madrid open

American tennis players Mardy Fish and John Isner fire back at Ivan Ljubicic Twitter comment

By Romana Cvitkovic

The tennis world went into overdrive Saturday afternoon as Ivan Ljubicic tweeted a comment targeted at American tennis players supposedly skipping the European tournaments. Americans John Isner and Mardy Fish quickly fought back on Twitter with Fish almost immediately deleting his tweet after he sent it.

Of all the tennis players looking to cause controversy, newly-retired Croat Ivan Ljubicic would not be high on my list that includes the likes of Daniel Koellerer, Yannick Noah, John McEnroe and Marat Safin.  Hell, even Marat Safin has cleaned up his act and holds a seat in the Russian Parliament!

But I digress. In light of Mardy Fish pulling out of the Mutua Madrid Open due to fatigue and Andy Roddick skipping both Madrid and Rome due to a hamstring injury, the presence of American ATP players at the European clay tournaments has dwindled. But Ljubicic’s tweet may have gone a little too far to point the finger.


Three hours later, American John Isner (who was ousted in the second round of Madrid by another Croat, Marin Cilic, and is scheduled to play Rome this week) defended his friend’s absence from the tournaments in Madrid and Rome:

Not even an hour later, Fish fired back heavily at Ljubicic before almost immediately deleting the following tweet.

Unfortunately, the internet is not forgiving once you put something out there. Perhaps this conversation should have occurred through direct messaging, email, or BBM. It’s one thing to put a “generalized comment” on your personal Twitter but it’s also another nobler thing to privately respond. Not sure if there is history here between Fish and Ljubicic, but hopefully the 140 character limitation framed responses insufficiently. However, the fans were drinking it up …


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Ugly loss for Rafael Nadal; mixed reviews of Madrid’s blue clay — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Ugly Loss

For the first time in 14 attempts, Fernando Verdasco defeated his compatriot Rafael Nadal, handing Nadal one of his earliest defeats in a clay court tournament. Some credit has to be given to Verdasco. He played some good ball, especially in the opening set, and unlike in their previous encounters, he didn’t throw in the towel when it appeared nearly all hope was lost. But this match was mostly about Nadal, and this was one of his ugliest losses. The fact that Nadal appeared out of sorts and off his game wasn’t surprising. He was one of the most vocal critics of the change to blue clay, even before the tournament got underway, so the fact that he at times appeared unsure should not have come as a shock. He should be more self-assured next week in Rome when the familiar red dirt is under the soles of his shoes. But the fact that he blew a double break lead in the third – against a guy that he owned – is troubling, no matter what the surface. With the exception of Monte Carlo and Barcelona, he’s developed a habit of struggling to close out matches in recent memory, and this time he paid for it. As superstitious as he is, a loss like this is apt to creep into his mind down the road. The way Nadal handled himself after the match also left something be desired. It’s understandable if he wants to boycott the event next year, and he’s not the only one to suggest he’d do so, with Djokovic also hinting at such an action (though it would be nice if both guys would give organizers a chance to fix the slippery court problem). But Nadal’s arguments for boycotting lacked tact and came off as sour grapes. He’ll need a good run in Rome to feel confident for Paris, or else what he did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona will be for naught.

Mixed Reviews

We’re more than well under way in Madrid, but the talk about the blue courts has hardly decreased. Players’ and fan’s reactions continue to be all over the map, with some liking it, some indifferent, and others making it well known that it doesn’t have their seal of approval. Personally, I’m loving the blue. From a spectator’s point of view, the ball is easier to see, and the blue clay hasn’t denied fans the opportunity to watch some highly competitive battles. The only general complaint – a complaint that Tiriac thankfully recognized as legit – is that the courts are too slippery. How much of this problem stems from the dye used, the structure under the clay, and the courts not yet fully settled remains to be seen, but it is a problem that organizers and tournament officials, including former No. 1 Carlos Moya, claim can be fixed and arguably should not impact Madrid being contested on blue clay in 2013. Besides, we saw some pretty nasty injuries on Monte Carlo’s main show court, proving that no clay court is perfect. In short, Madrid’s choice to go blue is not a failed experiment, and organizers should be given the opportunity to correct issues before any final court color decisions are made for the future.

Pole Position

Lost in all the chatter about the blue clay was the fact that Aga Radwanska has quietly moved up a spot in the rankings to the number three player in the world. And don’t be deceived by the apparently large gap between the Pole and the two rivals ahead of her. Radwanska has little to defend and much to gain in the coming weeks, which cannot be said for Azarenka or Sharapova. If she continues her run of fine form, she’ll be knocking at the door for number two, and perhaps even number one. There’s still work to be done for Aga, but in many ways, her potential continued ascendency up the rankings could be great for the women’s game. Sharapova has done well to fight back to form and up the rankings, and the improvements Azarenka has made to become a Grand Slam champion and reach No. 1 are both remarkable achievements. But it would be refreshing to have a crafty player at the top – and as an added bonus, one who’s quiet!

Image Boost

When last Tsonga was making tennis headlines, it was due to his comments of what he perceived to be biased officiating in his three-set loss to Nadal in the Miami quarterfinals. Many jumped on him for that, but he’s quickly turned around any damage to his reputation with the sportsmanship he exhibited in his straight-set win over Ryan Harrison this week in Madrid. In the second set tiebreak, Tsonga chased after a drop shot that the chair umpire thought he had reached in once bounce in order to the win the point. But Tsonga knew the ball had bounced twice, and despite the fact that it might have eventually led to losing the tiebreak and a third set, he admitted to the double bounce and gave the point to Harrison. Such an act, especially in a tiebreak, is a rarity, and it’s great to see this kind of sportsmanship.

Ms. King Goes to Washington

Billie Jean King continues to be a crusader, this time going to the marble halls of Washington DC in order to ask the government to assist the USTA in its efforts to reach more communities. The USTA has done good work, refurbishing over 25,000 courts in public parks and schools over the last seven years, and anything that will help grow the sport should be encouraged. How much help the government may prove to be is a complete unknown, however. After all, as the old joke goes, “If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con,’ then isn’t the opposite of progress Congress?”

Rafael Nadal: If I lose it’s not because of the courts

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – Popstars draw people into their concerts, football teams have supporters cheering them on and Rafael Nadal draws in the crowd at La Caja Mágica – and there were few seats left in the giant Manolo Santana stadium whilst the ‘King of Clay’ was playing against Nikolay Davydenko. The Spanish world No.1 knocked out the Russian in the second round with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory.

There was an eerie feeling outside of the arena where there are so many shops and activities for children and adults to do that have been enjoyed by many during the last few days – until today. Most matches played at the same time as Nadal’s were empty, including the match of his compatriot and rival in his third round match, Fernando Verdasco.

Throughout the match Rafael Nadal was adorned with many chants of “Raf-a” from around the stadium with cheers that were reminiscent of a Spanish Davis Cup match as his loyal fans watched him skid and slide his way into a ruthless victory over Nikolay Davydenko. Every winner struck from the world No.2’s racquet was accompanied with ear-piercing screams, whistles and claps and he certainly rose to the occasion today.

During his press conference, it was not his fantastic tennis today which was topic of conversation, once again Nadal was asked questions about the change of colour and the surface of the clay, but he made it very clear that he did not want to keep talking about this matter anymore:

“This tournament is not just about talking about the blue clay or the conditions. We all have the same conditions and start from scratch on the blue court. I’m talking about everything here but tennis.”

Despite wishes not to continue discussing the court, as he would prefer to talk about his tennis, the Spanish world No.1 made it very clear that the tournament should not be mentioned in such a negative way all of the time and it is special to him:

“The tournament here cannot be better, it’s fantastic. It’s one of the best for the public and followers of tennis. If I lose here it’s because I’m not as good as I should be, not because of the courts.”

The Mutua Madrid Open is one of few home tournaments in Spain for Nadal and many have continued to ask for his opinion about the tournament, but he modestly points out how the changes involve everyone, not just him:

“My opinion is not important, here I am one player, there are many more and they have opinions.”

Nadal admitted that he had asked if he could change the shoes he would normally wear for clay to grass court shoes but was denied the request:

“I can’t play with grass shoes, we play with what we have to. We have to adapt.”

Next up for the home hero is friend and compatriot Fernando Verdasco who scraped through a tricky three set match 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 against Falla and during his press conference after his victory he is hoping Nadal does not have a good day tomorrow and joked about not sharing his tactics should he choose to change them:

“If I do [have different tactics], I’m not going to tell you! I don’t want him to know about it. Hopefully I will have a good day and things will work fine and hopefully he will not have a great day too and play bad!”

Fernando Verdasco will have his work cut out against him tomorrow in front of his hometown crowd:

“Tomorrow is going to be one of the toughest matches I have had here in Madrid, he is the best player on the clay court and he knows that, but I will go out there and try.”

Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Dolgopolov talks about life, fun and football

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – After a busy day on court with a singles match win and a defeat in his doubles match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, world No.20 Alexandr Dolgopolov was kind enough to have a chat with Tennis Grandstand about how he relishes the sport he lives, his lack of passion for football and his friendship with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:

Congratulations on your win today, how did you find the conditions out on court?

I found the conditions pretty well. It is tough to move a bit and it is a bit more slippery. It’s tough to get a start and also when you slide it’s harder than normal clay to recover because there is a bit more clay and it grips you a bit more, but it’s a playable court and I’m fine with it and I think you can play a tournament on it!

You were using a lot of drop shots out on court today, particularly in your doubles match, is this something you have worked on with your trainer for this surface to mix it up a little?

My father taught me all the shots when I was younger and after I just learnt to use them, I try to get my best game with different shots.

You always look like you’re having fun out there on the tennis court and today during your doubles match you were laughing a lot with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are you good friends? How is your relationship with him?

We have a good relationship, we always joke. He is close to me and he is a fun guy. He enjoys his tennis and enjoys being on the court; I think that there are guys who are too serious sometimes. I think that we fit together well in doubles and we’re for sure having fun out there.

Is it important for you to have fun in the matches?

Well that’s a bit of my personality, I always have fun in my life and I have managed to have fun in a game and concentrate to make my best tennis.  I think that is good because I enjoy it and [tennis] is not hard work for me. I like to go on court and compete and that is the big thing for me.

Your game is constantly improving, what goals have you set for yourself over the next few months?

For sure the clay court is big for me and I try to do my best on that.  I didn’t do well last year, I was a bit sick during these months so [this year] I have a good chance of getting some points and getting closer to the top ten.  Pretty much that is the goal, of course the minimum is to stay where I am, top twenty and that is a good result but of course I want to get better and improve to top ten this year.

Are you going to be supporting your team in the Euro Cup?

If my team doesn’t win… I don’t care who wins it actually. I guess it’s good for Spain if they win it again but since the Ukraine doesn’t have the teams, they have got worse, so I’m not watching soccer too much.  I’m a bit out of soccer, but I will watch some interesting matches…

Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Sharapova slides her way into the third round in Madrid

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – Maria Sharapova was the first to open up play at La Caja Mágica on Tuesday and ousted Klara Zakopalova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to progress comfortably into the third round.

Throughout the match the Russian No.2 seed showed her all-court brilliance during their encounter and despite admitting in the press conference that she found the clay court ‘slippery’ she was not hesitant in sliding on the blue dirt and comically joked:

“It is slippery, yes it is. You just have to work on your balance a little bit more!”

Work is exactly what she made Zakopalova do having never fully recovered from an early service break and could not sustain momentum for long enough to make an impact.  Her serve was her biggest downfall today as she let loose seven double faults.  By contrast Sharapova found her range and speed on her serve today which put her in good stead to consistently line up a string of winners from both wings.

Sharapova was pleased with her performance today and called it a ‘high quality match’ despite the weather conditions threatening rain this morning and the roof was closed as a result:

“The good thing about indoors is you know pretty much what you are going to get. You don’t have to worry about the weather!”

In most press conferences the players have been asked about the blue clay court and today was no exception.  Maria Sharapova agreed with Serena Williams on the colour of the clay not really being the issue:

“I don’t think it’s so much about the colour, it’s fine, it’s nice, it looks good.  Playing-wise I feel that it does play a little bit different [due to] the amount of clay that’s on the court. The bounces were off, especially on the first couple of days of practice, but I feel that it has gotten better and settled in a little bit.  At the end of the day it is the same for everybody. Your opponents are still playing on the same stuff.”

Aside from the issue with the change of colour in Madrid, the scheduling has also come under heavy criticism as a lot of WTA matches have not been televised and the matches in the Manolo Santana Stadium have featured the women opening up the day’s play and closing it in the evening, resulting in very few spectators watching their matches:

“The scheduling is a little bit tough here this week. The women usually play the first two matches and then play the last match at night.  There is not a lot of switching. It’s strange for us, but it is the way it is. I’ve never played a match at 10:50 – that’s a first for me. Maybe soon we will be playing at 8am! The power of television.”

 

Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.