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Citi Open Q&A: Rhyne Williams Talks Embarrassing Moments, Keeping His Cool on Court and More

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-two-year-old Rhyne Williams captured his first win at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. as he defeated good friend Robby Ginepri in the grueling heat, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. (Gallery at bottom)

The pair went our for dinner Friday night in D.C. joking about the possibility of having to play each other in yet another tournament, after Williams most recently defeated his fellow American to win the Dallas Challenger in February.

Williams acknowledged how tough of a competitor Ginepri was again today.

“I played Robby so many times, we know each other’s game so well,” said Williams.  “I knew it was going to be tough from the first point. We always have battles. He likes to run me side to side, I’ve noticed. So it was fun to get to play him again.”

Despite the nine aces, the Tennessee native admitted to having some right shoulder trouble the past couple of months and feeling “a little banged up right now,” but is hoping it’s nothing serious. He plans on checking it out sometime after this week’s tournament, but not before attending his sister’s wedding next weekend.

So what if Williams happens to make a deep run at the Citi Open and is forced to miss his sister’s wedding?

“She’ll probably be pissed,” he laughed. “But I have to do it!”

I sat down with the charismatic, funny and level-headed Williams as he talked about his family’s tennis legacy, his love for Chipotle and his most embarrassing moment among other topics. Get to know one of American tennis’ rising stars!

What is your most memorable moment?
I’ll probably say qualifying for the US Open last year. Not only qualifying but I got to play Andy Roddick on Ashe stadium. That was a blast. To feel that environment for my first time — I’ll never forget that. …. That’s by far my favorite tournament.

How did you first start playing tennis?
My mom taught me tennis. She was top 100 in the world, so she taught me when I was 7 or 8 years old. We got out there a couple of times per week. I also played a lot of basketball and baseball growing up, but decided on tennis. Everybody (in the family plays.) You wouldn’t believe it. It’s overwhelming at times, but they’ve done a good job letting me do my thing. My cousin is with me all the time, and that’s been great. We’ve been not only family, but best friends. We grew up across the street from each other, hit every day growing up. No one knows me really as well as Christopher does.

If you were hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite and why?
(Laughs) I would invite Roger (Federer) – he’s my all-time favorite. I guess I have to throw a female in there too. I’ll go with Ana Ivanovic, another one of my favorites. And then, I’ll probably invite my best buddy, Tennys Sandgren.

What is one thing that scares you?
Flying. I used to never, never be fazed. But lately, I can’t even handle a little bump. I freak out, grab an armrest. I’m terrified now; it’s awful.

Rhyne Williams_Citi Open_27 July 2013-6What are two things you couldn’t live without?
Chipotle …

There are a few in D.C.

Yes, we went. I’ve been.

Already?

Yea. (Laughs) … So, Chipotle … and college sports.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be doing?
I would probably be playing baseball. That was my first love. The first thing I picked up was a baseball bat and gloves. My dad and I used to throw the baseball around and have batting practice.

What is your most embarrassing moment?
(Laughs) I was playing a Future in Spain a long time ago — I think I was 16 years old. And there was a pretty good crowd; I was playing one of the hometown favorites and everyone was cheering for him. I was acting like an idiot. I think I ran for a dropshot, didn’t get it. Got mad. Kicked the net and my foot got stuck in the net. I fell down on the court and everyone in the crowd erupted into cheers. I actually injured my tailbone from doing that. I was hobbling around the rest of the match and ended up losing. I deserved it. (Laughs)

What’s the secret to keeping your cool on court now, after being somewhat notorious for smashing racquets and such?
Don’t jinx it! (Laughs) Maybe I’m just growing up, I don’t know. It’s such a day-by-day thing. Some days I really love being out there. Some days I just can’t stand it. That’s why I have Christopher to try and keep me happy and calm out there.

Sometimes there’s just no turning back (from an outburst), but sometimes I can catch myself before it gets out of hand. But I have been better. It really just depends if I’m mentally fresh, then I’m probably going to hold it together. If I’m worn out or something is bothering me off the court, then maybe I’m more likely to smash a racquet or something. But I’ve been working on it really hard for sure.

What are your goals for the year in terms of progress or ranking?
I really want to make the push for the top 100. I think I’m already really close. But if I do end up breaking that, I don’t want to be satisfied with that. I want to stay inside the top 100, and be in all the Grand Slams without having to qualify.

That’s where I want to be the rest of my career. I think it’s doable. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of growing up to do, but I think I’m on the right track. And I see guys like Steve (Johnson), Jack (Sock) and Denis (Kudla) who have all done it. We’re all pushing each other up the rankings, and that’s so great about having peers that are trying to do the same thing you are. You want to push yourself to stay on pace with them. It’s been nice having a group – we’re all friends and good buddies — who are doing the same thing as you.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

The Day After: Andy Murray on Winning Wimbledon, Knighthood and Making Media Rounds

Andy Murray wins Wimbledon_600

(July 8, 2013) Andy Murray was overcome with emotion on Sunday on his way to winning his first Wimbledon title at the All England Club, a historic day for a nation celebrated.

After the congratulatory hugs and kisses from family and friends, a message from the Queen of England and a phone call from David Beckham, he jetted off to the Wimbledon Champions Ball looking every bit the winning gentleman. It looks like he won’t be letting that trophy go any time soon! (More photos in the link)

Andy Murray Wimbledon championOn Monday morning, Murray returned to the All England Club to make his media rounds, after catching only ”about an hour-and-a-half (of sleep) last night,” he told Sky News.

Andy Murray interview 2“You don’t want to go to sleep in case you wake up and it didn’t actually happen. I was just messaging my friends and laying in bed. It was tough to get to sleep last night,” he told BBC Five Live.

Andy Murray interview“I was pretty beat up when I woke up, but it’s a beautiful day to wake up as Wimbledon champion … it was a long day, but I’ll have a chance to celebrate today,” said Murray.

“I’m sure I will see some of the newspapers around. I’ve seen some of the back pages and front pages of the newspapers this morning,” admitted Murray during his media rounds.

Andy Murray reading the papersAmid the wonderfully-loud and supportive Center Court cheers on Sunday, Murray admits that he grasped quickly that he had won, but not quite yet what he had done for the country: “When I actually won yesterday, it sunk in quite quickly that I won Wimbledon. But actually how big it was, I think will take quite a while.”

“When I was sat downstairs on my own when I was waiting to do drug testing, that’s when it all hit me,” stated Murray. “I just got like so tired. I felt like I hit a wall and that’s when it felt like it was all starting to sink in, all of the emotions and what I had just done.”

Andy Murray wins WimbledonMurray added: “When you’re on the court you feel what is going on inside the stadium, on Center Court, but you can’t feel everything else that is going on outside.”

“But after the match you see some of the pictures of the hill and people watching back in Dunblane and the sports clubs, people at the Tower of London. I don’t know how many people watched yesterday on the TV – there will have been hundreds of millions across the world and that’s not really something you can grasp. That’s a strange feeling.

After a brief week-long holiday, Murray plans to get right back on the horse, and feels there has been a weight lifted off his shoulders going into future tournaments: ”I feel very relaxed today and there was a huge release of tension and pressure yesterday. I feel that once I get back on the match court, I’ll feel much more relaxed out there, preparing for big events … Last year after the US Open, the next few tournaments I played, I just felt a lot calmer on the court and much better about things.”

So is there anything that could top the feeling of winning Wimbledon? “Everyone would like to be world No. 1, but it’s such a hard thing to do,” stated Murray to the Telegraph. “Right now, I hold two of the Slams, the final of another one and the Olympic gold, and I’m still not close to No. 1 … maybe one day I’ll get there.”

Andy Murray with Wimbledon trophyWith his historic win at the All England Club, Murray becomes the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, and many have wondered if “Andy Murray” could soon become “Sir Andy Murray.” So, could the Scot see himself as that?

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “A lot of people have asked me about that today and in the past, ‘if you won Wimbledon.’ But I think it’s more just because it’s taken such a long time for someone to do it. I don’t know whether winning Wimbledon deserves a knighthood.”

Andy Murray with Wimbledon trophy 2According to Forbes, Andy Murray’s endorsement deals could get a boost following his Wimbledon win and be “at least on par with [Novak] Djokovic by the end of fiscal 2013,” which is estimated at around $14 million annually. Roger Federer is currently on top of men’s tennis with endorsement deals totaling $65 million, followed by Rafael Nadal at $21 million, then Djokovic. However, Forbes notes that “if 2-3 more majors follow in the coming years, eclipsing $20 million annually in endorsements is not impossible” for Murray.

But none of that matters to his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland, where the community celebrated, including his grandparents, Roy and Shirley Erskine, who said the atmosphere was “tremendous”.

Andy Murray grandparents“We were telling him what wonderful support there was up here,” Shirley Erskine told Sky News. His grandfather also commented on Andy’s spirit for playing the game. ”I don’t think Andy will change in any way,” he said. ”I think he will still be very committed to his tennis – he doesn’t know anything else. It’s been his way of life for the last 11 years.”

Stores were rebranding their names, kids were hitting the tennis courts at sports clubs, signs were adorning storefronts, and even a cake replica basked the city.

Andy Murray DunblaneBy early afternoon, Murray made his way to South London to take part in an adidas publicity event called “Hit the Winner” where 100 lucky fans took the court against the Scot.

Andy Murray adidas press WimbledonAndy Murray adidas event 3 Andy Murray adidas event 5 Andy Murray adidas event 4 Andy Murray adidas event 6Afterward, Murray made his way to 10 Downing Street in London for a cross-party reception in his honor, which included  (L-R) Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Andy Murray, Prime Minister David Cameron, Labor leader Ed Miliband and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robinson.

Andy Murray at 10 Downing Street Andy Murray at Downing Street 2 Andy Murray at Downing StreetEnjoy the moment, Andy! Now go and celebrate!

Wimbledon Ladies Quarterfinals Preview: Will History Be Made?

WTA Wimbledon Quarterfinals Lisicki, Radwanska, Kvitova, Li

(July 1, 2013) What a week at Wimbledon. If your women’s draw predictions have somehow upheld to the quarterfinal stage, sincere congratulations. If your draw includes only two of the eight correct names, like mine, don’t worry. You’re in the majority. The shake-up at this year’s Wimbledon Championships has been an unprecedented event, and the draw has opened up drastically to allow a first-time winner to take the title.

Current oddmakers have Sabine Lisicki as the top contender for the title, followed by 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open champion Li Na. Last year’s Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska and 2013 Australian Open semifinalist Sloane Stephens round out the top 5.

Let’s take a further look at the four quarterfinal matchups and how the ladies stack up against each other.

Sabine Lisicki vs Kaia Kanepi Wimbledon[23] Sabine Lisicki vs Kaia Kanepi

  • First career meeting
  • Plays winner of Radwanska-Li
  • Best previous Wimbledon result - Lisicki: 2011 SF (as a wildcard); Kanepi: 2010 QF (as a qualifier)

With Lisicki’s surprise defeat of Serena Williams in the fourth round, the German is now 17-4 at Wimbledon (compared to 16-15 at the other Slams). She also now has the distinct honor of having beaten the reigning French Open champ at the last four Wimbledon Championships she has played, including Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011, Maria Sharapova in 2012, and Williams this year. She did not play in 2010.

Lisicki has been looking sharp all week on her favorite surface, overpowering with her serve and improving her footwork and movement with each match. She only lost seven total games in the first two matches against Francesca Schiavone and Elena Vesnina. Sam Stosur pushed her in the third round, but she rallied back from a 6-4 first set deficit to take the next 12-of-15 games.

Kanepi, though the underdog, is in her fifth Slam quarterfinal over the last five years. She was mere points away from being defeated by Angelique Kerber in the second round here at Wimbledon, but came back to win 6-3 in the third. While two of Kanepi’s matches were against wildcards ranked outside of the top 100, Lisicki has had to come through two singles Slam champions (Schiavone and Stosur) and one doubles Slam champion (Vesnina).

Result: Lisicki in straight sets

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Na Li Wimbledon[4] Agnieszka Radwanska vs [6] Na Li

  • Li leads 6-4, but Radwanska leads 2-1 on grass
  • Plays winner of Lisicki-Kanepi
  • Best previous Wimbledon result – Radwanska: 2012 F; Li: 2006, 2010 QF

Despite many of the women’s top seeds falling early, this quarter is the only one with its top seeds still intact, and last year’s finalist, Radwanska, comes in as a slight favorite. The Pole was not tested until her last two rounds against Madison Keys and grass-court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova, which both went the full three sets. Her execution and court coverage have stayed consistent, and her crafty game has taken full advantage of the low bounce.

Though Li was pitted by some as crashing out early, she has kept her composure while many seeds fell and is the oldest player left in the draw. Her rollercoaster match against newly-resurgent Simona Halep in the second round gave way to another topsy-turvy match against No. 32 seed Klara Zakopalova, before she finally easily closed out Roberta Vinci in 55 minutes. She hasn’t had any remarkable play thus far and has flown under the radar, but it could be a tight match.

Results: Radwanska in three sets

Marion Bartoli vs Sloane Stephens Wimbledon[15] Marion Bartoli vs [17] Sloane Stephens

  • Bartoli leads 1-0, on hard
  • Plays winner of Kvitova-Flipkens
  • Best previous Wimbledon result – Bartoli: 2007 F; Stephens: 2012 Third Round

Other than Kirsten Flipkens, Bartoli is the only other player left in the draw that has yet to lose a set this Wimbledon, the Slam where she saw her best results by reaching the final in 2007 losing to Venus Williams. Her quirky game has been relegated to the smaller outside courts this week, but she is sure to give the American trouble with her variety especially in the spotlight. The French woman is making her 47th Slam appearance which dates back to 2002, and is in her third quarterfinal at Wimbledon. When on, her game can trouble even players at the top of the game, as evidenced by her brutal defeat of Petra Kvitova at last year’s US Open, so Stephens needs to come out swinging.

As the last American left in the draw (who would have guessed that last Monday?), Stephens has reached the fourth round or better in her last three Slams. Three of her first four matches went the distance, with two coming down to the wire against Andrea Petkovic and Petra Cetkovska. Her game is powerful yet still developing, and her play in the third set against Monica Puig on Monday was on another level. Stephens has risen to the challenge and her focus and endurance will surely be tested against Bartoli.

Results: Bartoli in three sets

Petra Kvitova vs Kirsten Flipkens Wimbledon[8] Petra Kvitova vs [20] Kirsten Flipkens

  • Flipkens leads 2-1, all on hard
  • Plays winner of Bartoli-Stephens
  • Best previous Wimbledon result – Kvitova: 2011 Winner; Flipkens: 2009 Third Round

Kvitova may be the only past winner left in the draw, but she has not been looking as sharp over the last year. Her play at time has been questionable, but she managed to overcome a near-upset in the first round here against world No. 108 CoCo Vandeweghe, with a 7-5 win in the third set. Since then, she has shown flashes of her tennis genius but it has been wildly inconsistent.

Flipkens, possibly the biggest surprise quarterfinalists, had never been past the third round of a Slam before this year’s Australian Open. With new mentor Kim Clijsters in tow and a renewed fitness and ball-striking ability, the Belgian came from being ranked 175 during this time last year and not even playing Wimbledon, to reaching her first Slam quarterfinal and sitting at a career-high No. 20. Despite the strong showing, her draw has been rather light, playing No. 90 Yulia Putintseva, No. 97 Vesna Dolonc, No. 39 Bojana Jovanovski and No. 166 Flavia Pennetta who used her protected ranking. It may just be the end of the road for her.

Results: Kvitova in straight sets

The Curious Case of Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens is third at odds to win Wimbledon, according to ESPN.

(June 29, 2013) Twelve. That’s how many times 20-year-old American Sloane Stephens has used the phrase “play hard” in her last two press conferences at Wimbledon this week.

After her turbulent season on the WTA Tour since debuting in the top 20 for the first time in January, that’s all Stephens can focus on – playing hard.

Now through to the fourth round after a rollercoaster of a match against qualifier Petra Cetkovska, Stephens is rebuilding the confidence she lost earlier in the year.

Combined with her fourth round appearance last month at Roland Garros, which she called “pretty good … after not having that many great results over the year,” Stephens said that run helped her “build a lot of confidence.” Now, she comes into Wimbledon “feeling (even) better.”

After becoming an instant celebrity with her surprise win over an injured Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Stephens is now third at odds, according to ESPN, to win Wimbledon behind Williams and 2011 titlist Petra Kvitova. That’s a pretty tall task for a player who has never been past the fourth round of Wimbledon and has yet to even reach a Slam final.

Stephens’ main draw debut at a Slam occurred in 2011 on her favorite surface, the red clay of Roland Garros. And since then, she has gone a respectable 21-8 during her young career. Despite her rather quick ascension up the Slam ranks, she jokes about still being a relative newcomer.

“Even though I played a lot slams, I feel like it’s all new,” Stephens said on Monday. “I came (to Wimbledon) and I … didn’t even know how to get to the locker room.”

Stephens’ young career on court has been an inspiring one, but her off-court presence has quickly outshone her well-crafted style. With many seeds now out from Wimbledon, it’s another opportunity for the young American to revert attention back to her game.

At age 17, Stephens finished 2010 ranked world No. 198, followed it up with a top 100 debut just nine months later and ended the year as the youngest player in the top 100. In July of 2012, she broke into the top 50 for the first time after reaching the third round at Wimbledon, then a left abdominal injury derailed her and she missed the last four months of the season.

Then, the tournament that made her a household name occurred.

Stephens came into the 2013 Australian Open already ranked a proper 25th in the world, but many had still never seen much from the budding 20-year-old. She was carefree, energetic and youthful, and was flying under the radar as she defeated then-world No. 3 Serena Williams on her way to the semifinals.

Then came the media downfall. Clouded by her own words and misrepresentations from some members of the press, Stephens had to combat against comments that she said her and Williams being “besties” and that the elder American was a “mentor.” Though the media blew Stephens’ comments out of proportion, she did little initially to put out the fire.

Another well-timed release of a two-month old interview for ESPN just last month caused an additional stir. In the article, Stephens blasted Williams for being cold to her after her Australian Open win, and Stephens quickly commented that the statements were taken out of context and that she had already sorted it out with Williams directly.

But gone was the lovable interviewee in her post-match press conferences, and her match play during much of this time suffered as well. She again came under heavy scrutiny and she admitted that all of the media attention became too overwhelming for her.

By the first week of May, Stephens’ win-to-loss record on the season outside of the Slams had dropped to 3-6, including five opening round losses.

But looking deeper into Stephens’ results, this statistic shouldn’t be that alarming. She has, for some reason, always performed better at Slams than at WTA-level events.

In 2011, Stephens’ best results came in Carlsbad where she reached the quarterfinals, and the US Open where she reached the third round. Outside of that, she failed to even qualify for seven other WTA events, and additionally lost in the first round of a lower-ranked ITF event to a player outside of the top 400.

In 2012, Stephens reached the third round or better in three of the four Slams, but failed once again to even qualify for three WTA events, though she did reach two semifinals in lower-ranked WTA events.

In 2013 so far, Stephens has reached the fourth round of a Slam twice and the semifinal once, but outside of that, her best showing was once again the semifinal of a lower-ranked WTA event.

All things considered, Stephens has yet to appear past a WTA Premier-level quarterfinal or International-level semifinal, and has only won one ITF title in 2011, yet she is making the fourth rounds of Slams without too much difficulty.

So the question begs to be asked: Why does Stephens perform considerably better at Slams than at WTA-level events?

Well, if you’re looking to Stephens to answer the puzzle, you’ll be disappointed.

“I don’t know,” says Stephens when asked about her Slam performance consistency compared to the rest of her WTA results. “Maybe it’s the food I eat. I’m not really sure.”

Analyzing Stephens’ Slam and Premier events statistics, particularly in three-set matches, from May 2011 to present day, as well as a breakdown of the last twelve months gives some interesting insights.

  1. When winning the first set in a three-set match at Slams, Stephens has won 85.7% of the time, or 6 out of 7 matches. Compare that to Premier events during the same timeframe where she only won 28.6% of the time, or 2 out of 7 matches.
  2. In three-set matches won over the last two years, Stephens holds a record of 8-2 at Slams, and 7-8 at Premier events. Over the last twelve months, her Slam record is 7-2 and 3-7 at Premier events.
  3. Over the last twelve months, the average ranking to which she lost to in three-sets at a Slam was 14, and at Premier events was 38.
  4. Over the past twelve months, Stephens holds a 15-4 win-to-loss record in all Slam matches, compared to an 11-13 record for all Premier event matches.
  5. In all Slam losses over the past twelve months, the average ranking of her opponent was 8. Compare that to a ranking of 35 at Premier events during the same time frame.

The statistics breakdown of her matches could continue, but the conclusion is clear: Stephens, whether consciously or not, exerts more into her Slam performances to secure those three-set wins, in particular. Stephens tends to win and lose straight set matches in rather similar ratios across Slam and Premier events – it’s only the three-set matches that show any marked difference.

This week in Wimbledon, after easily getting by her first round opponent Jamie Hampton in straight sets, Stephens was tested with back-to-back three set matches against first Andrea Petkovic then Petra Cetkovska. After winning both first sets in a tiebreak, she had uncharacteristically poor middle sets (6-2 and 6-0, respectively), before bouncing back and winning both nail-biting matches in the third.

Perhaps her confidence at Slams is still somewhat wavering given her results the past few months, but she would be wise to keep that elevated focus and translate it into the other WTA events, and not just at Slams. A few bad draws at a couple of Slams or another injury, and she could see her confidence and ranking faltering. She needs to find a way to win those three-set matches which are being played on smaller stages, and build a proper foundation.

In other words, she needs to take her own advice for every event she enters, and simply “play hard.”

Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray Among 2013 ESPY Award Nominations

ESPYS Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray

ESPYS Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray

(June 27, 2013) Sports network ESPN has released the nominations list for their annual ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly), and it includes not only best male and female tennis-exclusive categories, but also nods to Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in various other categories. (Remember to cast your official votes at the ESPYS website here.)

American Serena Williams receives her ninth ESPY Award nomination, and is listed this year as one of four women under the “Best Female Athlete” category. According to ESPN, the award is presented to the female sportsperson, irrespective of nationality or sport contested, adjudged to be the most outstanding over a given year.

Her competition includes US Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin and Baylor University college basketball player Brittney Griner. Williams’ achievements giving her the nod for the ESPY nomination include her 2012 titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, her Olympic gold medal in singles and doubles in London last summer, and her 2013 French Open title.

Scot Andy Murray receives a nomination in the “Best Moment” category which is presented to the moment or series of moments occurring in a sporting event or season, irrespective of sport contested or gender of participating sportsperson(s), adjudged to the most remarkable, compelling, or entertaining in a given year.

Murray’s “moment,” of course, is winning a gold medal at the London Olympics last year in straight sets over Roger Federer, whom he had lost to four weeks prior in the Wimbledon final. The nomination also alludes to him being the first “British” man to win a singles gold in the Olympics since 1908.

Murray’s three competitors include Jack Hoffman’s touchdown run in the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ spring game, Alex Morgan’s game-winning goal against Canada in the Olympic semifinal, coach Chuck Pagano’s return to the Colts after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Serb Novak Djokovic is nominated for “Best International Athlete,” which is presented to the sportsperson in a North American professional or collegiate league, irrespective of gender, born outside the United States adjudged to be the best in a given year. According to ESPN, the nod was given because (1) he was the first player to be year end No. 1 in consecutive seasons since Roger Federer achieved four straight world No. 1 finishes from 2004-07, and (2) he won the 2013 Australian Open singles championship.

Djokovic’s four tough competitors include Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Marquez, Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi, and Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

There were also two exclusive tennis categories: Best Male Tennis Player and Best Female Tennis Player. Full nominations list below.

Best Male Tennis Player Nominations

Novak Djokovic

  • Clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons since Roger Federer achieved four straight World No. 1 finishes from 2004-07
  • Won 2013 Austrailian Open singles championship

Roger Federer

  • Won his record 17th Grand Slam singles championship and record-tying seventh Wimbledon singles championship

Andy Murray

  • Captured his first Grand Slam singles title when he beat Novak Djokovic in five sets to win the 2012 U. S. Open
  • Won the Olympic gold medal, beating Roger Federer in the finals

Rafael Nadal

  • Became first man to win the same Grand Slam tournament eight times when he won 2013 French Open

 

Best Female Tennis Player Nominations

Victoria Azarenka

  • Finished 2012 as No. 1 ranked player in WTA
  • Lost in the finals of the 2012 U. S. Open

Maria Sharapova

  • Equaled her best season to date, finishing number two in the world
  • Won three WTA titles

Serena Williams

  • Earned her fourth U. S. Open singles title in 2012
  • Won her fifth Wimbledon singles title in 2012
  • Won the 2013 French Open singles title

Live Updates: Sharapova, Isner, Azarenka Lead Player Injuries on an Unprecedented Day 3 at Wimbledon

Julien Benneteau injury_600

(June 26, 2013) Players, fans, media members, Wimbledon trainers, and even my goldfish are all scratching their heads on this unprecedented injury-filled Wednesday.

Within the first 90 minutes of play, five players had already been forced to withdraw due to injuries sustained on the slippery grass, and more continue throughout the day. As Darren Cahill states, the grass is typically more slippery in the first four days while the back court gets worn down, but the rainy days prior to the start of the tournament haven’t helped the already wet conditions.

Players such as Maria Sharapova are calling the courts “dangerous,” while the All England Club told ESPN this afternoon that the grounds are in “excellent condition.” Clearly, all the injuries, slips and retirements have infiltrated the players’ mindset and many would be wise to be cautious in their movement. Not surprisingly, the conditions have balanced the competition and no top player is safe as seen by Sharapova’s early exit.

Friend of Tennis Grandstand, @MariyaKTennis, tweeted the following:According to @ITF_Tennis, this is believed to be the most singles retirements/walkovers on a single day at a Slam in the Open Era.” So, there we go.

Here is a run down of the player walkovers, as well as various other injuries sustained throughout day three of play.

Retirements

John Isner: In the opening game of his match against Adrian Mannarino, Isner was serving and came down hard, tweaking his left knee. After getting it taped up, Isner tried to continue but ended up retiring only points later.

John Isner
John Isner 2
John Isner 3
Victoria Azarenka: Nobody’s day one tumble looked worse than Azarenka’s against Maria Joao Koehler, where she slipped and twisted her right knee. Despite an MRI showing no structural damage, Azarenka pulled out prior to her match, giving opponent Flavia Pennetta a walkover to the third round.

Victoria Azarenka

Radek Stepanek: A mere six games into his match against Jerzy Janowicz, Stepanek received a medical timeout and heavy strapping on his left thigh. He continued but was forced to retire down 6-2, 5-3.

Radek Stepanek

Marin Cilic: The No. 10 men’s seed pulled out prior to his match against Kenny de Schepper due to a lingering left knee injury which was worsened during his win over Marcos Baghdatis in the opening round.
“I started to have difficulties with my knees during Queen’s. During last week I was feeling it already in practice. Then on Sunday I felt it really bad in my serve … Yesterday it felt it much, much worse. It was difficult for me to put weight on left leg which is where the pain is.”

Steve Darcis: Rafael’s Nadal conquestor also pulled out prior to stepping on court for his second round match. The Belgian said he had hurt his right shoulder when he fell during the first set against Nadal on Monday.

The 29-year-old posted on Twitter: “Had to withdrawn after a win like this!?THE most difficult thing i had to do!!!#triedeverythingtoplaybutdidntwork!!!!”

Yaroslava Shvedova: The Russian-born Kazak was added to the withdrawal list as she pulled out with an arm injury before her match against No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: After losing the second set to Ernests Gulbis, Tsonga got his left knee taped despite there being no clear indication of when the injury happened. His movement seems to be severely hampered and he retired after losing the third set.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ernests Gulbis

Injuries and Other Tumbles

Maria Sharapova: After taking a pretty bad tumble during her warm-up, Sharapova slipped an additional three times during her match, the last of which required an injury timeout to her left hip. Sharapova repeatedly told the chair umpire that the conditions on court were “dangerous” and these tumbles seemed to have affected her focus and play. Her opponent Michelle Larcher de Brito ended up pulling off the ultimate upset, and in straight sets no less, 6-3, 6-4.

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Caroline Wozniacki: Despite having taped her right ankle, the 9th seed slipped on the grass twisting her left ankle. She was able to finish out the match but lost to Petra Cetkovska in just over an hour, 6-2, 6-2.

Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki 2

 

Footage of some of the tumbles that Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard, Julien Benneteau, Mikhail Youzhny and Ernests Gulbis took.

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Julien Benneteau: The Frenchman took his own slip against Fernando Verdasco that required a trainer examining his right leg. The 31 seed eventually lost 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Julien Benneteau 3

Julien Benneteau
Julien Benneteau 2

Wimbledon Tidbits: Tomic Wants Father Back on Tour, Odesnik Denies Involvement with Clinic, Rus Ties an Undesirable WTA Record

Bernard Tomic_600_1

(June 25, 2013) Despite plenty of on-court action at the All England Club on Tuesday at Wimbledon, several stories were making quite a stir off the courts as well.

Bernard Tomic Calls Out ATP’s Handling of Father’s Case

It has been more than seven weeks since John Tomic’s physical attack of son Bernard’s practice partner in Madrid, but the issue is still a topic of debate.

According to the ATP, John has been banned from the ATP Tour for a 12-month period both in accreditation rights and in accessing grounds via a paying ticket. The ITF and the recent Grand Slam tournaments have followed suit, including Wimbledon this week.

After his first round win over Sam Querrey, the younger Tomic spend most of his post-match press conference defending his father and instead pointing the finger at the ATP’s mishandling of the situation.

“Growing up with your father is a good thing for me because this is how I became good at tennis at a young age,” Bernard said. “I was there with my dad. We worked hard. We were on the court together. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a change. There’s always a change in life, a decision that was made. I’m going to blame the ATP a lot for this. They have a lot of bad decisions, a few good ones, but I’m saying this is a very bad one.”

Bernard then commented on how Wimbledon upheld the ATP’s decision to ban his father, “so at the end of the day, it’s the ATP I’ve got to be talking to” to fix anything, he stated. He also said that he would ask Wimbledon officials to reconsider the ban before his second round match against James Blake, but as of Tuesday evening local time, no such appeal had been filed.

Just as we thought the younger Tomic would be somewhat freed of his father’s antics on the court at least, it seems to not have really helped all that much. If anything, it’s alarming to think what Bernard’s home life may be like now that his father is not able to vent his frustrations at his son during practice. John is still apparently traveling with his son, so that must still weigh heavily into how Bernard acts and what he says publicly. Despite all of Tennis Australia’s and past Australian tennis legend’s willingness to help Bernard, no real progress can really be made until Bernard actively separates himself from his father in all aspects of his life. It’s simply a poisonous relationship that he has become too comfortable playing the victim in.

Wayne Odesnik Again Denies Involvement with Florida Clinic

It’s not easy being the target of discussion any time a reference to doping in tennis comes up. It’s also not easy when two of the top Google searches of your name include the words “snitch” and “rat.” But this is exactly what American Wayne Odesnik deals with week in and week out on the ATP Tour.

Odesnik was issued a two-year ban when he was found in possession of eight vials of the performance-enhancing drug HGH upon trying to enter Australia in 2010. His suspension was eventually halved  when he cooperated with officials.

The American is now again being questioned about his involvement with a Florida clinic that is under investigation for reportedly selling performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players such as Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted to using PEDs in his past. Odesnik’s name was apparently found among handwritten notes kept at the clinic, and the American simply calls this “erroneous.”

“None of that’s true,” Odesnik continued. “I don’t have any connection to it.”

In a March 2013 New York Times article, Odesnik recounted his involvement with the clinic a little differently.

“I have no idea what that was about,” Odesnik said. “They had called me, and I said I had no idea what that was about. They probably saw my name from three years ago and thought that they’d put my name in something. And yeah, I had nothing to do with it.”

Tuesday’s comments from Odesnik leave his connection to the clinic murky, and it doesn’t help that he initially admitted to having been a part of the clinic years earlier, then calling his name on the clinic’s records “erroneous.”

The judgement is out on Odesnik, and as much as he tries, he seems to only dig himself into a bigger hole when answering questions about his doping case.

Arantxa Rus Ties Record for Most Consecutive Losses

There are many records that tennis players would be happy to hold, but most consecutive tour-level match losses is not one of them.

With her first round exit from Wimbledon on Tuesday, Dutch player Arantxa Rus has extended her losing streak to 17 — tying the WTA record that Sally Collins set in the 1980s. On the men’s side, American Vince Spadea holds the ATP record, with 21 consecutive matches lost from 1999 to 2000.

“I lost a lot of matches,” Rus said on Tuesday. “Yeah, it’s hard, but I try to keep working hard. That’s the only thing you can do.”

The 22-year-old last won a tour-level match on August 19, 2012 – that’s more than ten months ago. Rus has had some notable wins on tour, including over Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open and Sam Stosur at last year’s Wimbledon. She was also a No. 1 ranked junior and won the Junior Australian Open title in 2008. Clearly, the Dutch player is no slacker on the court, but just going through a rough patch.

Despite having fallen 90 ranking spots since last August to world No. 151, Rus may want to look to Jelena Jankovic for encouragement.

The Serb went through a similar streak between October 2005 and May 2006, where she held a 2-15 losing record. She admitted to seriously considering quitting tennis at that time, but just over two years later, Jankovic went on to climb to world No. 1. How’s that for inspiration?

And Rus seems to understand the transient nature of her current predicament, saying it hasn’t changed who she is.

“I’m still the same person,” she said. “You have … life (apart from) tennis.”

Repeat Shocker at Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal Out at Hands of World No. 135 Steve Darcis in Straight Sets

Rafael Nadal's first ever first round loss at a Major was Monday at Wimbledon

(June 24, 2013) The impossible has happened again at Wimbledon.

After a surprising exit at the hands of Lukas Rosol at last year’s Wimbledon Championships in the second round, world No. 5 Rafael Nadal was dealt another heavy blow on the grass. But this time, in a round earlier and by an opponent ranked even lower.

Monday’s 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 loss to Steve Darcis marks the first time ever that Nadal has lost in the first round of a Major after going 34-0. His opponent hit 53 winners compared to Nadal’s 32, and Darcis hit an astounding 13 aces for his 5’10” frame.

Given his worrisome loss last year, Nadal admitted during his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday that he shouldn’t have played Wimbledon last year.

“Last year I played here because is a tournament that I love, but I was not ready to play here … After Roland Garros I feel that my knee was not there anymore … [T]hat experience for me last year was too much. I suffer too much.”

Though more optimistic coming into Wimbledon this year and playing healthier, on Saturday, Nadal commented that he did not underestimate his first round opponent or how close matches on grass can be.

“[Darcis] is a complete player. I have to play well. I have to play very competitive from the beginning … [O]n this surface, on grass, all the matches are close. Matches can be decided for a few balls. So if you are not hundred percent focused and you’re not at your hundred percent of energy and playing well, you are in big trouble.”

And that’s exactly what happened. With the first set being decided by mere points as it went unexpectedly to a tiebreak, Nadal looked to be in a bit of trouble. And despite having the opportunity to serve out the second set at 6-5, Nadal again faltered and played a poor tiebreak, to go down two sets.

As many expected Nadal to finally wake up and take the match in five sets, he was quickly broken in the opening of the third set and began to look physically and mentally drained. Then, down 5-3 in the third, the camera panned to his uncle and coach Toni Nadal, who himself gave a defeatist smile as he watched on, already grasping the inevitable outcome.

Gone was Nadal’s firepower and energy, and after his loss, the deflated Spaniard addressed the press simply saying, “I didn’t find my rhythm.”

After the big focus on Nadal’s knee during his injury layoff, the Spaniard was questioned several times about the influence his knee played in his defeat. A dumbfounded Nadal finally let out a laugh:

“I think you are joking. I answered this question three or four times already, that I don’t want to talk about my knee this afternoon. The only thing I can say today is to congratulate Steve Darcis, he played a fantastic match. And everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse. And I don’t like to [make] any excuse when I lose a match like I lost today.”

Nadal again seemed agitated when asked to compare this loss to his loss against Rosol last year. He repeated that he didn’t find any similarities.

Though a shocking loss by most standards, the truth it that Nadal has played a very heavy schedule after coming back from injury and played no tune-up event on grass prior to Wimbledon. He arrived last Tuesday after taking a few days off after Roland Garros.

So the question begs to be asked: should Nadal have adjusted his schedule and taken it lighter in the spring? With a long contemplative pause, Nadal addressed this idea:

“I cannot say when I [make my schedule] if it was wrong or it was positive. Six hours ago, it was a perfect calendar. Now it’s a very negative calendar.”

And, as Nadal states, “that’s sports” for you. Anything can happen. What seemed impossible just hours ago has transpired and left fans with more questions than answers about Nadal’s status, schedule and knee.

Fashion Review: Fila Introduces Stylish, Durable and Comfortable New Tennis Shoe, The Sentinel

Julia Goerges Fila Sentinel_1

(June 21, 2013) Long time tennis and sports brand Fila has just released its first tennis shoe in years, the Sentinel, and we at Tennis Grandstand were given a sneak peak into the brand’s newest creation.

Fila has marketed the Sentinel as a “modern silhouette with comfort, durability and traction in mind and engineered to endure the rigors of match play” for all levels of tennis players, from juniors to professional. I’ve been on the market for a good tennis shoe, so naturally I wanted to test it out for myself.

(Available directly from Fila.com for $100, shop the women’s or men’s Sentinel shoe now.)

Fila Sentinel shoe review, Tipsarevic, Goerges, Jankovic, Tursunov

When I first took my white/Hawaiian ocean blue test pair out of the box, I was immediately captivated. The sleek lines, seamless pattern shifts of the varying mesh materials, and incorporation of color were perfectly in balance. By the look and feel alone, it felt like a sturdy and durable shoe. Design-wise, this is one of my favorite shoes on the market currently, and it comes in three color combinations for women and four for men. Time to put it on and really test it out!

Style – 5/5 stars

***

Fila Sentinel Shoe review_1My feet haven’t always easily and comfortably fit into all the differing Nike and adidas tennis shoes on the market over the years. So, when I put these bad boys on for the first time, it fit like a glove. The inside cushioning has a slight upward deflection around the heel area, as well as the inner and outer arches, allowing your feet to almost mold with the design. The cushioning also has a slight give, letting your feet rest comfortably in the shoe.

Taking my new kicks out onto the tennis courts, I was ready to play. Running up and back, and laterally, I felt that there was sufficient room for my feet to be comfortable, and nothing was pinching. The tongue also has an internal elastic strap, which prevents it from moving around, and it was a really nice addition. By the end of match play, my feet didn’t feel tired or cramped, and I could still feel the welcome extra cushioning of the memory foam lined heel collar.

Comfort – 5/5 stars, but I would like to give it more stars!

***

Fila Sentinel Shoe review_2The true test of any shoe is not only comfort, but for the tennis-centered mind, a durable shoe that performs well and let’s you play your tennis as opposed to hindering or distracting you.

The modified herringbone outersole provided good traction on the hard courts, and though Fila offers a 6-month guarantee on it, based on my use, I would expect a longer life than that for the average club player. The extra toe protection that Fila also incorporated doesn’t overwhelm visually, but gives those who like to slide, enough material to do so without wearing the shoe down quickly. The same goes for the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) support on the sides of the shoe, which provides good foot stability, as well as durability for sliding or quick stops. My movement didn’t feel hindered by the shoe in any way, and it is lightweight measuring at around 12.3 ounces for the women’s shoes, and 14.6 ounces for the men’s shoes. The shoe is also fairly true to fit, not really expanding with use, and if anything, is perhaps a half-size big.

Performance – 5/5 stars

***

Truth be told, I was really trying hard to find something wrong with this shoe over time because it seemed too good to be true. But I failed miserably in my endeavor. The durability, comfort, breathability, style and performance of the Sentinel were worth the wait since Fila’s last tennis shoe years ago.

The Fila tennis pros themselves have already been testing out the Sentinel for months now, so don’t take my word for it. See what Janko Tipsarevic, Andreas Seppi, Julia Goerges, Dmitry Tursunov and Marina Erakovic have to say!

Janko Tipsarevic
“Tennis shoes are very important to professional players. It is important that the shoe is lightweight so we can be quick on our feet, yet stable so we do not slip or slide on court. The Sentinel feels low to the ground without sacrificing comfort and cushioning.  The traction is excellent and the shoe is very durable for the hours that I put in on the tennis court.  All in all, this is my favorite Fila tennis shoe in recent years.”

Andreas Seppi
“I have been wearing the Sentinel since late last year and I really like the shoe because they are light, extremely durable and very comfortable on-court. The Sentinel is now my favorite Fila shoe that I have worn in all the years we have been together on tour!”

Julia Goerges
“The Sentinel is very light, but at the same time, the shoe is very stable which is important for your ankles! It is so comfortable wearing these shoes!”

Dmitry Tursunov
“I have been wearing this shoe during the clay court season and it’s an extremely lightweight shoe but this benefit does not come at the cost of comfort. The Sentinel is very stable and gives good feedback. It’s one of the best shoes Fila introduced in recent years.”

Marina Erakovic
“The Sentinel is very lightweight, supportive and has great cushioning, but my favorite thing about the Sentinel is the secure fit on my feet. I don’t think about slipping or rolling because the Sentinel is so stable on my feet.”

Andrea Petkovic: Brief Flirt with Retirement After French Open Loss; Overcoming Fear of Injury

Petkovic_Int_001m_600

(June 10, 2013) After failing to qualify for this year’s French Open, former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic admitted to briefly contemplating retirement after her loss in Paris.

“I sat on the bench next to my coach and said, ‘I quit,’” stated the 25-year-old in Nürnberg on Monday.

In the summer of 2011, Petkovic broke into the top 10 for the first time and her career finally seemed to be on track after injuries had plagued her earlier in her life. But unfortunately for the German, the success once again halted there.

Petkovic was forced to miss much of the first half of the 2012 season with a back injury, and then in just her second match back, she suffered a horrible ankle injury in Stuttgart in April. After three-and-a-half months of rehabilitation, Petkovic returned and played seven tournaments to end the season. Then at the Hopman Cup exhibition at the end of December, she suffered a meniscus tear in her right knee which kept her off the tour for another two months.

After scraping for points and wild cards since her ranking had taken a plunge, Petkovic’s optimistic attitude took her to the third round of both Miami and Charleston this year. But the progress ceased again as she withdrew from Charleston with a calf strain, admitting to “disappointment and anger” at the situation, and then lost in the first round of Stuttgart and the first round of qualifying in Madrid.

She then went on to lose in the second round of qualifying at the French Open to China’s Yi-Miao Zhou in three close sets, which caused her to briefly contemplate retirement.

Luckily for Petkovic, her long-time coach, Petar Popovic didn’t take her seriously.

“He just laughed and a few days later [I] picked up my racquet again,” commented the German.

On Sunday, Petkovic won the ITF tournament in Marseille without dropping a set against her higher-ranked opponents, even dishing out a double bagel to young Puerto Rican Monica Puig in the semifinals.

“I am very relieved that my body has been able to survive those five matches in a row,” said Petkovic of her results in Marseille. “Everything has held up, even the knee. I have refueled myself with a lot of confidence, especially in my body. I can say that I have overcome the fear of injuring myself again. The fact is that I feel that I am now moving again as in my best moments.”

Petkovic takes on Sofia Arvidsson in the first round of Nürnberg, and if she wins, will take on compatriot Julia Goerges in the next round.

The 24-year-old Goerges has overcome her own share of injuries, most recently the wrist problem that continued into her first round loss at the French Open. But there is good news on the horizon.

“The wrist is stable,” Goerges said before her first round match against Romanian Alexandra Cadantu. “I’m on a good path. It’s almost strange to be able to hit the ball normal again, without having any pain.”

Photos from Monday’s WTA Nürnberg joint pre-tournament press conference with Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic by Rick Gleijm for Tennis Grandstand. Stay tuned all week for daily player and match galleries.

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