by Kevin Craig
John Isner fought off a valiant effort from fellow American Frances Tiafoe, an 18-year old, to come back from two sets to love down, winning 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(2) in the first men’s match played on the new Grandstand Court at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
The No. 1 American got off to a more than lackluster start, getting broken at love by the No. 125 player in the world in his opening service game of the match. Even though Isner was able to get a break back later in the set, that first game set the tone for the first two sets as Tiafoe was clearly the better player and Isner had no answer for the young American, who was able to grab another break late in the first set to take a big step towards his first win at a major.
Tiafoe was able to breeze through the second set as he once again broke in Isner’s opening service game before saving the only break point he faced in the set a few games later. The 18-year old playing in just third match at a major was just one set away from earning what would be by far the biggest win of his career and he had the complete support of the crowd behind him.
“Just gotta stay with it…try to keep the match competitive,” said Isner of his strategy heading into a do or die third set.
Tiafoe was able to carry that momentum from the first two sets into the third, earning a break point in Isner’s opening service game again, but was unable to convert as Isner did exactly what he wanted to, keep the match competitive. Later at 2-2, Tiafoe had a look at two more break points, but again the veteran Isner was able to fend those off, and it looked like he had received his much needed wake-up call. From there, Isner was able to get his first real foothold in the match and force a tiebreak where he had to fight back from a 3-1 deficit to steal the third set and extend the match.
In the fourth set, Isner began to really assert himself on the court and was able to play his “big-man” style of tennis for the first time in the match. Dominating on serve, Isner began to apply more pressure on the Tiafoe serve, earning him two breaks and a comfortable 6-2 fourth set win.
It was clear from the first point of the fifth set that it would be up for grabs as both players looked to be at their peak levels of performance. Tiafoe regained his form from the first two sets while Isner was still riding the wave of momentum that had gotten him back even in the match. A few easy holds each way began the set before Tiafoe earned the first real opportunity to close out the match. With Isner serving at 3-4, Tiafoe was able to break and had the match on his racquet, serving at 5-3. Isner was up to the task, however, and quickly raced out to a 0-40 lead before breaking at 30-40 to get the set back on serve before eventually forcing a deciding set tiebreak.
“Just trying to play solid, try to play the right way. I think I played a pretty good game. I think I made every single return. From that point on…it gave me a lot of energy moving forward,” said Isner of his play to break Tiafoe when he served for the match.
Final set tiebreaks had not been Isner’s specialty in 2016 as he had lost six matches in these scenarios, but he was able to put that to the wayside and looked very comfortable. A mini-break in the first point of the tiebreak for Isner, combined with a few Tiafoe errors, including a double fault, allowed the 6’10” American to cruise to a 7-2 tiebreak win and close out the comeback.
Both Isner and Tiafoe were appreciative of the atmosphere that helped make the match as intense as it was.
“It was an absolute pleasure to play out here in front of you fans and an absolute pleasure to play against Frances. He’s a hell of a player and a class act,” said Isner.
“It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played on in my life…it’s an unbelievable time I had playing tennis today…you guys made this match unbelievably fun for me,” added Tiafoe, who listened to chants of his name ring out throughout the course of the match.
“It hurts. It hurts a lot…but I can’t wait to come back next year and hopefully do damage,” continued a disappointed but hopeful Tiafoe.
Isner will take on Steve Darcis in the second round at the US Open in a section of the draw that completely opened up when Richard Gasquet was upset by Kyle Edmund in straight sets. A potential fourth round match with Novak Djokovic awaits the No. 1 ranked American.
Arrowbar, the gluten free energy bars endorsed by top American tennis players Steve Johnson and John Isner, are now available for sale at TennisExpress.com
The delicious bars, that are available in Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Honey Oat, are available at www.TennisExpress.com
The ArrowBar is a new gluten-free, all-natural, high performance energy bar, developed by athletes for athletes and active people, that provides a filling, 200-calorie boost of quick and long-lasting energy. Johnson, the new No. 1 American tennis player in the world and a bronze medalist in men’s doubles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, as well as U.S. No. 2 John Isner are among the endorsers for ArrowBar. Former world No. 4 and U.S. Davis Cup hero James Blake as well as 17-year-ATP Pro Michael Russell are also endorsers of the product.
“The ArrowBar gives me the nutrients I need without comprising taste,” said Johnson. “There’s nothing better on the market than ArrowBar. When I am looking for the competitive edge I need, there is only one thing I reach for.”
The ArrowBar is also offered for purchase online at www.ArrowBar.com Bars are available in boxes of 12 for $24.99 with free shipping.
John Isner, James Blake, Stevie Johnson, Michael Russell Among Partners In New Gluten-Free Energy Bar “ArrowBar”
Top American tennis stars John Isner and Stevie Johnson, as well as former ATP Pros James Blake and Michael Russell, are among the partners in a newly-launched gluten free energy bar called “ArrowBar.”
The ArrowBar is a new gluten-free, all-natural, high performance energy bar, developed by athletes for athletes and active people, that provides a filling, 200-calorie boost of quick and long-lasting energy. The ArrowBar is now offered in two flavors – Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Honey Oat – and are available for purchase online at www.ArrowBar.com. Bars are available in boxes of 12 for $20.99.
Isner and Johnson are eating the ArrowBar while training and competing at Wimbledon this week. Isner is the top-ranked American player on the ATP World Tour, a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team since 2010, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and a Top 20 player since 2010. Johnson was a member of the 2015 U.S. Davis Cup team, a two-time NCAA singles champion and is expected to be nominated for the U.S. Olympic Team that will compete in Rio this summer.
“Many people know me as a pro tennis player but most don’t know that I am an avid golfer, basketball player and fisherman who loves to be active,” said Isner. “No matter what my days calls for, there’s one thing I always lean on to keep my energy level high – ArrowBar. I truly believe that anyone who is active and cares about what they put in their body will love the long lasting energy and great taste of ArrowBars.”
“The ArrowBar gives me the nutrients I need without comprising taste,” said Johnson. “There’s nothing better on the market than ArrowBar. When I am looking for the competitive edge I need, there is only one thing I reach for.”
Blake and Russell, who combined to play 31 years on the ATP World Tour, were instrumental in the initial creation of the bar. Russell, who played on the ATP World Tour until age 37, was known for his fitness and diet and personally provided consultation about the nutritional composition of the product, testing the bars in practice and competition at the end of his ATP career. Blake, the former U.S. Davis Cup star and former world No. 4, was also involved in the early testing of ArrowBar, also using the product while training and competing in the New York City Marathon in 2015.
“ArrowBar is the only nutrition bar designed for athletes by athletes – it tastes great, has all natural ingredients and is easy to digest, since it is Gluten-free,” said Russell, who said he tried every nutrition bar imaginable during his 17-year professional tennis career. “Whether I am deep in the fifth set, crushing a gym workout, or just looking for a nutritious, great tasting snack, ArrowBar provides the energy and nutrients my body needs.”
Said Blake, “I wish the ArrowBar had been developed sooner because I trust the process with which it is made. The ingredients are natural and beneficial to any athlete or anyone looking for nutrients to help get them through the day. It helps me still when I work out, play tennis, play golf, or just run around with my kids. It’s not a bar that I feel like I’m forcing down either. The taste makes it so easy to eat the bars on a daily basis.”
The ArrowBar name comes from founding partner Mark Arrowsmith, a former University of Miami tennis player who is now the Director of Tennis at the Eagle Landing Country Club in Orange Park, Florida just outside of Jacksonville where he also runs an annual $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit men’s Futures-level professional tennis tournament. Arrowsmith and two other University of Miami varsity athletes – tennis player Andrew Golub and baseball player Rob Goldberg – are the founding partners of the company. Golub was a four-year varsity tennis player for the Hurricanes – and voted captain of the team on two occasions – and now runs Golub Tennis, one of the most successful tennis academies in Florida, helping more than 120 players earn college scholarships. Goldberg, a varsity baseball player at Miami received both his Bachelor’s Degree and Law Degree in Coral Gables. He has worked in numerous projects in commercial real estate and advertising.
Said Arrowsmith, “As a former player and coach, I was always aware of the lack of options for athletes who wanted long lasting energy without chalky aftertastes or having to choke down something that didn’t taste good. While playing college tennis our options were very limited, and it seemed like the options hadn’t improved much since. That is why we set out to create an energy bar that simply does what it says; provide sustained energy while tasting great. I believe that anyone who demands results from their active lifestyle will love ArrowBars.
Said Golub, “From playing at a high collegiate level myself to talking to high level professional tennis players, I knew there was a need for a clean energy source during competition. The goal was to create a product that was easy to eat, that wouldn’t fall apart or melt in your bag and that wouldn’t be tough to digest and sticky on your hands. We accomplished all of those things with ArrowBar and kept the label extremely clean. As a team, we are all very proud to bring this bar to the market and we know this is a need for all active people”
Said Goldberg, “While I do not play competitive sports any longer, my health and staying active are both very important to me. I had always felt that I did not have a good option when it came to the nutrition bars on the market, whether it be prior to a workout or to just get through a long night at the office. When my friends told me five years ago that they noticed the same problem with the people they coach we all agreed that there must be a way to provide a better option, and with that ArrowBar was born. It has been a long road, but it is because we did not want to go to the public with anything less than what we believe to be the best that we can provide. We are very happy with the product that we have created and we know that everyone else will be as well. We couldn’t be happier to launch ArrowBar to the world.”
Milos Raonic Serving Woes Leads To One-Sided Loss To Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig
by Kevin Craig
- Ana Ivanovic was given the 2nd quickest loss of her career as Karolina Pliskova beat her 6-2, 6-0 in the third round of Indian Wells in 49 minutes.
- In the men’s singles final in Indian Wells, Milos Raonic managed to win only three of 30 points on his second serve, leading to a 6-2, 6-0 defeat.
- Andy Murray was beaten by a left-handed player other than Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2011 as Federico Delbonis beat him in the third round in Indian Wells.
- At one point in the John Isner-Kei Nishikori fourth round match at Indian Wells, Nishikori’s average first serve speed was 108 miles per hour, while Isner’s average second serve speed was 115 miles per hour.
- On a negative note for Isner, each of his last three losses have been decided by third set tiebreaks. In each match, Isner held match point and did not face a break point.
- Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nenad Zimonjic were able to saved eight match points in the semifinal win over the Bryan brothers in Indian Wells.
- 16-year old Denis Shapovalov of Canada became the first player born in 1999 to win a match on the challenger level. This comes after Felix Auger Aliassime, also of Canada, became the first player born in 2000 to win a match on the challenger level last year. Shapovalov would also go on to become the first 16-year old to make a challenger semifinal since Stefan Kozlov made the semifinals at the Sacramento Challenger in 2014 as a 16-year old.
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
- The WTA event in Dubai this week was the first time that all eight seeds of a WTA or ATP event lost in their first matches.
- The final in Rio de Janeiro between Guido Pella and Pablo Cuevas had the highest combined ranking of the two finalists in the history of ATP 500 level events. The final was also the first all-unseeded final since Valencia in 2011.
- Roberta Vinci became the oldest player on the WTA to reach the Top 10 for the first time in their career. At 33 years and 4 days, Vinci leaps previous record holder Betty Stove who was 31 years and 100 days old when she cracked the Top 10 for the first time.
- In Nick Kyrgios’ title run in Marseille, he became the first player aged 20 years old or younger to win consecutive matches against Top 10 players (Gasquet and Berdych) since Juan Martin Del Potro did so in the semifinals and finals of the 2009 US Open (Nadal and Federer).
- Thiago Monteiro, a 21 year old Brazilian, made his ATP World Tour debut as a wild card in Rio de Janeiro, and became the first player ranked outside the Top 300 to beat a Top 10 player in his ATP debut since Corrado Borroni beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov in Rome in 1995.
- In Rajeev Ram’s run to the final in Delray Beach, he beat Grigor Dimitrov along the way, increasing his unexpected head-to-head record against the Bulgarian to 4-0.
- In John Isner’s loss to Pella in Rio de Janeiro, Isner hit the most aces in a best-of-three set match on clay that he has ever hit in his career, 31.
- Oliver Marach and Fabrice Martin won the doubles title in Delray Beach, beating Bob and Mike Bryan in the final. Marach and Martin saved six match points in the final, including coming back from 5-9 down in the match tiebreak.
- Sander Groen played in the doubles event in Delray Beach this week. Groen has been in the ATP rankings for 27 consecutive years now, and helped Roger Federer win his first professional title, winning the doubles title in Segovia in 1999. Groen also holds the record for most partners played with throughout his career, as he has played with 172 different partners on the challenger circuit and World Tour level.
- Marco Chiudinelli won the Wroclaw challenger this week, his first challenger title since 2009. In doing so, he won his 10th consecutive tiebreak.
This gallery contains 1 photo.
By Thaddeus McCarthy
The NZ Festival of Tennis came to an end with John Isner prevailing in the Heineken Open final, 7-6, 7-6, over first time ATP finalist Yen-Hsun Lu. The first week of course finished with Ana Ivanovic overcoming Venus Williams. The Festival is my personal favourite of the NZ Summer of Sporting events. The weather certainly turned up for the 2 weeks, although I can remember one afternoon early on with the ASB Classic which wasn’t that great. Nevertheless the play was uninterrupted and the tournament enjoyed sell-out crowds. This posting will review the second week’s tournament and give a line-up and some predictions for the big one, the Aussie Open.
David Ferrer, the widely expected winner, bowed out in the semi-final to Yen-Hsun Yu. He said after that match that it was perhaps one of the worst performances of his career. You’ve got to think about comments in pressers like this that if they aren’t just a bit derogatory of the other player. Federer has been criticised in the past as coming off as a bit arrogant in his pressers. In Ferrer’s case at this time his error rate was very high, so this comment was probably justified. My golden boy from the last posting, Benoit Paire, bowed out in the second round. Arguably the match of the tournament was the Quarterfinal between Phillip Kohlschreiber and Isner, which had three tiebreaks and featured no breaks of serve. I have to say that Kohlschreiber was unlucky not to win that one, as his rallying was superior to Isner.
Going back to the Heineken final, once again Isner’s serve was on fire. At 2.06m tall he is known as having one of the best, if not the best serve on tour. Isner called the final match perhaps his best of the week (his serve was not broken once). First time finalist Yu played well, his one-handed backhand passing shot at the end of the second set (to save the second match point) was testament to that. He just played against a man in Isner who was really hitting his shots on the day. Isner did say after his semi-final, that without his serve he would not be ranked inside the top 500. His serve is just an example that to be ranked highly in this sport you do often need a big weapon. As mentioned in my last post, the winner of this fortnight’s Australian Open will be a player who has a weapon, one which will turn an over wise even match in their favour.
In my first ever posting on here, I predicted that we would see a Del Potro/Nadal final. I will not stick with this, as they have been slated to meet in the Quarter-finals. I will have to go instead with a Del Potro/Djokovic final. Juan Martin Del Potro has just downed Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the Sydney International final, and appears to be in top form. He will not doubt be one dangerous hombre in the Open. Djokovic has been handed perhaps the easiest draw of anyone in the competition. His first real test will come in the Quarterfinals, where he is expected to face-off against Stanislas Wawrinka, who took him too 12-10 in the fifth set (fourth-round) last year. He should come out of this Wawrinka match to take down Ferrer in the semi-final. The Del Potro/Nadal Quarter-final will be a match to watch at the start of the second week. That is assuming Nadal can get past a dangerous Bernard Tomic in the first round. Tomic is a player I have mentioned before as being someone with the potential to win a Grand Slam one day. I just don’t see it happening this year. Nadal I believe, will be too strong for him in the opening round.
On the women’s side I can just not go past Serena Williams this year. Her form with age just appears to be getting better and better and there seems to be no stopping her. She is not a particularly liked player by the tennis public, but you just cannot help but admire the power game she has brought to women’s’ tennis. The two players who I think could create some difficulty for Serena could be Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova. Azarenka was dispatched in straight sets in Brisbane last week, and lost in three tight sets to Serena at US Open 2013. But she can cause the upset on the day. With Sharapova, although she has a terrible record against Serena, on her day an upset could happen. We just have to think back to the 2004 Wimbledon for an example of that. Azarenka and Sharapova are expected to meet in the semi-final, and I would hope that it is not a slug fest, which will leave the winner exhausted for meeting a fit and hungry Serena in the final.
All us sports fans have pet wishes which we hope will happen, but sort of know that they never will. Well, my pet wish for this Open is that Lleyton Hewitt will finally come through to win his home countries slam. Australia has not had a winner on the men’s side since Mark Edmondson won it in 1976; surprisingly with a world ranking of 212 (the lowest seed to ever win a Slam). Hewitt got close in 2005, when he reached the final, but other than that has not gone past the fourth round. The 05 Aussie had an incredible excitement about it, mainly thanks to Hewitt’s run on one side, and the Marat Safin machine on the other. It is in fact my all-time favourite slam, and featured one of my all-time favourite matches, the Safin/Federer semi-final. Hewitt’s win in last week’s Brisbane final against Federer definitely gave some hope that another dream run may again be possible. For the women, Samantha Stousur is my pet wish to be the winner. The women similiary to the men have not have had a winner since Chris O’ Neil in 1978. It would really generate some interest in the Open if we were having a couple of great local runs.
So there you have it. My predictions for the Aussie Open are for a men’s final of Djokovic/Del Potro, and a women’s final of Serena/ Azarenka. Although what I would like to happen is for a Hewitt/Del Potro final for the men and a Stosur/Williams final for the women. Having a surprising local run on one side, and a dangerous power player on the other would make this Open hugely memorable. Whatever happens though, this is a tournament I thoroughly look forward too every year, and it never disappoints in providing us with gripping moments. Watch this space.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Argentine Juan Martin del Potro returned to Washington, D.C. after a three year hiatus to claim his third Citi Open title against American John Isner, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. (Finals gallery at bottom)
“It’s amazing, I’m so happy to win here once again,” the 24-year-old stated after the final. “When you win a tournament its special, its big. After Wimbledon to be my first time on hard court it means a lot. I am looking forward to Montreal, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open. It gives me a lot of confidence to keep trying and get closer to the top guys.”
The soft-spoken Argentine struggled returning Isner’s solid serves and baseline shots in the first set, and realized that he needed to step further back out of the court in order to play his own game. He then kept Isner to only one ace per set for the remaining two sets.
Though disappointed, the American didn’t take the loss hard. After playing nine matches in eleven days, Isner admitted that his body wasn’t as fresh as he’d like it to be.
“I was a little tired out there,” said Isner. “It was one of those things where my body felt fine but my legs weren’t quite there. I wish I felt a little bit better out there but at the same time I could have been a 100% and still could have not won that match. That just speaks on how good he is. He was better today and my hats off to him. He was the better player.”
When asked about where Del Potro stacks up to the current top four ATP players, without hesitation, Isner praised the Argentine’s game, saying he was just a hair behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and the third favorite to win the U.S. Open.
In Del Potro’s press conference, he was told what Isner had commented regarding his chances at this month’s Slam, and the Argentine almost looked embarrassed, sweetly and sincerely returning the favor.
“He’s going to be a favorite too, for sure,” Del Potro said. “On the hard court, Isner is really good player. His game is improving day by day. He has a good advantage to take the opportunities to go farther.”
In the women’s singles final, Magdalena Rybarikova successfully defended her title defeating a newly-healthy Andrea Petkovic, 6-4, 7-6(2). On court, the Slovakian called Washington, D.C. “home” after never having lost a match on the surface, and admitted it was not an easy run.
“This year when I saw the draw I thought, ‘Yeah, this is going to be very tough,'” Rybarikova said. “I would have been happy to make the quarterfinals and play Kerber. But every match I was playing better and better, then I beat Kerber, which was a huge win for me. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Petkovic meanwhile reached her second final of the year after Nurnberg and feels her game is in a better place.
“It was a pretty good week – all in all I’m quite satisfied,” Petkovic said. “I would have loved to win the title here to really feel like I’ve completely come back, but I’m really okay. She played really well.”
“Magda was really stepping up her game, not missing a lot and not giving me many free points. It was a really difficult match but all the credit to her, she really deserved to win the title today.”
In the men’s doubles final, the duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau won their second doubles title as a team against Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek.
“It feels really great to win such a big tournament,” said Zimonjic. “It’s a 500 series, and not just that, it was a really strong field. It didn’t have easy matches here. Very good teams played. To come after a long break, to come this strong and win the tournament without losing a set is really the best way you want to come back to the tour.”
“It was a lot of fun for both of us to play. We had a great time here on the court, off the court, and hopefully this will help us for the upcoming three tournaments that we’ll play.”
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Set against the backdrop of downtown Washington, D.C., this week’s Citi Open has brought some of tennis’ most recognizable names to the tournament, including Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Haas and the youngest player in the women’s draw, 17-year-old newcomer and American Taylor Townsend.
It was a full schedule on tap with both men’s singles semifinals set on stadium court, along with one women’s semifinal and one men’s doubles semifinal. The rest, including the women’s doubles final, was scheduled on the first grandstand court.
There has been some discussion in player press conferences this week regarding scheduling differences between the men’s and women’s draws, and how the women are not being scheduled as equally on stadium court. It seems though that most players understand why. The men’s event is a 500-level while the women’s is a lower-tiered International-level, and several players — including females — commented that men tend to bring a bigger draw and whoever the tournament believes would be a bigger draw will be the match scheduled on stadium court. Logical enough but still questionable reasoning on some level.
That being said, the men’s doubles semifinal between the pairing of Julien Benneteau and Nenad Zimonjic against University of Virginia alumni and Citi Open defending champions Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot, took precedence over the women’s doubles final between 2012 Junior Wimbledon Girls’ Doubles champions Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend and Shuko Aoyama and Vera Dushevina.
In front of a decent-sized crowd, the first-time partnering of Aoyama and Dushevina were crowned champions in women’s doubles.
After the match, the only ones called into press were the runners-up, Bouchard and Townsend, as the media room was mostly empty and at the men’s doubles match. The winners gave no press conference.
With her longer history on tour than her counterpart, Bouchard was visibly disappointed in the presser but still sincere in answering questions. Townsend, on the other hand, looked as if she was on cloud nine. She seemed to have just been excited to reach a pro final and was relishing the moment despite the quick loss. I asked her about the contrast in the presence of young players on tour between the men’s and women’s side and she gave an insightful and rather mature answer.
“I think it’s a lot different for the men than the women,” Townsend replied.”The men mature at an older age and we mature younger. So I think it’s a lot easier for us — at a young age — to hang with the older players because our bodies mature faster. The men are so strong and it takes them a few more years to get caught up to that level, especially to get into that top shape.”
As the first men’s doubles semifinal started between top American John Isner and a newly-resurgent Dmitry Tursunov on stadium court at 3:00pm to looming clouds, doubles partners Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra (and his youngest son, Teo!) took to the practice courts.
As the Bulgarian stretched, a shirtless Llodra kicked a soccer ball around with his 6-year-old son. All week, the youngster could be spotted on the tennis court hitting some impressive shots and his soccer head-butting and kicking skills didn’t disappoint. After Dimitrov finished his stretching, he jumped into the mini-soccer game and ended up losing — happily obliging to do push-ups on court as the loser.
Heading onto stadium court for Isner-Tursunov, the first set was dead even, and ended up going to a tiebreak. Four exchanges of serve and some patience by the Russian and he got the unexpected upper hand, taking the first set. Tursunov diminished his double faults count from his matches earlier this week, and ran Isner laterally until the American hit long or into the net. On several occasions, Tursunov bullied the American’s backhand before pulling the trigger forcing Isner into an error with a running forehand.
During the changeover, sprinkles began falling but the players decided to continue on without any exchanges with chair umpire Magdi Somat. As the drops increased in intensity during the first game, Isner had a break point on Tursunov’s serve and slipped, slamming a forehand into the net. Instinctively, Isner yelled in the umpire’s general direction and Tursunov had also already began walking towards the chair. Play was called and the players taken inside as the 80-minute rain delay began.
Isner gets break point then nets FH. Yells, “WHY are we playing right now?! I’m NOT playing!” Magdi calls play, players go inside.
— Romi Cvitkovic (@RomiCvitkovic) August 3, 2013
At around 5:00pm, Juan Martin del Potro made an appearance on the practice courts to packed stands on court one. As play was suspended, fans still had the opportunity to enjoy a light hit by the Argentine for about 30 minutes.
Play shortly resumed on stadium court and after breaking Tursunov to go up 4-1, the American took the second set 6-3. The baseline play among both players was incredible to watch. After so many matches between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, you forget how powerful (and consistent and precise) other men on tour can hit, and the two held some extended jaw-dropping rallies. In the end, the American broke Tursunov again to take the final set, 6-4.
Walking back to the media center, I heard loud cheers coming from grandstand court and realized that the other men’s doubles semifinal went on at the same time as the singles match on stadium. That’s one of the problems with a rain delay — you don’t quite always get to watch everything you hope to. Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek took out fan favorites, Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra, and with that, the Citi Open crowds will have American men in both the men’s singles and doubles finals. On the opposite side of the grounds on grandstand court two, women’s semifinalist Andrea Petkovic was practicing in front of a small group of fans.
At 7:20pm, Isner walked into press with ice on both knees for precautionary reasons. He’s one of the few to constantly have ice on some joint on his body so it’s not so much a surprise anymore.
Ten minutes later, the Isner presser was completed, and as we looked to the TV in the media center, we saw that Tommy Haas had just broken Juan Martin del Potro to go up 3-1 — a bit of early trouble for the two-time tournament champion.
Without much of a breather, Tursunov commenced his low-key presser, where he analyzed his loss but felt there really weren’t any holes in his game. A pretty fair analysis as he never once held break point, but stayed in the match much of the time.
As I prepared to go out and finally watch the Del Potro – Haas match, I realized the score was frozen at 4-1. Of course, another rain delay.
I looked at the live scoreboard and noticed that the women’s semifinal between Magdalena Rybarikova and Ekaterina Makarova was still going on though, and questioned what was going on. Rybarikova went on to win three games in a matter of minutes before play was finally suspended. But I guess the weather can be funny sometimes!
— Kelsey Anderson (@KelseyOAnderson) August 3, 2013
During the nearly three hour rain delay, the illustrious third edition of the “Citi Open Rain Delay Media Spelling Bee” commenced, where contestants had to correctly spell various ATP and WTA player names within the top 200. What started out with eight people in the first few minutes grew to nearly 20 and included photographers, bloggers, long-time wire writers, event staff and even Tour staff. Thanks to gracious contestant Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover, we have footage of Ben Rothenberg’s winning moment, having successfully defended his title from 2012.
The tournament media staff had some fun and sweetly made the winner his own notable trophy. How thoughtful!
The Del Potro – Haas match continued with the Argentine quickly picking up momentum, and later in press admitting that the rain delay helped him. Haas, conversely, came into press and was quite short, stating he was “aggravated and annoyed” during the rain delay and it reflected in his straight set loss, 7-6(4), 6-3.
Despite the lateness of the hour — the men’s semi had finished at 12:15AM — there had been no earlier talk of opening up play of the second women’s semifinal on a third court. Instead, Alize Cornet and Andrea Petkovic were set to follow on whichever court had finished first. Inevitably, organizers seemed to have waited to see if the men’s semi would finish shortly after the first women’s semi would, and they were lucky.
At 12:35AM, the second women’s semi finally took place to a crowd of still several hundred people. The sheer match ups of Cornet and Petkovic’s style could have made this match the highlight of the women’s draw so far, but the lateness of the hour prevented it from reaching grand proportions. However, both ladies impressed with full court-coverage, suspenseful rallies and looked — incredibly enough — quite fresh.
After being down 3-0, then getting broken twice while serving for the set, Petkovic finally took the first set, 7-5. She then made quick work of the French woman, taking it 6-3 in the second and delighting the crowd with her famous “Petko Dance.”
The evening finally ended at an “early” 2:15AM, with the women’s singles final scheduled for exactly 15 hours later. Talk about a quick recovery for both ladies!
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly twenty years ago, Dmitry Tursunov stepped off the plane from Russia, ready to take on the tennis world at the tender age of twelve. His father was determined to make a tennis champion in the family and the talented Tursunov obliged with a move to the United States.
Despite rising to a career-high ranking of world No. 20 in 2006, it wasn’t always an easy road for the Russian as he was forced off tour multiple times with injuries and surgeries, and a strained relationship with his father did not help his confidence.
Tursunov himself calls his career a bit of a “rollercoaster,” but his most memorable win came against an American great in 2006, as he won 17-15 in a fifth set.
“Most people might say that the highlight of my career was beating Andy Roddick on clay during Davis Cup — on a surface he doesn’t really like,” joked Tursunov exclusively to Tennis Grandstand. “But it was a good match for the fans and it had a lot of suspense.”
After breaking into the top 100 exactly ten years ago, it was another three years before the Russian’s ranking steadied within the top 40. Over the next three years, he won six tournaments and defeated a top 10 opponent on seven occasions. At about this time, injuries started to creep in and they took him out of the game as he fell outside of the top 500.
“With every injury, you also have doubts, and the last couple of injuries have been probably more difficult than the first ones,” admitted Tursunov. “They always give you a scare and you’re never sure if you’re going to be or not going to be playing again. But for some reason the last couple [of injuries] were kind of hard to get through.”
The expectation with injury recovery among athletes is that once your body has healed, you will be able to return to your previous prime quite quickly. But that is rarely the case and often times you begin to question your game.
“When you’re coming back [from injury], that’s the hardest thing,” Tursunov continued. “Because when you’re coming back, you don’t have much confidence in anything. You’re constantly in doubt and you’re taking bad results closer to the heart … When you’re taking hits and you’re down, it’s a lot harder to get through those. You just suck it up or call it quits.
Despite his rocky time with the sport, the Russian who now trains in California never doubted his place in tennis.
“I felt there is not much I could do outside of tennis … As much as I sometimes hate being on court when I’m not playing well, I understand that it’s much better than being in the ‘real world’ and having a 9-to-5 job … I would rather be a player on tour than even a coach.”
Tursunov got his start on a tennis court at a very early age, under the careful tutelage of his father.
“[My father] had a tremendous belief in me from the very beginning,” stated Tursunov. “He put 150% of his energy into my tennis. Any money he had was not going to the family, it was going to my tennis. He essentially gambled quite a lot on my tennis.”
With a father so involved with his budding career, it was only inevitable that this strained their own relationship off the court.
“I had a difficult relationship with my dad because of tennis,” commented Tursunov. “Tennis was basically the link that bonded us together. And for a very long time, when I was practicing – when I was little – I didn’t see myself as anything other than a tennis player because it was so engrained into my lifestyle. There was no speculation about what I would become when I’m older. Everything was around tennis.”
If this story sounds familiar, you might be right.
Andre Agassi, in his book “Open,” also heavily commented on the difficult relationship he had with his own father on the tennis court, and many aspects of his and Tursunov’s relationships run in parallel.
“Some people might say that he vicariously lived through me, but as a parent, I don’t really believe you think of it this way. You always want your child to succeed,” stated Tursunov. “I also don’t believe my dad abused our relationship and dynamics, like some press have said.”
He continued: “Yes, he was fanatical about it. … If anything, I wish that we had found a common ground earlier. … The last few years, he finally started asking me about life outside of tennis and how I’m doing.”
With his father’s passing last year, Tursunov is playing with a renewed determination. Though he admits to “wearing [his] emotion on [his] sleeve” on court and often being quite negative, his new coach repeatedly reminds him to be more optimistic and positive, and it seems to be resulting in some good wins.
This year already, Tursunov has defeated two top-10 opponents, including David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic, and just this week at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. he ousted 2011 champion Radek Stepanek and tournament fifth seed Gilles Simon. His ascension back to world No. 61 has been a sweet affair, and his semifinal appearance this week will propel him back up to at least No. 43 in the rankings.
At thirty years old, Tursunov is now near the twilight of his tennis career, but he finds inspiration in a fellow ATP player who has defied age stereotypes.
“Tommy Haas is giving a lot of hope to all of us to play far into our thirties,” stated Tursunov. “I think in general you can see the trend of older players playing longer into their careers … I’d like for the last two to three years of my career – whenever that may be – to really make it count. Not just win one, two rounds but win tournaments.”
With his semifinal against John Isner at the Citi Open on Saturday, there may be no better time than now to announce his comeback.