Martina Hingis

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Martina Hingis: Rewriting a Fairytale

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For most athletes, enshrinement in their sport’s Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of lifelong achievement; the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the self-titled “Home of the Legends of Tennis,” is no different. Eternal recognition of greatness is truly the highest honor in sport, above the grand slams, the titles, the endorsements and the prize money. At the same time, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame carries a sense of finality; it is meant to close the book on athletes’ careers in their minds and the minds of the public, all while allowing the masses to recollect and appreciate all that they achieved. It’s the happy ending to the fairytale.

For Martina Hingis, who had twice been denied the chance to end her legendary career on her own terms, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July marked something completely different.

Shortly after her induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the five-time Grand Slam champion announced that she would be making a return to the WTA in doubles this summer. Hingis has committed to play five events, starting this week at the Southern California Open in Carlsbad. She will partner Daniela Hantuchova for the duration; the pair will also play together in Toronto, Cincinnati, New Haven and at the US Open. For now, Hingis has only planned a comeback in doubles; rumors have nonetheless been circulating that she is merely testing the waters for a full-fledged return in singles.

Whatever Hingis decides, chances are high that her third foray into the fray will be her last. Despite being considered one of the all-time greats in tennis, Hingis’ competitive career was comparatively short compared to her contemporaries. Hingis was on top of the world at the tender age of 16, and won all five of her Grand Slam singles titles before the age of 19. Nagging heel and ankle injuries resulted in two surgeries, and Hingis’ teenage dream was over at the age of 22.

The Swiss Miss returned in 2005, but as the old saying goes, sequels are never as good as the original. She lost the first singles match of her return in Pattaya City to Marlene Weingärtner. She claimed she had no further plans for a comeback, but success in World TeamTennis prompted her to announce a full comeback for 2006. She added three more titles in her second chapter, including a record fifth in Tokyo, and won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award in 2006.

At Wimbledon in 2007, however, Hingis tested positive for trace amounts of cocaine and was handed a two-year suspension from the sport. Despite vehemently proclaiming her innocence, she chose not to fight the ban and retired for a second time. With the recent scandals regarding doping in major professional sports, as well as the ITF’s suspension of Viktor Troicki, it’s understandable that Hingis’ return could be met with some apprehension from critics and conspiracy theorists alike.

Despite her past controversy, Hingis’ return has been met with positive fanfare; in addition, her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame speaks volumes. A panel of 125 journalists from around the world votes for the incoming class, and in addition to weighing a player’s accomplishments, “consideration will be given to integrity, sportsmanship and character.” With her immortality recorded in Newport, the book was thought to be closed on Hingis’ career.

However, between injuries and a suspension, one of the game’s greats never got to write her own ending.

Hingis, unlike other prodigies in sport, has always had a deep-seeded love for her craft; in return, tennis fans around the world have a deep-seeded love for her court craft, guile and intelligence. Despite two “careers,” Hingis never had a farewell tour. This is her chance. Every good story has character development, plot twists, and perhaps most importantly, a resolution. It seems only right that she gets the chance to begin (and end) the final chapter of a storied career on her terms.

Washington Kastles Three-Peat as Mylan WTT Champions

Washington Kastles three-peat WTT

Washington Kastles 2WASHINGTON, DC (July 28, 2013) The Washington Kastles carved another notch in the Mylan World Team Tennis elite ranks Sunday, winning their third consecutive World Team Tennis championship and fourth in the past five years with a 25-12 win over the Springfield Laster, the largest victory margin in any WTT championship match.

The Kastles also became the first WTT franchise to win all five sets in a championship match since the league switched to the current format in 1999. further stamping the team as the premier franchise in the league. The Kastles started the 2013 season by winning their first two matches for a 34-match winning streak, the longest winning streak is U.S professional sports history.

“This year we walked right into it.  We made that incredible streak, and have an amazing part in history. You can’t put a price tag on that We lost, then started winning again,” Kastles’ coach Murphy Jensen said.  “This is a masterpiece. This is the best. four out of five years, it is out of control. We absolutely sacrificed every day to play for the Kastles.”

Even a two-hour rain delay did not slow the Kastles.

The three-peat makes Washington only the second to win three titles in a row. The four championships make Washington one of only two franchises to win four or more WTT titles.

“It’d be great if we had eight teams like (the Kastles),” Springfield Laser player Andy Roddick, a part-owner of WTT, said after the loss. “They deserve the success they get. They put a lot into it, and it’s a great atmosphere.”

The Kastles were uncertain as to which of the sets Roddick would play so Jensen reshuffled the order of play to have Bib by Reynolds, the team’s traditional closer, open the match with men’s singles. That way if Roddick played, it would dilute the advantage the Lasers could have by having their star close the contest in the final set.

But Reynolds, who was named the MVP of the championship, opened strong, breaking the Lasers’ Rik De Voest three times in a 5-1 win.

“You go out and get ready thinking you are going to play Andy and I knew I had to be ready for anything,” Reynolds said.  “I guess I am the opener now (not the closer),  I knew I had to bring a lot of energy no matter when I was in the lineup.”

Springfield has never won a WTT title. They last played for the title in 2009, where they lost to Washington 23-20 when the Kastles held off three match points to win.

“Coming in here (at the start of the season), there was a lot of pressure, in those first matches. You don’t want to be the one to destroy them. Now at the end all of the effort paid off,” Kastles player Martina Hingis said.

“I am a first time Kastle. It’s a great team. I love everyone and I hope I can play here again next year.”

Hingis said she had hoped she was ready for Roddick’s serve. “I know his serve is spectacular. I tried not to think too much about it. At first he started with a kick serve. I just tried to get a racquet on it,” she said.

She and team captain Leander Paes defeated Roddick and Alisa Kleybanova, the 2013 WTT female rookie of the year, 5-4 after winning a five point tiebreaker for the game, set and championship.

“I started off pretty well in the (mixed doubles) then my energy level dropped a little bit,” said Hingis. “And that’s when (Paes) kind of lifted his game amazingly, and it is pretty cool to have five perfect sets.”

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Springfield Lasers, 25-12
MEN’S SINGLES:  Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Rik de Voest (Lasers) 5-1
WOMEN’S DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Vania King (Lasers) 5-3
MEN’S DOUBLES:  Bobby Reynolds/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Jean-Julien Rojer/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-2
WOMEN’S SINGLES:  Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova (Lasers) 5-2
MIXED DOUBLES:  Martina Hingis/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Alisa Kleybanova/Andy Roddick (Lasers) 5-4

Alarm Calls for Roger Federer as Martina Hingis Storms Back into Tennis — The Friday Five

Roger Federer on a losing streak

By Maud Watson

Roger Federer on a losing streakTailspin

Another tournament and another surprising early exit for Federer, as the Swiss goes out in two routine sets to Daniel Brands in Gstaad.  The good news for Federer fans is that the Maestro has never been one to quickly panic and shows no signs of looking like he’s getting ready to throw the towel in anytime soon.  In fact, he’s already committed to Brisbane next season.  But this latest loss undoubtedly has some alarm bells sounding in Federer’s head.  He’s having some issues adjusting to the new racquet and is also unsure which stick he’ll be using on the summer hard courts.  In addition to Federer being in limbo regarding his racquet, his mental toughness has also taken a hit. You can read the increasing doubt on his face, and that doubt is creeping into his game as evidenced by the unforced errors that continue to mount in each match.  To say that the next few months are “do-or-die” might be an overstatement, but they are certainly critical.  How he fairs the remainder of 2013 could have a major impact on how long it takes him to right the ship and determine whether or not he hangs around for Rio in 2016.

Heartbreak

Another sentimental favorite who suffered a tough loss this week was Mardy Fish.  The American was in Atlanta, making just his fourth appearance since the US Open last season.  Up a set, it looked like Fish might be able to start his return to competition with a win.  But a rain delay and a refusal to fold from veteran Michael Russell saw the lower-ranked American upset his countryman and advance at his expense.  The defeat itself was understandable.  Fish played well all things considered, but he had been out of the game for over four months.  With no substitute for match play, nerves likely helped play a part in his loss.  What was troubling about Fish’s loss, however, was that he wasn’t available for comment afterwards – something that has happened in the past just prior to Fish taking an extended leave of absence.  American tennis fans will wait with baited breath to see how Fish follows up this latest setback and whether it will include the commitment to carry on or hang it up for good.

Give and Take

Thanks to an overwhelming 47-1 vote by the New York City Council, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has been approved for a $500 million expansion.  Not surprisingly, a large part of the expansion will be devoted to the renovation of the older facilities “that have reached the end of their useful lives.”  But the USTA isn’t the only one benefiting from the deal.  In exchange for the approval, the USTA has agreed   to start a non-profit group to help fund Flushing Meadows, host a yearly job fair for the residents in Queens, serve as a potential host to high school graduation ceremonies, and provide tennis coaching programs for area children.  All in all, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Changing Tunes

John Tomic has finally been brought to court for the much-publicized events that took place before the start of the Madrid Masters, and depending on who you believe, is possibly changing his story, along with his son, from what they originally told police back in May.  Bernard Tomic is claiming his father told him the day of the incident that it was the hitting partner, Drouet, who hit him.  John Tomic is also insisting that it was Drouet who started the fight and doesn’t “know how” Drouet fell down.  Both Tomics are blaming the alleged misunderstanding on police officers who had a poor grasp of English.  Time will tell if there really was a misunderstanding or if this is just John Tomic trying to weasel his way out of trouble – and given his track record, the latter seems more plausible.  If that is indeed the case, Bernard Tomic had better wise up, or the court is going to give him a lot more to worry about than his forehand.

Stay Awhile

It appears that Martina Hingis’ decision to play doubles with Hantuchova in California won’t be just a one-off.  The former No. 1 is planning to play doubles in some other big events this summer, including Toronto, Cincinnati, and the year’s last major, the US Open.  Say what you want about Hingis from a personal standpoint, but from a tennis perspective, there are few in the modern game who can match her court craft and guile.  What she lacks in size and power she makes up for with impossible angles and exquisite touch.  With any luck, these summer hard court events will be the start of something bigger, but if not, get your tickets and take the opportunity to see some of the greatest hands in the game work their magic one more time.

Washington Kastles Continue Winning Ways with Martina Hingis

Washington Kastles

Washington KastlesWASHINGTON, D.C. (July 18, 2013) The shifting and the surprises seem to be over for the reigning Mylan World TeamTennis champs Washington Kastles. As the halfway point of the WTT passes, the Kastles are playing like a true team again.

Coach Murphy Jensen has altered the order of matches to play to his new strengths aimed at starting and finishing strong. Gone are those early matches of the season wondering who would be the newest Kastle-of-the-day. The team is finding matches tougher, yet still winnable.

“We had a couple of in and out, in and out, with players,” Kastles player Bobby Reynolds said following Washington’s 21-15 win over the Springfield Lasers, in a battle of WTT conference leaders on Wednesday. “We are a solid team now. We are clicking on all cylinders.”

Last week the Lasers dealt Washington its first ever loss at its current home court, Kastles Stadium on the Wharf. It was the second straight loss for the Kastles after they set a new streak in U.S. major professional sports of 34 straight wins earlier in the week.

Those losses came without Martina Hingis in the lineup and, as Jensen noted, a combination of understandable fatigue, the law of bad breaks and the determination of other teams to knock off the Kastles.

“We were coming in to win two matches to make history and that took a lot out of us,” Jensen said after Wednesday’s match.”These other teams don’t play to win the championship, they play to beat the Kastles.”

Halfway through the season, the 6-2 Kastles are two up on their closest conference rival, the New York Sportimes. After Friday’s away match against the Texas Wild – the team that ended the winning streak – the Kastles play out the season against with five matches against Eastern Conference foes in a home-away rotation, starting with the Sportimes Saturday at home. The Kastles are 4-0 against conference teams.

The loss dropped Springfield to 5-3 and back into the tight mix in the Western Conference in which three teams are within one-half game of the lead, and the squad in last is only two games out of first.

The Kastles got back to their winning ways on the road last Saturday, in a convincing 23-14 road victory over the Sacramento Capitals, who they beat by one point to win the 2012 championship.

Anastasia Rodionova, in the number one women’s role, had her first singles victory of the season, a 5-2 decision over 17-year-old American Taylor Townsend. Perhaps equally as key, symbolically in the Kastles lineup was substitute Raquel Kops-Jones, who was 4-0 last season in
mixed doubles with the Kastles.

She only returned for that match but Jensen inserted her into the lineup to team with Kastle captain Leander Paes in the closing mixed doubles set that sealed the victory.

Now Jensen is closing matches with the mixed doubles team of Paes and Hingis, who are undefeated. Their play has been so inspired that Hingis said it was what helped prompt her to come out of retirement to play doubles.

The regular season ends July 24, with conference championships scheduled for July 25. The 2013 Mylan WTT championship match is set for Sunday, July 28, at the home court of the Eastern Conference Champion.

“Every night is an important night,” Hingis said Wednesday. “The others are going to go out to give it to you. We just have to play hard.”

Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova’s Big Changes — The Friday Five

Maria Sharapova

By Maud Watson

Big(ger) Changes

Champions are frequently known for their stubbornness.  Sometimes it refers to their unwillingness to surrender a loss quietly, but it also often refers to their refusal to re-tool any part of the game that has brought them so much success.  Unfortunately, that refusal can often hamper an athlete’s career, which is something that Roger Federer apparently plans to avoid.  Federer is playing this week in Hamburg with a new racquet.  His new stick features a 98 square-inch frame, which represents a significant change from the much smaller 90 square-inch frame he has used throughout his career.  The larger frame means a bigger sweet spot and additional power, both of which should help him better compete with the young guns on tour.  We’ll see how he fairs during this brief stint on the clay, but if he’s able to make the adjustment to the new racquet quickly, expect him to be right back in the thick of it for the summer hard court season.

Maria SharapovaTrue Grit

One of the more interesting off-court tidbits to hit the news this past week was the announcement of Jimmy Connors becoming Maria Sharapova’s new full-time coach.  The two briefly worked together five years ago but were unable to come to a financial agreement to make it a full-time gig.  Circumstances have changed in 2013, and the two are teaming up to become one of the most intriguing coach/player relationships in the game today.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Both have strong egos and like to get things done their way, so it could flame out early.  But both also share the same inherit drive.  They’re both fighters who refuse to rollover in a match and will go to virtually any lengths – sometimes perhaps a little over the line of what’s considered proper – to come away with the win.  Both could feed off each other in those respects and prove quite the successful combo.  Sadly, fans will have to wait a little longer for this new partnership to make its debut, however, as Sharapova was forced to withdraw from the upcoming event in Stanford with a hip injury she sustained at Wimbledon.  But make no mistake.  This will be one of the key storylines to watch this summer.

False Hope

The good news is that the USTA has established a potential timeline for putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by August 2016.  The bad news is that you probably have a better shot at winning the lottery than that timeline coming to fruition.  As usual, one of the biggest hurdles to putting a roof over Ashe Stadium stems from cost.  The USTA is already currently in the market for an owner representative for its $500-million expansion plan that doesn’t include a roof, meaning that if they were to shift efforts towards building a roof for Ashe, other projects, such as replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand would be put on hold.  That’s a scenario that’s all the more unlikely when considering that the other issue facing Ashe is that it may not be able to support the weight of the roof in the first place.  So, while we can appreciate the USTA’s efforts to keep the roof possibility in the discussion, this once again appears to be much ado about nothing.

Egomaniac

At the front part of the week, in an interview with David Nadal, Toni Nadal told to the world that he talks to Rafa during matches and sees nothing wrong with it, because he figures he shouldn’t have to hide anything at his age.  Look, it’s common knowledge that Nadal, like some other players, receives illegal coaching from the stands.  And you could argue that such coaching frequently has little impact on the outcome of a match.  But nobody wins when Toni Nadal announces that he has no problem being a cheat – and as the generally willing recipient of his instructions, one could argue so is his nephew by extension.  Such an admission shows disrespect to the ATP and its rules.  It shows disrespect to Nadal’s opposition.  It teaches young up-and-comers that it’s okay to cheat, and most importantly, it hurts Rafa Nadal.  As previously noted, Rafa is no doubt one of the best in the history of the game, and he doesn’t need to use cheap tricks to accomplish great feats.  Utilizing illegal tactics should be beneath him and his camp, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.  Though unlikely, it would be nice if after this admission, the ATP would enforce some sort of discipline on the older Nadal to show that nobody, no matter how big the star they coach or their age, is above the rules.

Back for More

The terrorizing doll Chucky is making a return to movies, and as it happens, so is the woman Mary Carillo once referred to as Chucky, Martina Hingis.  Whether to promote her relatively recent clothing line, provide a distraction from the cheating allegations leveled at her by her estranged husband, or just for love of the game, the newly-elected Hall of Famer is planning to team with Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia at the Southern California Open.  Hingis continues to show that she has great hands around the net, and veteran Hantuchova has also proven worth her salt in the doubles arena as well.  If this partnership proves successful, perhaps we’ll be treated to a little more enthralling tennis from these two down the road.

Washington Kastles Win 34th Straight Match, Establish New Unbeaten Pro-sports Record

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 9, 2013) Unbeaten. Untied. Unstoppable. And now, unmatched.

The Mylan World TeamTennis’ champion Washington Kastles won their 34th straight match tonight, setting a new professional sports unbeaten record and launching them solidly toward another WTT title.

The Kastles dispatched conference rival Boston Lobsters in a 25-12 victory, sweeping all five sets – with the victory nailed by the duo that has spent the most time on the team, men’s double partners Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds.

“I’ve been really lucky to have had a great Olympic career and a great Davis Cup career,” said Paes, who remains one of the top doubles players in the world. “And this is exactly like that.”

The record-setting victory also had sweet resonance: the Lobsters were the last team to defeat the Kastles on July 22, 2010, in the final match of the 2010 regular season. There have been four wins in a Super tiebreaker, seven victories by a single game and 10 match points saved during the streak.

“You can’t even dream about making history and breaking a record like this one. But this incredible feat is a testament to the incredible support we have gotten from our community and to the inspiration that our players have drawn from our passionate fans,” said Mark Ein, the Kastles’ owner.

Ein wore the same brown dress shoes he wore when the team captured the 2009 title, the day that Kastles coach Murphy Jensen had all the players put pieces of tape on their shoes to symbolize team unity.

The 34-match Kastles unbeaten streak eclipses the mark set by the NBA 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Washington has won seven matches by just one game, earned eight overtime victories, and saved 10 match points throughout the course of their historic run.

The Lakers streak was omnipresent in the press kits handed out to the media and, in a touch on unplanned irony, symbolically by one of the Kastles’ public spirited announcer, who revved the crowd on stilts, making him more than 7 feet tall – about the same height as Wilt Chamberlain on that Laker team.

Jeanie Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers, who was involved with World TeamTennis in the 1970s as an executive for the Los Angeles Strings, issued a congratulations statement this evening after the Kastles’ win. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won 33 consecutive games, a mark broken Tuesday night when the Washington Kastles posted their 34th consecutive victory.

“Winning 33 consecutive games was an amazing accomplishment by our 1971-72 Lakers team, as evidenced by the fact that no other team has come close to reaching it for over 40 years now. On behalf of the Buss family and the Lakers family, I want to congratulate the Washington Kastles, their players, and our good friends Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss on this milestone accomplishment of theirs.”

The Kastles are a strong favorite to win their third consecutive Mylan WTT title and their fourth King Trophy in five years. Only two other WTT teams have won three or more championships: the Sacramento Capitals, with six, and the Los Angeles Strings, with three. The Kastles are the only WTT team to post a perfect season and the only major sports team in history to have consecutive perfect seasons in 2011 and 2012

“We had an amazing experience that has never happened before,” Kastles coach Murphy Jensen said. “We put a group of characters together, added some spice and made some magic. And there were a lot of people. Dynasty? You can say dynasty, gosh darn right you can.”

“We look at what is in front of us. This is a team that works hard. Winning is a habit and a culture. We never give up and we are tough to beat,” Jensen said.

Veteran Kastles players Paes, Reynolds and Anastasia Rodionova were joined this year by Kevin Anderson and Martina Hingis, who started the winning early Tuesday night.

“Some math or statistics guy did a study as to whether we could do the streak and said we had a better chance of winning the lottery,” Reynolds said. “If you look on the papers, the ranking, that sort of thing, we all (on all the WTT teams) are comparable. But there is something magical about our team. We play for each other, not for ourselves.”

Washington is now 2-0, and in early possession of first place in the Mylan WTT Eastern Conference. Boston, after opening the season defeating conference rival New York Sportimes, is now 1-2. New York is 1-2 and Philadelphia Freedom is 0-2.

The sets:
Men’s Singles – Kevin Anderson (Kastles) def. Amir Weintraub (Lobsters) 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Anastasia Rodionova/Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Jill Craybas/Katalin Marosi (Lobsters) 5-3
Mixed Doubles – Martina Hingis/Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Katalin Marosi/Eric Butorac (Lobsters) 5-3
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis (Kastles) def. Jill Craybas (Lobsters) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes/Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac/Amir Weintraub (Lobsters) 5-2

On Wednesday, the Kastles travel to Dallas to play the Texas Wild (formerly the Kansas City Explorers), then return to Kastles Stadium at the Wharf on Thursday against the Springfield Lasers, featuring former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick. They finish streak week Saturday on the road against the Sacramento Capitals, the first face off between those two teams since last year’s one point WTT title win by the Kastles.

Roddick said earlier in the week that he was pulling for the Kastles to continue the winning streak so that he and the Lasers will have the chance to stop it. He may get his chance.

Gallery by Camerawork USA

Washington Kastles Win 33rd Straight; Continue March into Sports History

Washington Kastles


Washington Kastles
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 8, 2013) They used new players, a new strategy and then closed with longtime heroes, the same First Lady Michelle Obama cheering in the stands and the same result: the Mylan World TeamTennis’ champion Washington Kastles won their 33rd straight match today, earning the team a share of professional sports’ much vaunted unbeaten record and continuing their march into sports history.

Led by newly acquired Martina Hingis and Kevin Anderson, the Kastles opened their season at Kastles Stadium on the Wharf with a 23-15 victory over archrivals the New York Sportimes.  Hingis was the 2012 Mylan WTT Female MVP last year as a member of the Sportimes.

The 33-match Kastles unbeaten streak ties the mark set by the NBA 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. On Tuesday, the Kastles face the Boston Lobsters as they move to set an unprecedented 34 win undefeated streak sports mark; the Lobsters are the last team to defeat the Kastles on July 22, 2010, in the final match of the 2010 regular season.

“This is one of the most fantastic moments I can ever imagine,” team owner Mark Ein said. “We have always promised Washington exciting tennis and Washington has joined with us in refusing to lose. I am thrilled for this fantastic group of tennis players, for those who have supported us and for our contribution to Washington’s great sports history.”

Kastles coach Murphy Jensen changed his lineup and his traditional order of matches for home contest, starting with Anderson in men’s singles. Backed by three aces, Anderson defeated the  Sportimes Jesse Witten 5-2.

Hingis, in her Kastles’ debut, then defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld 5-1.

“I was nervous and it was weird at the beginning playing my old team. I shook it off,” Hingis said. “It was my first match. I was nervous. You get out there and then get going.”

Mixed doubles was next and, for the first time in his coaching the Kastles, Jensen took advantage of WTT rules permitting substitution. He started Anderson – and his big serve – with Hingis, against Robert Kendrick and Kveta Peschke.  He then substituted Kastles’s captain and double star Leander Paes after Anderson played the first game – the same strategy Sacramento used against the Kastles in last year’s 2012 championship match. Anderson played for Sacramento last season.

Washington won mixed doubles in a tiebreaker, 5-4.

Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova then lost to Groenefeld and Peschke  5-3 to put the Kastles at 18-12 going into men’s doubles to close the match. “They are the best doubles team in the world,” Hingis said. “We tried to have a big lead coming into that one.”

Paes and Kastles’ closer Bobby Reynolds spotted Kendrick and Witten a lead in the final set, then gutted out a 5-3 win to seal the 23-15 victory.

“If a team is going to beat us, they are going to have to work very hard,” Paes said. “We are putting in the hours of practice. when you look at our bench, it is a bench of champions.  Everyone is doing what we do best.”

As for being asked to seal the win, Paes said: “Very happy to close. We are all hungry to take the ball.”

Reynolds, the 2012 Mylan WTT Male MVP, said “Ever since last season finished I’ve been looking forward to getting back and finishing this. Every night is a new match and that’s how you have to approach it.”

The Kastles are a strong favorite to win their third consecutive Mylan WTT title and their fourth King Trophy in five years. Only two other WTT teams have won three or more championships: the Sacramento Capitals, with six, and the Los Angeles Strings, with three. The Kastles are the only WTT team to post a perfect season and the only major sports team in history to have consecutive perfect seasons.

New York has been one of the Kastles’ toughest foes over the last two seasons and Monday’s match was typical of the bruising court battles that have thrilled fans repeatedly.

“I reminded them of what we do as a team – that is how we win,” Jensen said. “Each point, each game, each set we have a team focus. That remains our way of playing.”

After Tuesday’s match with Boston, the Kastles will again be at home on July 11, and July 17, against the Springfield Lasers, featuring former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick; July 20 against the Sportimes; July 22 against the Philadelphia Freedom, and July 24 against the Lobsters. WTT conference championships are July 25 with the WTT championship set for July 28 on the home court of the Eastern Conference winner.

Said Hingis: “It was my first match. I was nervous. You get out there and then get going.” And about Boston?  “I’m warmed up now,” she said with a smile.

Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and More Glam Up for WTA 40 Love Celebration in London

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(June 30, 2013) Current and former WTA world No. 1s gathered together on Sunday in London to celebrate “40 Love” – the 40th anniversary of the WTA, founded by trailblazer Billie Jean King.

The WTA and its leaders have strived to bring equality, recognition and respect to the tour over the years. The organization is now the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money.

Seventeen of the 21 WTA No. 1s were in attendance, including three of the original nine, displaying elegance and beauty. Can you name each one in the photo below?

Emcees Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo introduced each of the No. 1s in style, referencing the “sassy sour” Maria Sharapova to the ever elegant Monica Seles. Each lady then had the chance with the mic, and afterward, it was time to mingle and celebrate.

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The “pink” carpet arrivals were no less stunning.

Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys were also invited guests, with the WTA calling them “potential future world No. 1s.” Quite an honor.

Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys

Watch all the pink carpet interviews with the World No.1s, gala speeches from the legends and much more with a full replay of all the Sunday celebrations. (Begins around the 24 minute mark.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT_OVo2FC0c

Eugenie Bouchard: Young Woman in a Big Girl’s Game

The court may be the same size, but Canadian junior champion Eugenie Bouchard struggled has struggled against big hitters like Bojana Jovanovski as she transitions onto the WTA Tour.

Nearly a year removed from her championship run to the Wimbledon girl’s title, Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard has joined the WTA tour looking every bit the part of junior prodigy turned senior contender. Impeccably packaged, Bouchard is tall, blonde, and obviously styled to have a Sharapova-like serenity on the court.

But her “womanly bearing” can be deceiving, for despite all visual cues pointing to Bouchard’s readiness to play on the woman’s tour, the fact remains: she still plays a girl’s game.

Gone are the days when young talents like Tracy Austin and Martina Hingis can sweep onto the Tour and beguile older opponents with a mature cunning that belied their age. The grinding (but ultimately underpowered) game that works wonders on the contemporary junior circuit is too often in for a rude awakening when it tries to transition to the seniors.

Serving as a stark contrast, the WTA Tour has expanded from one-dimensional “Big Babe Tennis” into early ball striking with laser-like precision. Better technique paired with more forgiving technology has raised the collective margin of error, which allows big hitters to take more risk, and narrows openings for players like Bouchard, who prefer to rely on opponents’ errors.

As much as the women’s game has evolved in the last decade, expert defenders can still make their way through a field of lower-ranked players who beat themselves. At a Wimbledon warm-up in Birmingham, Bouchard drew one such “baseline basher” in Bojana Jovanovski. The Canadian must have liked her chances of causing a minor upset against the Serbian No. 3, who lacks a lengthy grass court resumé.

But Jovanovski had just come off of consecutive victories over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Despite the Dane’s fall from the top of the rankings (punctuated by a slump that saw her win only one match on red clay), she still plays the kind of game that could be kryptonite for the hyperagressive Serb. Wozniacki’s style of play, even at its worst, is Bouchard’s, only taken to the tenth power. Though similar at its core, Bouchard not only eschews most aggressive inclinations, but also lacks the kind of scrambling defense required to outlast players like Jovanovski.

That kind of perfect storm can have some unintentionally hilarious consequences.

After falling behind a set, Jovanovski began taking more and more advantage of the Canadian’s weak serve. By the end of the match, she was standing mere inches from the service line to crush returns and gain immediate ascendency. Bouchard was able to capitalize on enough Jovanovski errors to make games tight, but the match was always in the Serb’s hands. Though the Canadian had opportunities to level the third set, Jovanovski was able to suddenly end games at will, with winners that seemed to scream “Enough!” to both her young opponent and the crowd, who began to squirm out of sympathy for the overmatched Bouchard.

Jovanovski would end the titanic struggle anticlimactically with a 6-2 final set that was surprising in its efficiency. Far from a notorious closer, Jovanovski may have been allowed to flounder against a more game opponent, but Bouchard was in no position to make her opponent over-think things.

It may only be Bouchard’s first full year on the senior tour, but at 19, she is already older than other aforementioned “well-packaged prodigies.” As the Canadian inches into her twenties, it will only become more difficult for her to revamp her game, to “woman up” in order to compete with the game’s best. Not unlike Wozniacki, Bouchard looks built for aggression, but conversely looks less adept at retrieving compared to her Danish counterpart.

A loss like this may have come early enough to be a lesson, or perhaps an ultimatum: play a big girl’s game, or risk becoming a little girl lost.

Roland Garros Rewind: Federer, Azarenka, Serena Cruise, Monfils Leads French Parade on Day Four

Azarenka made her Roland Garros 2013 debut today after a four-day wait.

Profiting from more cooperative weather, Roland Garros produced a Day 4 replete with action.  Here’s the review of how it all went down.

ATP:

Match of the day:  Ah, the French in Paris.  Sometimes they dazzle, sometimes they implode, sometimes they puzzle, and sometimes they do all three.  Julien Benneteau achieved the trifecta in a five-set victory over Tobias Kamke, completing his first pair of consecutive victories since February.  En route to the third round, Benneteau a) won a 20-point tiebreak b) blew a two-set lead c) ate a bagel in the fourth set and d) won anyway.  Richard Gasquet, it’s your move.

Worth the wait:  After a 14-game fifth set, the epic between Horacio Zeballos and Vasek Pospisil finally ended a day and two sets after Zeballos could have ended it in a third-set tiebreak.  A young Canadian talent, Pospisil showed grit by rallying from the brink of a straight-sets loss to the brink of a five-set victory.  But Zeballos, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win a South American clay title this spring, relied on his greater experience to get the last word.

Comeback of the day:  Dutch heavy hitter Igor Sijsling looked ready to knock off the lowest men’s seed when he swept two tight sets.  Continuing a surprisingly solid clay campaign, Tommy Robredo surged through the next three sets for the loss of five total games.  The pattern of the scores recalled Roger Federer’s comeback over Juan Martin Del Potro here last year.

Surprise of the day:  Surely elated by his upset over Berdych in a first-round epic, Gael Monfils might have fallen victim to a hangover against the dangerous Ernests Gulbis.  Although he dropped the first set for the second straight match, Monfils outlasted his fellow erratic shot-maker for another quality win that jangled the nerves of his compatriots a bit less.  Up next is a more compelling test of his consistency against Robredo.  Check out the more detailed recap of Gael’s win on this site by colleague Yeshayahu Ginsburg.

Gold star:  A few of the less notable home hopes fell today, but all of the leading French men prevailed.  Like Monfils, Benoit Paire completed a comeback from losing the first set to win in four.  Gilles Simon hurled three consecutive breadsticks at clay specialist Pablo Cuevas after he too spotted his opponent a one-set lead.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga roared through in straight sets for the second consecutive match, as did Jeremy Chardy.  And don’t forget the wacky win by Benneteau explored above.  Plenty of reason remains for French patriots to return as the third round unfolds.

Silver star:  Struggling to win matches this year, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki both survived potentially tricky encounters.  Tipsarevic cruised past local hero Nicolas Mahut, perhaps helped by the schedule shift away from Court Philippe Chatrier after the rain.  Troicki weathered five taxing sets and two tiebreaks against clay specialist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who had upset 17th seed Juan Monaco.

Marathon man:  For the second straight round, Andreas Seppi prevailed in five sets.  Halfway to defending his fourth-round points from last year, Seppi seemed to have a stranglehold when he bageled Blaz Kavcic in the first set.  He later would allow a two-set lead to escape before regrouping when the match hung in the balance.

Stat of the day:  All 15 men’s seeds in action today advanced, eight in straight sets.

American in Paris:  After winning just one match in his first six Roland Garros appearances, top-ranked man Sam Querrey has won two in his seventh trip here without losing a set.

Question of the day:  Second seed Roger Federer entered this tournament as a distant third favorite for the title after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.  Looking at least as sharp as either of them, Federer now has lost just 12 games in two matches, albeit against weak competition from two qualifiers.  Should we start taking his title hopes more seriously?

WTA:

Match of the day:  After Victoria Azarenka outlasted her in a long match at the Australian Open, Jamie Hampton secured a happier ending to another three-setter at a major.  Hampton stunned 25th seed Lucie Safarova after winning the first set in a tiebreak, withstanding Safarova’s second-set surge, and closing out a 9-7 final set.  That 16-game affair was the longest set of the women’s tournament so far.

Worth the wait:  Delayed by rain, world No. 3 Azarenka did not start her Roland Garros campaign until Wednesday.  Needing to issue a strong statement, as all of her rivals had, Azarenka delivered with a resounding victory over former doubles partner Elena Vesnina.  None of the top four women has lost more than five games in a match so far.

Comeback of the day:  For the second straight tournament, Svetlana Kuznetsova ate a first-set breadstick from an unseeded opponent.  Whereas the Rome breadstick from Simona Halep preceded another breadstick, the Roland Garros breadstick from Magdalena Rybarikova spurred the 2009 champion into action.  Kuznetsova dropped just four games over the next two sets, responding much more forcefully to adversity.

Surprise of the day:  Surviving a first-round flirtation with disaster boded well for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s chances here.  She almost always has ventured deep into draws this year when passing her first test.  This time, though, Pavlyuchenkova fell short in the second round to Petra Cetkovska in another tight three-setter.  The victim of painful losses here as well, coach Martina Hingis can empathize.

Unsurprising surprise of the day:  Unseeded 2012 quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi continued her momentum from winning a Premier title in Brussels last week.  Kanepi dispatched 23rd seed Klara Zakopalova in straight sets on a difficult day for Czechs.

Gold star:  Famous forever after what happened last year, Virginie Razzano technically surpassed that performance this year.  Razzano more than justified her wildcard by reaching the third round, perhaps bolstered by the memories of her landmark victory over Serena Williams.

Silver star:  In the first match of her career at Roland Garros, promising Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty made her presence felt.  Barty stunned last week’s Strasbourg runner-up Lucie Hradecka in three sets, overcoming dramatic disparities in power, experience, and clay expertise.

Marathon woman:  Eight of Petra Kvitova’s last nine matches have reached a third set, the latest against the fossilized Aravane Rezai today.  That recent capsule from clay reflects a trend typical for Kvitova overall, for she has played 18 three-setters this year and a staggering 39 in 2012-13.  Whether caused by slow starts or mid-match hiccups, those rollercoasters illustrate her unreliability.

Stat of the day:  Bojana Jovanovski has won three matches since January, two of which have come against Caroline Wozniacki.  The Dane predictably became the first top-ten woman to lose at Roland Garros as Jovanovski accomplished what the more talented Laura Robson could not.

Americans in Paris:  Blasting past Caroline Garcia today, Serena Williams has lost just four games in two matches and 18 games in seven matches since Rome started.  While the top seed continues to look every inch the title favorite, several other American women acquitted themselves well.  Varvara Lepchenko notched a second straight routine victory, while women’s wildcard Shelby Rogers swiped a set from 20th seed Carla Suarez Navarro despite the gap between their relative credentials.  On the other hand, Madison Keys dropped a winnable match to Monica Puig, and Mallory Burdette could not find any answers to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Question of the day:  All of the top four women have roared through their early matches, confirming their elite status.  Outside that group, who has impressed you the most so far?

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