Brad Gilbert

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Ryan Harrison on Decision and Effects of Recent Coaching Switch to USTA

DSC_93230001Ryan Harrison-2

DSC_93230001Ryan HarrisonWASHINGTON, D.C. — With his run to the semifinals of Atlanta last week, and his straight set win over veteran Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open on Tuesday, American Ryan Harrison seems to already be benefitting from a recent coaching switch on his team.

The 21-year-old Louisiana native served up three straight aces in his second service game alone and continued dominating, breaking the Aussie three times to book a second round match up against Juan Martin del Potro.

“It was a good win,” said Harrison. “I felt good out there. I played a really good first set. And then when (Hewitt) fought hard to break me back, I was still able to stay ahead and stay on serve and finally get that break there at 5-all.”

After training at the Austin Tennis Academy, Harrison partnered up full-time with one of it’s lead coaches, Tres Davis, last Fall as the American was looking to take his game to the next level.

The partnership itself seemed to work out for the two who call each other “close friends,” but the results didn’t quite translate onto the court as Harrison most recently fell outside of the top 130.

“Tres and I are close friends,” Harrison spoke candidly to Tennis Grandstand. “He’s been involved, and we still communicate about tennis. But it got to a situation where we had to reevaluate after the first six months of the year. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for my career, just like I want what’s best for my career.”

After deciding to part ways, Harrison brought the head of men’s tennis for the USTA, Jay Berger, back into the coaching team, as well as former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert. The choice was made to train out of the USTA center in Boca Raton, FL where the “competitive crop of guys they have down there was going to be the best situation for me,” commented Harrison.

“Jay and I have always had an extremely close relationship, and been very proactive and involved in my tennis every since I met him really,” he continued. “I had a really good training week down there after I lost in Newport, and played well last week (in Atlanta). And Brad being involved is nothing but beneficial. He’s obviously got an extremely talented mind. I’ve had some advice from him and it’s been nothing but good.”

Given that his recent good form occurred just after his coaching switch, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the two might be correlated.

“You never really know what is going to happen,” said Harrison. “I also was down 1-2 break point in the third set of the first round of Atlanta – those are just moments that could change here and there … (But) I believe that the work I put in that week-and-a-half down in Boca certainly helped out in my Atlanta run and getting a good win here today.”

Azarenka Continues to Make Noise; Roddick Drops to Lowest Ranking in 10 Years — The Friday Five

victoria azarenka sam stosur doha 2012

by Maud Watson

Return the Glory

Last weekend saw three ATP stars recapture some positive vibes as they each added another championship title to their list of accomplishments.  Nico Almagro, always a danger on clay, looked sharp as he successfully defended his title in Brasil and mounted a case to be considered a dark horse contender at Roland Garros in the process.  Canadian sensation Milos Raonic, who pulled out of Davis Cup play due to a misreading of a knee scan, showed little sign of any injury, as he worked his way to tournament champion in San Jose for the second consecutive year.  As big as the wins were for Almagro and Raonic, however, the guy who might have been most pleased with his win last weekend was Roger Federer.  After the debacle of the Swiss Davis Cup defeat, a run to the Rotterdam championship was just what the doctor ordered.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in his psyche as he takes to the court in Indian Wells.

Making Some Noise

You probably haven’t heard of her, but 19-year-old Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino completed a great weekend for Spain, claiming her first WTA title with her win in Bogota.  Granted, it was a weak field to begin with, and it only grew weaker as the final approached, but you can only play those in front of you.  There’s also no substitute for big match play, so while it’s far too soon to tell what this young lady is capable of, keep an eye on her to see if this impressive win will lead to future breakthroughs on the game’s grandest stages.  Of course the bigger story was the win in Doha by Victoria Azarenka, who continues to make as much noise with her game as she does with her shrieking.  Though she herself has attempted to stem the talk, there are already murmurs comparing her to Djokovic, as her win in Doha sees her remain perfect in 2012.  Irrespective of what people think of her attitude and theatrics, she appears more than capable of comfortably wearing the badge of the hunted, and there’s no denying that she’s going to be difficult to beat anywhere and on any surface.

Smart Move

Sam Querrey has been given a second chance at finding success on the ATP World Tour, and it looks like he may be intent on not wasting it.  The Californian has switched coaches and has hired Brad Gilbert on a trial basis.  The former coach of Agassi, Roddick, and Murray may prove to be just what Querrey needs, as he has a proven track record of being one of the best when it comes to understanding the game and strategizing.  If anyone can help put Sam in the right mindset and teach him how to best utilize his strengths and guard against his weaknesses, it’s Gilbert.  Here’s to hoping he can help get Querrey back on track, because with Querrey’s talent, anything short of returning to the Top 20 should be considered unacceptable.

Tough Times

At the beginning of this week, Andy Roddick was ranked No. 27.  It’s a ranking that many upstarts, journeyman, and other former top ten players struggling with injury would love to have.  But for Roddick, it represents his lowest ranking since 2001, and it’s a source of major frustration.  He also finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place.  After sustaining a fresh ankle injury in San Jose, he admitted it might be best to rehab it, but he also wanted match play.  He opted for the latter and remained in Memphis, but after a straight-set dismissal by Malisse, he’s going to get to rehab it after all.  The good news for Roddick is that he doesn’t have much to defend in the near future, but this time period may prove to be the most trying and telling of his career.  Tennis has a way of flipping these scripts on their heads and producing a Cinderella story, like Pete Sampras at the 2002 US Open, but you have to wonder if this latest setback doesn’t have Roddick thinking that retirement is sounding better by the second.

True Grit

After being treated to some vintage Hewitt during the Australian hard court summer, fans of the Aussie will be disappointed to learn “Rusty” is to undergo foot surgery and sit out another four months.  It’s a real testament to his heart and drive that he isn’t thinking of retirement, stating he feels he’s hitting the ball better than he has in years and can’t wait to get back out there.  Hopefully he’ll still be sharp come this summer, as with the dedication he  has shown to both the Davis Cup and the sport in general, it would be completely unjust to not award him a wildcard into the Olympics and allow him one last crack at representing his nation on one of the world’s greatest stages.

Novak Djokovic: My Sportsman of the Year

Djokovic US Open 2011 D

I was thrilled when James LaRosa of Tennis Channel informed his Twitter followers back in May that Novak Djokovic would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Djokovic was in the midst of a remarkable 37-0 run and was on top of the tennis world.

What would the cover photo be? Perhaps it would be a beaming Djokovic, pointing to the skies after his emphatic victory over Andy Murray at the Australian Open. Or maybe a snapshot of his primal screams during one of his four wins over Rafael Nadal at Masters 1000 finals.

But it wasn’t to be. A tennis fan can only dream.

When LaRosa tweeted a picture of the cover I thought I had clicked on the wrong link. “This can’t be right,” I told myself, “I don’t see Djokovic anywhere!” It was only upon further inspection that I saw the tiny photo, accompanied with the tagline, “Novak Djokovic is the most dominant athlete in the world right now.”

Djokovic continued to dominate and finished the season as the No. 1 player in the world with an astounding 70-6 win-loss record. Djokovic performed his best when the stakes were the highest, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Tennis.com has recently named Djokovic’s 2011 season as the No. 3 best men’s tennis season ever.

While tennis is a niche sport in the United States and Sports Illustrated caters to an American audience, Djokovic deserved to win Sportsman of the Year.

In addition to his on-court talents, the charismatic Serb has reached rock star status in his home country and has become the face of the once war-torn nation.

Brad Gilbert, former coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, is not a man of few words. When Sports Illustrated named college basketball coaches Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as the Sportswoman and Sportsman of 2011, Gilbert took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. 

He also points out that the mighty Roger Federer, who has 16 Grand Slam titles, has never been named Sportsman of the Year either. In fact, no tennis player has won since Chris Evert did in 1976.

While foreign athletes with weird last names may be a hard sell to American sports fans, Djokovic’s historic season should have been honored. Maybe tennis is not ready for the spotlight. But when it is, I hope to see Novak Djokovic on the cover – front and center.

Djokovic is the new sherrif in town, Kvitova surprise Wimbledon winner, ESPN to broadcast Wimbledon starting 2012 – The Friday Five

A Novak Djokovic fan

By Maud Watson

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

And his name is Novak Djokovic. When Djokovic had his winning streak snapped in spectacular fashion by Federer a month ago in Paris, many wondered how the Serb would respond. He ultimately responded in spectacular fashion of his own, fighting his way to his first Wimbledon crown and claiming the No. 1 singles ranking in the process (his win also ended the monopoly Federer and Nadal have enjoyed at Wimbledon since Federer’s first title run in 2003). But this Wimbledon was about more than just reaching the apex of the rankings or earning his first championship at SW19. He also got a few monkeys off his back, as he not only beat Nadal for the fifth consecutive time in 2011, but for the first time he also garnered a victory over the Spaniard in a Grand Slam best-of-five-set match, and a final to boot. He couldn’t have scripted a more emphatic way to solidify his status as the player of 2011, and assuming we don’t see a total collapse from the Serb in the second half of the season, he stands in an excellent position to finish the year as No. 1.

Czech Her Out

With the exception of Brad Gilbert and perhaps a handful of others, you would have been hard pressed to find many people tipping Petra Kvitova to finish the fortnight as Wimbledon champion. Yet that’s exactly what she did, and she did so by playing breathtaking power tennis coupled with some timely changes of pace to earn a routine victory over former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. But the way she kept Sharapova on her heels was not the most impressive aspect of her victory. Rather, it was the way she handled the stumbling blocks throughout the course of the match. She dropped her serve in the opening game and failed on multiple occasions to sustain any momentum in the second set. But she never let these minor pitfalls get to her, as she powered her way to the title. Perhaps all were a little stunned at how quickly it came, judging by the initial silence in the crowd when she struck her only ace of the match on championship point, but she took everything in stride. She looked like she belonged out there before, during, and after the match, so she seems a safe bet to repeat this experience on multiple occasions in the future.

Mixed Bag

For this year’s Wimbledon finalists, it was a mixed bag of pros and cons. For Sharapova, just reaching the final after a few injury-hampered years and mediocre results was an achievement in and of itself. But instead of looking the seasoned veteran, she was the one who appeared to be playing in her first major final. The serve continues to be a huge liability, and most troubling of all is her continued lack of a game plan B when A isn’t getting it done (and based on her press conference, she hasn’t grasped the need for this change yet, either). She will have to improve in those departments if she wants to hold the winner’s trophy aloft again. As for Nadal, he gave his fans plenty to cheer about as he made the final for the fifth straight time, but on the same day he lost the final, reports were circulating that he was suffering from a hairline fracture in his left foot. Nadal’s camp has since come out to deny those reports, so how bad that foot is or isn’t, not surprisingly, is shrouded in mystery. But injury aside, the bigger worry for Nadal is the mental block he’s developed against Djokovic. Nadal has admitted as much, chalking his losses up at Indian Wells, Miami, and even Wimbledon to some extent as more mental lapses than anything else. There’s little doubt that Djokovic has gotten inside Nadal’s head (somewhere Roger Federer is smiling), and it was undoubtedly hard for Nadal to lose both the No. 1 ranking and his Wimbledon crown in the space of a single weekend. He should benefit from his extended post-Wimbledon break, and while there will still be question marks surrounding his health for the time being, fans should expect him to be ready for the US Open having hopefully added some tweaks to the game for when he next plays Djokovic.

Double the Delight

Doubles often falls by the wayside, but it’s worth noting that Americans Bob and Mike Bryan had an excellent stay in London. Despite nearly losing in the Round of 16 and semis, the two barely broke a sweat in the final, cruising to the title to claim their eleventh doubles major. Every major win is special, but this one was particularly so, as they tied the Open Era record set by the legendary tandem of the “Woodies.” Don’t expect them to stop there either. They’re almost for certain to shatter the record and may do so as early as the last major of 2011 in Flushing Meadows.

Dream Deal

With the possible exception of NBC, many American fans were ecstatic when the All England Club announced that ESPN has signed a 12-year contract to televise the whole of the Wimbledon Championships, starting in 2012. NBC has had the finals of Wimbledon for the last 43 years, and as traditional as their “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcast had become, there were many complaints about the tape-delayed coverage that came into play when NBC shared in broadcasting rights. With ESPN now covering the whole fortnight, all of the tennis will be live, with much more of it available on various platforms, which can ultimately only help the sport. The announcement came as the perfect ending to another enthralling year at Wimbledon.

Henin to return this weekend, Murray to continue with Corretja, Gilbert to Help Nishikori

Justine Henin

*Justine Henin is to return to action this weekend at the Hopman Cup in Australia having been kept out since Wimbledon with an elbow injury. The former world No. 1 hopes to be able to compete in the Australian Open but fears it may take her up to six months to regain full fitness. “There were concerns about the future of my career,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.” 2010 was the seven-time Grand Slam winner’s return from an 18-month retirement and she will hope to add that elusive Wimbledon title to her CV before giving up permanently.

*British No. 1 Andy Murray has confirmed that Spaniard Alex Corretja will remain as his coach for at least the first half of 2011. Corretja, a former world No. 2, took over the role after Murray split with Miles Maclagan back in July. “Andy has taken time out from his busy pre-season fitness training to confirm that the current coaching set-up, with both Alex Corretja and Dani Vallverdu, will continue into the first half of next year,” read a statement on Murray’s official website.

*Brad Gilbert has confirmed that he will work as a consultant to Japanese star Kei Nishikori at fifteen tournaments throughout 2011. Gilbert retired from the tour in 1994 and his since coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray on a permanent basis. “I have been working at the IMG Bollettieri Academy for a few years now, helping out Kei and other players,” Gilbert told ATPWorldTour.com.

“I decided to expand my role with Kei to 15 tournaments, but TV work with ESPN will remain my first priority.”

*World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic has begun working with former Romanian world No. 13 Andrei Pavel on a trial basis after lifting only one title in 2010 at Indian Wells. She was being handled by Ricardo Sanchez but they have now parted ways.

*American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year doping ban overturned after 12 months. He is now free to return to competitive matches from December 29. Whilst entering Australia for last year’s Brisbane International he was stopped by customs and eight vials of the growth hormone HGH were found in his luggage, although Odesnik never tested positive for taking the substance. Whilst at one time being ranked as high as No. 77 in the world, Odesnik was ranked No. 111 when the incident occurred and has now slipped off the rankings altogether.

*Maria Sharapova has reserved a wildcard entry in to the Sydney tournament for if she falls early on in the previous week’s festivities at Auckland. The former world No. 1 is usually pretty lax in her preparations for Melbourne Park but has opted for a more strenuous approach after losing in the first round in 2010.

*Alona Bondarenko has announced she will miss the Australian Open after undergoing the second knee surgery of her career. 2010 semifinalist Jie Zheng will also miss the competition after failing to recover from the wrist surgery she underwent in September. In the men’s draw, Robby Ginepri is set to miss out after he set March as his benchmark to return to the tour after suffering a motorbike accident in November whilst swerving to avoid a squirrel.

*The GB Fed Cup team have announced that teen starlets Heather Watson and Laura Robson are set to compete in next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 tie in Israel. Watson, 18, was the 2009 US Open junior champion while Robson, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 aged just 14. Watson said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected. It’s a dream come true as I’ve grown up watching the competition. I can’t wait to head out to Israel with the girls and give it our all.” Captain Nigel Sears added: “It is the right time for Heather and Laura to try and make it a successful week.”

*Teens the world over were celebrating early Christmas presents after receiving wildcards in to the 2011 Australian Open main draw. Australia’s No. 11 Olivia Rogowska was celebrating after defeating former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Dokic, though, has since been handed a discretionary wildcard by the Aussie tennis authorities. Marinko Matosevic overcame Peter Luczak in five sets in the men’s final to earn his place and Luczak has also been handed an entry card. Tennis Australia have also handed discretionary wildcards to Matt Ebden and Alicia Molik. In the American equivalent, played at the Racquet Club of the South, Georgia, world No. 444 Lauren Davis, 17, upset No. 113 Coco Vandeweghe, 19, in their final 6-2, 6-2. Ryan Harrison won the male playoffs after overcoming Jack Sock. The French Tennis Federation have awarded their discretionary pass in to the main draw to Virginie Razzano.

*Latest Career Grand Slam achiever Rafa Nadal was voted the 2010 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. “For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.” For reaction and to see the Spaniard collect the trophy visit the BBC Tennis website. Marca.com also named him ‘Spanish Athlete of the Decade’ while elpais.es readers voted him the ‘Spanish Athlete of the Year.’

*The ATP website has interviews with a host of top stars available to read at your leisure including how Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdathis have prepared themselves for the 2011 season and whether Novak Djokovic can keep up his impressive end to 2010.

*You have until midnight on December 31 to cast your votes in the TennisReporters.net 2010 Tennis Awards so get over there now before it’s too late to have your say on who were the players of the year, which matches really set your fires alight and which stars provide the greatest eye candy.

ATP Tidbits: Djokovic’s Humor, Ryan Harrison as Role Model, and the ‘Worst Job in Sports’

Since coverage of the US Open has been quite extensive this year, I’ll stick to the lighter side of tennis for this week and bring you the fun off-court moments. I’ll take a look at Novak Djokovic’s humorous ways, talk about the ‘worst job in sports,’ bring you tennis’ newest role model teenager Ryan Harrison, and talk about my thoughts on what may be going on with Andy Murray in his recent third round exit at the US Open — and it’s not his lack of mental strength or coach. I’m citing a different culprit altogether.

Djokovic, the comedian, gaining American fans quickly

In what was one of the most hotly contested first-round matches, Novak Djokovic squeezed out a win against compatriot and good friend Viktor Troicki in five sets, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. But the story wasn’t all in the tennis itself. As temperatures on-court soared to above 120-degrees and the humidity wreaked havoc, Djokovic’s respiratory problems were once again the center of attention. He could have lost in the fourth set, but as luck would have it, the shade came onto Arthur Ashe stadium and relieved Djokovic of some of his woes. He quickly took advantage of the slightly cooler temps and came out the winner.

Novak Djokovic. August 31, 2010

After the match, ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert asked Djokovic on-court: “How nice was it out here to get a little bit of shade?” As Djokovic searched for words, the first analogy that came to mind was that “it was like a ‘sleeping with my girlfriend’ kind of feeling.” The crowd roared in laughter and Gilbert became noticeably embarrassed. But whatever, Djokovic was relieved that he pulled out the win.

His press conference following his win was one for the books. The Serbian “Djoker” seems to be building his American audience base and is getting more confident in his humor once again. It’s nice to see Djokovic back at his lighter, more confident ways – both on and off the court.

If you have a chance, see the live video of his presser as his facial expressions and comedy are ten times better than on paper, you won’t be sorry! Starts at the 5:31 mark.

What is the ‘Worst Job in Sports?’

Ever read the Wall Street Journal to get your tennis fix for the day? Honestly, neither have I. But Tom Perrotta of Tennis.com fame wrote an interesting article in the WSJ a couple of days ago concerning the ‘worst job in sports.’ And guess what it was. Being a tennis coach.

Brad Gilbert, former coach to Andy Murray and current ESPN Commentator.

For all the glitz and glamour we think coaches have in traveling with their athlete(s) and staying at plush hotels in destinations we can only dream of going to, there is a down-side of being a tennis coach. If you’re lucky enough to be a wanted elite coach, then you could probably live comfortably on the money you make as everything else is paid for by the player. But what if your player is not winning or progressing? You’re either ‘out’ or your pay doesn’t change much. Players seem to change coaches every few years anyway, looking for a new outlook or support system.

I can’t even eat leftovers for two days in a row, how can I expect players to stay with the same coach for more than two YEARS in a row? It’s an interesting concept that is often overlooked by the casual sports fan. In other sports, where managers and executives pick their coaches, tennis is unique in that the actual athlete picks the coach. For further reading on this, check out Perrotta’s article as he talks to greats such as Larry Stefanki, Darren Cahill, Brad Gilbert, Mats Wilander, Patrick Mouratoglou, and Bob Brett: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703946504575469961990822120.html

Ryan Harrison. Title? Role model

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’re familiar with the newest talent that has developed right under our eyes, Ryan Harrison. After coming through qualifying and taking out veteran Ivan Ljubicic in the first round, 18-year-old Harrison took Sergiy Stakhovsky to five sets in a match that lasted over four hours. In fact, Harrison held three match points in the fifth set tiebreaker before double-faulting on his last opportunity and allowing Stakhovsky to serve for the win, which he did.

Although Harrison lost, it doesn’t make his run any less fruitful or devoid of fans. The grace and calm which he exhibited after his defeat speak volumes to his character, and those around him agree. “He has wide open ears, always willing to learn, wanting to grow and develop,” said Tracy Austin, a former World #1. “I love his attitude, and his work ethic as well.”

Ryan Harrison. September 3,2010.

In his press conference, Harrison was quick to say that he has a lot to work on before becoming a “full-time tour player.” I’m just going to keep my head down, and work as hard as I can and listen to the people I trust and develop my game. I’ve got a lot of work to do. From the time I get back home until my next tournaments, my goal is going to be improving my game until I can be a consistent contender, and the ranking and all that stuff will take care of itself.” Parents, if you have any youth looking for a young capable role model, Ryan Harrison is it.

Could Andy Murray’s problem be …. mono?

You’ve all probably heard about Andy Murray’s surprising third-round exit to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka by now. But I wonder if you’ve thought about precisely ‘Why?’ Forget about lack of desire, mental stability, or coach, Murray may have a different ailment altogether. During the match, he called the trainer twice, once for “tightness in my quad” and the second time because he felt “pins and needles around my right elbow.”

Andy Murray bent over two different times during his match against Stan Wawrinka. September 5, 2010.

At his press conference Murray stated plain and simple that “I lost to the better player, that’s all there is to say.” However, when questions were raised about his physical capabilities he couldn’t pinpoint the problem and this made me wonder. Murray is known for his physical strength and being able to outlast his opponents, so something has to be up.

Andy Muray: “I was disappointed that I was struggling physically. You know, I tried to find a way to come back. Didn’t quite do it. Yeah, I was disappointed that I’ve not been really in that position for a long time. I still feel like I’m super fit. I just didn’t feel great. You know, there was a lot of things that I was feeling on the court. But, yeah, I just haven’t felt that way for a few years now. So I’m going to have to go look at why that was the case and try and get better.”

Anyone know where I’m going with this? Well, if Andy Roddick’s recent tumble gives any hint, my speculation is that Murray may be suffering from a mild case of mononucleosis as well. I’m no doctor, but that fact that he can’t pinpoint his problem and was “struggling physically” remind me of Roddick’s statement earlier this year when he said he wasn’t feeling strong enough mentally or physically and couldn’t fathom why. These players are in constant contact and mono travels like the plague in locker rooms and lounges. To me, this would spells disaster on tour as we’ve already seen Roger Federer and John Isner openly talk about their stint with mono. Here’s to hoping the ‘popular trend’ ends, but it could only get worse before it gets better.

ATP BONUS:

I picked up on a strange statistic at this year’s US Open. Not only are all four remaining men in Rafael Nadal’s quarter Spaniards, but there are a total of six Spaniards in the fourth round — that’s almost 38%! Did the US Open’s blue courts somehow turn into clay this year?! For a country known for producing talented clay-specialists, Spain is quickly turning into a force on all surfaces.

Novak Djokovic Makes Funny Analogies at the US Open; Fan Fight During Djokovic Match

I was going to write about the Meaning of Life today, but I put it aside when I got a hot tip to write about Novak Djokovic’ match versus Viktor Troicki that went down on the opening days of the last major tournament of the year 2010.

Novak Djokovic had a hard time earlier this week playing in the hot hot sun at the US Open.  He was down two sets versus fellow countryman Viktor Troicki and it didn’t seem like The Djoker was able to turn the tables this time. Not with the full sun heating up the court.

Troicki must have thought that he had bagged the match already when an epiphany struck  The Djoker. With the sun going down and the shades providing cool air,  The Djoker rallied and turned the tables and bagged the match in five.

Brad Gilbert asked him what the shade felt like and The Djoker just gave the perfect analogy:

And this is what The Djoker had to say at the press conference:

Q. Did you see the replay or the actual live shot of [Roger Federer's] tween the legs shot last night?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I’ve seen it live last year passing next to me (smiling). That’s enough traumatic experiences for me. Today when Viktor tried to do the same thing, I said, No, no, please. He was running for the ball between the legs. Please miss it. Please don’t embarrass me again.

Q. As somebody who does very good imitations, is that something you can imitate?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, definitely not. I am not as good as he is in that. I’d like to be very careful with my racquet (smiling). You know what I mean.

Q. You made a comment about sleeping with your girlfriend out on the court. What was that analogy to?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. He asked me for the comparison of the feeling, what kind of feeling was it to feel the shade. The sun came down and I didn’t have any more heat, what kind of feeling was it. It just came up to me. It’s one of the best feelings, I guess, when you’re sleeping with your close one. So I compare it to that.

Q. Must have felt good.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It felt unbelievable (smiling). Let’s get back to tennis now (laughter).

In other Djokovic news it seems that some attendants of his match versus Germany’s Philip Petzschner could have used some shade as well when things heated up and they got in a fight.

The horrors of having to witness that.

Update! The video of the incident can be seen below:

ATP Tidbits – Nike, Adidas, Dunlop Player Parties, Players Complain of US Open Transportation, and Slow-mo Power-Hitting Beauties

Publicity was the name of the game this past week as players, sponsors and fans got ready for the official kick-off of the 2010 US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY. It began with another humorous ATP player joining the twitterverse while others complained of the US Open transportation. The week also featured three player/celebrity events and were held by Nike, Adidas and Dunlop. It was then concluded with Arthur Ashe Kids Day this past Saturday. During the madness, a slow-motion video made by the New York Times of current top WTA players was erected, displaying both the power and elegance in today’s game.

Dmitry Tursunov, hilarious twitter addict

The newest addition to twitter is none other than funnyman Dmitry Tursunov. Known for his tennis, killer physique and DJing skills, he now admits to quickly becoming a fan of twitter. He calls it “dedication” to his online “minions.” We call it an addiction, but same result.


When he was first learning to ‘retweet’ and ‘reply’ to people through twitter, Brad Gilbert was the first unsuccessful target. Gilbert said that “it’s all about the shoes” in an outfit, referring to Tursunov’s tweet jokingly stating that his own was a scandalous one at the US Open. Tursunov tried to respond to Gilbert by saying he’ll wear speedos and bow-ties, but it came out all wrong. I would try to describe what happened next, but Tursunov’s humor is A+. Take a look for yourself (start from the bottom of the picture and read up in chronological order). Try not to laugh at his humor and “genius”. I dare you!

Thank goodness for one of his “minions” giving him tips on how to retweet and reply to others. This will go down as a classic example of why player’s shouldn’t go ‘coachless.’ Catch Dmitry Tursunov at http://twitter.com/tursunovtales.

Players complain about US Open transportation via Twitter

The US Open is full of glitz and glam, so players should be able to get whatever their hearts desire, right? Wrong. Janko Tipsarevic opened up a Pandora’s box of sorts concerning US Open transportation services for players. Clearly frustrated and on a rain-filled day in New York, he tweeted that the “US Open is not givin car transportation to players if you are not on a list that they don’t know what depends on.” After a couple of exchanges with Feliciano Lopez, Lopez offers these words of wisdom: “try to get spanish passport so will be easier.” As awesome of any idea as that might be, it seems more likely that car transportation is dependent on a player being seeded at the tournament.

In fact, Tursunov himself tweeted about “climbing the fence to get to the cars” one evening after practice last week when he was initially denied, citing it was for USTA personnel and that players needed to take “shuttles.” He even offered Tipsarevic advice with his humor: “If u insist on getting a ride just accuse them of profiling Serbians.” Now, this was getting juicy. It was, of course, all in fun as these players chatted via Twitter, but it gave fans a look at how players chat amongst themselves in real life as well.

Vania King also put in her two cents about her hardships via twitter: “Already had a conflict with US Open transport and I’m not even there yet! US is the biggest yet least accommodating of all Grand Slams.” And that’s coming from a Grand Slam Doubles’ Champion. Ouch!

But be careful what you wish for though. Kim Clijsters set the story straight: “90 min from our hotel to the tennis! Traffic is such a waste of time.” Wiser words could not have been spoken by a true veteran. Whether you’re a player or fan, the subway and Long Island Railroad are by far the top choices for transport to the US Open.

Nike Pro/Am event featuring lots of giggles

This past Wednesday evening, Nike held its “Nike Primetime Knockout Tennis Event” at Pier 54 that included players Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, John McEnroe and MC Serena Williams (boot and all). The event not only revealed each player’s night match kit, but also took on a Pro/Am format that pitted Team Nadal (with super model Bar Refaeli) against Team Azarenka (with New York Giant Justin Tuck). And Team Sharapova (with actor Bradley Cooper) took on Team Federer (with New York Tennis League player Sami Ahmad).

There were plenty of fun light-hearted moments, including Williams distracting Federer by screaming while he served and also asking Rafa to reveal his abs. Sharapova even practiced her winning pose. Also check out Global Village Tennis News who attended and recorded a fun press conference the players did afterward:

http://blog.gvtnews.com/2010/08/25/nike-nyc-lights-on-lights-out–news-conference-with-nadal-federer-sharapova-and-azarenka.aspx

Adidas’ players and the giant shoe cake

On Friday evening, it was Adidas’ turn to celebrate in their Soho NY store with the 10th anniversary of their Barricade shoe. Although sidelined due to injury, Justine Henin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga attended the event, along with Andy Murray and Ana Ivanovic. The event seemed more casual than the Nike one — even down to the players uncoordinated clothes. But, the giant shoe cake makes up for it, don’t you think?

Dunlop players as bartenders, doesn’t get better than this!

On Saturday evening, Dunlop also held a party launching their new Biomemetic line of racquets, with their players posing as bartenders. While Dominika Cibulkova was the only WTAer present, there were plenty of ATP players pouring their drink of choice to fans and media at the Union Square Ballroom in New York City. The list included Nikolay Davydenko, Ross Hutchins, Jurgen Melzer, Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo. A moment of note occurred when John McEnroe introduced Fernando Verdasco and asked him what it would take to share some of his good looks. Verdasco handsomely replied, “Give me your volley.” Cue female admirers giggling like school girls.

Record-setting crowd at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day

Every year, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is held on the Saturday just prior to the main draw start at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It consistently attracts thousands of fans, but this year’s attendance was a record 23,000! Fans got to enjoy tennis exhibitions by pros Kim Clijsters, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Melanie Oudin and the #1 wheelchair player in the world, Esther Vergeer. Celebrity guests also included Lindsey Vonn and singers Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers among others. The Bryan Brothers also took stage to perform two of their hit singles and even had help from newly-minted rap star, Djokovic, on their ‘Autograph’ song which he appeared in. All in all, a huge success and a great way to inspire young athletes to go for their goals.

Photo credit to Michael Alan at http://www.michaelalanphotos.com/

“Women who hit hard”

The New York Times showcases the top ladies dressed up and playing tennis — in slow motion! It displays the delicate beauty as well as the fearsome power needed to rule the women’s game today. It includes Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Samantha Stosur, Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/08/29/magazine/womens-tennis.html?ref=magazine

59-59?!? THE LONGEST MATCH IN TENNIS HISTORY

By Peter Nez

“I have almost no words anymore watching this,” defending singles champion Roger Federer said about the Isner-Mahut match on court 18. “It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen and could imagine. I don’t know how their bodies must feel the next day, the next week, the next month. This is incredible tennis.”

I don’t think I have ever heard a broadcasting team, with the likes of zany Brad Gilbert, and Mr. Hello! Patrick McEnroe, scramble for words harder than they did today on day three of Wimbledon to describe the match etched in history between Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, wiry, goofy faced, and grass savvy, against the giant from the south, American Bulldog John Isner. A match that just wouldn’t end, and as I am writing this is going into the eighth hour, tied 30-30 in the fifth set at 41-42 in favor of the 6’9” Isner. This has ceased to be an epic, a battle, a clash of warriors, a feud between unwavering wills, it has now become, as it is tied now, with Mahut holding at 42-42 in the fifth set, a ridiculous labyrinth of surreal proportions bordering on an overdone farce; the groundhog day of tennis, where the clock moves forward, and scoreboards shift numerical value, but the players are locked in psychological time warfare with physical impediments all brushed aside. These guys aren’t playing for a spot in the third round anymore, but for immortality.

Their play was suspended due to darkness the day before, after the fourth set, but nobody could’ve anticipated this… play suspended yet again at 59-all in the fifth, with much trepidation on both players parts (maybe more so with Isner, who looked like he wanted to continue), after 7 hours and 6 minutes of play in the fifth set alone on day three. Mahut first addressed the fading light issue, but Isner, who looked ready to collapse a few times, sluggishly agreed and the longest match in tennis history has a possibility of going even longer. “This will never happen again,” Isner said in his post-postponement interview. I think it’s safe to say that truer words were never spoken.

Shattering every known record in Wimbledon and tennis history combined, the two immortals are due first on court 18 Thursday. What is going to be the final score? What will the engraved stats procure at the end of it all? Who will end up winning? Is there actually a winner and a loser in a match like this? A match unlike any match in sports history; a contest that defies categorization. Well, you know where I’ll be first thing in the morning. The question is will I have to call in sick for work?

BOUND FOR GLORY: THE GREATEST STREAK IN SPORTS HISTORY

Roger Federer

By Peter H. Nez

After the forecast gloomed something awful, and tennis fans geared for their action packed Tuesday, by towing umbrellas and slickers, the quarterfinal between the defending champion Roger Federer, and the upstart who crashed the fiesta Del la Espanola last year: Robin Soderling, started on the eve of a potential 24 straight semis or better run by Federer, a streak that is unmatched in the sport, or any other sport for that matter. Broadcaster Patrick McEnroe called the streak, “The greatest streak in tennis history.” I go even further by calling it the greatest streak in sports history period.


Soderling the wiry, lanky Swede, with Dr. Suess face, and quirks to match, had a 0-12 record heading in. If given the right color, and the right kind of eyes, one could see the shades of the Grinch in the young Swedes smirks and overall demeanor on court. Could anyone foresee Soderling manifesting the Grinch that stole Tennis Glory? Two years in a row?

The first set was typical in their historic matchup. Roger, with majestic movement and balletic flourishes, took the opener 6-3. Commentator Brad Gilbert remarked, “I’ve never seen anyone slide on clay better than Federer,” going as far as saying, “Even his socks stay clean. He glides so well, that he doesn’t have the typical smears and smudges most players have.” It looked that number 24 for Roger would be inevitable. Then something happened that may have only happened once in tennis history in the past five or six years: Soderling’s racquet morphed into a 12 gauge shotgun, with the accuracy of a laser sighted pistol. Line after line bombasted and thumped past the Swiss Maestro’s flailing efforts to defend, set after set. Soderling was compiling an offensive so massive that the Roger base looked pitiful in comparison. You could feel the Swede’s pop on his racquet swelter the Maestro’s usually impervious front. This was reminiscent of the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro’s missile strike at the 2009 US Open. Forehands blistered, serves rocketed, and the flag was still there. This wasn’t the lefty anomaly of spin mayhem that Nadal mustered to garner a winning record against the holy one, but an all out onslaught of power that inspired large oohs and aahhs from the Parisian spectators. Darren Cahill repeatedly commented that Soderling was “Bringing the heat!” Soderling’s average second serve ranged in the 115 to 118 mph zone, and he held serve much more comfortably than he had in previous meetings. But wait a minute… this was the “Greatest of All Time” wasn’t it? There had to be a response right? One would think. But, the same thing happened that I have been witnessing happen, with scratchy head and bewilderment, for the past several years: The Federer kryptonite forehand emerged. Amidst rain soaked Parisian skies and grounds, the usually competent, jedi-light-saberesque forehand of Roger’s, sprayed the back of the courts almost as much as the groundskeepers’ water hose. Routine short balls ended up five feet out of bounds, and the Roger Empire in Paris was crumbling fast. And as Roger’s ground strokes became more wobbly, Robin’s ground strokes gained heat and the white lines of Roland Garros couldn’t have been bigger for the Swede, as stroke after ripping stroke painted the lines regularly. If one looked closely one could see smoke fuming from the top of Soderling’s Head racquet. If the story last year was ‘The Slaying of the Dragon’ than this year’s would indubitably be ‘The Demolition of The Royal Palace.’

Still, even after the near perfect assault of Soderling on the Royal grounds, Roger’s streak of 23 semis stands alone in sports history and in my mind will never be surpassed. In today’s game, where the top fifty players in the world would easily have been top ten or better fifteen years ago, to reach a milestone as that even supersedes the 16 slam titles in my humble view. And with Roger’s game and playing style, if he can remain healthy, which he has done, and doesn’t lose the hunger to play, which he has claimed is safely in tact until at least 2015, who knows? Could it be fathomable that Roger could be the one to beat the streak?

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