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Weekly Debrief – Lil Wayne Gives his US Open Picks, Federer’s Coaching Change, and ATP Pros’ “Busted Racquets”

The US Open goes into full swing today, but the week leading up to the event is sometimes even more full of headlines! There are coaching changes for Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, Murray has a chance to pocket $2.7 million, rapper Lil Wayne gives his picks for US Open champs on both the men’s and women’s side and Sergiy Stakhovsky captured his fourth title in New Haven over the weekend. I leave you off with links to free live streaming of the US Open online and a heart-warming racquet-busting story.

Murray could pocket a cool $2.7 million

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic

AndyMurray shakes hands with Novak Djokovic after their practice session on Saturday, August 28, 2010.

Andy Murray clinched the 2010 Olympus US Open Series, edging out Roger Federer and Mardy Fish who took second and third place, respectively. It was Murray’s title in Toronto and finals’ appearance in Los Angeles this summer that allowed him to take the lead. If he goes all the way at Flushing Meadows, he could walk away with a cool $2.7 million, the largest payout in tennis history. At that point, I’m sure he could pretty much hire any coach he would like. After all, it would be hard to say ‘No’ to a US Open slam champion.

Federer hires Paul Annacone as coach

Speaking of coaching changes, Roger Federer announced on his website that he would be working with Pete Sampras’ old coach, Paul Annacone. During a media conference at the US Open on Saturday, Federer stated that Annacone has “moved from a test trial to integrating him into the team now.” Severin Luthi, Federer’s current coach and Swiss Davis Cup captain, will continue working with Federer as Annacone finishes his commitments to the British Lawn Tennis Association this fall. Afterwhich, the three will work together: “I just think the dynamics work really well with Severin and Paul and me,” Federer stated. “I can go with a very clear mind-set into the matches.”

Roger Federer with Paul Annacone

Roger Federer on the practice courts at the US Open. (Image via GoToTennisBlog)

On top of coaching Sampras to nine of his major titles, Annacone has also coached the greats of Marat Safin and Tim Henman. Federer has already worked with coaches Darren Cahill, Peter Lundgren, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche, so it will be interesting to see how long this new relationship with Annacone lasts. But for now, we are convinced he is a good influence on Federer’s psyche: Annacone brings “his experience … he’s a very nice guy and he’s very calm and speaks as experience from a player and as a coach, as well,” led on Federer. “We speak occasionally about Pete [Sampras] and about how he was with him or about his experience and stuff. I know so much about Pete already that I never try to copy him. I never try to be like him, but I tried to learn from him as a junior because he was my hero growing up. So definitely when I do hear stories from Paul about Pete it can be inspiring.” Federer, being a family man himself, then continued on: “I guess he also had kids early as a player, so he knows how to handle that. You know, it’s just nice to hear, you know, a different voice for a change.”

Hewitt going coachless into US Open

On the flip side, Aussie Lleyton Hewitt will be going ‘coachless’ into this year’s US Open. Citing family reasons, coach Nathan Healey has parted ways after only one year with Hewitt. Hewitt has only had two full matches on the hard court this summer and that could pose a problem as far as gaining a rhythm against his tough first-round opponent, Paul-Henri Mathieu. He could then face Roger Federer in the third round.

Rapper Lil Wayne chooses his picks for the US Open from jail

This week, the tennis world found one of its biggest and most-famous fans in an unlikely place: a New York jail. American rapper Lil Wayne is currently serving out an eight-month weapons charge sentence on Rikers Island, but has always been an avid tennis fan.

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne responded to a Sports Illustrated request via SI stationery and gave both his men’s and women’s winners for the US Open. Before revealing his picks, he showcased his knowledge of tennis stats and history and even counted himself as a fan boy of Andre Agassi growing up.

He claims to “love the Williams sisters” and “simply adore Maria Sharapova” but neither were his pick to win the US Open. He chose to give “the edge to Clijsters … due to Serena’s right foot” on the women’s side.

On the men’s side, he also claimed to be a “huge Nadal fan …. He simply plays with pure passion and leaves it all out there on the court,” Lil Wayne wrote. “With Del Potro pulling out of this year’s Open with injury, Nadal’s only threats are obviously Federer, Djokovic, and Roddick’s aggressive play, but the player that scares me the most is Andy Murray, who’s beaten Rafael four times. Even still I say ‘Nadal wins it all.'”

You can go hear to read Lil Wayne’s full letter: http://us-open-tennis.si.com/2010/08/27/lil-wayne-backs-nadal-clijsters-in-u-s-open/

2010 US Open Men’s Preview with Steve Flink

TennisChannel.com columnist Steve Flink is a long-time veteran of tennis, having been both a statistician for televised matches and an editor for a tennis magazine. He gives us an in-depth preview to the men’s side.

Stakhovsky caputres fourth career title and “ready for the US Open”

Ukranian Sergiy Stakhovsky captured his fourth career title this week in New Haven, CT at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament, defeating Uzbek Denis Istomin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In what has become tradition for tennis players, Stakhovsky kisses his Pilot Pen trophy.

Stakhovsky not only overcame the rain delay this week by playing two matches on Thursday, but his run included three three-setters as well — a grueling task for any player. As his reward, he gained 250 ATP World Tour points, $93,360 and improves to 23-18 on the season. He also went up 11 spots and sits at a comfortable 36 in today’s published ATP rankings.

“It was really an exhausting week for me,” stated Stakhovsky. “A lot of three sets. A lot of tiebreaks. Just a lot of time on court. Just now I have to get myself together and get ready for the US Open. I’m really glad to win this title. It pushed me to another level again. But I just need to think forward again and get ready.” Stakhovsky is slated to take on Aussie Peter Luczak in the first round of the US Open which kicks off today, and could face seed #15 Ivan Ljubicic in the second round.

Watch the US Open online for free!
Don’t have access to the televised matches at this year’s US Open? No problem! You can now watch online via several websites. I actually prefer the multi-court coverage on USOpen.org’s own site (http://www.usopen.org/en_US/interactive/video/live.html?promo=subnav) or ESPN3.com’s interface. Other free (and international-friendly) notable sites include:

Live Score Hunter: http://www.livescorehunter.com/Livescores/Livescore-Tennis.html

MyP2P:  http://ht.ly/2wYcC

ATDHE: http://atdhe.net/index.html

Channel Surfing: http://channelsurfing.net/

ATP Bonus:

Ever wonder what happens to those busted racquets players demolish in a rage of fit on-court or in the locker room? Well, wonder no more. ESPN.com contributor Patrick Hruby takes a unique look at a little-known secret showcased on the walls of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC.

Racquets of ATP pros Gael Monfils and Marat Safin, only two of the many racquest on display.

For the past few years, head laundry/locker attendant Alex Cordier has started ‘velcro’-ing racquets that ATP pros have broken while at the tournament. There is nothing like it in the world and you won’t find this “wall of shame” at any other ATP tournament either. But, it’s pure gold and worth a look at the photos and stories — had me laughing! http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hruby/100827_atp_broken_rackets

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP Tour. We’ve got you covered!

US Open Preview: Murray vs Federer

Andy Murray’s recent impressive defence of his Toronto Master’s title following back to back victories over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, has meant that once again he is one of the firm favourites for the US Open which starts tomorrow.

The final marked a welcome return to the more aggressive style of play witnessed before the devastating psychological impact of losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open at the start of the year. The Canadian fans were treated to a more focused and mature performance from the young Scot, unnerved by the rain delays and the prospect of facing his arch nemesis once again, prevailing 7-5, 7-5 to record his first title victory of the season.

The win brought Murray’s head to head record to seven wins out of twelve against the majestic Swiss master, but the world waits with baited breath to see whether he can maintain his form throughout the grueling two weeks of a Grand Slam or simply continue his reign as the best player never to have won a major.

Murray remains confident of his chances and revealed, “I feel very fresh after taking a couple of days off after reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati and right now I’m fine physically. The Toronto win was very good for the confidence and now I’ve been in New York, a city I love, for a week. I feel good which is important because I know I have got to produce my best tennis.”

Indeed, on recent form and the shape of the US Open draw, Murray is likely to face Federer once again in the final, with Rafael Nadal certainly less impressive during the American hard court season. While each feels equally confident of victory, their summer preparations couldn’t have been further apart.

Murray has spent the summer enjoying his rekindled romance with Kim Sears, whilst Federer has had to come to terms with balancing being a father to twins with the pressures of the tour; a fact he has taken into consideration when taking on the advice of new coach, Paul Annacone, who also had children early in his playing career. Meanwhile, in July Murray chose to sever ties with his coach of two and a half years, Miles Maclagan.

Will Murray carry on his good form and survive the two weeks unscathed as a lone ranger or will Federer succeed with the inspiration and insight of his new right hand man and former coach of Pete Sampras? Or will a certain Spaniard spoil the party? Be sure to tune and join the rollercoaster ride at Flushing Meadows, but remember to hold on to your hats and glasses folks, as we’re certainly in for some unpredictable twists and turns!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates @thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

Coach Changes For Federer and Murray: The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Coach Onboard – One of the two big news stories that broke earlier in the week was that Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer has announced that he’ll be working with American coach Paul Annacone. Paul Annacone is one of the most respected coaches in the sport, and his work speaks for itself. He’s had the experience of dealing with a legend of the game in Pete Sampras, as well as helping a guy discover his best form late in a career as shown in his work with Tim Henman. With the possible exception of someone like a Darren Cahill, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Federer at this stage in his career. The move also represents just one more signal that Federer is still hungry and is committed to getting back to the top, and he’s not afraid to admit that he may not be able to do it solo. Annacone still has some lingering commitments to the LTA before the two can consider going fulltime, but this has all the makings of another positive turnaround in Federer’s career.

Coach Overboard
– On the opposite end of the coaching carousel is the news concerning Andy Murray and Miles Maclagan. Murray announced that after just less than three years, he is parting ways with Maclagan. Murray explained the reasons behind the split, with most of them stemming from MacLagan and Murray having differing opinions about where he is and how to get to where he wants to be. I’m inclined to see this as a very positive move for Murray, and it’s no disrespect to Maclagan. He’s done a great job with Murray, taking him to two Grand Slam finals and the No. 2 singles ranking. But there’s no doubt that Murray’s career has at best stalled, and at worst, has been in a steady decline since the Aussie Open final, excluding his unexpected run to the semis of Wimbledon. Murray is in no rush to replace Maclagan and will be staying with his part-time coach, former professional Alex Corretja, through the US Open before reevaluating the situation. Sometimes a ball of negative energy, Andy Murray can undoubtedly be a handful to coach, but there’s bound to be a nice selection of coaching candidates willing to harness that emotion and take a talented player like Murray to the next level. Stay tuned…

Fish Flying High – Confident coming off his win in Newport, Fish continued to accumulate the victories with his second straight tournament win in the inaugural ATP event in Atlanta. Battling the competition and searing summer temperatures, Fish hung on to take a third set tiebreak over fellow American John Isner in the final. It’s great to see Mardy’s hard work to get in better shape and bounce back from injury is paying dividends in a relatively short window of time. It’s also good to see him playing it smart, opting to withdraw from singles competition in Los Angeles in order to rest and give his tweaked ankle an opportunity to recuperate (and it’s probably not such a bad thing his attempt to win the doubles was abruptly cut short by the Bryan Brothers). If Fish continues to grow in confidence, he could be a dangerous floater this summer, and with his ranking jumping yet another 14 places after his performance in Atlanta, he may even earn a seed for the final major of 2010.


The Road Back?
– Less publicized over the weekend was former World No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze’s win over Johanna Larsson to win the Slovenia Open. Chakvetadze seems to have predominantly (and understandably) gone in a downward spiral ever since the traumatic robbery experience she and her family endured at their family home in Moscow in late 2007. With her ranking now outside the top 100, Chakvetadze has been a mere shadow of the Top 5 player she once was, but this win in Slovenia may just give the Russian the confidence she needs to get her ranking and her game going in the right direction once again.

Not Hanging it Up…Yet – Earlier in the year, James Blake looked all but ready to retire. He wasn’t enjoying himself on the court, the wheels had come off his game, and he was playing with pain and a lingering injury. Now, after playing without pain and earning a relatively routine win over Leonardo Mayer in his opening match L.A. , Blake is feeling much more positive about his game. His current approach couldn’t be better, setting small goals and just enjoying being out on the court. Blake has always been one of the better sportsmen in the game, and he’s had some great results in his career. Will he get back into the Top 20? Top 50? That’s hard to say, but it’s great to see that Blake may at least be able to go out on a positive note and on his terms when the time comes.

Check World Tennis Magazine’s Interview with James Blake:

Tennis People – Murray And Federer Looking At New Coaches, Del Potro May Make US Open And Golubev Another “Tennis First”

*World No. 4 Andy Murray and coach Miles Maclagan have parted ways after nearly three years working together. Maclagan has always been reportedly uneasy with Murray’s insistence on keeping Alex Corretja as an advisor although the split is reported to be amicable. “I’ve had a great relationship with Miles over the past two-and-a-half years and I want to thank him for his positive contribution to my career,” said Murray. “We have had a lot of success and fun working together.” Maclagan said of the situation: “It’s been a privilege to work with Andy as his coach and I’m happy to have played my part in his career. I also want to thank the team for all their hard work over the years and I will miss working with them and Andy on a day-to-day basis. Andy is a great player and I know he will continue to have the success his talent and hard work deserves.” Murray was No. 11 in the world when the pair began working together in 2007 so the success has been plain for all to see. Murray will work with Corretja until the US Open later this year and then review the situation further.

*In other coaching news, Roger Federer is having a trial period working with former Pete Sampras and Tim Henman coach Paul Annacone. Federer is now ranked No. 3 in the world following being knocked out at the quarter final stage of the past two Slams and he said: “I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his official website. “As Paul winds down his responsibilities working for the Lawn Tennis Association, we will explore our relationship through this test period. Paul will work alongside my existing team and I am excited to learn from his experiences.” An LTA spokesperson told BBC Sport: “As outlined in Roger Federer’s statement, Paul will do a number of days with Roger as he winds down his work with the LTA.”

*The USTA is claiming that defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro is “expected” to return from injury at the US Open finals despite missing much of the year since his miraculous win over Roger Federer in the final. The player’s agent, Ugo Colombini, added that: “Del Potro is working and hopefully he will get back soon.” Del Potro has also spoken out saying he will play the Thailand Open starting September 27 so the three parties are offering differing opinions. “I am looking forward to playing the PTT Thailand Open on my return from injury,” said Del Potro. “I really enjoyed myself on my last visit to Bangkok and hope for good results at this year’s tournament.” World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has also been confirmed for the event.

*There has been yet another “tennis first” for 2010 with Andrey Golubev becoming the first player from Kazakhstan to lift an ATP Tour title by defeating the Austrian Jurgen Melzer in Hamburg. “I’m really excited,” he said. “I can’t believe what happens now in Kazakhstan. I’m really, really happy to make a page in the history of the country. I’m a little bit surprised but I believe in my game on all surfaces so that was the key.” A full interview with the beaming champ can be viewed now over at the ATP website.

*The lineup for the Malaysian Open, beginning September 25, is looking very tantalising. World No. 5 Robin Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko (6), Tomas Berdych (8) and David Ferrer (12) are the main draws. Mikhail Youzhny (14), Nicolas Almagro (18), popular Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (25) and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt (30) will also be big crowd-pullers.

*Two former World No. 1s have been talking about renewed faith in their games in the women’s game this week. Russian Dinara Safina has admitted that: “players aren’t afraid of me anymore,” in an interview with TennisReporters.net. “Now I have to earn back their respect. Now it’s a new time for me,” she continued. “I’m playing well but you need a breakthrough and in many matches I’m playing, I’m just not closing them up. I’m playing better and trying to win matches, but I need to start to cruise and I’m not there yet.” On the same website, the leaner-looking Serb Ana Ivanovic has been speaking in a similar vein. “I’ve been working a lot on foot work drills and that’s been something in my game that’s been lacking,” she said. “I’m better getting into balls into the corners and that’s important. I feel like I got the joy back like when I was 16 or 17 rather than feeling like I have so much pressure on me,” the 22-year-old continued. “I still think I’m very young. It all comes down to pressure because regardless of my ranking I still have a lot of expectations of myself. If I can reduce that it will be a huge step for me.”

*Maria Sharapova has announced that she is finally overcoming her troublesome shoulder problems and is able to serve with her old service motion more easily. “I knew eventually I would go back, I just didn’t quite know when,” said Sharapova, who underwent shoulder surgery in October 2008. “But I knew that if I was going to come back when I did last year, I had to start with an abbreviated motion. I’m just trying to work myself toward the U.S. Open,” she added. “I’m just happy to be back playing.”

*Jelena Jankovic expects to be fit for next week’s event in San Diego despite twisting her ankle in Portoroz. “Unfortunately, in my second round match, I was up 6-1, 2-0 and went running for a ball and twisted my ankle. I had to retire and I haven’t hit since then. I’m still recovering,” said Jankovic on her website. “I came back to Serbia afterwards and have a whole team of doctors helping me get healthy as fast as possible. I’m hoping to leave for San Diego in the next few days. I love it there. That’s where my new house is going to be. Next year in San Diego, I’ll be playing at home.”

*James Blake is now backtracking on the retirement thoughts he had after exiting Wimbledon following a vast improvement in his knee. “I’ve done a complete 180,” Blake was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. “Wimbledon was a pretty disappointing time. I wasn’t able to train, but now I’m feeling great, the knee is feeling good.”

Bottom of Form

*After the Dane Caroline Wozniacki recently turned 20 years old the mantle of top-ranked teen in the Sony Ericsson WTA rankings falls on the young shoulders of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 2006 ITF World Junior Champion took time out of her practice schedule to talk to the WTA website about her life on the circuit. “I was the best in juniors, and then everyone expected me to be the best in the pros quite quickly, which I did also expect,” said the 19-year-old. “But sometimes now I feel juniors doesn’t really matter so much – the real tennis starts after you stop playing those events. It’s a pretty tough step mentally, even for me. You just have to try to handle it and pass it.” You can catch up with the full interview here.

*Former tennis star Roscoe Tanner is reportedly wanted by the authorities once more for failing to pay maintenance on his many children from various relationships. The two-time Aussie Open champ has been in and out of prison over the last decade for various offences and has spent much more time in hiding from the law. A defendant of one of his ex wives said: “Mr. Tanner, I would say, is one of the most difficult people we have ever dealt with, just to comply with basic court orders.” You can see the full report at the American News Channel 9 website.

*In this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings Mardy Fish (No. 35, 14 places), Hamburg winner Andrey Golubev (No. 37, 45) and Florian Mayer (No. 40, 14) have all seen great rises in the rankings. Donald Young of the USA enters the Top 100 at No. 99 as does Pablo Andujar of Spain who leaps 19 places to No. 100.

*There are a few career bests in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings following last week’s play. After winning in Bad Gastein, Julia Georges entered the Top 50 for the first time at No. 42 while Timea Bacsinszky, Georges’ victim, is now ranked No. 39, within touching distance of her career best No. 37. Portoroz runner-up Johanna Larsson of Sweden also achieved a career-best No. 66 after leaping from No. 84.

*The hottest player on the ATP Tour right now, Mardy Fish, has revealed it was a mixture of fatigue and an ankle injury which forced him to withdraw from the LA Open this week. “Due to fatigue and a sprained ankle in Atlanta, I am not in good shape to play,” the 28-year-old said in an official statement. “I need to rest in order to compete at a high level.”

*American star James Blake has been answering fans’ questions via the new ATP World Tour Facebook page. Giving his views on the perks of being a pro, his favourite female star and Lady Gaga he gives a range of insights in to his lifestyle. You can see the full Q+A at the ATP website.