by Kevin Craig
Madison Keys completed an extraordinary comeback on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday at the US Open, coming back from 1-5 down in the third set to beat Naomi Osaka of Japan, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3).
“For sure. Hands down,” said Keys when asked if this was the best comeback of her career. “The crowd today was amazing, and getting to play at your home slam on Ashe is a feeling like you can’t even describe.”
Keys, the No. 8 seat in this year’s US Open, has been in terrific form this summer, holding a 19-4 record since the French Open. The impressive run she has been on saw her sitting at a career high ranking of No. 9 coming into the event, and with her results in New York, will see her propel to an even higher career high ranking when the new rankings come out.
With a title in Birmingham, a finalist appearance in Montreal, and reaching the medal rounds at the Olympics in Rio, Keys, at 21-years old, was touted as one of the outside favorites at the final major of the year, but received a massive scare from her 18-year old opponent.
Osaka, who has been highly regarded as one of the best prospects on the women’s side of the game in recent times, had an impressive result early in the year as she qualified to get into the Australian Open before reaching the third round. Her ranking as hovered in the 80-120 range in 2016, though, as she has not been able to win more than two matches in a row since her run in Melbourne.
The Japanese looked to make it three wins in a row on Friday as she broke Keys in the opening game of the match and got off to the exact start she needed. Keys, however, was up to the task and broke back just three games later to get back on serve. From the 2-2 game onward, the rest of the first set was very straight forward as neither player had a look at any break points and none of the games went to deuce until the final game of the set.
In the 12th game, Osaka gave Keys, who hit 37 winners in the match, just the smallest window of opportunity at 30-40, and the American took advantage as she broke to close out the first set, 7-5.
The second set was much different as four of the 10 games went to deuce, yet only one break point was converted. That break went to Osaka in the ninth game as she was able to fight off two break points in the early stages before taking the lead late. After converting her first break point of the set for a 5-4 lead, Osaka went on to hold comfortably at 15 to force a decider.
All the momentum looked to be on the side of the 18-year old as she would get within one game of reaching her first fourth round at a major, holding a 5-1 lead. Keys, though, knew how big of an opportunity this was for her and she didn’t let it slip, breaking Osaka as she served for the match, not even allowing the Japanese to have a look at a match point.
“I just knew that if I stayed in the match that I could maybe have a chance to come back and get back in it,” said Keys, and that was exactly the case as she fought herself all the way back to a final set tiebreak.
The unreal comeback from Keys, who won 80 percent of her first serve points in the match, was concluded as all the momentum was on her side at this point. The American was able to jump out to a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, and there was no looking back from that point as she would close out the match three points later and place herself in the fourth round of the US Open for the second year in a row.
“I think the biggest thing is just…I’m never giving up and I’m fighting to the very end. That’s something to pat myself on the back for. But also definitely going to sit down later and work on some things for the next round because I don’t want to be two points from losing again,” said Keys.
This match-up between Keys and Osaka is surely one that will be seen many times again in the future, and possibly even in the later rounds of major tournaments. For now, though, Keys will focus on her fourth round match with former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki that will take place on Sunday.
The American has bowed out in the fourth round of the first three majors of the year, but will hope to go at least one better here in New York, and possibly match her career best result at a major; reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2015.
by Kevin Craig
Madison Keys fought her way into the fourth round at the Australian Open amidst difficult circumstances. In the only women’s match that went three sets on Saturday, the American defeated the No. 20 seed Ana Ivanovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, but not before the match had to be delayed for an hour as Ivanovic’s coach collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.
The first set was very straightforward as both players were able to handle their serves well. At 3-3, Keys was the first to create an opportunity on return as she saw two break chances in a game that lasted 14 points. Ivanovic, who only lost three points in her four other service games in the first set, was able to fight through the adversity of that game to hold and then create three break chances of her own at 5-4. Ivanovic only needed the first opportunity though, as she broke at love to close out the first set winning eight straight points.
It was early in the second set when Ivanovic’s coach, Nigel Sears, collapsed inside Rod Laver Arena. Sears, who is also the father-in-law of Andy Murray, had not been feeling well throughout the match and attempted to leave the stadium, but on his way up the stairs, Sears reportedly collapsed and required immediate medical attention. It was reported by Ben Rothenburg, before play had even resumed, that Sears was “alert and responding.”
Once the delay had ended and the players returned to the court, Ivanovic fought off the distraction to go up a break at 2-0 on her fourth break point of the game. Keys quickly fought back to get back on serve at 2-1, though, before each player went on to hold at love. With Ivanovic up 3-2 on serve, she was able to once again break the American but was unable to consolidate as Keys broke straight back. At 4-4, Keys broke for the third time in the set to go up 5-4 and was able to hold her serve after a very difficult fight from Ivanovic that saw six break points and 18 points total.
The momentum did not completely shift to Keys’ side of the net despite levelling the match at one set apiece, as Ivanovic broke in Keys’ first service game of the third set to go up 2-0, just like in the second set. The Serb was able to hold onto the lead until her 3-1 service game that saw her save four break points before Keys broke on the fifth to get back on serve. Keys then held a tough deuce game before breaking Ivanovic again to go up a break. It was no looking back from there for the No. 15 seed as she closed out the match with an impressive hold.
Keys, who made the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2015, is now only two wins away from repeating that result as she will face Zhang Shuai in the fourth round and either Johanna Konta or Ekaterina Makarova in the quarterfinals, should she get there. Keys showed her fighting spirit on Saturday as she was able to come back from a break down three times and overcame hitting more than double the unforced errors compared to her opponent, and will hope that her momentum carries into the next rounds.
As the Premier Five tournament in Canada looms, four of the top ten women hone their skills at tournaments on opposite coasts. The resort atmosphere at Carlsbad, long a player favorite, contrasts with the urban surroundings of the national capital.
Top half: World No. 3 Victoria Azarenka has not lost a match away from clay all season. Of course, Azarenka has played only four matches away from clay since winning the Doha title in February. Walkovers and withdrawals ended her campaigns at Indian Wells, Miami, and Wimbledon, so attention will hover around her battered knee this week. Azarenka’s health may attract even more attention than it would otherwise because she faces a relatively mild early slate of opponents. An all-Italian battle between Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone tantalizes only for nostalgic reasons, and Urszula Radwanska seems little more likely than her elder sister to vanquish Vika. Among the surprises of the spring was Jelena Jankovic, a semifinalist in Miami and quarterfinalist at Roland Garros. Jankovic troubled Azarenka in her prime, but the momentum has shifted in that rivalry to reflect their divergent career arcs
The most compelling first-round match in Carlsbad will pit defending champion Dominika Cibulkova against former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic. Defeating Bartoli to win last year’s title, Cibulkova exploited a much weaker draw in the week of the Olympics. Still, she will bring plenty of confidence from her title at Stanford, whereas coaching turmoil once again enshrouds the Serb. The route will not grow much smoother for whoever survives that early test. Although the second round looks uneventful, Roberta Vinci could await in the quarterfinals. This crafty Italian has domianted Cibulkova on all surfaces, winning five straight from her, and she has taken her last three outdoor matches from Ivanovic. The relatively slow surface in San Diego should help Vinci outlast the heavy serve of Bethanie Mattek-Sands before then.
Semifinal: Azarenka vs. Vinci
Bottom half: Around this time last year, Petra Kvitova caught fire with a Premier Five title at the Rogers Cup and a semifinal in Cincinnati. The somewhat slower surface in San Diego may suit her game less well than those events, and North America historically has not brought out her best tennis. A rematch of her epic Australian Open loss to Laura Robson might await in the second round. Both women have oscillated wildly in their results this year, suggesting another rollercoaster ahead. A former Carlsbad champion lurks unobtrusively near eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, enjoying her best season so far. That former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, has revived her career with two major quarterfinals in 2013. An abdominal injury has sidelined Kuznetsova since Roland Garros, but she should have time to play herself into the tournament.
The fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska reached finals in each of her last two Carlsbad appearances. Disappointed at Stanford on Sunday, Radwanska wil aim to erase that memory with her second title here. She should outmaneuver Daniela Hantuchova, whom she has defeated here before, and may not have much to fear from Samantha Stosur unless the Aussie’s form improves dramatically. Little in Stosur’s dismal performance at Stanford boded well for her chances of escaping a challenging opener against Varvara Lepchenko. That 27-year-old American lefty could meet Radwanska in a quarterfinal for the second straight week.
Semifinal: Kuznetsova vs. Radwanska
Final: Azarenka vs. Radwanska
Top half: Overshadowed by the men’s event at the same tournament, this WTA International event did succeed in luring a top-10 player as a wildcard. World No. 9 Angelique Kerber has fallen on hard times over the last few months, so a dip in the quality of opposition could prove just what the doctor ordered. Some of the women who might face her in the quarterfinals exited early at Stanford. Formerly promising American Christina McHale continues a rebuilding campaign in 2013 against Magdalena Rybarikova. Her period of promise long behind her, Melanie Oudin hopes to stay somewhat relevant nearly four years after her illusory surge at the US Open.
Like McHale, Rybarikova, and Kiki Bertens in the top quarter, Madison Keys looks to bounce back from a disappointing Stanford loss. Anchoring the second quarter, she might meet star junior Taylor Townsend in a second-round preview of future matches on more momentous stages. The reeling but canny Monica Niculescu hopes to fluster Townsend with her distinctive style before then. More young talent stands atop the section in Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and France’s Caroline Garcia. These impressive phenoms must navigate around Australian Open quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova, a lefty like Townsend. Plenty of storylines and suspense will unfold in a very short time.
Bottom half: Building on her momentum from Stanford, Sorana Cirstea eyes one of the draw’s softer sections. Home hope Alison Riske looks to prove herself as a threat outside the small grass event in Birmingham, while Heather Watson traces the same trajectory as McHale on the long, slow road back from mononucleosis. Ending her clay season on a high note, Alize Cornet won an International title in May. But she threatens much less on hard courts and might well fall victim to the enigmatic Yanina Wickmayer at the outset.
By far the most established of the home threats, second seed Sloane Stephens faces high expectations this summer. American fans know much more about the Australian Open semifinalist, Wimbledon quarterfinalist, and conqueror of Serena Williams than they did a year ago. The 15th-ranked Stephens has produced much more convincing tennis at majors than at non-majors, where she barely has cracked the .500 threshold in 2013. Her sturdiest pre-semifinal obstacle could come in the form of Andrea Petkovic, still producing results more disappointing than encouraging in her comeback from serious injuries. A relatively minor illness may blunt Petkovic’s injuries this week, though, while compatriot Mona Barthel retired from her last tournament with a sore shoulder.
Final: Makarova vs. Stephens
Among the annual narratives of the US Open Series are the glimpses of rising American talents on both Tours. The first week of the 2013 Series shone a spotlight on a dozen of these players in Atlanta and Stanford, small events without draws too daunting. Some took advantage of the breathing room this week, while others allowed opportunities to escape them.
Ryan Harrison: He had not reached an ATP quarterfinal since early January, compiling barely more wins in 2013 than one could count on the figures of one hand. But Harrison ended that drought and bolstered his sagging ranking by weathering a pair of rollercoasters against higher-ranked opponents. He outlasted Marinko Matosevic and the fourth-seeded Igor Sijsling more from superior determination than superior tennis. Under the Friday night lights, Harrison will face Santiago Giraldo in a rematch of an Australian Open meeting that he won comfortably. A first career final is not inconceivable.
Christian Harrison: Every player must remember the moment of their first victory in the main draw an ATP tournament. For Ryan’s 19-year-old brother, that moment came in the first round of Atlanta. While Alejandro Falla entered that match drained from last week’s Bogota finals run, Christian still showed impressive grit by battling through three tight sets to upset an opponent ranked 210 places higher. The grit resurfaced a round later, when he fell to the top-seeded Isner by the narrowest of margins. Christian battled a far more powerful, far more experienced opponent deep into the third set, nearly scoring a massive upset.
Jack Sock: A quarterfinalist at Atlanta last year, Sock could not recapture his success despite his clear advantage in power over Santiago Giraldo. This Colombian clay specialist even out-aced Sock on a hard court. Since reaching the quarterfinals in Memphis, Sock has not advanced past the second round of any ATP tournament. Accumulated frustration from those struggles may have contributed to his outbursts of temper in Atlanta. Fans should remember that Sock remains a raw, unfinished talent still a few years away from fulfilling his potential.
Rhyne Williams: Raining aces aplenty on both of his opponents, this prospect established himself as an intimidating server in the mold of many American men before him. Williams powered past compatriot higher-ranked compatriot Denis Kudla in the first round without dropping his serve. He threatened to spring an upset on the seventh-seeded, much more experienced Lleyton Hewitt behind another barrage of aces. But his inexperience showed in the first-set tiebreak, which Williams lost after holding four consecutive set points and donating a costly double fault.
Denis Kudla: The world No. 93 showed promise in North American challengers this spring and by reaching the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club. Kudla’s modest serve left him at a critical disadvantage against a torrid Williams, so Atlanta fans could not fully appreciate his skills in other areas. He will hope for more advantageous draws as the US Open Series continues.
Tim Smyczek: Just behind Williams in the rankings, Smyczek earned attention at the Australian Open when he upset Ivo Karlovic and won a set from David Ferrer. Since that promising statement, Smyczek has won just three main-draw matches at ATP tournaments. Curiously, two of those have come against notable opponents in Fernando Verdasco and Sam Querrey. Smyczek needs to exploit opportunities in winnable matches better than in his loss to James Blake. At 5-5 in the third set, he could not convert break points that might have sealed the match.
Jamie Hampton: Like Smyczek, Hampton emerged on the radar of observant fans in Melbourne, where she won a set from eventual champion Victoria Azarenka. A clay upset of Petra Kvitova signaled a second peak in June, marked by a stirring run to the Eastbourne final as a qualifier. The 23-year-old Hampton holds a seed for the first time this week. She carried that burden with mixed results in her opener, striking over 50 winners while spraying plenty of careless errors. A semifinal looms against Agnieszka Radwanska, whom she defeated in Eastbourne. She must clean up her game by then.
Madison Keys: In a tale of two matches, Keys dominated eighth seed Magdalena Rybarikova and then fell quietly to qualifier Vera Dushevina. Eagerness to find a successor to the Williams sisters, which Keys could become, should not blind onlookers to the inconsistency in her results this year. She often plays to the level of her competition, a trait common among young, raw talents, and more growing pains will lie ahead before we can rely on her as a late-week threat. Stanford brought a dose of optimism and a dash of realism, a healthy recipe for both Keys and her fans to consume.
Christina McHale: A once-promising talent veered off the rails when McHale fell victim last year to mononucleosis, often a death sentence for tennis careers. The New Jersey native has time to regroup, though, for she just turned 21 in May. McHale has advanced past the second round at only one tournament (Doha) in the last 11 months, but she has troubled top-15 opponents such as Li Na, Sara Errani, and Maria Kirilenko this year. Still searching for confidence, she won just four games from Urszula Radwanska in the first round of Stanford.
Coco Vandeweghe: Reaching last year’s Stanford final as a lucky loser, she qualified for the main draw this time and routed her first opponent. The somewhat less inconsistent Sorana Cirstea then ended Vandeweghe’s bid for another breakthrough. Back inside the top 200, the Southern California slugger wields a huge serve—and not much else. She accomplished about as much as one could expect in the context of her year overall.
Mallory Burdette: Unfortunate to draw Marion Bartoli in the first round last year, Burdette enjoyed only slightly better fortune by facing Francesca Schiavone in this year’s opener. The Italian has feasted on inexperienced players like the Stanford alum, who became a full-time pro last fall. Despite her dwindling form, Schiavone pulled away in straight sets to hand Burdette her fourth straight loss. She will hope for less thorny draws as the US Open Series progresses.
Nicole Gibbs: The best player in NCAA women’s tennis again received a wildcard to the tournament at her university. Gibbs produced a result similar on paper to her Stanford appearance in 2012, when she won one match before losing the second. But her three-set dogfight with the fourth-seeded Hampton revealed the toughness behind her gentle demeanor. Gibbs easily could have grown disheartened after failing to serve out the second set, or after falling behind 0-4 in the third. Her resilience in both of those situations suggested that she has the heart to succeed in the WTA, if perhaps not the weapons.
The women’s US Open Series launches in California with one of the oldest tournaments in the WTA. In the tranquil setting of Stanford University, the Bank of the West Classic a particularly cozy and rewarding tournaments. Here is a look ahead at what to expect this week at Stanford and at the International event half a world away in Azerbaijan.
Top half: Rarely do Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka all spurn Stanford. Their absence this year offers world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska an opportunity as the only top-10 player in the draw. The top seed probably still can taste the bitter disappointment of a greater opportunity squandered at Wimbledon. Radwanska will seek to bounce back on a relatively fast hard court, where she has reached the semifinals before. She should reach that stage again with no pre-semifinal opponent more formidable than Varvara Lepchenko, just 2-9 away from clay this year. A potentially intriguing first-round match between youthful energy and veteran cunning pits Stanford alum Mallory Burdette against Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone.
Sandwiched between two unimpressive seeds, Madison Keys should showcase her power on a court suited to it. American fans will enjoy their glimpse of the woman who could become their leading threat to win a major in a few years. Keys will look to deliver an opening upset over eighth seed Magdalena Rybarikova en route to a possible quarterfinal against compatriot Jamie Hampton. Climbing into relevance with an Eastbourne final, Hampton holds the fourth seed and may face another Stanford alum in Nicole Gibbs. Hampton stunned Radwanska at Eastbourne last month, while Keys took a set from her at Wimbledon.
Semifinal: Radwanska vs. Keys
Bottom half: The third quarter features another unseeded American hopeful—and another Radwanska. Stanford’s depleted field allowed Agnieszka’s younger sister, Urszula, to snag the seventh seed, while Christina McHale looks for momentum on the long road back from mononucleosis. Still elegant as she fades, Daniela Hantuchova brings a touch of grace that should contrast with the athleticism of first-round opponent Yanina Wickmayer. Often a presence but rarely a threat at Stanford, third seed Dominika Cibulkova has not won more than two matches at any tournament since January.
The only US Open champion in the draw, Samantha Stosur might face a challenging test against Julia Goerges. This enigmatic German has won three of their four meetings, including both on hard courts, although the last three all have reached a third set. Of course, a 14-17 record in 2013 does not bode well for her chances of surviving Olga Govortsova in the first round. The road might not get any easier for Stosur in the quarterfinals, though, where she could meet Sorana Cirstea. A product of the Adidas training program in Las Vegas, Cirstea upset Stosur at last year’s Australian Open. None of the women in the lower half ever has reached a final at Stanford.
Semifinal: Cibulkova vs. Stosur
Final: Radwanska vs. Stosur
Top half: Not one of these women will hold a seed at the US Open unless their rankings rise between now and then. Holding the top seed is Bojana Jovanovski, who owes many of her poitns to a second-week appearance at the Australian Open. Jovanovski has two victories over Caroline Wozniacki but few over anyone else since then. Former junior No. 1 Daria Gavrilova and fellow Serb Vesna Dolonc offer her most credible competition before the semifinals.
At that stage, Jovanovski might meet Andrea Hlavackova, the runner-up in a similarly weak draw at Bad Gastein a week ago. Although she has fallen outside the top 100, meanwhile, Shahar Peer will hope to rely on her experience to stop either Hlavackova or third seed Chanelle Scheepers. The speed of the surface may determine whether a counterpuncher like Peer or Scheepers overcomes the heavier serve of fifth seed Karolina Pliskova.
Bottom half: Unheralded players from the home nation often play above expectations at small tournaments like Baku. Wildcard Kamilla Farhad, an Azerbaijani citizen, will hope to echo Yvonne Meusberger’s astonishing title run in Bad Gastein. Surrounding her are clay specialist Alexandra Cadantu and the stagnating Polona Hercog. A tall Slovenian, the later woman seems the best equipped to win on hard courts from this section. Cadantu will need to blunt the explosive serve of Michaella Krajicek to survive her opener.
The 18-year-old Elina Svitolina showed promise in Bad Gastein by reaching the semifinals. That experience will have served her well heading into another International event with an open draw. She even holds a seed here, as does another rising star in Donna Vekic. Nearly two years younger than Svitolina, Vekic already has reached two WTA finals. A quarterfinal between the two teenagers might offer a preview of more momentous matches in the future.
Final: Pliskova vs. Vekic
The Emirates Airlines US Open Series begins next week with tournaments at Atlanta (ATP) and Stanford (WTA). More events on both Tours follow during each of the five weeks between now and the US Open, including consecutive Masters 1000/Premier Five tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati. As the action accelerates toward the final major of 2013, here are seven key narratives to follow.
1. Will Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray seize the upper hand?
The top two men in the world have contested the finals at the last three non-clay majors and enter the summer hard courts as co-favorites for the US Open. Fittingly, Djokovic and Murray each have won once in New York, although the Serb has reached four finals there to the Scot’s two. While Murray has won multiple titles at both Masters 1000 tournaments this summer, Djokovic never has conquered Cincinnati despite winning three times in Canada. A victory for either man over the other at one of those events would earn that player an edge heading into New York. So would a Canada/Cincinnati sweep, a feat that has occurred only three times on the men’s side in the Open era. Back on their best surface for the rest of 2013, Djokovic and Murray have an opportunity to take their rivalry another step forward. Abrupt shifts have defined it so far, so predict at your peril.
2. Will Serena Williams restore order in the WTA?
The world No. 1 has compiled a somewhat strange season, dominating Roland Garros and racing undefeated through the clay season but losing by the quarterfinals at the two non-clay majors. Serena usually responds with courage to adversity such as her stunning loss to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. One need think back barely a year to the second-half surge that she reeled off after a much more disheartening setback against Virginie Razzano. The dominance of the top three women since the start of 2012 prepared few viewers for the implosion at Wimbledon. That fortnight echoed the chaotic period in the WTA that preceded the current Serena/Maria/Vika Rule of Three. For reasons developed further below, the top-ranked woman and defending US Open champion stands the best positioned of that trio to curb her inferiors. Even as she approaches 32, her aura still intimidates.
3. Will Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal pose the greater challenge to the top two?
On the surface, literally and figuratively, this question seems easy. Federer has compiled the superior record of the two in the US Open Series and at the US Open. For most of their careers, he has been the better man on hard courts and the better man in the second half, when his rival’s energy wanes. That said, Nadal has surpassed Federer in recent years at the US Open, notching consecutive finals in 2010-11. He also has produced the stronger season of the two by far, reaching the final at every tournament except Wimbledon, claiming a key hard-court title at Indian Wells, and overcoming Djokovic at Roland Garros. Federer has won just one title in 2013 and has not defeated a top-five opponent. The two superstars never have met in the US Open Series or at the US Open. They responded in contrasting ways to early Wimbledon losses, Nadal resting his ever-fragile knees and Federer entering two clay tournaments in July.
4. Can the Wimbledon women’s finalists consolidate their breakthroughs?
Hovering over Murray’s quest to defend his US Open title is the question of how he will respond to his Wimbledon feat. The women’s champion there also faces the task of overcoming the inevitable post-breakthrough hangover. Like Murray, however, Marion Bartoli may have the maturity to avoid that lull. She has earned some of her finest successes on North American hard courts, including a Stanford title won from Venus Williams, finals at Indian Wells and San Diego, and semifinals at Miami and the Rogers Cup. Bartoli might return at Stanford next week.
Much more a grass specialist than Bartoli, the woman whom she defeated in the Wimbledon final has reached four quarterfinals there but none at any other major. Sabine Lisicki still looks to build on her victories over two top-four opponents at Wimbledon, and there is no reason why her massive serve cannot shine on fast hard courts. Her main challenge has consisted of staying healthy long enough to build momentum, so her ranking could climb if she does.
5. What to expect from Wimbledon’s walking wounded?
About five top-eight players limped out of the grass season with injuries that may linger. On the men’s side, Juan Martin Del Potro should recover quickly from a minor sprain caused by hyper-extending his left knee. The Wimbledon semifinalist and former US Open champion should prove the most compelling threat in New York outside the Big Four. World No. 3 David Ferrer may need more time to recover from his ankle injury, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has voiced uncertainty over whether he will return from a knee injury by the Open.
Eager to ignite her partnership with Jimmy Connors, Maria Sharapova withdrew from Stanford next week to rest a hip injury incurred at Wimbledon. Sharapova posted playful photos of her rehab work, not sounding overly concerned. Still, both Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka may need to brush off some rust early in the US Open Series. Limited to one match since Roland Garros, Azarenka has played only five tournaments in the last five months. Her coach, Sam Sumyk, reported that her knee incurred no structural damage, though.
6. Will home soil inspire the American men?
At the US Open last year and at Wimbledon this summer, nobody in this group reached the second week, something once taken for granted. With Andy Roddick retired and Mardy Fish chronically ill, American men’s tennis has plunged down an elevator shaft with embarrassing velocity. Not much light shines into the bottom of the shaft from former phenom Ryan Harrison, who has developed into an uninspired journeyman. The more explosive Jack Sock may evolve into a future star, as French sports magazine L’Equipe thinks, but his time will not come for at least a few years. Until then, the two lethargic giants John Isner and Sam Querrey remain the only real hopes for the US. The good news is that they have played their best tennis on home soil, winning 10 of 13 career titles there. The bad news is that neither has done anything meaningful on hard courts this year.
7. Which rising stars on each Tour will shine?
In the wake of a Wimbledon semifinal appearance, many eyes will focus on Jerzy Janowicz over the summer. The boyish, lanky Pole has virtually nothing to defend during the US Open Series as he aims to rise toward the top 10. Grigor Dimitrov has drawn attention mostly on account of his resemblance to Federer and his relationship with Sharapova, but he impressed at both Indian Wells and Miami this year. And the deeply talented, deeply enigmatic Bernard Tomic could build on a promising Wimbledon if he finds more discipline on the court and stability off the court.
The women’s game features some youngsters who have advanced faster than their male counterparts. One of three women to reach the second week at every major in 2013, the 20-year-old Sloane Stephens offers the home nation its most genuine threat outside Serena. Stephens needs to transfer some of her feistiness from verbal barbs to her game, not an obstacle confronted by the powerful Madison Keys. American fans should relish the sight of Keys this summer, showcasing a serve reminiscent of the Williams sisters and the penetrating groundstrokes designed for WTA success. Reaching the second week at Wimbledon and at last year’s US Open, meanwhile, British teenager Laura Robson has shown the power and belief to strike down the elite.
Wimbledon Rewind: Djokovic and Serena Thrive, Radwanska and Li Survive, Ferrer and Kvitova Rally, Grass Specialists Sparkle on Day 6
Miraculously after the rain on Thursday and Friday, Wimbledon has set all of its fourth-round matchups for Manic Monday. More than half of the top-ten players there (five men, six women) fell in the first week, and Saturday featured its share of drama despite the welcome sunshine.
Match of the day: Even with the cloud of his father hanging over him at a distance, Bernard Tomic has compiled an outstanding Wimbledon campaign. The enigmatic Aussie has upset two seeded players to reach the second week, most recently No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet. Showing his taste for drama, Tomic played five sets in the first round against Sam Querrey and reached 5-5 in every set against the 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist.
Upset of the day: Few tennis fans knew much about Kenny de Schepper entering this tournament. The 26-year-old Frenchman benefited from a Marin Cilic walkover in the second round and made the most of the opportunity. Not losing a set in the first week of Wimbledon, de Schepper upset No. 20 seed Juan Monaco to reach this stage at a major for the first time.
Comeback of the day: Imperfect in his first two matches, world No. 4 David Ferrer predictably fell behind the mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov two sets to one. After Dolgopolov steamrolled him in the third set, though, Ferrer regrouped immediately to drop just three games in the next two sets. His far superior stamina gave him a valuable advantage against an opponent who struggles with sustaining energy or form.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There’s death, there’s taxes, there’s Nadal winning on clay, and there’s Tomas Berdych beating up on poor Kevin Anderson. Nine times have they played since the start of 2012, including at four majors, with Berdych winning all nine. At least Anderson took the first set this time and kept the match more competitive than most of its prequels.
Gold star: Considering Kei Nishikori’s promising start to the tournament, Andreas Seppi merits special attention for his five-set battle past the Japanese star. Like Ferrer, Seppi trailed two sets to one before digging into the trenches and holding his ground with an imposing fourth set that set the stage for a tight fifth. As a result of his efforts, Italy leads all nations with four players in the second week of Wimbledon, an odd achievement for a clay-loving nation.
Silver star: One day after demolishing an unseeded opponent, Tommy Haas overcame a much more worthy challenger in Eastbourne champion Feliciano Lopez. Haas bounced back from losing the first set to prevail in four, arranging an intriguing Monday meeting with Novak Djokovic. The German has won both of their previous grass meetings—four years ago—but lost to Djokovic at Roland Garros.
Wooden spoon: At a minimum, one expected some entertaining twists and turns from a match pitting Ernests Gulbis and Fernando Verdasco. The firecrackers fizzled in a straight-sets victory for the Spaniard, who now eyes his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with de Schepper awaiting him on Monday. Gulbis joined a string of unseeded players unable to follow their notable upsets with a deep run.
Stat of the day: World No. 2 Andy Murray cannot face a top-20 opponent until the final. (No. 20 seed Mikhail Youzhny, his Monday opponent, is seeded higher than his ranking because of the grass formula used in making the draw.)
Question of the day: Top seed Novak Djokovic seems to grow more formidable with each round, dismantling Jeremy Chardy today for the loss of only seven games. Can anyone slow his path to the final? Juan Martin Del Potro, the only other man in this half who has not lost a set, might have the best chance. He defeated Djokovic earlier this year at Indian Wells and on grass at the Olympics last year.
Match of the day: One of many players who rallied to win after losing the first set, Li Na rushed through a second-set bagel against Klara Zakopalova but then found herself bogged down in a war of attrition. Li finally opened the door to the second week in the 14th game of the final set. She continues to show more tenacity at this tournament than she has in several months.
Upset of the day: Sabine Lisicki’s victory over the grass-averse Samantha Stosur came as a surprise only on paper. In fact, the greater surprise may have come from Lisicki dropping the first set before dominating the next two. Lisicki has reached the second week in four straight Wimbledon appearances, proving herself the epitome of a grass specialist.
Comeback of the day: British hearts quailed when Laura Robson started a winnable match against Marina Erakovic in dismal fashion. The feisty home hope did not quite recover until late in the second set, when Erakovic served for the match. Needing some help from her opponent to regroup, including a string of double faults, Robson asserted control swiftly in the final set and never relinquished the momentum once she captured it.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There was no Williams déjà vu at Wimbledon, where Kimiko Date-Krumm could not repeat her epic effort against Venus Williams there two years ago. Notching her 600th career victory, Serena surrendered just two games to the Japanese star as she predictably reached the second week without losing a set. Since the start of Rome, the world No. 1 has served bagels or breadsticks in nearly half of the sets that she has played (15 of 31).
Gold star: In trouble against Eva Birnerova when Friday ended, Monica Puig rallied on Saturday to book her spot in the second week. Unlike most of her fellow upset artists, she used a first-round ambush of Sara Errani to light the fuse of two more victories. An almost intra-American match awaits between the Puerto Rican and Sloane Stephens.
Silver star: Tsvetana Pironkova extended her voodoo spell over these lawns with a third second-week appearance in four years. A non-entity at almost all other tournaments, Pironkova could not have chosen a better place to plant her Bulgarian flag. thou
What a difference a day makes: Shortly before play ended on Friday, Petra Kvitova had lost seven straight games to Ekaterina Makarova and narrowly avoided falling behind by a double break in the final set. When she returned in the sunshine of Saturday, Kvitova won five of the last six games to abruptly wrap up a match full of streaky play from both sides.
Americans in London: Also able to collect herself overnight, Sloane Stephens recovered from a second-set bagel to outlast qualifier Petra Cetkovska. Stephens became the only woman outside the top four to reach the second week at every major this year. Nearly joining her was Madison Keys, who gave 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska all that she could handle in a tight three-setter. The impressive serve and balanced baseline power of Keys suggest that we will see much more of her at future Wimbledons.
Question of the day: In 2009, 2011, and 2012, Sabine Lisicki halted the previous month’s Roland Garros champion at Wimbledon. Can she do to Serena what she did to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, and Maria Sharapova? Plenty of massive serves will scar the grass on Monday.
(June 28, 2013) As a follow-up to their inventive and humorous incognito ads with Roger Federer and Serena Williams, Wilson Tennis is now showcasing their “generation next” players, including ATP players Milos Raonic and Andrey Kuznetsov, as well as Laura Robson and Madison Keys who are both through to the third round of Wimbledon.
Typical teenagers can be seen hitting the concert scene on a Friday night, but every fan knows tennis players work around the clock perfecting their game. So it’s no surprise that these four rising stars ditch normal Friday night plans, and instead hit the practice courts — even at night.
Wilson Tennis keeps it youthful and fresh in their newest video, showcasing the fun side of the younger players with their quirks, giggles and funny gestures any age can have a lighthearted laugh at.
The video is part of the BE NEXT campaign that Wilson Tennis started a few weeks ago with Federer. The campaign also includes a contest giving fans the opportunity to meet Federer at the US Open. Other prizes include a Wilson racquet, footwear, apparel, bags and more.
To enter the Wilson BE NEXT contest, go here: www.wilson.com/benext
Wimbledon Rewind: Smooth Sailing for Djokovic, Serena, Berdych, Del Potro, Radwanska, and More on Day 4
After the turmoil of Wednesday, a tranquil Thursday came as a welcome respite. Rain forestalled several of the matches at Wimbledon, but most of the familiar names managed to take the court—and live to fight another day.
Match of the day: The grass on the outer courts continued to score victories in its ongoing rivalry with those patrolling it. Two Frenchmen, Michael Llodra and Paul-Henri Mathieu, added themselves to the accumulating body count with retirements. As the tournament unfolds, one wonders whether the specter of so many injuries will cause many players to move more tentatively, undermining the quality of tennis.
Upset of the day: Only one top-20 player on either side fell on Thursday, but he fell with a resounding thud. No. 17 Milos Raonic exited in straight sets to Igor Sijsling, forcing only one tiebreak. Unimpressive on grass throughout his career, Raonic has not followed in the footsteps of other huge servers from Balkan origins who have shone at Wimbledon. To his credit, Sijsling unleashes plenty of power himself, as an upset of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier this year showed.
No, not again: For the second straight day, one of the Big Four reached a first-set tiebreak on Centre Court against an unremarkable opponent. In contrast to Federer-Stakhovsky yesterday, though, Novak Djokovic’s encounter with Bobby Reynolds grew less rather than more intriguing after the first set. The world No. 1 settled down with discipline to surrender just four games over the next two sets as his challenger faded.
Gold star: What a difference a year makes for Tomas Berdych, who has brushed aside the memories of his first-round exit at Wimbledon in 2012. Berdych halted Daniel Brands in straight sets, impressive considering the effort that Brands mounted against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. When Berdych last defeated Brands at Wimbledon, with much more difficulty, he reached the final.
Silver star: The eighth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro usually finds grass his worst surface, but he has cruised through the first two rounds without dropping a set. After hitting a flashy around-the-netpost winner in his first match, Del Potro earned the chance to shine on Centre Court against Jesse Levine. He did not disappoint despite a second-set lull, starting and finishing with conviction.
Caution light: Extended to four sets in his first match, world No. 9 Richard Gasquet again spent longer than necessary on court in finishing off Go Soeda. Having lost just three games in the first two sets, Gasquet lost the plot temporarily and let the third set slip away in a tiebreak. His best result at a major came at Wimbledon with a 2007 semifinal, but he looks vulnerable this year.
Americans in London: RIP, this category, after just two rounds of the main draw. Bernard Tomic followed his upset of Sam Querrey with a predictably dominant effort against James Blake, while Ivan Dodig dispatched Denis Kudla in straight sets. The last man standing at Wimbledon 2013, Bobby Reynolds, stood no real chance against Djokovic. Andy Roddick, where hath thou gone?
Question of the day: Far from the spotlight, Kei Nishikori quietly has strung together a pair of solid victories. He lurks in the section of Ferrer, mediocre in his first match and defeated by Nishikori on grass last year. Could Nishikori mount an upset or two to reach a quarterfinal or semifinal?
Match of the day: Much superior to her opponent, Jana Cepelova, the 11th-seeded Roberta Vinci could not dispatch her in straight sets and nearly paid the price. Cepelova nipped at her heels until 7-7 in the final set, when the Italian reeled off one last burst to cross the finish line and keep her Wimbledon campaign alive.
Upset of the day: Court 2 has started to acquire the reputation of the preceding Court 2 as a haven for upsets, at least in the women’s draw. Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki fell there yesterday, and today it witnessed the demise of No. 24 Peng Shuai at the hands of Marina Erakovic. Granted, few fans will remember that result after the tournament.
Top seeds sail: Facing Caroline Garcia in the second round for the second straight game, Serena Williams generously gave her two more games than she did in Paris. Stingier was world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who has lost fewer games through two rounds than any other women’s contender. Like Del Potro, Radwanska made the most of her Centre Court assignment and should return there later this fortnight if her form persists.
Gold star: With an Eastbourne title behind her, Elena Vesnina entered Wimbledon with more momentum than most players. All of that momentum crumbled when she collided with grass specialist Sabine Lisicki, a quarterfinalist or better in her last three Wimbledon appearances. Lisicki’s impressively dominant victory moved her within two rounds of an intriguing collision with Serena.
Silver star: The oddest scoreline of the day came from the fifth seed, Li Na, who defeated Simona Halep 6-2 1-6 6-0. Not unfamiliar with such rollercoasters, Li managed to stop Halep’s 11-match winning streak, which had carried her to two June titles on two different surfaces. The Chinese veteran drew a formidable early slate of opponents, but her route looks smoother from here.
The story that never grows old: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sara Errani have departed Wimbledon. Kimiko Date-Krumm has not. The Japanese veteran reached the third round, although now she must face Serena. Date-Krumm took Venus deep into a third set at a recent Wimbledon, defying the power gap between them.
Americans in London: Rain postponed Alison Riske’s match against Urszula Radwanska, but Madison Keys beat both the rain and 30th seed Mona Barthel with ease. Up next for Keys is Agnieszka Radwanska in an intriguing contrast of styles. While an upset seems like a bridge too far for Keys at this stage, she can only benefit from the experience of facing a top-five opponent at a major.
Question of the day: Usually feckless on grass, Samantha Stosur has wasted little time in dispatching two overmatched opponents. She next faces occasional doubles partner Lisicki in a battle of mighty serves. Can she overcome Lisicki’s substantial surface edge, or were these first two wins a mirage?
The first round concluded at Wimbledon today without any seismic shock similar to Day 1 but with many more tightly contested matches than yesterday. Check out the intriguing events below.
Match of the day: The top-ranked American squared off against the top-ranked Australian in a five-set rollercoaster of two giants. After Bernard Tomic eked out the first two sets in tiebreaks, he characteristically lost the plot and allowed Sam Querrey to win two routine sets. But Tomic got the last word, repeating his 2012 Australian Open victory over the American by zoning back into the action for the final set. When he catches fire, he can ignite a draw.
Comeback of the day: An Eastbourne semifinalist last week, Ivan Dodig fell behind 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber two sets to none and came within a tiebreak of losing in straights. Dominating that tiebreak, Dodig carried that momentum through the fourth set and reaped the reward of his perseverance when Kohlschreiber retired early in the fifth.
Trend of the day: The first day featured only one five-setter, but the second day brought fans no fewer than nine. Five Americans played fifth sets. In four of those nine matches, one player won the first two sets before letting the opponent back into the match. None of the nine extended past 6-6 in the final set, however, and two ended in fifth-set retirements, a strange anticlimax.
Symmetry of the day: On the same day that Tomic defeated Querrey, a different American defeated a different Aussie in the same manner. Denis Kudla won the first two sets, lost the next two, and then recovered to win the fifth from James Duckworth. Taken together, those results accurately reflect the superior promise of Australian tennis at the top and the superior depth of American tennis overall.
Gold star: A three-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist and a champion at Eastbourne, Feliciano Lopez plays his best tennis on grass. He extended his winning streak to the All England Club by knocking off the tenacious Gilles Simon in straight sets. The upset recalled Lleyton Hewitt’s victory over Stanislas Wawrinka yesterday, in which an unseeded grass specialist also defeated a seeded counterpuncher.
Silver star: The volatile game of Florian Mayer does not make the easiest way to settle into a major, especially for a man who had not played a match on grass this year. In his first match since the epic Roland Garros loss to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic stood tall as the Wimbledon top seed in dispatching Mayer uneventfully.
Americans in London: Beyond the previously noted Querrey and Kudla, the stars and stripes produced mixed results on Tuesday. Ryan Harrison unsurprisingly fell to Jeremy Chardy, although he did win a set, while James Blake unexpectedly dominated Thiemo de Bakker for the loss of just six games. Bobby Reynolds cannibalized Steve Johnson, who now has lost a five-setter in the first round of every major this year. Court 9 saw the little-lamented departures of Wayne Odesnik and Michael Russell to a pair of fellow journeymen.
Question of the day: While rivals Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro all advanced in straight sets, David Ferrer struggled through a four-setter against an unheralded South American. He also lost his opener last week at the Dutch Open. Do these struggles suggest an early exit for the other Spanish finalist at Roland Garros, or will Ferrer find his grass groove with time?
Match of the day: Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi sought to continue building her momentum in a comeback from a long injury absence. Home hope Tara Moore sought to justify her wildcard and earn her first main-draw victory at Wimbledon. The two waged a relentless 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 duel in the confines of Court 17, which ended in hope for Kanepi and familiar heartbreak for Moore.
Comeback of the day: The pugnacious Barbara Zahlavova Strycova refused to fade after dropping a tight first set to Magdalena Rybarikova. Over the next two sets, the Czech yielded one total game to the Slovak who had reached the Birmingham semifinals (and won that tournament before). Compatriot and Birmingham champion Daniela Hantuchova also fell to a Czech opponent in Klara Zakopalova as the western half of the former Czechoslovakia held their neighboring rivals in check.
Upset of the day: Not the highest-ranked player to lose today, Nadia Petrova suffered the most surprising loss in falling to Katerina Pliskova in two tepid sets. Petrova owes her top-15 status to a series of strong results last fall, but she could not consolidate them this year and now has little margin for error in the second half.
Gold star: Thorny draws often have awaited Laura Robson at Wimbledon, and this year proved no exception with world No. 10 Maria Kirilenko awaiting her on Court 1. The leading British women’s hope delighted her compatriots with her second victory over a top-ten opponent at a major this year. Robson now eyes a relatively open draw after that initial upset, although she cannot relax her guard.
Silver star: Both of last year’s finalists advanced with ease, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska losing six games between them. But perhaps even more impressive was the double breadstick that Li Na served to Michaella Krajicek, a player whose massive weapons could threaten on grass. Li has struggled for most of the spring, and she has not shone on grass since 2010, so this victory might raise her spirits for the challenging road ahead.
Wooden spoon: A quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year, Tamira Paszek fell in the first round this year to the anonymous Alexandra Cadantu. She has dropped nearly 1,000 points in two weeks, combining Eastbourne with Wimbledon, and will plummet from the top 30 in May to outside the top 100 in July.
Americans in London: Outside Serena, most of the main American threats are (or were) in the other half of the draw. Two youngsters suffered contrasting fates on Tuesday, Madison Keys dismissing British talent Heather Watson and Mallory Burdette falling short in a tight three-setter to Urszula Radwanska. The only other American woman in action, Birmingham semifinalist Allison Riske, earned an upset of sorts over clay specialist Romina Oprandi when the latter retired in the third set.
Question of the day: It’s grass season, which means that it’s Tsvetana Pironkova season. The willow Bulgarian, twice a quarterfinalist or better at Wimbledon, routed top-25 opponent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the loss of just one game. How far can Pironkova’s grass magic carry her?