Fan Watch

Page 1 of 41234

A Look Back At The Tennis Career of Li Na

Li Na

“Li Na has been a fun, powerful, and wonderful player on the WTA tour and, along with her fans, I am sad to hear that she has retired,” said WTA Chairman & CEO Stacey Allaster on the announcement of the retirement of Li Na, the Chinese tennis trailblazer, winner of the 2014 Australian Open and the 2011 French Open. ”In addition to her amazing tennis abilities and her warm and humorous personality, she is a pioneer who opened doors to tennis for hundreds of millions of people throughout China and Asia.  It’s hard to be a household name in a nation with 1.4 billion people, but that’s what Li Na is.  Thanks to all she has achieved and contributed, her legacy is immense and I have no doubt that her contributions to the WTA will be seen for decades to come in China, throughout Asia and the rest of the world.  I wish her the best of luck in this next chapter in her life.  I will miss her, and I know that while she may be retired from competition, she still will play a big role in the growth of our sport around the world.”

Li Na’s 15-year professional career featured nine WTA singles titles, two doubles titles and saw her become one of the very best and most popular players in the history of women’s tennis.

Li, 32, etched her name in the history books at Roland Garros in 2011 when she became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title, defeating Top 10 rivals in each of her last four matches. Earlier in 2011 she was the first player from the region to reach a major final, finishing runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open. After another run to the final at the Australian Open in 2013, when she was edged by Victoria Azarenka in a dramatic three-setter, Li captured her second Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park in January this year – just the second woman aged over 30 to win the title in the Open Era, after Margaret Court. The victory helped propel Li to World No.2 on February 17, 2014 – the highest ranking ever attained by an Asian player.

Over the course of her career, particularly in later years as her success reached its crescendo, Li’s powerful game delivered against the very best. Her 21 wins over Top 5 opponents included two over reigning World No.1s – Serena Williams at Stuttgart in 2008 and Caroline Wozniacki at the 2011 Australian Open. In total she reached 21 WTA singles finals (going 9-12 in those) and in addition to her wins at the Australian Open and Roland Garros was a semifinalist at the US Open and quarterfinalist at Wimbledon.

Along the way, Li established a string of breakthroughs for Chinese tennis, alongside her Grand Slam title triumphs. She was the first to win a WTA singles title (2004 Guangzhou) and first to win a WTA Premier title (2011 Sydney); first to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal (2006 Wimbledon); first to compete in singles at the WTA Finals (2011-13, finishing runner-up to S.Williams on her most recent appearance); and first to crack the singles Top 20 (August 14, 2006), Top 10 (February 1, 2010) and Top 5 (June 6, 2011). As wfaell as representing her country in Fed Cup competition in eight different years she was a three-time Olympian for China (Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012). She also played countrywoman Zheng Jie in the first All-Chinese WTA singles final at Estoril in 2006 (won by Zheng) and earlier this year won the second All-China final in WTA history at Shenzhen, defeating Peng Shuai for the title.

Li’s career singles win-loss record was 503-188 with prize money earnings of $16,709,074. She exited the game with a rank of No.6.

 

Novak’s “Djok-hold” on the U.S. Open

Novak Djokovic

By David Cui

 

Following his thrilling Wimbledon victory over Roger Federer to clinch his seventh major singles title and return to the No. 1 ATP World Tour ranking, Novak Djokovic undoubtedly has great momentum going into the upcoming U.S. Open.

Since 2007, Djokovic has been a consistent powerhouse in the U.S. Open, qualifying for the finals in five of the past seven years and winning it all in 2011. Riding on this current streak, which is paired with his Wimbledon victory, a U.S. Open title for Djokovic seems almost imminent.

Furthermore, the U.S. Open is played on a hard surface. Out of his 14 Grand Slam finals and seven wins, Djokovic has played nine of them on hard surface, and won five of those nine. His ratio of Grand Slam titles won to Grand Slam titles played on hard surfaces exceeds that of Federer’s and even that of Nadal’s on clay, demonstrating his dominance among the world’s best players.

Djokovic is also entering the U.S. Open with one more significant advantage over one of his fiercest competitors. For this year’s tournament, many agree that Djokovic’s greatest obstacle will be Federer, who currently possesses the No. 3 ranking.

At first glance, the two appear to have equal chances of beating each other, with a tied record (13-13) on hard courts and an extremely slim overall series (Federer currently leads 18-17). However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clearer that Djokovic will enter the tournament with the upper hand.

In their last ten match-ups, Djokovic holds a 6-4 series lead, as well as a 4-2 lead in their hard court matches. This current trend, along with Djokovic’s most recent victory over Federer at Wimbledon, shows that if the two are pitted against each other in the U.S. Open, Djokovic will likely prevail.

Djokovic has once again risen to the top of the modern tennis world, and if all goes well, will exit the summer of 2014 with not one, but two additional Grand Slam titles to add to his collection.

 

Pro Tennis Right Now Is Boring – Bring On The U.S. Hard Court Season

Cincinnati

By Thaddeus McCarthy

 

The tennis world at this time seems to be quite boring.

Some articles are still coming out concerning Novak Djokovic’s epic win over Federer in the Wimbledon final, which is quite surprising seeing that it was over two weeks ago, an article that recently came out discussed how Boris Becker called Federer the Greatest of All Time (yawn). Another article was out recently concerning how Boris does not call himself a friend of Novak’s. But rather than chattering about supposed coach/player relationships or the monotonous GOAT debate, what I will discuss today is the real business that should concern the tennis world right now, which is the upcoming American hard court swing.

Novak Djokovic has effectively lined himself up as the favourite to have the most successful US Open Series. Nadal is not going away any time soon, and will arguably be more of a threat on hard courts than he was through the short grass season. In terms of points to defend, Nadal has by far the most. There is a lot of doubt though, that he will be able to repeat his effort this year with what he did last year and win the US Open series (Cincinnati, Toronto and US Open). I would not put him as the second favourite this year, just because he has never traditionally performed well in the second half of the season. Last year was an odd occurrence in that respect.

The culprit for the second favouritism position this year could rest with Andy Murray, who has no points to defend and is coming under the radar. His performance at Wimbledon was encouraging after his long down period since his Wimbledon win last year. His strongest surface is perhaps hard courts, which is demonstrated by his 2012 US Open title and 3 Aussie Open final showings. Stan Wawrinka could perform well this summer, but since the Aussie Open has not looked like a Grand Slam winner. Jo Tsonga is another contender, but I think he will only do well enough through a week (or 2) to win one of the American summer tournaments, if any. I have always felt that Jo is the sort of player who is able to play lights out tennis for a period. And he could do this at any time.

The real second favourite though, should be Roger Federer, who has traditionally performed well on the American hard courts and is in resurgence this year. And the fact he lost the Wimbledon final could be good, because unlike in 2012, there will be a feeling this year that he still has something to prove. Last year he was having back problems, and so I think that it is not fair to compare his 2013 with 2014. The level he is playing at is similar to 2012, and the Wimbledon final in particular was reminiscent of Wimbledon 2009.

All things considered, Novak Djokovic should have the best period in the next couple of months. If all players are playing at their best on hard courts, I believe Novak is king. Unlike on clay, where I think Nadal still has the edge. Novak has only the one US Open title and will be hungry to grab another. However, the danger of the young up-and-comers will be more persistent this summer than any other time in recent memory. The showing of Nick Krygios (and Milos Raonic) at Wimbledon is a direct example of this.

But Novak and the rest of the tennis world should never count out Rafael Nadal, as he is the greatest competitor and most tenacious player in tennis history. And will be fighting hard to defend his titles. The field lining up against him is led by Novak, but is flanked by some notable old names and exciting new comers. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Tennis Musings From New Zealand

This gallery contains 1 photo.

John Isner

By Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

                     The NZ Festival of Tennis came to an end with John Isner prevailing in the Heineken Open final, 7-6, 7-6, over first time ATP finalist Yen-Hsun Lu. The first week of course finished with Ana Ivanovic overcoming Venus Williams. The Festival is my personal favourite of the NZ Summer of Sporting events. The weather certainly turned up for the 2 weeks, although I can remember one afternoon early on with the ASB Classic which wasn’t that great. Nevertheless the play was uninterrupted and the tournament enjoyed sell-out crowds. This posting will review the second week’s tournament and give a line-up and some predictions for the big one, the Aussie Open.

David Ferrer, the widely expected winner, bowed out in the semi-final to Yen-Hsun Yu. He said after that match that it was perhaps one of the worst performances of his career. You’ve got to think about comments in pressers like this that if they aren’t just a bit derogatory of the other player. Federer has been criticised in the past as coming off as a bit arrogant in his pressers. In Ferrer’s case at this time his error rate was very high, so this comment was probably justified. My golden boy from the last posting, Benoit Paire, bowed out in the second round. Arguably the match of the tournament was the Quarterfinal between Phillip Kohlschreiber and Isner, which had three tiebreaks and featured no breaks of serve. I have to say that Kohlschreiber was unlucky not to win that one, as his rallying was superior to Isner.

Going back to the Heineken final, once again Isner’s serve was on fire. At 2.06m tall he is known as having one of the best, if not the best serve on tour. Isner called the final match perhaps his best of the week (his serve was not broken once). First time finalist Yu played well, his one-handed backhand passing shot at the end of the second set (to save the second match point) was testament to that. He just played against a man in Isner who was really hitting his shots on the day. Isner did say after his semi-final, that without his serve he would not be ranked inside the top 500. His serve is just an example that to be ranked highly in this sport you do often need a big weapon. As mentioned in my last post, the winner of this fortnight’s Australian Open will be a player who has a weapon, one which will turn an over wise even match in their favour.

In my first ever posting on here, I predicted that we would see a Del Potro/Nadal final. I will not stick with this, as they have been slated to meet in the Quarter-finals. I will have to go instead with a Del Potro/Djokovic final. Juan Martin Del Potro has just downed Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the Sydney International final, and appears to be in top form. He will not doubt be one dangerous hombre in the Open. Djokovic has been handed perhaps the easiest draw of anyone in the competition. His first real test will come in the Quarterfinals, where he is expected to face-off against Stanislas Wawrinka, who took him too 12-10 in the fifth set (fourth-round) last year. He should come out of this Wawrinka match to take down Ferrer in the semi-final. The Del Potro/Nadal Quarter-final will be a match to watch at the start of the second week. That is assuming Nadal can get past a dangerous Bernard Tomic in the first round. Tomic is a player I have mentioned before as being someone with the potential to win a Grand Slam one day. I just don’t see it happening this year. Nadal I believe, will be too strong for him in the opening round.

On the women’s side I can just not go past Serena Williams this year. Her form with age just appears to be getting better and better and there seems to be no stopping her. She is not a particularly liked player by the tennis public, but you just cannot help but admire the power game she has brought to women’s’ tennis. The two players who I think could create some difficulty for Serena could be Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova. Azarenka was dispatched in straight sets in Brisbane last week, and lost in three tight sets to Serena at US Open 2013. But she can cause the upset on the day. With Sharapova, although she has a terrible record against Serena, on her day an upset could happen. We just have to think back to the 2004 Wimbledon for an example of that. Azarenka and Sharapova are expected to meet in the semi-final, and I would hope that it is not a slug fest, which will leave the winner exhausted for meeting a fit and hungry Serena in the final.

All us sports fans have pet wishes which we hope will happen, but sort of know that they never will. Well, my pet wish for this Open is that Lleyton Hewitt will finally come through to win his home countries slam. Australia has not had a winner on the men’s side since Mark Edmondson won it in 1976; surprisingly with a world ranking of 212 (the lowest seed to ever win a Slam). Hewitt got close in 2005, when he reached the final, but other than that has not gone past the fourth round. The 05 Aussie had an incredible excitement about it, mainly thanks to Hewitt’s run on one side, and the Marat Safin machine on the other. It is in fact my all-time favourite slam, and featured one of my all-time favourite matches, the Safin/Federer semi-final. Hewitt’s win in last week’s Brisbane final against Federer definitely gave some hope that another dream run may again be possible. For the women, Samantha Stousur is my pet wish to be the winner. The women similiary to the men have not have had a winner since Chris O’ Neil in 1978. It would really generate some interest in the Open if we were having a couple of great local runs.

So there you have it. My predictions for the Aussie Open are for a men’s final of Djokovic/Del Potro, and a women’s final of Serena/ Azarenka. Although what I would like to happen is for a Hewitt/Del Potro final for the men and a Stosur/Williams final for the women. Having a surprising local run on one side, and a dangerous power player on the other would make this Open hugely memorable. Whatever happens though, this is a tournament I thoroughly look forward too every year, and it never disappoints in providing us with gripping moments. Watch this space.

 

Comings and Goings from Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland

By Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

As I have just returned home from covering the ASB Classic, and the Heineken Open is already underway, I thought that now would be a good time to give you a summary of the Classic and an intro to the Open.

The ASB Classic was a fantastic six day event played at the ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland. It was (pleasantly) sunny, even though the forecast had predicted rain. The play did not disappoint, and from a personal perspective, as it was my first time covering a tournament, it was brilliant, and the experience certainly lived up to expectations. It was also the dream final, the one everyone had wanted from the start, Venus Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic. Now sometimes these sort of the matches can be disappointments; like many of the long awaited finals in our sport e.g. any number of the Federer/Nadal French Open finals. But this was different; it was tight and the tennis was electrifying. In the first set, Ivanovic cruised to win 6-2. Venus saved a match point at 5-4 in the second set, and went on to win it 7-5. In the final set though Ivanovic’s younger legs proved to be springier. She caught a break at the early stages of the set, and did not let go from there, eventually prevailing 6-4, and taking the title.

Both Venus and Ivanovic said in the post-match interviews, that this tournament was the perfect preparation for the Australian Open. I think after watching both players, I would expect at least one of them to go into the second week there. They are both on comeback trails right now, but I think that Ana is the more likely one to do so. She has the younger legs, still only being 26. And has a number of weapons on disposal, such as a blistering ground strokes and strong service game. Whereas with Venus you have to say that age is catching up with her. The other player that most impressed me from the tournament was American Jamie Hampton. I was at the press conference where she announced that she was pulling out of her semi-final with Venus, due to a hip injury. Something about her struck me. She seemed in a way similar to the Mighty Fed, in that she spoke almost in third person. She seemed very sure of herself, and I am certain that if she gets over her injury in time, by the Australian Open she will do well. In her quarterfinal against Lauren Davis, I was impressed by the all-round strength of her game.

The NZ Festival of Tennis continues this week, with the Heineken Open. David Ferrer is the defending champion here, and has come back (now as the World No. 3) to defend his title. The other headline acts will be Tommy Haas and John Isner. Gael Monfils, the flamboyant Frenchman unfortunately pulled out this week citing fatigue. Being the first month of the year this is pretty doubtful, but understandable that if he is not feeling totally right, he doesn’t want to ruin himself for the coming Slam. The tournament organisers were in talks with Andy Murray’s manager about potentially getting him in on a wild card, after his early exit from the Qatar Open. Unfortunately though, this was not to be the case. In reality it was too much of a rush for Murray to suddenly come down here to play a tournament after his Qatar loss. Tournament Director Karl Budge insisted after the Murray and Monfils announcements that the tournament does still have some exciting talent, such as young American Jack Sock, not to mention Marcos Baghdadis, Benoit Paire and Phillip Kohlschreiber. Ferrer’s path to the title, will no doubt still be a difficult one, even without a Murray in his way.

As the Classic proved for the ladies, the Heineken Open will serve as a good preparation for the Australian Open, as that Slam begins on the 15th.  If I were to predict a player from this tournament who has the potential to win it though, it would not be David Ferrer. Although he has a very high likelihood of winning the Heineken again, I just don’t think that he has enough firepower to win a Slam. Yes, he did reach the French final last year (where he was dually shellacked in straight sets by Nadal), but Slam winners traditionally need to have a weapon arsenal at their disposal. It is very uncommon for journeyman (such as Ferrer) to win Slams. One-Slam-Wonder Journeyman who immediately come to mind include Andrei Gomez (1990 French) and Thomas Johanseen (2002 Aussie). Now in both these cases they were lucky; in Gomez’s case, Agassi was more worried about his hair piece falling out than winning the final. In Johanseen’s case, he had a very favourable draw that year, and played the volatile and unstable Marat Safin in the final.

My pick for the surprise run of the tournament is Benoit Paire. He is a tall man, with surprising balance, and of course has a booming serve. Although he has not yet gone beyond the third round of a Slam, the Australian as we all know is notorious for unexpected runs. Marcos Baghdadis, 2006 anyone? Or how about Fernando Gonzalez, 2007, or Tsonga, 2008. All of those players had weapon arsenals; the Gonzalez forehand was, is still is legendary. Whatever the case though, surprise run or not, for all of the players involved in this lead-up tournament, the Heineken will be great preparation for the Aussie Open.

You will hear from me again at the completion of the tournament. So for now, keep well.

Running Commentary In A Moment In Time At The ASB Classic In Auckland

Venus Williams

By Thaddeus McCarthy

By Dear Fans,

As I am sitting right now in the media box at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, I thought that now would be a good time to do some running commentary. Now obviously this article will come out after these matches have been completed, so this is out-of-date technically. But I feel that right at this moment this is a useful conversation to have.

As I write this, the match-up between Ana Ivanovic and Kurumi Nara, the world no. 16 vs no. 81, has just ended. Ana Ivanovic has taken the match 6-2, 6-3. The crowd seated, of which there is about 1,300, got to enjoy some wonderful rallies at the end of the match. A favourite of mine was one where Nara finished the point with a backhand drop volley. The match currently under way is between Lauren Davis and Jamie Hampton. Hampton would have to be the favoured one of these two, as she is about 40 ranks above her. Hampton has just broken Davis’s serve for the 2nd time, and the match stands at 5-1. The next match coming up is Garbine Muguruza vs. Venus Williams. No doubt who the crowd favourite will be in this one.

I think it is the common consensus with fans is that they do want to see a Williams/Ivanovic final, as these are the tournaments two biggest drawcards. There are many players who will be doing their best to stop that happening, Muguruza will be no exception. The top seed, Roberta Vinci was knocked out in the opening round by a largely unheard of player, Ana Konjuh. Seeing the form that Ana displayed in the last match I would highly expect her to reach the final stage. In the Hampton match currently into the second set, and with Hampton the superior player at this stage, I will assume that she comes out on top here. She will move on from this to face Venus in the semi-finals. Venus will find it tough going against Hampton, and I think we can look forward to a very good match tomorrow. In the other semi-final we will see Ivanovic face off against Kirsten Flipkens. My expectation for this match is that Ivanovic will come out ahead, watching the Flipkens quarter-final I noticed that she does not have a top spin backhand shot. I would think that this weakness could leave her open. Time will tell.

In the doubles, we are seeing a similar pattern emerging, although somewhat more pronounced. The top seeds, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The only one’s of the top four seeds remaining are the fourth seeds, Mona Barthel and Megan Moulton-Levy. Again, time will tell whether the top seeds can make it through to the final and become champions. Although I think that is good to have diversity when it comes to tournament winners on the ATP and WTA, I think it is also good to have a strong bunch of players at the top. Much of the hype around the men’s game currently has been to do with having the ‘Big Four’ rivalry. The problem with the women’s game worldwide currently has been that there is not really a strong group of players at the top. Lets hope that the womens game in 2014 will see a very strong bunch of players emerging at the top.

It is my hope that the ASB Classic will set the tone for a great year of women’s tennis in 2014!

What’s In Store For ASB Classic In New Zealand

Ivanovic

By Thaddeus McCarthy

 

Dear Fans,

As I will be covering the ASB Classic in New Zealand for you all , I thought that now would be a good time to give you a rundown of what’s in store.

The tournament will run from the 30th of December, and the final will be played on the 4th of January. Current world no. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska is the reigning champion, but unfortunately will not be defending her title this year. The two big names that will grace the first event of our 11 month season will be Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams, both former number 1’s and Grand Slam winners. Venus is undoubtedly the bigger name of these two. Sister of Serena, 7-time Grand Slam Winner, 44 career titles and arguably the main reason why women get equal pay today. It is for this last reason that I have requested an interview with her. If I manage to get one, I will be sure to let you all know how it goes. Ana Ivanovic won the 2008 French title, and 11 career titles. She has had many struggles since then, dropping to No. 65, but she has since gone back up to No. 16. It will be one of the main interests of the tournament will be to see if she can regain some of her No. 1 form. Ana will arguably be the most keenly watched player, particularly amongst the boys, as she is definitely one of the better looking females’ on tour.

Some other very recognizable names include young Laura Robson from Great Britain, Yanina Wickmayer, Lucie Safarova, and Julia Georges. The latter three are all former top 20 players, and are seeking to regain some of their earlier form. Laura Robson is a promising teenager, and did reach a WTA final in 2012 in China. The expectations for her, mostly as she is the top ranked British female, are very high. Personally I like her playing style, and being a similarly tall individual, I hope she does well. Julia Georges is another tall player, who’s a big hitter and uses lots of top spin. Along with Ana she is another popular player on tour.

Players who I have requested interviews with, include (obviously) Venus, Yanina, New Zealander Marina Erakovic, and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. With Venus I will talk about gender equality in tennis, and by extension, in sports in general. She was instrumental in getting equal pay for women at the French and Wimbledon, as it was her essay which eventually swayed the debate.  With Garbine I will (hopefully) discuss with her about the development of younger players in Spain, and how they are working to continue producing quality. Following on from this I will talk with Marina about the development of the game in New Zealand, and how we can start to emulate countries (such as Spain) in producing some more tennis stars. My talk with Yanina will be about how she plans to return to (near) the top of the game. If I manage to get an interview with Ana, my chat would be on the same topic.

Well, that’s the end of my discussion today; I would appreciate any suggestions you guys may have in regard to interview topics.

 

Ivanovic

Agassi, McEnroe, Hingis Highlight July’s World Team Tennis Action at New York’s Randall’s Island

Agassi v McEnroe Gala

The Sportimes schedule is highlighted by the July 19 matchup with the Boston Lobsters, in which Sportimes captain and Tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe will battle Andre Agassi, in a match that also serves as a benefit for the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, McEnroe’s not-for-profit foundation.  McEnroe will compete on two other Sportimes home dates, July 24 vs. Boston in Troy and July 25 in the regular season finale vs. Washington at Randall’s Island.

The complete Sportimes schedule at Randall’s Island is as follows (all matches begin 7 p.m.):
July 10    Springfield Lasers (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 13    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 18    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 19    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe; Boston – Andre Agassi)
July 25    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Home matches in Troy, N.Y., include (all matches begin 7:30 p.m.):
July 23    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis; Washington – Venus Williams)
July 24    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Special events on home dates include a pre-match and halftime “Glee” tribute concert by Class Act on July 10; pre-event attempt to set a Guinness World Record for most people bouncing a ball on their rackets on July 18; Niall O’Leary’s Professional Dance Troupe on July 25; and on each home date, nightly promotions such as Shoot Out (Win What You Hit), Clock Your Serve and a bouncy house for kids.

Additionally, on all Randall’s Island home match nights, the Sportimes will provide free bus service from Manhattan to the stadium.  Pickups will begin at 4:15 p.m., from 86th & 3rd Avenue and 126th & Lexington, between 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m.  A Sportimes staff member will be on each corner to assist.  Buses will also provide return service to both locations after the match ends.

In addition to marquee players Hingis and McEnroe, the Sportimes roster includes veterans Robert Kendrick, Jesse Witten and Ashley Harkleroad.  Returning for his fifth year as coach is Chuck Adams.

Tickets for Sportimes matches are available by calling 888-WTT-NYC1 or by visiting www.nysportimes.com.  For more information on matches in Troy, N.Y., visit www.NYSportimes.com/Albany or call 518-393-0440.

The 2012 WTT regular season runs from July 9-28, with the top two teams from both the Western and Eastern Conference advancing to the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, September 14-16, at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

2012 Sportimes’ partners include USTA Eastern Section, GEICO, USTA, Wilson, DecoTurf, Principal Funds, SPORTIME Clubs, Tennis.com, Arizon Tennis Domes, NY Orthopedics, and Randall’s Island Park Alliance.

Waiting for Murray to finish the unfinished in 2013

Andy Murray after his second round defeat at the AEGON Championships (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

By Ritesh Gupta

Tennis is in me. It reflects. It invigorates me, strengthens me and keeps me going. It appeases me when things aren’t going my way. I want more of it, always. More on the court, more of it on my mobile, PC, tablet…it has to be in my thoughts. Yes, it’s a way of life.

But somehow I wanted all of it to stop on Sunday for Andy Murray.

I wobbled much before Murray lost the battle against now seven-time Wimbledon singles winner, Roger Federer.

It was a moment where I felt what if Murray falters in the final of Wimbledon 2012. At that point of time, I just hoped everything to get blown away as if nothing existed. Yes for Murray, not to go through what he eventually did after losing in four sets to Federer.

May be we can ask Andy Roddick what all Murray felt as he survived that half-hour or so after he shook hands with Federer to wrap up his loss at the net. But Murray, too, gave ample signs of the fact he was trodden from within, only to get crushed slowly. And when he was asked to express at the ceremony, he almost collapsed. He couldn’t look at the player’s box, which is a definite source of strength for all the professionals.

Ah, I couldn’t go on and on.

I rather go back and relive those moments where Murray just fought and fought.

So when did I feel it should stop? It was much before that spell of rain in the third set that forced Federer and Murray to stop their battle.

To be precise, it was at 15-40, 2-2 in the second set when Murray was about to break Federer’s serve and raised hopes of 2-0 lead. It didn’t happen.

Then, in the middle of the third set, Murray led 40-0 and he was all set to hold serve to square the match. It didn’t happen. In fact, in the same game, Murray slipped when he couldn’t kill a high volley and Federer’s lob winner landed on the baseline. Murray challenged the call only to lose it. Yes, all of this did happen!

From there on, it was as if whatever Murray could hurl as a boxer, the punch just wouldn’t land on Federer.

And yes, Federer looked every bit of the champion he was and is again.

That nonchalant toss of serve, that characteristic brushing aside of his hair falling over his bandana, that finesse associated with his majestic backhand…it was Federer at his best. Would it matter if I say the champion played like this when he is about to turn 31 next month. It won’t as Federer, with his larger than life persona, stands out for whatever he does at Wimbledon.

On a parting note, I wonder when Murray’s mother, Judy, and his girlfriend, Kim Sears, cried, was it enough for the Scot’s steely coach Ivan Lendl to melt for one fleeting moment at least.

I wish Lendl didn’t.

He has to push Murray to achieve what he couldn’t on Sunday and what Lendl himself couldn’t do in his career- holding that mesmerizing Wimbledon trophy at least once as a singles professional.

I wish Murray plays in the final again in 2013. And that too with the roof open. And for those raindrops, they should come down. They should fall for Murray to look into the sky and move his fingers up and down – just the way he did after each of his six victories in 2012 – only to say: “I am not closer anymore, rather I am right up there.”

 

For a recap of the final, please read this article on our sister site:  http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/7195

An Estoril Open preview: Milos Raonic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alisa Kleybanova compete

Juan Martin Del Potro

By Luís Santos

The mens draw

The main draws for the upcoming Estoril Open have been announced. Some exciting match-ups have emerged, especially if you are Portuguese!

Top four seeds in the men’s side got byes, so Soderling, Verdasco, Tsonga and Simon are only second round sightings. Special attention to Fernando Verdasco whose second round opponent may well be Portuguese best Frederico Gil. Verdasco is the clear favorite but Gil was a finalist at the Estoril Open 2010 and is a crowd favorite.

Of his return to the Estoril  Open Gil said: I love to play this tournament so much in front of my friends and family, it is a big motivation and I always try to do my best. I grew up playing here when I was younger, so I know the conditions. I know the pressure and expectation of playing at my home tournament.”

Second man of the Portuguese armada is Rui Machado, who starts against veteran Victor Hanescu.

But for most of us Portuguese tennis fans, all eyes will be on the all-portuguese first round match between Gastão Elias and João Sousa, the hopes of the Portugal tennis scene. No matter what the result will be, we are assured of a Portuguese in the second round.

Other big names to watch at the Estoril this week will be former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and fast rising star Milos Raonic.

The womens draw

On the women’s side, the field is lead by Russian Alisa Kleybanova who will have a first round tussle with big-hitting Olga Govortsova. Jarmila Gajdosova is the number two seed and starts against Renata Voracova. Rouding out the top four seeds are Klara Zakopalova and Anastasjia Sevastova.

Two former champions grace the draw this year with Jie Zheng and Great Arn both making returns to the Portuguese venue. Arn will open against home hope Maria João Koehler, the number two for Portugal. Koehler has expressed her determination to do well on her home turf so Arn may well have her hands full with the Portuguese wildcard.

Also on the list to watch are Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Elena Vesnina, the number five and six seeds, respectively. Also making a comeback is Casey Dellacqua from Australia.

Be sure to to visit TennisGrandstand daily as Luís Santos brings you the headlines of both men’s and women’s action at the 2011 Estoril Open.

Page 1 of 41234