Three South American tennis players who play Davis Cup for their countries highlight entries into the 2016 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships to be played April 22 to May 1 at The Boulevard Tennis Club in Vero Beach, Florida.
Juan Carlos Saez of Chile, Federico Zeballos of Bolivia and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador – all who are current members of their nation’s Davis Cup team – are among the 18 direct entries into the $10,000 U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Pro Circuit “Futures” event that has been played in Vero Beach consecutively since 1995.
Seven of the 18 direct entries into the Vero Beach field, in fact, are from South America, also including 2014 Wimbledon junior boys doubles champion Marcelo Zormann from Brazil, Federico Coria from Argentina, the younger brother of 2004 French Open singles finalist Guillermo Coria, and Alejandro Gomez of Colombia, one of the fastest servers in tennis history. Gomez hit the 41st-fastest recorded serve in tennis history last year in the ATP Tour event in Claro, Colombia when he hit a serve 141 miles per hour.
Among the leading European entries are 2009 French Open junior runner-up Gianni Mina of France, nick-named “Baby Monfils” as a comparison to his massively-talented and entertaining fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils. Mina has the distinction of having had the opportunity of playing “The King of Clay” Rafael Nadal in the first round of the 2010 French Open, losing 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Other Europeans in the field include the top-ranked player entered Robin Stanek, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, ranked a career-high No. 267, Peter Heller and Nico Matic of Germany and Pedro Martinez Portero, an 18-year-old from Valencia, Spain.
Four Americans received direct entries into the field, highlighted by former three-time All-American from the University of Michigan Evan King of Chicago as the leading U.S. entry. King is joined by Deiton Baughman, 19, of Carson, California, a U.S. Open main draw doubles participant in 2015, Evan Song of Henderson, Nevada, and former University of Illinois All-American Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee, Illinois.
The youngest entry is 16-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who won the U.S. Open junior doubles title last year and also led Canada to victory in the 2015 Junior Davis Cup competition.
Tickets for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation ($10 for qualifying rounds, $20 for the main draw, free for children age 18 and under, $100 for a tournament pass) are for sale now at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com and at the front gate at the event. All proceeds from the event benefit the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the non-profit tennis foundation benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis star, U.S. Davis Cup hero and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games. Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,100 children in 15 elementary schools and six middle schools in Indian River County, Florida by providing after-school exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs in a safe environment to prepare them for healthy, productive and successful lives. The Foundation introduced the “Six Healthy Habits” in 2012 which are Get Sleep; Drink Water; Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy; Brush and Floss; Make Friends.” Mardy Fish recently completed his ATP professional tennis career at the 2015 U.S. Open, highlighted by a career-high ranking of No. 7, six ATP singles titles, eight ATP doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal in singles at the 2004 Olympics. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and was a mainstay on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 2002 to 2012.
Some of the past competitors in Vero Beach have gone on to succeed at the highest levels of professional tennis, winning major singles and doubles titles, Olympic medals and Davis Cup championships and earning No. 1 world rankings. Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion who attained the world No. 1 ranking and helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 2007 competed in Vero Beach in 1999. Thomas Johansson of Sweden, who reached the second round of the Vero Beach Futures in 1995, won the Australian Open seven years later in 2002. Nicolas Massu, the 1998 singles runner-up in Vero Beach, won the singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, beating Fish in the gold medal singles match. Kyle Edmund, the 2013 champion in Vero Beach, helped Great Britain to the Davis Cup title in 2015. Other notable former competitors in Vero Beach include former world No. 2 Magnus Norman, former world No. 4 Tim Henman, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic among others. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Six former Vero Beach players have gone on to play Davis Cup for the United States – Roddick, Fish, Taylor Dent, Jared Palmer, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.
The qualifying rounds of the event will be held April 22 – April 25 while the main draw of singles and doubles will be held April 26 – May 1. Fans can follow news and developments on the tournament on Facebook and on Twitter at @VeroFutures and by going to the website www.TennisVeroBeach.com
by Kevin Craig
- John Isner hit the fastest official serve in tennis history with a 157 mph serve late in the third set of his singles match on Sunday against Bernard Tomic. In the match, Isner hit 49 aces and zero double faults. The 49 aces is the second most in a Davis Cup world group match, as well as any four-set match. The most aces hit in a Davis Cup World Group match was by Ivo Karlovic in 2009 when he hit 78 aces, and the most aces hit in a four-set match was by Joachim Johansson who hit 51 aces in the 2005 Australian Open. Sam Groth hit a 163 mph serve in a Challenger in South Korea in 2012, but not recognized by the ATP as an official record due to the inconsistent nature of the type of radar used on the Challenger level. Isner also made tennis history winning the longest match ever played, 11 hours, 5 minutes against Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set.
- Marcos Baghdatis surpassed Bjorn Borg for the record of longest Davis Cup win streak. Baghdatis has now won 36 singles rubbers in a row with his most recent loss coming to Irakli Labadze in 2003.
- Jarrko Nieminen of Finland and Emilio Gomez of Ecuador won their Davis Cup singles rubbers on Friday by a score of 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. It was the first time in history that there were two triple bagels in the same day for Davis Cup.
- Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski won the first set and first match in the World Group in Poland’s Davis Cup history, defeating Carlos Berlocq and Renzo Olivo of Argentina in the doubles rubber.
- The Czech Republic improved to 15-0 when Tomas Berdych wins a singles rubber on the first day and the doubles rubber with Radek Stepanek as they defeated Germany, 3-2.
- Chile has now won five straight ties 5-0 since 2014. They have swept Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia consecutively.
- Andrey Rublev won a challenger in Quimper, France this week. The title is the 10th for teenagers on the challenger circuit since the start of 2015 after Taylor Fritz and Hyeon Chung each won three, while Alex Zverev, Jared Donaldson, Borna Coric, and now Rublev have one each.
by Kevin Craig
Andy Murray won the Davis Cup title for Great Britain on Sunday in Ghent, Belgium as he defeated David Goffin, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to clinch the 3-1 victory over the Belgians. The title is the first for Great Britain since 1936. Murray was able to lead his team to victory by going 11-0 in his Davis Cup matches this year.
Murray opened up the match confidently and controlled play with his serve, only losing seven points in the first set in his service games. The British No. 1 was also able to play a very steady game on the ground, only making six unforced errors and hitting 11 winners, leading five break chances total. On the other side of the court, Goffin was only able to earn one break point in the set, and was unsuccessful in converting. Combine that with a first serve percentage below 50 percent, and you have the recipe for an easy first set victory for Murray.
The second set was tighter, as the score line would suggest, as the only break came in the 11th game of the set. There were three other games in the set that went beyond deuce, including one that lasted 16 points. After being taken to deuce twice in his first service game of the set, Murray was able to hold at love three games in a row, and then only lose four points in his last two service games, allowing him to make his way to a comfortable two sets to love lead.
Goffin looked to have some life in the beginning of the third set, breaking Murray in his first service game. Unfortunately for the Belgian, though, Murray was able to break right back. The Brit went on to break twice later in the set, as well, leading to a comfortable third set victory. One of the breaks came at love, and the other came to close out the match for Murray. Match point was an amazing point between the two stars, and it ended with Murray turning some incredible defense into a backhand lob winner to give Great Britain the Davis Cup title.
This title for Great Britain is just another great achievement on the long list of Murray’s, going along with his Wimbledon and US Open titles, as well as his Olympic gold medal. Murray concludes his magical 2015 Davis Cup run after getting wins over John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, and Bernard Tomic along the way.
This win also sees each of the members of the Big Four having Davis Cup titles, as Roger Federer won in 2014, Novak Djokovic in 2010, and Rafael Nadal in 2004, 2009, and 2011. Now the highest ranked player without a Davis Cup title is Kei Nishikori at No. 8 in the world. The 2016 edition of Davis Cup begins on March 4th, and will hopefully see as much excitement as the 2015 edition.
by Kevin Craig
Great Britain took a massive step towards securing their first Davis Cup title since 1936 by defeating Belgium in the doubles rubber on Saturday in Ghent. The British team of Andy and Jamie Murray were able to defeat the Belgian team of Steve Darcis and David Goffin in a tight four set match.
The Brits won the match by a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score line, fighting off a resilient performance from the home team. The first set was straightforward for the Murray brothers, only making four unforced errors and saving the only break point they faced. The Belgians kept it tight, though, as only three points separated the two sides in the first set.
Darcis and Goffin continued to play well into the second set, and were able to prolong the match by getting a break and winning the set. The Belgians controlled play with their serve, making 80 percent of their first serves and winning five out of the six points played on their second serve. This success on serve allowed them to apply pressure on the Great Britain service games, leading to three break point opportunities. Again, the set was very tight throughout, as this time only two points separated the teams.
The third set saw the momentum shift in the favor of the Brits as the overall quality of the match dropped. The third set saw five breaks total, but the advantage in that department went to the Murray brothers as they broke three times, compared to the Belgians’ two. Darcis and Goffin struggled on their first serve, only winning 29 percent of their first serve points, allowing the Brits to see four break chances. The Murray brothers didn’t perform at their highest level, either, but they were able to play the bigger points better, allowing them to take a two sets to one lead.
The fourth set was determined by which team was more efficient on break chances, and that was Great Britain. Belgium had a lot of opportunities, but succeeded on none of them, wasting seven break chances in the fourth set. On the other side of the net, the Murray brothers only had two break chances, but took advantage of both of them, allowing them to win the set, and the match, with a comfortable double break.
Many were surprised by the fact that Goffin was chosen to play the doubles over Ruben Bemelmans, a player with much more success in his doubles career. While Goffin may be a much better player all around, Bemelmans had been a successful part of Belgium’s doubles teams for the past few years. The decision to not play Bemelmans may not have ultimately changed the outcome of the match, but Great Britain is now able to head into Sunday knowing they only need one win to take home the Davis Cup title. With Murray playing the first match of the day, British tennis fans hope they will be celebrating early.
by Kevin Craig
The Davis Cup final being played between Belgium and Great Britain saw exciting action on Friday, as David Goffin was able to come back from two sets to love down to beat Kyle Edmund, while Andy Murray was able to level the tie with a straight sets win over Ruben Bemelmans. While the tie is being played on clay in Belgium, the Brits had an advantage coming into the tie as they have the No. 2 player in the world on their side, as well as a dominant doubles pairing. This advantage was not lost with the results on Friday, but was actually almost given a boost as Edmund was a set away from pulling off a major upset.
Goffin was able to outlast a blistering start from Edmund in the first match of the day, winning 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, to give Belgium the early lead. The incredible start from Edmund was a shock to the tennis world, as it was his first Davis Cup match and that the match was being played in Belgium, on clay, against a Top 20 player. Edmund had been in great form recently as he had just won a challenger tournament on clay in Bueons Aires. Despite the good form, no one expected Edmund to shoot out to a two sets to love lead, including everyone on the Belgium sideline. Edmund was able to take advantage of Goffin’s poor first service percentage, 44 percent in the first set and 38 percent in the second set, to apply pressure on the Belgian’s serve. Combine that with 13 unforced errors in the first two sets, compared to Edmund’s four, and you have a two sets to love lead for the Brit. That hot start was unable to last, though, as Goffin was quickly able to turn things around, getting a break early in the third. This was the clear momentum shift in the match, as everything started going Belgium’s way from this point forward. Goffin only lost 17 points on serve in the last three sets and was able to begin dominating play as Edmund’s legs appeared to disappear from beneath him. Edmund started the match brilliantly given the situation, but it was disappointing to see him barely able to move around the court in the last few games of the match. While the win for Goffin gave them a much needed point in the Davis Cup final, Edmund and the Brits can take a positive out of the fact the match was not as much of a must-win for them as it was for the Belgians, as the Brits have Murray to rely on in three of the five rubbers.
Murray was able to take care of business in his match and pick up Edmund, beating Bemelmans 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. Murray was able to take control of the match early and never lose his grip, breaking Bemelmans six times total and making 18 less unforced errors than his opponent. Bemelmans made a lot of new fans around the world on Friday as he was able to put up a fight with the World No. 2 and showcase his exciting style of play, littering the stat sheet with 34 winners. Bemelmans efforts in this tie are far from over, despite the loss, as he could possibly feature again in the doubles rubber and a potential live fifth rubber. Murray, on the other hand, knows for sure that he will be playing two more ties, and will be able to take the Davis Cup tie into his own hands as he has the potential to win all three points for Great Britain.
The end results of the matches from Friday finished as expected, but the tennis world is still buzzing about the performance put on by Edmund in his Davis Cup debut. While he was unable to get a pivotal win for his side, he instilled fear into the Belgian team and let the world know that he will be a force in the future. Murray’s win set up a very interesting doubles rubber on Saturday that could be viewed as a must-win for the Belgians. In a Davis Cup final match-up that no one would have predicted initially, fans around the world are being treated to as much excitement as they would from any other match-up.
Great Britain and Belgium go head-to-head in the Final of the Davis Cup next month, in one of the most unlikely match ups in Davis Cup history – Britain last reached the Final in 1978 and haven’t actually won it since 1936, whilst Belgian haven’t made it since 1904!
The current world number two, Andy Murray, will be leading the charge for the Brits, having beaten Australia’s Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the semis. His main opponent will be David Goffin, who is currently ranked 16th, but who lost to Murray in their last meeting at Wimbledon in straight sets.
Can Andy Murray Handle The Clay Surface?
Belgium, the hosts, have the advantage of being able to choose the surface for the Final, and have opted for an indoors clay court at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo in Ghent. Whilst using clay doesn’t particularly suit the Belgians, they will have calculated that playing on the game’s slowest surface is their best chance of beating Murray, who says it is his least favorite surface.
Murray tweeted after the decision was announced: “So Ghent on the clay for the Davis Cup final – very pumped! Think clay is a good surface for us”. However, this could be a bit of a bluff: notice he says good surface “for us”, and not “for me”.
Murray has, in fact, had quite a good season on clay so far (for example, he managed to beat Rafael Nadal to win the Madrid Masters), so he might be more concerned about adjusting to the slower surface, right after playing a run of games on hard courts at the World Tour Finals. He said in an interview: “If you reach the final and play on the Sunday you also need to take time off – you can’t just play five matches against the best players in the world and then not take any days off.”
Will Murray sacrifice his spot in the World Tour Finals for the Great Britain team though? It would be a historic occasion for the nation. However, Chris Kermode, executive president of the ATP, has categorically ruled out Murray missing the final, which therefore puts his Davis Cup Final in doubt. Murray would have to forfeit £570,000 or so in bonus-pool payments for the 2015 season, in order to bolster his chances in Belgium – certainly not a decision to take lightly.
Will The Belgian Team Rise to The Occasion?
A lot of Belgian hope rests on the narrow shoulders of David Goffin. At 24-years-old, Goffin is light, agile and certainly a dangerous opponent for Murray. This year he won all four of his Davis Cup singles matches to help take Belgium into their first final in 111 years.
But despite his excellence, the Belgium team lacks strength in depth. Their second singles player is likely to be Steve Darcis, ranked 81st in the world, with Ruben Bemelmans (86) and Kimmer Coppejans (116) expected to complete the line-up. But on the other side, Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot all make formidable options in the British doubles team.
Can the Belgian’s pull together for the occasion?
by David Foster
(The following is written by David Foster, who heads up the U.S. Davis Cup Team’s cheer squad “The Netheads.” David was the one and only non-USTA delegation fan from the United States to travel to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for the recent USA vs. Uzbekistan Davis Cup series. To get involved with the Netheads, email David at [email protected] and mentioned “Nethead” in the subject line)
Going to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for the USA vs. Uzbekistan Davis Cup Playoff Round was an unbelievable trip! There were super friendly Uzbeks, super pretty girls (for some reason as I get older girls keep getting prettier), awesome American support from the Marines and the Embassy staff, a beautiful city and beautiful weather.
I arrived in Tashkent at 2:45AM on the Wednesday before the Friday start. The USTA provided a special envoy to get me to VIP customs and then a ride to hotel. That was a nice start.
After a few hours sleep, I headed for Amir Temur park to see the statue of this great Uzbek leader from the 1300s. Within half hour of my first walk in Tashkent, two pretty Uzbek girls (students) asked if they could ask me survey questions on video. Never being able to turn down a pretty girl in any country, I consented. They asked me to compare US (60 years for me) to Uzbekistan (30 minutes on street). All I could say is Tashkent is much cleaner than American cities. After videos were done, one for each girl, they asked me if I thought Uzbek girls were pretty. Geez, did they pick the right person to ask? But what was funny was that in one article I read about going to Uzbekistan it stated you should not comment on ladies’ looks. Well, I bypassed the article and stated, yes, Uzbek girls are pretty.
I then sat on bench in park to watch people. Watching moms with their kids showed me once more people are all the same in the world. I just wish governments could get along. I had two folks ask me for directions before I could say “Ingliz.” It happens everywhere I go.
Then I committed my first American error. I stopped at ATM to get some “som” (Uzbek currency). The ATM had English on the initial screen but after I entered my card, there was no English option. Being a smart American, I thought I know what it is asking (pin number first, then do I want withdrawal) even though it was in Uzbek. I finally got to screen that had 50, 100, 150, 200, 300, 400. So I assumed this is stating how much in US dollars to I want to be given in som. I hit 100 and low and behold a Ben Franklin $100 bill came out of the machine. I have never been anywhere where foreign ATM had an option for US dollars.
To tell you what prices are like in Uzbekistan, when I went to hotel exchange desk to convert my Ben Franklin, the lady questioned why I would want to convert the whole thing. She asked “are you sure you are going to spend all that?”
The draw was held in courtyard at the hotel, the Lotte Palace Hotel. After draw I went on long walk (4 miles each way) to visit the US Embassy. Unfortunately, I followed the Google map directions I had and I never found it. I asked several Uzbeks for help but they couldn’t even recognize the street names. After wandering around neighborhood for a while I just headed back to hotel. But I did get to see non-downtown section of city and see mucho people so all was not lost.
On Friday, I took a taxi to tennis facility and had driver who had lived in Pittsburgh for awhile. The road to the tennis went by government offices so he pointed out presidential building (president works there and lives elsewhere) and Uzbek version of Pentagon. The highway signs on this road not only showed the speed limit but also signs indicating no pictures/videos allowed, for security purposes. The Pittsburgh driver pointed out that road was in great shape until after road where president turns to go home. Then two lanes have been under construction for years, finally turning into dirt and gravel before we got to tennis courts.
In Uzbekistan, they have instant Uber. As my Pittsburgh driver told me, every car in Tashkent is a taxi. Folks stand on side of road. A potential driver stops, they discuss location and price, and if agreement, the passenger climbs in for ride. On my taxi ride back to hotel, my driver picked up two extras and dropped one off. No official name for process – may be they should call it Uzber.
The tennis facility was interesting with seats only on one side. The capacity was maybe 2,000. Admission was free. School kids, probably age 12 to 16, filled the stadium on Friday and Saturday. They were wearing school uniforms consisting of a white shirt and black pants or skirts. We had a couple of folks from the U.S. Embassy and three U.S. Marines joining me in our small U.S. cheer section
After first match between Steve Johnson and Denis Istomin finished (Istomin winning in five sets), the students all left – but not before 50 or more stopped by me to ask for a selfie. I went off to concession store and had my picture taken with ball kids and two very pretty girls who then asked if I could get them a picture with players (never understand why they are not satisfied with me). The second match went quickly for Jack Sock in front of probably less than 300 fans. It rained, a light shower, during the match but they kept going on the clay.
In addition to selfies, I had a gentleman hand me some pictures at the end of the first match. When I got back to hotel, I discovered in middle of pictures was a visa/immigration request. I showed this info to one of embassy folks and he just assumed the person was asking me to help with visa process. That was very Interesting.
On Friday night, the Marines picked me up at hotel and we went to the embassy annex for movie and hot dogs night with embassy folks and families. They couldn’t believe I got visa to come to Uzbekistan in seven days.
On Saturday, I took a taxi early to stadium and posed for another twenty to twenty-five pictures before match. Students were there again in uniform. One young lady sat down next to me and when I told her USA girls do not go to school on Saturday and do not have to wear uniforms, she was ready to head to America. Before the match, I was able to get large group of students to do the “USA” cheer. Randy Walker, press guy for USTA, got the USA cheering on video and posted it here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56KVDZGeREQ
Three Marines joined me for doubles and we won pretty easily in three sets. We had two good players (Johnson and Sam Querrey) against one good (Istomin) and one fair player (Farrukh Dustov). After the match, the Marines gave me a ride back to hotel. It’s nice to have those guys looking out for you.
On Sunday at breakfast, a Japanese lady decided I had interesting face and asked for obligatory picture. After I finished eating, I went upstairs and came back with Nethead on and she was really excited to take another picture. She asked for an autograph and was super excited when I signed “Robert Redford.”
At the match, there were more adults than students for a change. Besides the Marines, there were probably 25 embassy folks there, including the ambassador, who sat with the USTA folks. I did not get to meet her since she was gone after I had my last session of stadium selfies. It was a good match on Sunday with Sock trying to serve it out for tie and went back and forth several times with Istomin. It let our fans experience some tension before with Sock closed it out. I got a final ride back with the Marines and thanked them for their service for us.
After the matches on Sunday afternoon, I took another walk around Amir Temur Square. (A video of this area can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-mf7VtKO8E. I saw two pretty girls ahead of me taking pictures towards the statue and, as I got close, I got another request for pictures with each one. I figured it was pictures No. 99 and 100 for the trip.
Everybody in the USTA contingent left on Sunday night, leaving me alone on Monday. I took a personal tour with an English-speaking guide, who was a very knowledgeable guy. He explained that Independence Square was originally Red Square under the Russian Empire and Lenin’s square under Soviet rule. At the 1966 earthquake statue, he explained how Soviets came in to rebuild and add new housing after earthquake damage. I then saw the World War II memorial which had books of gold with names of 500,000 Uzbek men who never came home. I also saw Osman’s Koran which many believe is oldest Koran in existence. The Koran shows Osman’s blood stains where legend is he was stabbed while reading the Koran.
My tour guide explained there is freedom of religion in Uzbekistan but not freedom of where to practice it. Muslims cannot pray in public. Minarets at mosques are for looks only. One cannot issue any calls to prayer. The government does not want religion to be involved in government at all, trying to avoid the problems of other countries – a true separation of church and state. He also told me the building secured with guards with AK-47s I had jogged past for five days was the National Security building, the old KGB. I never saw any indication of street crime during my time in Tashkent. I felt safe wherever I went. My guide indicated Uzbekistan is considered in top five safest countries in the world. In discussion on security with one of embassy staff, she stated there is security in a police state.
I left the hotel at 5PM (Monday) EST time (2AM Tuesday Uzbek time) and got back to my condo in Atlanta at midnight EST Tuesday – 31 hours of travel. It was an uneventful trip except for a two-hour delay on my Paris to Atlanta flight. In Moscow, I saw the prettiest TSA person I’ve ever seen. It was the only time I’ve ever wanted to set off the buzzer and require a pat down! I told her she was prettier than agents in USA, but either she did not understand or she was just giving me the normal cold shoulder I usually get!
By Michael Lemort
Could Federer win the Davis Cup for the first time of his career and be No. 1 again by the end of the season?
After his success in Shanghai, his 23rd Masters 1000 title, with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal, Roger Federer became No. 2 at the race, overtaking Rafael Nadal. After a very solid year, even though he didnt win a major title, the Swiss player could manage to finish the year ranked No. 1 if he obtains better results than Djokovic in the last tournaments left this year. He is playing Basle, his home tournament (where he reached the final last year), then the Masters 1000 in Paris at Bercy and finally the Masters Cup in London – reaching the semifinals of both events last year. Novak Djokovic plans to play Paris and London, knowing that he won both titles last year, which means that he could lose lots of points if he loses early.
But being ATP No. 1 again is not a priority for Federer who already holds the record for weeks in that position. And on top of that, another challenge is coming in front of him as he’s gonna play the Davis Cup final for the first time of his career. With his partner Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 4 at the race, the Swiss team has never been so close to bring the trophy home, even though playing in France on clay against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet is not going to be an easy thing. But this is probably gonna be the priority for Federer since playing for his country has always been something important for him (especially during Olympic Games). None of the French players will qualify for the Masters Cup so they will have another extra week to practice and get used to the clay courts.
Because of that busy year-ending calendar and because switching from indoor to clay in few days time won’t be easy, Federer might have to make some choices, like not playing Bercy for example (like it already happened in the past), and giving up on the No. 1 position for now if he wants to focus on the Davis Cup.
On another hand, playing and winning matches brings confidence. Entering Basel, Federer has already played 71 matches this year (61 victories), 11 more than Djokovic, 19 more than Tsonga. And he won’t probably have those opportunities facing him every year as he will turn 34 next year. But he has to think about his body and he probably hasn’t forgotten about that back injury that ruined most of his 2013 season.
Federer is a symbol of longevity and efficiency and an example about how to manage his body and career. So no doubt that he will take the good decisions, break some new records and add some new lines to his already huge career.
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Prior to competing on the 2014 PowerShares Series “legends” tennis circuit, Andy Roddick held court with the media to discuss a wide array of topics including his competitiveness, the Australian Open, Bernard Tomic, the National Football League, a potential future role with the U.S. Davis Cup team, and playing alongside legends of the game at events in Birmingham, Denver and Houston. Here’s the full conference call transcript of Roddick’s interview.
RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining today. We’re happy to welcome to the PowerShares Series tennis circuit in 2014 and to our call today Andy Roddick. Andy is going to be making his PowerShares Series debut on February 13th in Birmingham, Alabama, and will be competing in tournaments in Denver on February 19th and Houston on February 20th. The 2014 PowerShares Series starts its 12 city tour February 5th in Kansas City. For more information, including players, schedule and ticket information, you can go to www.PowerSharesSeries.com. Before we open it up to the questions for our participants, I’m going to ask Andy a question about playing in the PowerShares Series. Andy, since you were playing in the juniors, you’ve always been a very competitive guy,and Patrick McEnroe was talking on the Australian Open broadcast last night about how you were such a competitor and fought your guts out in every match you played. What is it going to be like on the PowerShares Series this year where you’re going to be able to fire up those competitive juices again?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I’d like to say that I’ll be able to be mature enough to kind of put it in perspective that it’s not what we do every day now, but I’d probably be lying to you. Even when I play these charity expos now, I kind of have to contain myself. I certainly have my share of, I guess, quasi embarrassing moments that come from being so competitive and a little too intense. I think when you get guys who are programmed from when they’re young to have a goal of trying to win something, I don’t think that goes away easily, and I’m sure when we get between the lines… listen, if there’s an option of winning and losing, you want to win. That’s just human nature.
Q. Talk about playing in Houston. You’ve had some great memories in Houston. You won your second ATP title there. You clinched the year end No. 1 there at the Tennis Masters Cup. Talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like playing in Houston.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, it’ll be great. I feel there’s so much in the early part of my career over at Westside, from the tournament to Masters Cup to we played a Davis Cup tie there, so I played there at the same club clay, hard and grass, which doesn’t happen very often. But just a lot of good memories, and it’s always a place that I certainly enjoy playing. It’s a short drive to my home in Austin, too, which is a great thing, and I’m looking forward to it.
Q. Andy, I know you’re coming to Denver, and I know you can speak on all sports; I’ve seen you on the show. Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady, two large sports personas going up against each other; does this remind you of any great rivalries in tennis or even other sports?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think Manning and Brady kind of have all the makings of a great rivalry. They’re so similar in so many ways as far as their preparation and kind of their will to win, and like any great rivalry, I think it needs to happen over time so we can get a little nostalgic about it. But at the same time there are distinct differences. Peyton can be self deprecating on Saturday Night Live, and Brady is this unbelievably good looking guy married to Giselle that has all the cool stuff in press conferences. So there is enough difference to make it very interesting. It’s just fun. It also is getting to the point where you don’t know how many more times you’re going to see it, so you start reflecting and appreciating it each time.
Q. In your opinion what’s the greatest tennis rivalry of all time?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, man, that’s hard. It’s tough going generation versus generation. Obviously in my kind of era, it all happened around Roger and Rafa. But again, it had the same sort of underlying they’re different enough personalities to make it interesting. Stylistically they matched up in an entertaining way, and they both went about it the right way and had a certain level of respect, which is probably different than the ones you saw in the ’80s with McEnroe and Connors where they just flat out didn’t like each other. There are different ways to have a great rivalry.
Q. And with Peyton versus Brady, is it one of those things like must see TV; you can’t miss it if you’re a sports fan?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I think so. I think the funny thing is these guys have been running the ball the last couple weeks, so it’s all about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but as the weather has been colder, I think I saw a stat today the Patriots ran the ball 62 percent of the time last week, which was their highest total since like 2008 against Buffalo, and Moreno was a factor, also. So we’re building up this whole game around these great quarterbacks because it looks like they’re running the ball in the cold weather, so we’ll see how much they actually air it out.
Q. What’s the best barbecue in Austin, Texas?
ANDY RODDICK: It has to be Franklin’s. Any time people are waiting two hours for lunch, it’s got to be pretty good.
Q. Andy, playing in Denver you’re going to be matched up in the semifinals against Philippoussis, and the other semifinal is going to be Jim Courier against James Blake. Talk about playing Philippoussis and also playing in altitude and what that does to a tennis ball up in Denver?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, that’s a bad combination for me, Philippoussis and altitude. This is actually the first I’m hearing about it. Mark and I have been friends for a while. The thing is his service motion is so technically sound that, from what I’ve heard, he really hasn’t lost much on his serve since he was playing, which I wish the same could be said for me. It’ll be tough, but I’m just excited to get out there and play. It’ll be fun. I like all those guys who are there. Jim and James are two of my closest friends. I’d love to be able to get through Mark and play one of those guys in the final.
Q. I know there’s a lot to talk about here. I wanted to ask a couple quick questions about the topic of the day in tennis, since I know you’ve been through this so many times. These guys are suffering in the heat. I know you always liked the heat to a large degree, even though you sweat a lot, and I was just curious how you feel about where the extreme should be, what you’re seeing or hearing. Is it too much? And also, would you talk a little bit about there’s a lot of discussion in sport now about the fact that we shouldn’t have a World Cup in big heat. What’s your feeling about all that?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, part of me finds it entertaining that every time we go down to Australia we act surprised that it’s hot outside. It’s funny, the guys who have the reputation for being prepared aren’t the guys keeling over. You’re never going to see Roger outwardly showing heat. You’re not going to see Rafa doing it. You’re not going to see Novak anymore; you’re not going to see him doing it. Frankly I hated it when they closed the roof. I felt like I was prepared. I felt like it was a different tennis tournament once they put it indoors. They do have a system in place where if they deem it’s too hot, and there’s a pretty distinct number system that they have used there in the past, and they do have the ability to call it. Do we need to make extreme things because guys are struggling in the heat? I don’t know. Personally I don’t think so. I think as athletes we push our bodies to do things that aren’t normal, and frankly that’s what we get paid for. I can’t feel it. Listen, when you play there, it’s brutal. It feels like you’re playing in a hairdryer, but that’s all part of it. Each Slam presents its own unique set of challenges and you kind of have to attack it accordingly.
Q. Is it desirable in your opinion that we keep putting these sporting events in situations like this where it could happen at this extreme level, or is that not a problem?
ANDY RODDICK: I can’t speak to the World Cup. I haven’t been there. I haven’t experienced it. It seemed like there were other viable options that maybe didn’t have that. But you’re not going to take the Slam out of Australia. It’s too good of a venue. They have built indoor courts, and like I said, they do have a system in place that they have used before. It’s not as if…I was reading something where the humidity levels weren’t as bad so they didn’t use it. There is thought put into it. It’s not like they’re just going rogue with throwing people out there. They’ve set the precedent for being smart about it, and they have done it in the past. I don’t think they should just close the roofs because people are writing about it.
Q. And the last thing from me, what’s the most key thing about preparing yourself for that? I know you’ve lived in hot weather parts of the States, but you used to go to Hawai’i to train before the Open. What’s the critical thing? Is it the adaptation? Is it good genetics?
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I don’t know that there’s one thing. I spent four weeks doing fitness in Austin, and then when I started really hitting balls, I put myself in heat for two weeks before I even went down to play the first event there. By the time we got to Australia, I had been in similar heat for three or four weeks. Frankly it’s stupid to train indoors in cold weather the whole time and then expect to go to Australia and not to have your your body is not going to adapt that quick. But it will adapt. And frankly I don’t know that Australia is as extreme as Florida in the summer or the hottest days in Cincinnati in the summer. I think you’re seeing guys play three out of five, and it’s become a more physical game, so you’re kind of seeing the toll of that.
Q. Someone was telling me that you back in the day played tennis against Drew Brees. Are you relieved we don’t have him on the tennis tour today?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah. It’s funny, every time he plays a playoff game on national television, this story comes up again. He played he actually beat me the first two times. I think he was 12 and I was 9, and he was kind of like an after school tennis player who was better than all the guys who actually practiced like me, and then I beat him and he started playing other sports. So who knows how far it could have gone. But I think it just kind of lends itself to discussion of what a good athlete he actually is.
Q. There were moments during your playing career that you didn’t like media. Now that you’ve got a radio show, do you view the folks on the other side with a little bit more empathy?
ANDY RODDICK: No, I don’t. The only time I had an issue with the media is when I felt like they weren’t prepared with their questioning or they were asking irresponsible questions. You know, listen, I’m not going to have someone who covers tennis once a year coming into the local market, coming into a press conference and using the wrong terminology for our sport. So no, I never had a problem with media when they were well thought out, asked smart questions, and seemed to actually care as opposed to just being there because their boss was taking attendance, frankly.
Q. Bernard Tomic was booed by fans when he retired after one set with Nadal. Have you ever been in a situation like that where you were booed by your own fans?
ANDY RODDICK: Listen, I’ve been booed because of the way I’ve acted. I don’t know that I’ve been booed because of a perceived lack of effort. Bernie is in a tough position now because he’s developed a little bit of a reputation of giving less than 100 percent effort now, so he might have had a groin injury the other night. Had it been someone like Lleyton, who has built his career and at least gained the trust from the fan base as far as putting in effort, I don’t think the boos would have been there. Bernie has a certain process ahead of him where he has to kind of earn the respect back as far as being a competitor. It was an unfortunate situation because by all accounts he is actually hurt, but I feel like the booing is maybe more of a snowball effect from some of the past performances.
Q. Talk a little bit about making your debut event in Birmingham. It’s going to be at the same arena where you played Davis Cup against Switzerland. Talk a little bit about that tie against Switzerland and what it’s going to be like to be back in Birmingham.
ANDY RODDICK: Well, I’m excited. We obviously had a great Davis Cup tie back there in I think it was 2009, and we enjoyed everything about it. It was one of those rare Davis Cup ties where everything went mostly according to script. We got out with a W. I played a good match the last day against Wawrinka. The court was fast; the crowd was into it. We were able to lean on him. You know, I enjoyed playing there. I’m sure it’ll bring back some good memories when I’m back.
Q. No doubt about it, you gave so much to the game. You thrilled, you entertained the sports fans for a decade. How much will this new arena, this venue, allow you to entertain even more as you’re playing?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, I think it certainly provides that opportunity. There’s no way to replace playing in front of a crowd and kind of the feeling that gives you, and I have a lot of other interests right now which are very fulfilling, but nothing will ever replace being able to play live sports. Yeah, I didn’t expect it to. But this is a chance for me to do it, I guess, more in a little bit of a part time scale. I’m looking forward to it. You know, it’s always fun to play with guys that have been so accomplished in the sport, as well. I’m looking forward to it.
Q. Any good one liners you’re working on these days?
ANDY RODDICK: You know, if I previewed them they wouldn’t be as funny that day, would they?
Q. You gave your life to Davis Cup during your career. What would it mean to be part of Davis Cup again in some capacity down the road?
ANDY RODDICK: Oh, I don’t know. Frankly I see Jim being the captain for a very long time. I think he does a great job. All the guys love him. I was able to play for him for a couple of ties, so that’s Jim is a great friend of mine. Honestly that’s something I hadn’t really thought about much.
Q. I wasn’t trying to usurp his job for you, but if you were brought in as a coach, as a motivator, someone that could really relate to the players, what would that mean to you?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, again, I wasn’t insinuating that I was going to be captain, either. I was just saying I think Jim can do all those things. Basically any skill set that I would apply, he’s done it all and more. He’s done a great job with the crew. Honestly I don’t see what value I would add with Jim at the helm right now.
Q. Playing in Houston, how about you and your friend, your buddy, Bobby Bones? Do you have anything planned? I know you can’t talk about it, but are you excited to be working this with him in some capacity?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, we’ve had a really good relationship. We’re great friends. He’s done such a good job now with country radio being pretty much the guy for country radio nationally. I’m proud of his career path. I certainly admire his work ethic. He gets after it, and he wants to do everything. It’s always fun to kind of watch his career progress.
Q. As a barometer, when you were in Miami playing Murray, you played well. I know he was coming back, but how strong of a barometer is that for you? You can still do it, I guess.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, listen, I wanted to… I’m retired. I can still play a little bit. I won two out of my last five events on tour. When I do practice with guys who are currently playing, I can hold my own. It was never a I’m fully confident the guys I played against my whole career, a lot of them are Youzhny is 14 in the world; Lopez is 20 in the world. There’s a lot of guys who I played for a long time. For me it wasn’t a matter of could I still be good on tour. The question was can I win a Grand Slam, and once I didn’t think I could, that was enough for me. I certainly feel like I’m capable of playing a high level tennis still.
Q. What is it like being a part of this series with all the great names that you’ve been around, and now you guys are involved again?
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, I mean, listen, it’s certainly a big list of names and personalities. It’s almost as if every night it’s almost a history lesson of the last 30 years of tennis. It’s really cool. I was a tennis fan long before I was a player, and so it’s surreal for me to be involved with these guys. I don’t think I’ve ever fully gotten used to, let’s say, participating in the same night as a Pete Sampras or a Jim Courier. Those guys were my heroes growing up. But it’s always fun to get together with those guys again and be around them and to play against them. It’s always been a blast for me.
Q. For fans who will be buying tickets to watch your event, what would you tell them about what they can expect to see perhaps?
ANDY RODDICK: (Laughing) Anything, really. The thing about our group of guys, not a lot of us have been accused of being shy out there. I think we do understand we all want to win. But at the same time I certainly understand it’s a show, and I couldn’t always interact as much as I wanted to while I was playing on tour, but I’m going to have a good time during these matches. That’ll show through. I think we want fans to come out and really actively participate in the matches. You want it to be interactive. You want it to be fun. You want to give them a good event on top of the tennis.
RANDY WALKER: We want to thank everyone for joining us today. We want to thank especially Andy, and we’ll see you starting in Birmingham next month.
By Mark McCormick
Canada, a country that is so passionate for hockey, has had their eyes on tennis lately. Tennis? Canada is one of the coldest countries in the world, but that hasn’t stopped the rapid rise of tennis star Milos Raonic from training. The 2013 season has been a groundbreaking year for the young Canadian, cracking into the world’s top 10 for the first time in Canadian tennis history, reaching his first Masters 1000 Series final, and leading his country to the Davis Cup semifinals.
In an interview with AskMen, Raonic talks about his rise in Canadian tennis. “The pressure is really what you make of it, and I like to make more for myself than anyone else will, so I always push myself. The responsibility I have is a great thing, from helping tennis grow in Canada, but also in the future, being able to do stuff through my foundation, helping kids. And helping everyone I can, and really trying to make a difference.”
The 22-year-old is one of the youngest in the top 100, and has shown no signs of stumbling in the rankings. The 6’5” Canadian has a booming serve, and a big forehand. The powerful shots that Raonic possesses show a glimpse of what could possibly be the future of tennis.
Earlier in the summer this year, Raonic hired former top player Ivan Ljubicic as his full time head coach. Ljubicic’s work with Raonic has shown positive results. The months of August and September were important for Raonic. In the big matches he played, however, he didn’t make that big step. When Raonic reached his first Masters 1000 Series finals in Montreal in August, he had Canada on his back. The final for Raonic was a bit of a disappointment for Canadian fans, when Raonic fell 6-2 6-2 to Rafael Nadal. Granted, he was playing against one of the greatest players of all time, but this was a big chance to make a statement. Sadly, his nerves got the best of him.
A couple weeks later, he made the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. He reached the fourth round there last year, and had a legitimate chance to get into his first Grand Slam quarterfinal ever. He was playing against world No. 9 Richard Gasquet. Gasquet hadn’t been in a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam since 2007. Raonic dictated for most of the match, until fatigue came in late in the fourth set. Raonic was leading two sets to one, with several break points to go up a break early in the fifth set, but failed to capitalize again.
Nine days after his exit at the U.S. Open, Raonic led the Canadian tennis team into its first Davis Cup semifinal in over a century. Canada held a 2-1 lead going into the final day of the semi’s, but fell 3-2, with Raonic losing to Djokovic in the fourth rubber.
A wild stretch of firsts for Raonic ended in disappointments, but his run isn’t going to end yet this year.
En Bangkok, en route to the title, Raonic dismantled Feliciano Lopez in straight sets 6-4 6-3. His statistics were off the charts. Raonic had 19 aces serving at 86% for the whole match, and gave up eight points on his serve the whole match!
Raonic’s best surface is indoor hard courts. The post U.S. Open Asia swing is mostly played on hard courts and indoor hard courts. The Paris Masters is a big event for Raonic to make a deep run in. This tournament is played indoors, and is the one Masters 1000 tournament that lacks the most top players. His confidence is high still despite tough losses, and has a legitimate shot at making the ATP World Tour Year End Finals, which is also played indoors.
What does 2014 hold for Raonic? Big things. His unforced errors have cut down immensely, especially on his backhand. His inside out forehand is huge on the return game. His main focus in the off season has to be working on his return game. If Raonic can get more balls into play on the return, he has a better chance of getting into rallies, and trying to put himself into position to run around a forehand and put the ball away.
Raonic opens up his 2014 season at the Brisbane International, where he will be one of the top seeds going into the event. He lost in the second round last year in Brisbane, so he will have a chance at gaining points to boost his ranking. He’ll get a week after Brisbane to recuperate and head into the Australian Open most likely as a top 16 seed. This time, he’ll have a more favorable draw at the Grand Slam he plays best at. If he gets matched up in any of the top 8’s quarters except Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, he will have a serious shot at making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
From the Asia swing to mid-February, Raonic can make his statement known on the hard courts. His chances of cracking into the top 8 are very likely. He has already proven to tennis fans how much of a threat he is from his results this summer. It may be a slight surprise to see his name ranked among the names of Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal, but come February, it may happen. Don’t be surprised if you see the name Milos Raonic on sports headlines in mid-January, because his hard work and talent is going to be known to all sports fans very soon.