Jill Craybas

WTA Katowice Saturday Tennis Gallery: Veterans and Young Talents Take Stage

KATOWICE (April 6, 2013) — Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm kicks off our week-long photo gallery coverage of the BNP Paribas Katowice Open on Saturday with round one qualifications. Future young talents as well as a few veterans took the courts with players including Valeria Savinykh, Magda Linette, Marie Bouzkova, Aravane Rezai, Jill Craybas, Katarzyna Piter, Paula Kania, Renata Voracova, Sandra Zahlavova and Shahar Peer.

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After 17 Years on Tour, Jill Craybas Soldiers On

By McCarton Ackerman, Special for Tennis Grandstand

For American player Jill Craybas, most of her contemporaries have retired from the tour, moved into coaching and then retired from that. But at age 38, she still feels like there’s plenty for her to accomplish in pro tennis.

Craybas turned pro in 1996 after winning the NCAA women’s singles title and has remained a constant fixture on the WTA Tour for the last 15 years. While she never advanced into the elite echelons of the pro game, being a steady and reliable mid-carder with a career high ranking of No. 39 has still yielded some impressive numbers. She’s won 1 WTA singles title and five WTA doubles title throughout her career (including a doubles title last year in Bad Gastein, Austria), as well as three ITF singles titles and two ITF doubles titles. From 2000-2011, she played in the main draw of 45 consecutive Grand Slam events and finished inside the top 100 every year from 2001-2010.

There have also been numerous high profile wins throughout her career, including defeating Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2005 and Kim Clijsters in Miami in 2006. She’s even represented the US in several Fed Cup ties and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

And while the handful of players on tour who are over 35 tend to be doubles specialists, she is still sticking to singles. But despite all that she’s accomplished, Craybas is still as eager to succeed as she was when she first turned pro.

“Even though last year was a struggle for me and I didn’t do very well, I still really enjoy going out there and practicing and learning,” said Craybas. I put a little bit too much pressure on myself last year, so I lost the enjoyment during matches. This year, I’ve made a promise to myself that I was going to try and enjoy things regardless of what happens.

After dropping outside of the top 150 for the first time in 15 years, Craybas returned to the USTA Pro Circuit last spring, the tennis equivalent of the minor leagues in baseball. Last week, she was competing against at the Fresh Start Women’s Open, a $25,000 event in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. In her first round match against fellow American Chieh-Yu Hsu, she played in front of four spectators (which included her coach and two USTA officials) in temperatures so low that both players could see their breath. Fighting for over three hours against a backboard opponent, a lingering calf injury and line calls that repeatedly frustrated the normally mild-mannered Craybas, she still dug deep to prevail in a marathon match.

“I never thought bad line calls could actually make you lose a match, but there was one match in my career at a WTA event in Pattaya (Thailand) where it did and from that point on, I feel like I’ve gotten so aggravated with line calls now,” said Craybas. “I can feel myself welling up and getting so pissed, but it happens all the time. That’s just part of the game and you hope it evens out on both sides.”

After clearing more than $2 million in prize money throughout her career, the $430 check players get for losing in the second round of this tournament would hardly be motivating for Craybas. But while many players would be content with a career that most can only dream of, she is still soldering on for one final push.

“It’s a tough thing to give up because tennis has been such a big part of my life and I still love it,” said Craybas. “Even though I feel like I haven’t been playing my best tennis, it just motivates me even more to go out there and get to the point that I know I’m capable of. I’m just hungry to want to get better.”

However, Craybas also admits that she is starting to want other things in life. She’s started to take photography and cooking classes as a way of testing out her options after tennis and has considered whether she wants to start a family.

“As much as I love traveling and being on tour, I’ve really started to enjoy being at home too,” said Craybas. “I love the photography and cooking as well. It’s a good problem to have because there’s so much that I want to do with my life, but it’s also made my brain a little scattered too.”

For now though, she is content to solder on. She’s currently heading to another $25,000 event in Arizona before heading to the red clay of Mexico for a WTA Tour event. Despite being asked how much longer she intends to play at nearly every tournament she goes to, Craybas believes that she’ll know when it’s truly time to walk away.

“I’ve asked a lot of my friends who are no longer on tour about how you know when it’s time to retire and literally every single one of them said, ‘You’ll know. The fact you’re even asking means you’re not ready.’ I’m still really determined to end things on a good note.”

WTA Bad Gastein – Cornet prevails over Wickmayer, as Goerges and Craybas take doubles title

By Romi Cvitkovic

Although the WTA tournament in Bad Gastein started off with days of rain, the tournament ended in tears of joy for one of its winners, Alize Cornet. In just her second career title, she dispatched of Yanina Wickmayer 7-5, 7-6(1) in just over two hours.

“It has been four years I haven’t won a singles title, so it’s just happiness now. I’m so happy,” Cornet said. “It’s been a super week. I really love this tournament. I love the people here and I feel everybody loves me as well. I’m not Austrian, but I feel like I’m Austrian when I’m here. It’s my favorite tournament … What more can I ask for than winning it?”

After struggling for most of the season, Cornet made a breakthrough in Stuttgart this April, blasting through the qualification rounds before retiring to Maria Sharapova in the second round. She then bested her results by losing in the finals of Strasbourg to Francesca Schiavone in two tights sets.

The doubles final featured the standout duos of Julia Goerges and Jill Craybas defeating Petra Martic and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-7(4), 6-4, 11-9. Although Goerges was the number one singles seed and Martic the fifth seed, both fell out in the first round only to enjoy Bad Gastein a little longer and meet in the doubles finals.

Check out the full gallery of the singles and doubles matches, as well as both awards ceremonies. All photo credit to Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

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WTA Bad Gastein gallery – Petra Martic ousted by local favorite Yvonne Meusburger

By Romi Cvitkovic

The WTA tournament in Bad Gastein has been getting surprised with seeds crashing out just as much as the rain delaying play. And today was no different.

In a rain-interrupted Wednesday, fifth-seeded Petra Martic who had just come off of her career-best showing at a Slam by making the fourth round of the French Open last week, was ousted by local favorite Yvonne Meusburger who saved four match points to win with a score of 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(5).

Another seed, number three Ksenia Pervak saved five match points during her 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory against opponent Lara Arruabarrena-Veci.

Sixth-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu was forced to three sets and saved six-of-eight break points in the final set to beat her German opponent, Kathrin Woerle, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

Eighth-seeded Johanna Larsson also defeated qualifier Jana Cepelova, 6-4, 7-6(1).

16-year-old Austrian wildcard Barbara Haas saw her WTA tournament debut come to an end as she was defeated by qualifier Dia Evtimova, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. Still active on the juniors circuit while reaching the finals of $10,000 ITF tournaments, expect to see the name “Haas” (no relation to Tommy Haas, supposedly) appear again in the future.

Other results:
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) d. (WC) Nicole Rottmann (AUT) 6-2 6-3
Jill Craybas (USA) d. Nina Bratchikova (RUS) 7-5 6-3
(Q) Chichi Scholl (USA) d. Zuzana Ondraskova (CZE) 6-3 6-0

Check out the day’s matches in our full gallery below by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm!

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WTA Bad Gastein – Toga-themed player’s party with Julia Goerges, Alize Cornet, Yanina Wickmayer

By Romi Cvitkovic

The rain at WTA Bad Gastein forced play to halt for most of the day Monday, but the players still attended a toga-themed Player’s Party in the evening before calling it a day. Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is on-hand in Austria all week. For the full scoop, check out his gallery below!

Not much occurred on-court today, but luckily, the last of the qualification round matches were able to finish before the heavens opened. One main draw match began between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic but was unable to finish, and the weather doesn’t look much better for tomorrow either. But that is not bumming out German Julia Goerges as she gets an extra day to relax, according to her WTA blog here.

Check out the full gallery from the player’s party below which features Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer (did she not get the “toga” memo?), Alize Cornet, Jill Craybas, Marta Domachowska, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Yvonne Meusburger, Petra Martic, Dia Evtimova, Sarah Gronert and Nicole Rottmann. Also catch a promotional photoshoot featuring Austrian players Barbara Haas and Yvonne Meusburger, as well as the main draw match between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic.

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Young Americans Struggle at Family Circle Cup

The youth movement has stalled temporarily.

Among the American women, the 2012 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, SC has belonged to the tour veterans. The tournament began with 10 main draw players from the United States but only four remain: 5th seed Serena Williams, 30, wildcard Venus Williams, 31, qualifier Jill Craybas, 37, and Varvara Lepchenko, 25, an Uzbek-American who turned pro back in 2001.

The younger Americans have not fared well. Aside from fast-rising Jamie Hampton’s win over compatriot Sloane Stephens, 19, in the first round, none of the other players aged 23 or younger made it into the second round. The 22-year-old Hampton, who is ranked No. 92 in the world, would go on to lose in the following round to second seed Sam Stosur.

Eleventh-seed Christina McHale, 19, faded down the stretch in a three-set loss to Aleksandra Wozniak – marking the first time this year she has lost to a player ranked below her. Twenty-three-year-old Vania King, the 3rd ranked American behind the younger Williams and McHale, exited in straight sets to 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer.

Wildcard Irina Falconi, 21, has hit a slump after exceeding expectations last year. Currently ranked No. 99 in the world, Falconi will have to find her game quickly in order to reach her goal of qualifying for the Olympic team.

Melanie Oudin, ranked No. 304 in the world, needed to win two qualifying matches for a spot in the main draw. Despite losing in three sets to 10th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, the 20-year-old can take positives away from her experience in Charleston. Oudin showed glimpses of her confidence and fighting spirit that defined her earlier in her career with victories over Heather Watson and Petra Rampre, her first WTA Tour wins this season.

With plenty of tennis to be played, these young players have a lot to look forward to. The spotlight may belong to them in the future, but for the rest of the week in Charleston, it’s the veterans’ time to shine.

(Photo of Christina McHale by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America)

Paris Photos: Sharapova, McHale, Wickmayer Advance at Open GDF Suez

Follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers the Open GDF SUEZ WTA Tour event in Paris this week. The gallery below includes singles action from day four of the tournament, including Maria Sharapova, Alize Cornet, Christina McHale, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Yanina Wickmayer, Klara Zakopalova and Varvara Lepchenko among others. For full singles results, go here, and for full doubles results, go here.

Check out Rick’s previous Paris photo galleries: Day 1Day 2Day 3, and stay tuned as he covers the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week! Make sure to also check out his in-depth feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

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WTA Paris Photo Gallery with Safarova, Zakopalova, Mattek-Sands

Follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers the Open GDF SUEZ WTA Tour event in Paris this week. The gallery below includes day three qualifying matches as well as main draw doubles matches featuring Lucie Safarova, Klara Zakopalova, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jill Craybas, Greta Arn and Varvara Lepchenko among others. For full qualification results, go here, and for full doubles results, go here.

Stay tuned all week for full coverage in Paris and catch Rick at the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week! And make sure to check out his feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

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Family Circle Cup: The anatomy of a draw

The Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina has officially begun. It’s a WTA Premier event that attracts some of the biggest names in women’s tennis. This year’s field includes the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Marion Bartoli, and more. The main draw begins on Monday, but the top eight seeds receive byes in the first round. No tournament would be complete without the draw party.

I’ve never been to a draw before, so I was eager to see this one. The draw party was held off site at the Daniel Island Grille, about a half mile from the Family Circle Stadium. I’m not sure how it works at other tournaments, but the draw party was open to the public. There were a few rows up seats set up in the restaurant and people were encouraged to sit up close. Patty Schnyder, who is participating in the Family Circle Cup for the 15th consecutive year, and Shelby Rogers, a local Charleston girl making her first main draw appearance at the Family Circle Cup, were on hand to perform the draw.

The Family Circle Cup trophy was used to hold the chips, each of which had a number corresponding to a player in the main draw. Shelby and Patty each chose a chip, and in an effort to encourage crowd participation, each member of the audience was asked to draw a chip. I thought this was an excellent idea. It really made people feel like they were a part of the action.

Shelby really seemed to be a local favorite. A lot of the people in attendance knew her, and local reporters all wanted the chance to talk to her. When it came time to choose her opponent, Shelby was offered the chance to draw the chip. She looked horrified at the idea and instantly declined. I can’t say I blame her. You can’t blame yourself for a bad draw if you didn’t choose the chip. An audience member eventually ended up drawing Jill Craybas, the 36 year old American, as Shelby’s first round opponent.

My impression is that this draw is quite different from the way other tournaments do it, but I loved the fact that everyone was encouraged to attend and participate. Fans really enjoy being part of the action. The tournament seems to be a bit cutting edge in that respect. They’ve also embraced new media, live tweeting the draw and the other important events, as well as developing a mobile website so you can easily access information on your phone.

40 Years Ago Today – A Wimbledon Classic

It was 40 years ago today, June 25, that one of the greatest matches in the history of Wimbledon – and in tennis – was concluded on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finished off his 5 hour, 12 minute victory over Charlie Pasarell, coming back from two-sets-to-love down and saving seven match points. That match – as well as other Wimbledon Classics – are documented below in the June 25 excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com).

1969 – Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finishes off his classic, darkness-delayed five-set win over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 in 5 hours, 12 minutes – the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time. Gonzales, 20 years removed from when he won his last major at age 21 at Forest Hills, trails Pasarell two-sets to love when the match was suspended the night before due to darkness after 2 hours, 20 minutes of play. Gonzales sweeps all three sets on its resumption to move into the second round, but heroically fights off seven match points in the fifth set – at 4-5, 0-40, at 5-6, 0-40 and at 7-8, ad-out. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the match’s conclusion, “It was a question of raw courage now. How long could Pancho go on? He was leaning on his racquet between exchanges, flicking globules of sweat off his brow. At 9-9, Pasarell played a bad game. He double-faulted, hit a volley wide, a lob over the baseline and another volley just out. Gonzalez served for the match. A serve, a smash to deep court and a backhand volley that creased the sideline put him at match point. In sepulchral silence, Gonzalez toed the tape to serve. Then Pasarell lobbed out. Gonzalez had taken 11 points in a row. He had clawed his way back and won.” In 1989, in a second-round match played over three days, Greg Holmes beats fellow American Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 28 minutes.

1953 – In the what the New York Times calls “one of the finest matches seen here since the war,” No. 4 seed Jaroslav Drobny defeats 1950 champion Budge Patty 8-6, 16-18, 3-6, 8-6, 12-10 in four-and-a-half hours in the third round of Wimbledon. The match, concluded in fading light on Centre Court, is the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time – eclipsed by the Pancho Gonzalez-Charlie Pasarell match in 5:12 in 1969. Patty has six match points in the match – three in the fourth set and three more in the fifth set – but is unable to convert.

1973 – The 1973 editions of The Championships at Wimbledon begins, but not with 82 of the top men’s players who boycott the event in support of Yugoslav player Nikki Pilic, who is suspended by the International Lawn Tennis Federation for not participating in Davis Cup for his country. The boycott is led by the new men’s player union, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and includes such notable players as defending champion Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Arthur Ashe. Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and Britain’s Roger Taylor are among the notable players who refuse to boycott the tournament. Jan Kodes of Czechoslvakia, the No. 2 seed, goes on to win the tournament, defeating Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union in the men’s final.

1979 – Wimbledon’s famous “Graveyard Court” – Court No. 2 – claims two high profile first round victims as 1975 Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe, in what ultimately becomes his final match at the All- England Club, is defeated by No. 139 ranked Australian Chris Kachel 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, while No. 4 seed Vitas Gerulaitis is defeated by fellow American Pat DuPre 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3.

2001 – For the second time in three years, Martina Hingis exits in the first round of Wimbledon as the No. 1 seed. Hingis, 20, loses on Court No. 1 to No. 83-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 7 minutes. Two years earlier, in 1999, the top-seeded Hingis is also bounced in the first round by qualifier Jelena Dokic. Says Hingis, the 1997 Wimbledon champion, after her loss to Ruano Pascual, “It seems like I do really well here or I lose in the first round here.”

2005 – Jill Craybas, the No. 85-ranked player in the world, performs a shocking upset of two-time champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the third round of Wimbledon. “Horrible,” Williams mutters in a post-match press conference when asked how she was feeling. “I guess I had a lot of rust. I just didn’t play well today. I mean, the other days I kind of played through it and got better in the second and third sets. Today, I just didn’t do anything right.” The match was originally scheduled for Centre Court, but due to weather delays, the match is moved to Court No. 2, the “Graveyard Court” where champions such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras have all lost. At one point during the match, Williams misses a backhand and exclaims, “What am I doing out here?!”

2002  – One year removed from his stunning round of 16 upset of seven-time champion Pete Sampras No. 7 seed Roger Federer is bounced in the opening round of Wimbledon by 18-year-old Croat Mario Ancic by a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 margin. Says the No. 154-ranked Ancic, “I came first time to play Centre, Wimbledon, they put me on Centre Court for my first time. I qualified, nothing to lose, I was just confidence. I knew I could play. I believe in myself and just go out there and try to do my best. Just I didn’t care who did I play. Doesn’t matter…I knew him (Federer) from TV. I knew already how is he playing. I don’t know that he knew how I was playing, but that was my advantage. And yeah, I didn’t have any tactics, just I was enjoying.” Following the loss, Federer goes on to win his next 40 matches at Wimbledon – including five straight titles – before losing in the 2008 final to Rafael Nadal of Spain.

1996 – “Hen-mania” begins at Wimbledon as 21-year-old Tim Henman wins his first big match at the All England Club, coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit – and saving two match points – to upset No. 5 seed and reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 4-6, 7-5 in the first round in what Jennifer Frey of the Washington Post calls “a cliffhanger that enraptured the winner’s countrymen in the Centre Court seats.” Henman goes on to reach the quarterfinals, where he is defeated by American Todd Martin 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4, but remains a threat to win the title of much of the next decade, thrilling British fans in the excitement of the possibility of a home-grown player becoming the first player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won his last of three titles in 1936.

1988 – Thirty-five-year old Jimmy Connors fights back after trailing two-sets-to-love to defeat fellow American Derrick Rostagno 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 2 minutes in the third round of Wimbledon. Says Rostagno of Connors, “He comes up with things you haven’t seen before. Tennis is an art and he’s an artist. It was thrilling, a pleasure to play against.” Says Connors, “My game has always been to stay in until I die.”

2001 – In his third appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon, Roger Federer finally wins his first match in the men’s singles competition, defeating Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.