star was very accommodating. Djokovic’s longtime girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, even got in on the photographer action, snapping a few photos on her phone throughout the session.

The new collection features polo shirts and shorts in white, blue, navy, as well as track suits in white and navy. Prices range from $49.90 to $89.90 and the clothes will be available beginning August 27th at all three New York stores. All photos from Wednesday’s event are available on the UNIQLO USA Facebook page.

US ladies score a perfect 10 in Paris

By Andrea Lubinsky

American women went undefeated, winning all ten of their matches in the first two days of the French Open. This statistic is impressive on its own. Any country would be thrilled to have ten players in the second round. However, considering that most Americans don’t favor the clay, and add in some pretty big wins from young up and comers, this was a rather surprising turn of events.

 

Perhaps the biggest upset of the day on the women’s side came in the form of Bethanie Mattek-Sands straight sets victory over 12th seed, Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki has never been the picture of consistency due to various injuries, but either way, this was an excellent win for Mattek-Sands to set up a second round 19 year-old Sloane Stephens, who also had a very impressive performance, beating Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Teenager Lauren Davis served up two breadstick sets (6-1, 6-1) against the 30th seed, Mona Barthel, which sets up another American vs American second round as she will face off against Christina McHale. This guarantees the Americans at least two women in the third round, but possibly several more.

Other notable wins came from Melanie Oudin who has been struggling, Vavara Lepchenko, who was down match points against Ksenia Pervak, and Christina McHale who toughed out Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in three sets. Vania King, Irina Falconi, Alexa Glatch, and Venus Williams rounded out the two day domination, all winning their first round encounters. Interestingly, based on the first set, it looked like Williams could have been the first to falter. Down 6-4 to Paula Ormaechea of Argentina, it looked like Venus may have been half way out the door, but being the veteran that she is, Williams cruised in the second set, winning 6-1, before comfortably closing out the match 6-3 in the third.

Looking ahead, the US ladies won’t have much time to celebrate as several of them will face off against very difficult opponents in the second round. Perhaps one of the most anticipated matches when the draw was released, Venus Williams will compete against No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska for a spot in the third round. Irina Falconi also faces an uphill battle as she will play 2010 finalist and reigning US Open champion, Samantha Stosur in the second round. Unfortunately for the Americans, Oudin, Glatch, Lepchenko, and King will all also face seeded opponents in round two.

If the ladies are aiming to make it a truly perfect first round, Serena Williams and Jamie Hampton will also have to score wins in their matches on Tuesday.