charleston

Lleyton Hewitt Wins Invesco Series QQQ Title In Charleston

It’s been two events and two victories for Lleyton Hewitt in his Invesco Series QQQ career. The former world No. 1, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion and still part-time doubles specialist on the ATP Tour won his second career title on the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30 Saturday night defeating Andy Roddick 6-2 in the one-set title match to win the Invesco Legends Charleston, played in conjunction with the WTA Tour’s Volvo Car Open.

Hewitt, 38, made his Invesco Series QQQ debut last July in Newport, R.I. on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame defeating James Blake in the semifinals and Tommy Haas in the final. Saturday night on clay in Charleston, Hewitt remained undefeated on the Series by dominating with his grinding baseline game that earned him 30 career ATP singles titles.

Hewitt and Roddick played 14 times during their ATP Tour career, each player winning seven matches and Hewitt was able to move ahead in the bragging rights department with his victory in their first Invesco Series meeting. Roddick joked that he was not looking forward to playing Hewitt in the final saying “I know Lleyton plays like 40 weeks a year” and remembering their hard-fought slug-fest matches from their ATP days, including a memorable five-set quarterfinal night match in 2001, won by Hewitt en route to winning his first major title. Hewitt played his last career ATP singles match at the 2016 Australian Open, losing in the second round to David Ferrer. He played nine doubles events in 2018, along with his one Invesco Series appearance, and so far in 2019 he has played four events. While serving as Australia’s Davis Cup captain, he has managed to earn an ATP doubles ranking of No. 228.

Roddick is playing his sixth season on the Invesco Series after retiring from the ATP Tour in 2012 and was seeking his 18th career title on Series and his first since beating James Blake in the title match in Los Angeles in October of 2017. Saturday marked the second straight year that Roddick lost in the Charleston final. In 2018, he was defeated by Tommy Haas 6-1 in the title match.

En route to the final, Hewitt beat 54-year-old Mats Wilander 6-3 while Roddick beat 48-year-old Jim Courier 6-4. Hewitt said he grew up idolizing Wilander, who won his first major title at the French Open at 17 years old in 1982 when Hewitt was one year old. “This was the first time we ever hit balls together so it was a lot of fun,” said Hewitt. Roddick’s win over Courier moved him to a perfect 7-0 against the two-time French and Australian Open champion on the Invesco Series. Quipped Roddick of the win, “I got a little lucky. I’m just not that good anymore.”

The Invesco Series QQQ circuit continues Sunday, May 5 in Maui at the Royal Lahaina Resort at the Hawaii Champions Cup with John McEnroe, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas and Michael Chang in the field Earlier this season, Tommy Haas kicked off the 2019 Invesco Series QQQ circuit in January by defeating Roddick 7-6 (2) in the title match at the Oracle Champions Cup in Newport Beach, California. James Blake won the second event of the season on Thursday at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., defeating Courier 6-3 in the final. Through three events so far in 2019, there is a four-way tie for the top spot in the year-long Invesco Series QQQ points rankings with Haas, Blake, Hewitt and Roddick all having 400 points.

The remaining 2019 Invesco Series QQQ schedule is as follows:

Maui, HI – May 5 (Royal Lahaina Resort): John McEnroe, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas, Michael Chang

Newport, RI – July 21 (International Tennis Hall of Fame): Todd Martin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Jim Courier, Mats Wilander

Boston, MA – September 7 (Venue and Players TBA)

Toronto, ON – September 26 (Mattamy Athletic Centre): Players TBA

Orlando, FL – Date and Venue TBA: Players TBA

Los Angeles, CA – Date and Venue TBA: Players TBA

Austin, TX – November 15: Venue and Players TBA

In 2018, Blake won his first Invesco Series QQQ year-long points championship by winning titles in Winston-Salem, New Haven and Houston, while also finishing as runner-up in Los Angeles and Orlando.

In 2017, the year-long points championship was decided in the final match of the season when Andy Roddick defeated James Blake in the Los Angeles final at the Sherwood Country Club. Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, won four Invesco Series QQQ titles in all in 2017, winning in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Lincoln, Neb., and Los Angeles. Blake, the former world No. 4 and former U.S. Davis Cup star, won series titles in Charleston, S.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and in Lynchburg, Va.

In 2016, Mark Philippoussis won the Series points title with 1600 points and tournament titles in Memphis, Tulsa, Newport, Winston-Salem and New Haven. Roddick finished in second place, also earning 1600 points but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philippoussis 5-2, while winning titles in Charleston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Orlando. Blake finished in third place with 1100 points and tournament titles in Chicago, Portland and Brooklyn.

In 2015, Roddick won the Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Invesco Series QQQ tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $5 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or InvescoSeries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA
Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, pleasevisithorizonmedia.com.

ABOUT INVESCO
Invesco Ltd. is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. NYSE: IVZ; Invesco.com, Invesco Distributors, Inc. is the US distributor for Invesco Ltd. and is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Invesco Ltd.”

Tommy Haas Dominates In Invesco Series Debut In Charleston, S.C.

Tommy Haas began his career on the Invesco Series circuit in rousing fashion Sunday morning, winning the QQQ Legends Charleston title defeating Andy Roddick 6-1 in the championship match at the Volvo Car Stadium,

The event was delayed until Sunday morning due to rain Saturday in Charleston and was played in cold and windy conditions with tournament play starting at 8 am with temperatures in the 40s.

“I grew up in Hamburg, Germany. These were like regular conditions for us to play outside on clay, cold and windy,” said Haas. “But it’s never that easy.”

Haas, who turned 40 on April 3, ended his career on the ATP World Tour last year. The former world No. 2 and silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games won his last career ATP match in Stuttgart, Germany last June on grass when he upset Roger Federer in the second round. Roddick, the winner of the year-long Invesco Series points title in 2015 and 2017, joked his displeasure of Haas joining the North American circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30 by saying there should be a rule that players should not be eligible to play on the series if they had beaten Federer within the last year.

Haas advanced into the final by beating Michael Chang 6-2 in the opening 8 am semifinal Sunday, winning the first five games of his Invesco Series career. Roddick defeated last year’s Charleston runner-up Mark Philippoussis 6-3 in the other semifinal, avenging his loss to the Australian the previous year on the same court in the semifinals.

The Invesco Series continues next month at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows at Kohala Coast, Hawaii for the first-ever Invesco Series event in Hawaii.

Each QQQ Champions Series by Invesco event features special VIP experiences, including hit-with-the-pros opportunities and special back-stage access. All ticket, experience and event information can be found at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.

In 2017, the year-long points championship was decided in the final match of the season when Andy Roddick defeated James Blake in the Los Angeles final at the Sherwood Country Club. Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, won four PowerShares Series titles in all in 2017, winning in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Lincoln, Neb., and Los Angeles. Blake, the former world No. 4 and former U.S. Davis Cup star, won series titles in Charleston, S.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and in Lynchburg, Va.

In 2016, Mark Philippoussis won the Series points title with 1600 points and tournament titles in Memphis, Tulsa, Newport, Winston-Salem and New Haven. Roddick finished in second place, also earning 1600 points but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philippoussis 5-2, while winning titles in Charleston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Orlando. Blake finished in third place with 1100 points and tournament titles in Chicago, Portland and Brooklyn.

In 2015, Roddick won the Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Champions Series tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $4 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or PowerSharesSeries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA
Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, please visit horizonmedia.com.

ABOUT INVESCO
Invesco Ltd. is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. NYSE: IVZ; invesco.com. Invesco Distributors, Inc. is the US distributor for Invesco Ltd. and is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Invesco Ltd.

PowerShares Series Tennis Announces 2016 Circuit Schedule

PowerShares Series Tennis, the circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30, announced today its 2016 circuit will kick off on April 8 in Chicago. The 2016 circuit will feature 12 events throughout the year concluding December 3 with the first-ever tennis event at the Barclays Center in New York.

The 2016 PowerShares Series will visit six new markets in 2016 and will partner alongside ATP and WTA events in Charleston, S.C., Newport, R.I., Winston-Salem, N.C., and New Haven, Conn.

Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and James Blake comprise the field for the Chicago event, to be played at the UIC Pavilion. Agassi, Blake, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish will compete in the Charleston tournament, to be played April 9 in conjunction with the WTA’s Volvo Cars Open. Tickets for these two events are currently on sale at www.PowerSharesSeries.com. Ticket information and player fields for St. Louis, Mo., Memphis, Tenn., and Tulsa, Okla., will be announced on January 25.

The full 2016 PowerShares Series schedule is as follows:

 

April 8                       Chicago  (UIC Pavillion)

April 9                       Charleston (Family Circle Tennis Center)

April 14                    St. Louis (Chaifetz Arena)

April 22                    Memphis (Landers Center)

April 23                    Tulsa (BOK Center)

July 17                      Newport, R.I. (International Tennis Hall of Fame)

August 21               Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest University)

August 25, 26       New Haven (Yale University)

November 4          Portland, Oregon (Moda Center)

December 1          Orlando (Amway Arena)

December 3          New York (Barclays Center)

 

Additional cities will be announced in the near future.

“We are looking forward to another highly entertaining season of competition on the PowerShares Series starting with our kick-off event in Chicago,” said Jon Venison, co-president of InsideOut Sports & Entertainment and the PowerShares Series. “We are excited to bring PowerShares Series tennis to six new markets this year including our new partnerships with world-class events in Charleston, Newport, New Haven, and Winston Salem.

“PowerShares sponsorship of Champions Series Tennis represents our support for world renowned sports stars who dedicate themselves to excellence and improving their techniques to achieve success over time,” said Dan Draper, Global Head of Invesco PowerShares. “In that same spirit, PowerShares is dedicated to helping investors improve their investing strategies to achieve lifetime success with their portfolios. We want to help people get the most out of life by providing resources and strategies to meet their unique investment goals.”

In 2015, Roddick won the PowerShares Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Mark Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Champions Series tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $4 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world.  For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.powersharesseries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA

Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York, and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago. Horizon Media was named 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek and Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year and he currently serves as Chairman of the 4A’s, the industry’s oldest and most prestigious trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.”  Horizon Media has estimated billings of $4 .7 billion and approximately 1,000 employees. For more info, go to www.HorizonMedia.com

ABOUT INVESCO POWERSHARES

Invesco PowerShares Capital Management LLC is leading the Intelligent ETF Revolution® through its lineup of more than 140 domestic and international exchange-traded funds, which seek to outperform traditional benchmark indexes while providing advisors and investors access to an innovative array of focused investment opportunities. With franchise assets of nearly $100 billion as of October 2, 2015, PowerShares ETFs trade on both US stock exchanges. For more information, please visit us at invescopowershares.com or follow us on Twitter @PowerShares.

ABOUT POWERSHARES QQQ

PowerShares QQQ™, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on the NASDAQ-100 Index®, is one of the largest and most traded ETFs in the world. Under most circumstances, QQQ will consist of all of the stocks in the index which includes 100 of the largest domestic and international nonfinancial companies listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market based on market capitalization.

The Curse of the Stars and Stripes

It’s no secret that tennis is considered a niche sport in the United States. Mainstream American sports media does little to cater to the tennis fan base unless it has to or they have a narrative to sell. Therefore, the presence and popularity of tennis in the United States will always be dictated by the presence and popularity of its American stars. With Andy Roddick already retired and the Williams sisters approaching their mid-thirties, American tennis will soon be missing many of its dynamic, larger than life personalities. As a result, the mainstream media are desperate for the next star to promote the sport’s life and longevity in the United States; they look to embrace an emerging talent before he or she is ready to embrace them. Spoiler alert: it rarely ends well. The same mistakes continue to be made, yet little is being done to prevent the cycle from repeating itself.

It began with Melanie Oudin.

We all know the Oudin story. “Giant-killer” this, “giant-killer” that were the prevailing narratives during Oudin’s run to the US Open quarterfinals in 2009, where she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. All of a sudden, Oudin from Marietta, Georgia, a city with a population of about 57,000, was thrust into the spotlight in arguably the most famous city in the world.

We also know what happened next.

It’s not uncommon for a young player to have a breakthrough at a slam and then fail to produce the same results soon after. It’s only the special exceptions, the Sharapovas or Hingises, who adapt to the pressure and completely handle it at an early age. Couple that with Oudin’s grinding, counterpunching game, a game that a zoning opponent could competently dismantle, and she was bound for failure. After peaking at No. 31 in 2010, Oudin languished around in the lower echelons of the top 200 before returning to a double-digit ranking last year.

Next, Sloane Stephens arrived. Nobody seemed to learn. Stephens was different, they said. She can take matches into her own hands, they said. She had power, athleticism, the natural physical gifts that Oudin doesn’t. En route to the Australian Open quarterfinals, Simona Halep was Stephens’ highest-ranked opponent; the Romanian was ranked 45 when she fell in the first round. A solid run turned into a stunning one as Stephens defeated a hobbled Serena Williams, the prohibitive title favorite, in the quarterfinals. As quickly as Oudin’s star flamed out, Stephens’ supernova was born.

As the youngest player in the top 20, it appears that no one’s clued Stephens into the fact that it only gets harder the higher you rise. She’s become the hunted, rather than the hunter. If anything, she needs to work harder to stay ahead of the pack. After losing the last 10 games in a 6-4, 2-6, 0-6 defeat to Agnieszka Radwanska in Miami, Stephens displayed a somewhat complacent attitude. “I’m 16 in the world. I can lose in the first round the next two months and I probably would still be top 30. I’m not really too concerned about winning or losing or any of that, I don’t think.” Statements like this show that Stephens is already feeling the pressure to produce week in, week out.

Not only is she struggling to beat the elite (that win over Williams is her only top 10 win), but she’s struggling in matches she the favorite to win. She let huge leads slip against Klara Zakopalova and Sorana Cirstea in Doha and Dubai; these are not terrible losses, but no one seems to want to write about that. The story of another post-slam breakthrough slump is far more attractive.

Stephens was in tears following her 6-2, 6-0 loss to fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round in Charleston; the one-sided scoreline was incredibly unexpected if only for the reason that Mattek-Sands played nearly four hours in defeating Anastasia Rodionova the day before. Surprisingly, the “Mattek-Sands triumphs on the comeback trail from injury” narrative was non-existent; instead, “What’s wrong with Sloane?” dominates the headlines.

If you think this is only a WTA problem, you should ask John Isner, Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison how they’re doing lately. You might even run into Donald Young along the way. One successful run does not make a superstar. Superstars are made over an entire career.

There are currently nine women not named Williams in the top 100 on the WTA rankings and a handful just on the outside. Let them share the spotlight. Are some of them more likely to win slams than others? Maybe. If they do, they’ll do so when they’re ready, not when a media narrative thinks they are. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging young talent but too much encouragement, too much “hype,” is a clear hindrance to their development. Young players can’t be expected to win a marathon before they can run an eight-minute mile.

“Unmasking Anastasia:” Rodionova, Tennis’ Cartoon Villain

Charleston’s illustrious Family Circle Cup began yesterday, and just off the main stadium, fans were treated to a first round match that had all the drama and suspense of a Saturday morning cartoon. Such an analogy may sound insulting, but in a match between Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Anastasia Rodionova, spectators’ notions of “good” and “evil” were as binary as black and white.

In one corner was Mattek-Sands. With her penchant for knee socks, eye black, and odd fashion choices, the veteran American certainly has the look of a modern-day superhero. Her struggles with injuries and debilitating food allergies have also played a role in endearing herself to the tennis public as she attempts to regain the form that took her as high as No. 30 in 2011.

If Mattek-Sands is the hero, then the Russian-born Australian Rodionova is our unabashed villain. Standing at 5’5”, she has become notorious for her on-court antics and bratty demeanor. A journeywoman who frequents the outer courts of most major tournaments, Rodionova berates umpires and lines people alike for their perceived incompetence and inability to properly officiate her matches. It has been questioned whether those antics have stalled an otherwise promising career; a successful doubles player, Rodionova possesses an all-court game that is often as aggressive as she is.

But to question that is to misunderstand the Aussie entirely. Indeed, she has the propensity to lose her patience, but rarely does that lead to a full-on implosion. In a world where players are concerned with likeability, Rodionova not only embraces, but truly enjoys the villainous role she adopts during matches, and like a WWE wrestler, uses the crowd’s venom against her as fuel for her own fire.

Against Mattek-Sands, she simply refused to be put away in a match that, at three hours, forty-two minutes, was the longest of the year. With the crowd firmly behind the American, Rodionova recovered from a set down to steal the second in a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind a break in the third. Playing Mattek-Sands tough on break points (she would save 13 of 20 by match’s end), she bounded back to win three games in a row. As our villain was in her glory, our hero was in despair, and called out her husband during the changeover to try and develop a new strategy.

All of this before Rodionova injured her thigh, and here is where the show really began.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nrXHY3LdyU&t=1m54s

For Rodionova, the type who can become enraged by an inconsiderate gust of wind, an injury (and the ineptitude of those attempting to treat her) was simply unacceptable. Dissatisfied with the trainer’s method of alleviating her pain, Rodionova hopped and hobbled away as best she could, throwing a water bottle and gesticulating wildly at the supervisor.

It was as if, after all these years, Rodionova finally had a legitimate excuse for her curmudgeonly behavior, and she planned on making the most of it. When a line call was overturned in her favor, she exclaimed, “Call the freaking ball!” (a veteran move for a player well aware of what counts as an audible obscenity). Holding a match point on the Mattek-Sands serve at 4-5, it would have appeared totally logical for our villain to let out a cackle had she converted.

But she would not convert. The match would go to a deciding tiebreaker (as if it could have ended any other way), and the injury and Mattek-Sands became too much for Rodionova, who faded quickly from 2-2.

From the cartoonish impression many have of Rodionova, one would have expected her to react to this undoubtedly painful loss with a racquet toss or a shriek of disdain: anything in a last-ditch attempt to steal the spotlight. Instead, she reminded us all of her humanity when she met Mattek-Sands at the net in tears. Our hero was gracious in victory, comforting Rodionova as the two approached the umpire.

A lot of this analysis is tongue-in-cheek, but it has been said that parody can be a mirror to the human soul. There is a tendency to turn these athletes, these people, into stereotypes or one-dimensional cutouts based on how they act over the course of a three-hour tennis match. “Mattek-Sands comforted Rodionova because she is always good, and Rodionova yelled at the trainer because she is always evil.”

But just as Mattek-Sands’ jubilation showed us how much the win meant, Rodionova’s tears showed us how much the win would have meant, and before we criticize and name-call, it is essential that we recognize that her desire to win is no less pure (or more offending) than that of a perhaps more subdued rival.

Williams Wins 40th Title at 40th Family Circle Cup

It was only fitting that Serena Williams walked away with her 40th career today on Sunday at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Playing her best tennis in quite some time, perhaps some of her best tennis ever, Williams steamrolled her opponents this week. She lost just fifteen games in five matches, and played the likes of Sabine Lisicki and Samantha Stosur before facing off against Lucie Safarova in the final.

With Billie Jean King in attendance, celebrating the 40th year since the Original 9 helped to found the WTA as well as the 40th anniversary of the first Family Circle Cup, Serena Williams raced to a 6-0 6-1 victory over Lucie Safarova of the Czech Repbulic. After losing to Williams in the semifinals, Samantha Stosur was asked whether anyone could stop Williams the way she was playing this week, to which Stosur responded, “I think if Serena plays her very best tennis, I think anyone would find it pretty hard to stop her.” Stosur may have been right, the final seemed like a forgone conclusion after Serena opened the match with a quick love hold and Safarova opened her first service game with a double fault. Things started to look up a little when Safarova had a break point on Williams’ serve in the third game of the match, which would have put the two back on serve. But Williams would have none of it. She evened things up to deuce and won the next two points.

When Safarova finally managed to get just one hold in the second set, the crowd went wild and Safarova broke into a huge smile. Even though the crowd was pro-Williams, it was clear that the Czech had won a lot of fans in Charleston this week, and it was easy to see why, the way she handled herself in defeat. When it was all said and done, Safarova came to net, still all smiles, and graciously shook Serena’s hand. In her runner-up speech, she very convincingly congratulated Williams and thanks the fans and the sponsors for such a great tournament, saying that the Family Circle Cup was true to its name, making her feel like family. Sunday wasn’t a complete loss for the Lucie. She’ll move up to 23 in the world on Monday, just one spot away from her career high ranking, and she won the doubles final with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Safarova considers clay her favorite surface and with early exits last year in Rome and at the French Open, there is ample room to pick up points this Spring. She will also continue to play doubles with Pavlyuchenkova after their success in Miami and Charleston.

What’s next for Serena Williams? Even though she’s feeling good, she will continue to play a selective schedule, not playing another tournament until Madrid. It’s really too early to start making predictions about the French Open, but it’s high up on Williams’ list of goals. Having only won the tournament once, Serena said, “that’s my goal every year is to win the French Open, so hopefully this will be another goal, another year. If not, believe me, I’ll be there the next year and the year after, so I’m going to keep trying and fighting and doing the best I can do.”

Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova Roll into the Family Circle Cup Final

A former champion at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, Samantha Stosur is usually pretty comfortable on the tournament’s green clay. She was in fine form on Friday, winning two three set singles matches to set up an exciting semifinal against Serena Williams. Adamant that physical fatigue did not play a role in Saturday’s match, the 2011 US Open champion won just two games against the American, who won the match 6-1 6-1.

Serena Williams seemed to do no wrong in this match. Every serve, every shot just seemed perfect, far too good for Stosur to overcome. Clearly in the zone, Williams seemed emotionless for the better part of the match, just going through the motions, winning point after point. When she won the first set 6-1, there was no fist pump, just a determined walk back to her chair. When she broke early in the second set, she did a sort of spin, but that was more a force of momentum rather than an actual celebration. Asked about Serena’s level of play in post match press, Stosur said, “it didn’t really seem to matter what I did. She came out with the goods every time.” Even Williams was a little shocked at how well she’s been playing this week, given that she only practiced for one day on the clay prior to the beginning of the tournament. In fact, she considered Saturday’s match, “probably the best match I’ve played in my career either in a long time or it’s up there in the Top 5.”

This version of Serena is basically unstoppable. Stosur is an excellent clay court player, a Grand Slam Champion, and in the Top 5 in the world. Williams made her look like an amateur, happy just to have gotten those two games.

Polona Hercog would have likely been equally as happy to win two games in her semifinal against Lucie Safarova. The Czech has been having an excellent week in Charleston, beating Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals before dropping a double bagel on Hercog in the semis. Hercog is no Stosur, and Safarova is no Williams, but it was a pretty impressive beat down nonetheless. Coming back a little over an hour later, Safarova teamed up with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to beat Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber and land a spot in the doubles final. Safarova described the feeling of being in both finals as, “just the dream of the player to be.” Reluctant to call this the best week of her career quite yet, she did put it up there with making the finals in Paris and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Safarova is aware Sunday’s final will be difficult, having played Williams four times, all of which she lost. Their most recent encounter was last year in Toronto. Asked about the challenge, Safarova responded, “I’m really looking forward to it, and we had some tough matches in the past, so I never beat her so far, but as I said, I played good here. I feel good, and I’ll try to win tomorrow.” There’s nothing like a 6-0 6-0 victory to boost a player’s confidence, so Lucie Safarova should be going into the final in the best position she could. In all honesty, the key to the match for Safarova will be capitalizing in the event that Serena has an off day or lets her guard down. If Williams plays the way she did against Stosur, there will be little Safarova can do to combat her.

Family Circle Cup: Bad Luck for Lisicki, Two Wins for Stosur, and More

Lisicki Goes Down Once Again

The first quarterfinal match of the day was unfortunately cut short when Sabine Lisicki was forced to retire in the fifth game of her match against Serena Williams. It looked like a tight match after a very long second game, where Lisicki finally managed to hold serve. In a twist we’ve seen far too many times from Sabine, she ended up wrong footed on the green clay and tumbled over on her left ankle. At first, things didn’t look so grim. Lisicki called the trainer and had her foot retaped. She took the court again a little shaken but with no sign of a limp, and then suddenly it was over. The sight of a tearful Sabine shaking her opponents hand is becoming all too common. In a true show of sportsmanship, Williams walked over to comfort the young German. Asked what she told Sabine, Serena responded, “I just told her it would be alright. I’m really in an emotional time in my life, so I told her don’t cry because you’re going to make me cry and I was like my eyes are getting watery.

Obviously not the way either player wanted the match to end, Williams nonetheless moves into the semifinals at the Family Circle Cup for the third time. In a rematch of the 2011 US Open final, Williams will play Samantha Stosur, who defeated Serena’s sister Venus later in the day.

Stosur Wins a Double Header and Prevents an All Williams Semifinal

After rain forced the tournament to stop play during the Thursday night session, Samantha Stosur was first up on Friday morning to finish her match against Galina Voskoboeva, which ended going another two sets, basically a full match. Scheduled to play again in the third match of the day, there was little rest for the weary as Stosur had to go one again to play Venus Williams just after Sabine Lisicki retired in the second match of the day. Looking fresh, Stosur captured the first set against Venus. The next two sets weren’t quite as easily, but the US Open champion eventually managed to pull out her second victory of the day. Ever amiable, the Aussie seemed unfazed by the scheduling, “nobody can pick or choose or predict when the rain is going to come. So unfortunately for me I probably got the rough end of it, but that’s the way it goes.” Playing both matches so early in the day could have been a blessing in disguise. Considering she’s due to play Serena Williams at 1pm on Saturday, she will need as much rest as possible, and she had the better part of Friday to prepare.

Stosur’s victory denied fans the anticipated opportunity to see the Williams sisters face off for the 24th time, but something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Easily the biggest draw at the tournament, fans seemed excited by the prospect of watching Venus and Serena play each other. However, if it couldn’t be an all Williams semifinal, this US Open final rematch is a great consolation prize and should be an excellent match, provided Stosur recovers from her busy day.

Safarova Overcomes Zvonareva While Petrova Falters Against Hercog

The top half of the draw has yielded two quasi-surprise semifinalists, Lucie Safarova and Polona Hercog. Safarova easily conquered the No. 4 seed, Vera Zvonareva, 6-3 6-3. At No. 26 in the world, Safarova is just four spots away from her career high. This is her first semifinal of the year, and an excellent opportunity for her to pick up some extra points. She will face Polona Hercog of Slovenia in the semifinals, who easily defeated the 13th seed Nadia Petrova 6-1 6-2. Overall, Safarova has had a good start to the 2012 season, but she has had some bad losses as well, as recently as Miami. Hercog won her first title last season in Bastad and has been on the rise ever since. While Stosur/Williams will obviously be the more anticipated matchup for Saturday’s semifinals, Safarova/Hercog has the potential to be a very interesting match as well.

Sam Stosur looks for 2010 tennis form in Charleston

By Rick Limpert, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Being a veteran on the WTA Tour, Sam Stosur has been through this before.

Rebounding from a bad stretch of tournaments the previous year can be tough, but Stosur says keeping the right mindset is most crucial when things don’t go your way for an extended period of time.

Such was the case last year during the spring clay court swing on the WTA Tour.  Stosur lost early in Charleston, Madrid and at Roland Garros.

That was a far cry from 2010, a year that she won in Charleston and reached the finals of the French Open.
“Last year I struggled with a bit of illness, so that didn’t help,” admitted Stosur.  ‘Before you know it, that part of the year is over…it’s kind of unfortunate.”As for this year, Stosur likes what she sees and how she feels, so far.

“I’m playing pretty good tennis and I’m happy on the clay, so I’m ready to get that part of the season started,” explained Stosur at the WTA All Access Hour held Monday in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup.Stosur knows with the likes of the Williams’ Sisters back on tour, nothing is going to be easy.

“Serena played real well against me (in Miami), but I had a few chances and at the end of the day she went out there and beat me,” offered up the reigning U.S. Open champ.
The Aussie got off to a flying start on Tuesday with a 6-0, 7-5 victory of Jamie Hampton, so confidence is buildingConfidence is one thing, but she knows like the rest, that nothing is easy on the WTA Tour.

Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and the intersection of sports and technology for the likes of Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Examiner.com.  He also hosts the popular “The Tech of Sports” radio show and podcast at http://netcaststudio.com/ .  You can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell