practice courts

Weekly Debrief – Lil Wayne Gives his US Open Picks, Federer’s Coaching Change, and ATP Pros’ “Busted Racquets”

The US Open goes into full swing today, but the week leading up to the event is sometimes even more full of headlines! There are coaching changes for Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, Murray has a chance to pocket $2.7 million, rapper Lil Wayne gives his picks for US Open champs on both the men’s and women’s side and Sergiy Stakhovsky captured his fourth title in New Haven over the weekend. I leave you off with links to free live streaming of the US Open online and a heart-warming racquet-busting story.

Murray could pocket a cool $2.7 million

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic

AndyMurray shakes hands with Novak Djokovic after their practice session on Saturday, August 28, 2010.

Andy Murray clinched the 2010 Olympus US Open Series, edging out Roger Federer and Mardy Fish who took second and third place, respectively. It was Murray’s title in Toronto and finals’ appearance in Los Angeles this summer that allowed him to take the lead. If he goes all the way at Flushing Meadows, he could walk away with a cool $2.7 million, the largest payout in tennis history. At that point, I’m sure he could pretty much hire any coach he would like. After all, it would be hard to say ‘No’ to a US Open slam champion.

Federer hires Paul Annacone as coach

Speaking of coaching changes, Roger Federer announced on his website that he would be working with Pete Sampras’ old coach, Paul Annacone. During a media conference at the US Open on Saturday, Federer stated that Annacone has “moved from a test trial to integrating him into the team now.” Severin Luthi, Federer’s current coach and Swiss Davis Cup captain, will continue working with Federer as Annacone finishes his commitments to the British Lawn Tennis Association this fall. Afterwhich, the three will work together: “I just think the dynamics work really well with Severin and Paul and me,” Federer stated. “I can go with a very clear mind-set into the matches.”

Roger Federer with Paul Annacone

Roger Federer on the practice courts at the US Open. (Image via GoToTennisBlog)

On top of coaching Sampras to nine of his major titles, Annacone has also coached the greats of Marat Safin and Tim Henman. Federer has already worked with coaches Darren Cahill, Peter Lundgren, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche, so it will be interesting to see how long this new relationship with Annacone lasts. But for now, we are convinced he is a good influence on Federer’s psyche: Annacone brings “his experience … he’s a very nice guy and he’s very calm and speaks as experience from a player and as a coach, as well,” led on Federer. “We speak occasionally about Pete [Sampras] and about how he was with him or about his experience and stuff. I know so much about Pete already that I never try to copy him. I never try to be like him, but I tried to learn from him as a junior because he was my hero growing up. So definitely when I do hear stories from Paul about Pete it can be inspiring.” Federer, being a family man himself, then continued on: “I guess he also had kids early as a player, so he knows how to handle that. You know, it’s just nice to hear, you know, a different voice for a change.”

Hewitt going coachless into US Open

On the flip side, Aussie Lleyton Hewitt will be going ‘coachless’ into this year’s US Open. Citing family reasons, coach Nathan Healey has parted ways after only one year with Hewitt. Hewitt has only had two full matches on the hard court this summer and that could pose a problem as far as gaining a rhythm against his tough first-round opponent, Paul-Henri Mathieu. He could then face Roger Federer in the third round.

Rapper Lil Wayne chooses his picks for the US Open from jail

This week, the tennis world found one of its biggest and most-famous fans in an unlikely place: a New York jail. American rapper Lil Wayne is currently serving out an eight-month weapons charge sentence on Rikers Island, but has always been an avid tennis fan.

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne responded to a Sports Illustrated request via SI stationery and gave both his men’s and women’s winners for the US Open. Before revealing his picks, he showcased his knowledge of tennis stats and history and even counted himself as a fan boy of Andre Agassi growing up.

He claims to “love the Williams sisters” and “simply adore Maria Sharapova” but neither were his pick to win the US Open. He chose to give “the edge to Clijsters … due to Serena’s right foot” on the women’s side.

On the men’s side, he also claimed to be a “huge Nadal fan …. He simply plays with pure passion and leaves it all out there on the court,” Lil Wayne wrote. “With Del Potro pulling out of this year’s Open with injury, Nadal’s only threats are obviously Federer, Djokovic, and Roddick’s aggressive play, but the player that scares me the most is Andy Murray, who’s beaten Rafael four times. Even still I say ‘Nadal wins it all.'”

You can go hear to read Lil Wayne’s full letter: http://us-open-tennis.si.com/2010/08/27/lil-wayne-backs-nadal-clijsters-in-u-s-open/

2010 US Open Men’s Preview with Steve Flink

TennisChannel.com columnist Steve Flink is a long-time veteran of tennis, having been both a statistician for televised matches and an editor for a tennis magazine. He gives us an in-depth preview to the men’s side.

Stakhovsky caputres fourth career title and “ready for the US Open”

Ukranian Sergiy Stakhovsky captured his fourth career title this week in New Haven, CT at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament, defeating Uzbek Denis Istomin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In what has become tradition for tennis players, Stakhovsky kisses his Pilot Pen trophy.

Stakhovsky not only overcame the rain delay this week by playing two matches on Thursday, but his run included three three-setters as well — a grueling task for any player. As his reward, he gained 250 ATP World Tour points, $93,360 and improves to 23-18 on the season. He also went up 11 spots and sits at a comfortable 36 in today’s published ATP rankings.

“It was really an exhausting week for me,” stated Stakhovsky. “A lot of three sets. A lot of tiebreaks. Just a lot of time on court. Just now I have to get myself together and get ready for the US Open. I’m really glad to win this title. It pushed me to another level again. But I just need to think forward again and get ready.” Stakhovsky is slated to take on Aussie Peter Luczak in the first round of the US Open which kicks off today, and could face seed #15 Ivan Ljubicic in the second round.

Watch the US Open online for free!
Don’t have access to the televised matches at this year’s US Open? No problem! You can now watch online via several websites. I actually prefer the multi-court coverage on USOpen.org’s own site (http://www.usopen.org/en_US/interactive/video/live.html?promo=subnav) or ESPN3.com’s interface. Other free (and international-friendly) notable sites include:

Live Score Hunter: http://www.livescorehunter.com/Livescores/Livescore-Tennis.html

MyP2P:  http://ht.ly/2wYcC

ATDHE: http://atdhe.net/index.html

Channel Surfing: http://channelsurfing.net/

ATP Bonus:

Ever wonder what happens to those busted racquets players demolish in a rage of fit on-court or in the locker room? Well, wonder no more. ESPN.com contributor Patrick Hruby takes a unique look at a little-known secret showcased on the walls of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC.

Racquets of ATP pros Gael Monfils and Marat Safin, only two of the many racquest on display.

For the past few years, head laundry/locker attendant Alex Cordier has started ‘velcro’-ing racquets that ATP pros have broken while at the tournament. There is nothing like it in the world and you won’t find this “wall of shame” at any other ATP tournament either. But, it’s pure gold and worth a look at the photos and stories — had me laughing! http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hruby/100827_atp_broken_rackets

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP Tour. We’ve got you covered!

Day 4 of Legg Mason – Fish, Verdasco & Malisse Press Conferences, Tipsarevic’s DNA, Friendships on Tour

Another day has set on the Legg Mason Tennis Classic and with it we find a quickly diminishing field as only the best players move through. Two seeded Frenchman, Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau, crashed out but the rest of the seeds prevailed. Let’s catch up on the day’s happenings around the grounds and on the practice courts.

  1. First up, I stumbled upon the end of Stan Wawrinka’s practice with Andrey Golubev. What caught my eye more was that Richard Gasquet was sitting in the stands, watching and waiting to take the court next. As soon as Wawrinka sat down, Gasquet strolled over to him and the two started chatting. Gasquet then picked up a racquet of Wawrinka’s and started feeling it out. Both players use a Head racquet, so I started wondering if Gasquet was looking to switch models. Will be interesting to see.

  1. When Gasquet finally took the court, I could tell right away he was not feeling the ball well. He had just played a final in the cold of Gstaad, Switzerland on Sunday and was already slated to play a match in the 90-degree humidity of Washington, DC two days later. Suffice it to say that his hitting hand was even cramping mid-hit. One thing struck me in particular. As fluid as his backhand looked, his forehand seemed off-balance and forced. The placement of his left hand is even more awkward up-close and actually takes away from his power. Not sure if it was just the day and conditions, but he’s looked better. Sadly, he had to retire from his match later in the day after losing the first set 6-3 to Kristof Vliegen.

  1. Lo, and behold, who do I find now watching Gasquet practice? None other than newly-minted tweeter Janko Tipsarevic, eating a banana.

A girl sitting close to me taping Gasquet’s practice, started getting really fidgety when she saw Tipsarevic. I couldn’t tell it she was being bitten by bugs or suddenly realized she had lost her passport. Thankfully, she figured out there were people around her and she quickly asked me “Can I borrow your pen?!” I said “Sure” knowing full well it would become her souvenir if Tipsarevic were to sign an autograph with it. I watched as she ran over to him, got his signature with my pen and took a photo. She then proceeded to walk back towards me and extended her hand holding my blue pen. “Thank you so much!” she exclaimed. I was stunned. I actually got my pen back. Not only that, but with Tipsarevic’s DNA on it. I wonder if I could clone him …

Shortly, Tipsarevic took the court and practiced with another player. He mostly did serves and wanted to work on his returns, but was frustrated when his practice partner was struggling getting serves in. Luckily, Tipsarevic went on to win his match against Arnaud Clement in fairly easy fashion a few hours later. What was most entertaining was that he looked like Darth Vader from Star Wars in his all-black Fila kit and Oakley sunglasses. Pretty intimidating if you ask me!

  1. First match of the day that I watched was between Marco Chiudinelli and Brian Dabul. Although Chiudinelli struggled in his match and his left knee was still tightly wrapped up, his coach was cheering him on in crucial moments and he seemed to be happy to get through. He seemed limited in his lateral movement in the back court, so he tried approaching the net more frequently. However, his opponent was quick and could retrieve most balls. It took some adjusting but Chiudinelli came out victorious with a score of 7-6(3), 6-2.

And look who I find on my way out of the match: compatriot Stan Wawrinka and his coach, Peter Lundgren watching Chiudinelli.

  1. I next made my way over to a hotly-anticipated doubles match, played on Grandstand instead of Stadium Court. It was the match-up between doubles world #1 Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic vs. Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. The stands were packed and the tennis was top-notch. I didn’t feel bad missing the Fish/Troicki blow-out on stadium court when this doubles match had everything a tennis fan wanted: amazing rallies, bad calls, umpire disputes, ‘Ajde’-ing and on-court laughter and embarrassment when a shot was miserably calculated. The pairing of Berdych/Stepanek was like peanut butter and jelly: Berdych is smooth, fluid and strong, while Stepanek has shot variety and nutty surprises at the net. Even though Berdych/Stepanek won 6-4, 4-6, 10-8, it says a lot about the doubles game and how they can compete with top singles players and only narrowly lose in a matchup.

  1. My next two stops were the press conferences of Xavier Malisse and Mardy Fish, who knocked out Julien Benneteau and Viktor Troicki, respectively.

Malisse was very personable and engaging, detailing how his past injuries kept him away from top form. I don’t think I realized how many injuries he has had in the last 3 years: left wrist, then right wrist, then twisted right knee, then left wrist again. But today he said he is “playing well and feeling healthy.” This looked to be the case when I peaked in on his match against Benneteau. He was running him all over the court! Hopefully, this will continue and we’ll see him once again climb in the ranks.

Mardy Fish was next and he was light-spirited and pleasant as well. He talked about how quickly he lost weight, going from 203 lbs. to about 170-3 lbs. currently. He thankfully feels that he hasn’t lost any energy or precision in his shots or serve, but hopes to gain some muscle in the off-season and not lose any more weight. Since he didn’t have any points to defend, he wanted to stack his summer up with tournaments and see how he fared.

Fish was asked about the other Americans in tennis and how it feels to play a friend in a match, like Andy Roddick 2 weeks ago. He stated that you pretty much have to put the friendship aside, “just play the match, and you’ll be friends after the match.” He also paid compliments to John Isner saying that his serve is “probably one of the best in the world.” Fish’s current coach, David Nainkin, is also the long-time coach of Sam Querrey. Fish had praise for Querrey’s character as well: “I’m lucky Sam is who he is to let me share [Nainkin].” Quite a humble guy, and not taking his new-found game for granted. He’s worked hard to get in the best shape of his life and I hope he continues strong.

  1. The last match I watched was between Fernando Verdasco and Michael Berrer. I have a separate post on Verdasco and his press conference (http://www.tennisgrandstand.com/archives/6953), but I’ll sum up a little here, including the tiebreaker point-by-point.

Verdasco struggled in the first set and even faced two match points down 5-2 in the second set. He finally found his rhythm and won the next five games. All he had to do was wear Berrer out and he couldn’t do it. It seemed that from the first ball, Berrer was wearing HIM out. Verdasco seemed drained and tired on the court and his footwork was lacking. He was miscalculating shots and overhitting them and couldn’t seem to return most of Berrer’s first serves. The most alarming aspect of his game during the match was his erratic toss. He would throw it too far behind him, let it drop, and then try again. He blamed it on the wind and the crowd, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it was a deeper problem.

The third set reached a tiebreak. It was high energy, exhilarating, with lots of crowd cheering and clapping. Two unfortunate shots that clipped the net and went out, brought the score to 4-3 for Verdasco. Another backhand mishit from Verdasco, brought it to 4-4. An ace from Berrer make it 4-5 for Berrer. A fearless backhand approach winner from Verdasco evened the score again. Verdasco then fired a service winner that Berrer was not able to place, making the score 6-5 for Verdasco. The next rally brought fear and doubt to the crowd as they watched Verdasco approach the net for a volley and fall to the ground, grabbing his left foot. He took his shoe off, shunned ice away, and got the trainer. A few moments passed. To the applause of the crowd, he eventually got up and jogged to the other side for the changeover. (He later stated it was just the plastic in his shoe that hurt his big toe with a great deal of pain, but that it was nothing to worry about.) The score was now 6-6. As the crowd, we still didn’t know what exactly happened to cause the fall and if he would be able to close this out. However, Berrer never scored another point and Verdasco went up 7-6 with a big “VAMOS!”, and then finished it off at 8-6 to the cheers of the crowd.

Check out the video below and find more of my videos here: http://www.youtube.com/user/kiki52484#g/u

It was a great day showcasing all the top seeds in either singles or doubles and the tournament has indeed started well on its way. I’ll be back for more later this week!

Day 2 of Legg Mason – Roddick, Fish, Berdych & Benneteau Practice Shirtless, Isner Gets Lost, Verdasco & His Twin

The last day of qualifying and the first day of the main draw here at the Legg Mason Tennis Tournament in Washington, DC has come and gone. With it, we welcome six well-deserved qualifiers to an already full list of notable names lined up in the main draw. Let’s recap some of the excitement around the practice courts today!

  1. The first practice session I walked into was the world #1 doubles’ pairing of Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor. Sometimes fans are so focused on the top singles players, we forget how truly amazing the top doubles’ game is. As I was watching Nestor hit from the baseline and Zimonjic volley, I was struck by two things: Nestor’s lefty forehand is strikingly powerful and Zimonjic’s forehand volleys are so precise and crisp. I started wondering how these guys weren’t better singles players in their time.

  1. As I was snapping their pics, John Isner was roaming the grounds behind me until he appeared to my left. “There he is!” yelled Isner, pointing to Nestor, “What court is this?” Nestor jokingly replied: “You’re on the other side, aren’t you? Isn’t that where the big guys hang out?” Cue crowd laughing.

  1. Nestor obviously knows his way around the grounds unlike Isner, who continued looking for his court until he nearly made a round-trip back to where he started. But then we got a glimpse of the big man in his yellow ‘Livestrong’ t-shirt. I had forgotten how extended his elbows are when he makes contact with the ball on the backhand side. Look unreal!

  1. He was in good spirits, but it took him a while to loosen up his right shoulder. Hopefully it’s not an indication of any kind of injury. Isner then took on his coach in a game utilizing only the cross-court backhand slice. First one to hit out loses, and they played some points. The video below is some of the fun footage.

  1. Radek Stepanek was waiting for his court by doing some in-place running drills, swinging his arms while increasing the speed.

He practiced with Xavier Malisse who had a first round match later that afternoon, which he ended up winning in three sets. Nothing really of note on their practice other than the fact that Stepanek was sporting a red, white and blue racket. Looked like he was supporting Team USA — isn’t he Czech?!

  1. Other notable players waiting for a court: Tomas Berdych, Julien Benneteau, Benjamin Becker and Rendy Lu.

Berdych seemed to be the only one actually stretching. Maybe that’s how you get to be the #1 seed in a 500-level tournament like Legg Mason. Boys, take notes!

  1. When Berdych walked over to the middle court, he promptly took off his t-shirt. And it stayed off the entire practice. The sun was fairly strong but not strong enough to burn from it. He then seemed to dare Benneteau to take his off as well, which he willingly accepted. For such tall slender-looking men, they are very fit and lean. Their practice session covered all the shots and when they took breaks, they chatted up a storm, along with Berdych’s coach.

  1. The next stop in my day was one of the best sights I have yet to see in tennis. Andy Roddick was taking on Mardy Fish in a grueling set. Recalling that Fish had recently beaten Roddick in Atlanta, this was any tennis fan’s highlight. Fans were pouring in on all possible sides and I was lucky enough to get a bird’s eye view to catch all the action. There were laughs, jokes, yelling, high-fiving, and, as the theme of the day seems to be, both were shirtless as well. Sidenote: Roddick’s left, yes, LEFT arm is ripped! Mardy Fish, on the other hand, is looking quite slender. Yes, he has lost 30 pounds in the last year, but seeing it in person, I’m starting to think he needs to bulk up a little.

Near the end of their session a hilarious moment occurred to top it all off. Roddick, loving being the center of attention, shot a 1st serve that was a questionable line call. Roddick kept asking what his next serve should be “1st? 2nd? 1st? 1st?” wanting to try again for an ace. Fish got ready to receive, and then asked: “Wait, 1st or 2nd?” “2nd, 2nd,” Roddick repeated. Fish then moved in closer to the baseline. Unfortunately, Fish doesn’t seem to realize he’s playing against a trickster, and Roddick fired an explosive serve down the line … which Fish miraculously returned while standing just inside the baseline. Roddick followed behind his serve and tried to volley the return, but his attempt went straight into the net. Karma. The crowd roared in laughter. What a sight to behold!

Here’s footage of the best video I was able to capture. This point was brilliant. Roddick was hitting winner after winner, but Fish was able to return each one. His footwork is evident here and the crowd clapped in amazement at the level of both players’ play.

  1. I then made my way over to the Marin Cilic and Viktor Troicki practice session on the opposite side of the grounds. Both players looked strong, but were all about business. Seeing as these two speak the same Serbo-Croatian language and played each other in Davis Cup recently, it was surprising to see once again, that not many words were exchanged between the two. I remember them practicing last year with each other, so they must be friends, but on-court, you would think they were simply matched together for a hit due to space constraints. Either way, it was fun to be reminded of the wind-up to Cilic’s serve. It’s surprising his legs muscles are not bigger for the incline he takes in preparation.

  1. I made my way back to the media center at this point to check on the scores of the qualifiers. “Nothing too surprising” I said to myself. I then went on twitter to upload some photos, and guess whose feed came up? Fernando Verdasco. “Going to practice in 30 minutes!” As I was walking up to the media desk to check what court he is slated to practice on, I crossed my fingers that he was actually IN town. To my relief, he was and the media desk did their magic and spewed out a court number to me.

I walked over to the court about 5 minutes before the hour and caught his hitting partner just arriving to the court, dressed in a grey Adidas shirt, white shorts and hat, and black Adidas shoes. I was the first one there and so I sat down and waited. A moment later, I happened to look up to my right, and there was Verdasco, walking in from the parking lot by himself on the other side of the fence. I nearly jumped out of my seat in anticipation.

He walked onto the court coolly and seemed to be in a good mood. He started hitting and then something made me laugh. Verdasco was dressed in the exact same clothes as his hitting partner! Twins! Only difference: Verdasco was in white shoes. Who raided who’s closet, here?!

I was surprised to see that it took about 5-7 minutes for fans to start showing up for his practice. But at the same time it was nice: not crowded, no kids trying to climb over me for a peek, nobody stepping on my toes. All-in-all, a pleasant hitting session to view. The tennis wasn’t bad either. I’m just kidding! I was completely taken aback by Verdasco’s forehand when he started to let it rip! He would hit a few strong forehands and backhands, and then all of a sudden, take flight and practically levitate off the ground with an explosive forehand winner. Each time he did this, “ooohs” and “aaahs” came from the crowd in admiration. By the time I left, it started raining and cut his practice short, but not before showcasing his incredible talent. I’m looking forward to seeing him play this week and expect him to go deep in the draw.

  1. And as a bonus (because I’m so nice), a close-up of hunk Michael Llodra. Shirtless, of course!

Enjoy the day and I will be back later this week with more coverage from Legg Mason. As the main draw begins, I will start focusing more on the actual matches. But don’t worry, the practice courts always have someone on them and I will be there to catch the action as well.

Romi’s Raves at Legg Mason – Troicki Flips Out, Nalbandian Hot & Sweaty

As I approached the grounds of the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Washington, DC, I was surprised to see the parking grounds almost full. And it was only noon. The first day of qualifying was already underway, but I didn’t expect such a turn-out. Then I remembered. Not only were three locals in the draw, teenagers Denis Kudla and Junior Ore, as well as UVA alum Michael Shabaz, but it was also Kid’s Day, moonbounces and all.

The weather was near perfection, warm with partly cloudy skies. But the courts were a different story. They felt least 40 degrees warmer. Each player that stepped off the court was drenched in sweat and even the surprisingly dry heat wasn’t cool enough for these pros. Enough about the weather, let’s check out what was happening around the grounds today

  1. The first player I spotted was Croat Marin Cilic practicing. He was on-hand for the draw ceremony yesterday that included DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, who named the week of July31-August 8 as “Tennis Week.” Cilic was sporting new red Fila shorts and they popped with color. I approve.
  2. Behind me a crowd started gathering and I noticed a legend, well, a legend to me at least. 28-year-old David Nalbandian was hitting with Viktor Troicki. I only caught the end of their session, but while Troicki looked like he could go on for another 3 hours, Nalby was dying in his own sweat. His fitness has definitely improved and his forehand is as strong and dominating as ever, but he still needs better footwork and to lose those ‘last few pounds.’ Later in the day, I spotted him practicing again with Radek Stepanek. Not sure how to read Stepanek’s game today. He would fire 10 aces in a row, hit some great down the line shots, and then come up empty for the next 10 minutes. I’m still not decided on whether being a newlywed is helping or hurting his game.

  3. Gilles Simon was on the practice courts for quite a while. Surprisingly, he looks much stronger in person and his game is much more explosive standing 15 feet away. The camera does not do him justice. He was friendly and personable taking ten photos with fans and stopping to sign autographs. With each photo, he didn’t just stand there like most players. He reached his hand around and practically gave each person a hug. He is a hugger, ladies! This warms my heart. Girls got giddy around him, men stood staring in confusion, and I was happily enjoying viewing a former top 10-er in person.
  4. I then checked out some of the Devin Britton/Brian Dabul match and I was startled when Britton stood in at tall 6’4’’ next to me. Somehow he always looked smaller to me on camera, but not today. And his eyes are a piercing blue color. Sadly, he is still very much a serve-and-volleyer. If he hasn’t changed his tactics by now, he may not for a long while. Point proven: he lost today after being up a set to Dabul.
  5. I then had more French action. A shirtless Michael Llodra was practicing with Julien Benneteau and they were enjoying themselves and the heat. I would try to analyze their play, but I was in awe of Llodra sun-glistening. I had forgotten how good tennis players look sans shirt.
  6. Kevin Anderson won his 1st round qualifying match earlier today, but his coach got him back on the horse. He was out working on his cross-court forehands and down the line backhands. At one point his coach said was trying to tell him to make his point-of-contact with the ball more in front of him, but it came out like this: “Take a smaller swing on your forehand so you can go through the motion more.” Anderson tried this new tactic with hesitation and the next ball went straight into the net. Coaching fail. Anderson then exclaimed: “I’ll just prepare earlier!” and he went on his way to hit winners. Whatever works.
  7. I was able to sit in on center court for a while because a friend happened to have box seating his family bought 20 years ago. Now, that’s my fail not knowing this in years past. Anyway, I watched Michael Shabaz stay neck-and-neck with youngster Donald Young. Young has been the talk of the town for the past few years, but his talents never translated into a higher ranking than 73 two years ago. Maybe that will change this year as he won this matchup.
  8. The #1 seed of the tournament, Tomas Berdych, was on the grounds today. As I was watching Troicki practice with Kei Nishikori (more on that hilarity later), a friend told me to turn around. To my shock, it was Berdych. In full view, with his coach. If you know me, you know I follow his game and love his style on- and off-court. As I walked closer to take a photo, I noticed not a single spectator was around him. Did they not know who was standing 10 feet from them?! How could they not realize that the Wimbledon finalist was right there!? Well, I’m sure most people are as concerned about this as me, but when I started taking photos, people finally started asking if it was Berdych. I coolly replied “Yes” trying to at least not seem like a fangirl. He was doing squats with resistance bands. And I’m not just talking about those dingy resistance bands you and I have, no. His were heavy-duty, dually-strapped silver magic bands. I now no longer have to wonder how he gets those legs into such amazing shape. It’s those damn bands. I’m making my boyfriend buy some. Well, if I had a boyfriend. Moving on …
  9. As Berdych was practicing with Niskikori, I stood in awe yet again. Berdych continues to embody balance in tennis. Some may think his open stance, that looks as if he’s almost sitting in chair, is “awkward.” Not me. It takes so much strength to look like that and still keep your balance and poise. And he does it all with a smile. What’s not to love?
  10. Back to the Troicki incident and the best moment of the day. We all know Troicki is hot-headed, but perhaps more so if you’re Serbian or Croatian and understand his obscenities. As he was hitting with Nishikori, balls kept rolling across his side of the court from the neighboring court occupied by Andrey Golubev. He was as patient as any man could be on a hot day in the sun, but after the 20th ball rolled across, he walked towards it and started yelling and swearing at the ball. In Serbian. And it was beautiful. He said something to the effect of “$#@ the $#*)* in the %#*)$+ ball %(*#_)@ every time!” On the next point on Golubev’s court, guess what happened? Yes, the ball started rolling onto Troicki’s court. What followed next was even more impressive than Troicki’s outcry. Golubev started swearing at the ball for about 10 seconds. In Russian. This moment was pure gold and only a few understood what even happened.

I’ll leave you on this warm thought for today and will be back tomorrow to report more. It will be the second and final day of qualifying as well as the first two main draw matches consisting of Giraldo vs. Malisse and Przysiezny vs. Zeballos. Ciao!

NEWS, VIEWS AND GOSSIP FROM QUEEN’S CLUB

LONDON – As I walked from Barons Court tube station, feeling the buzz of excitement, I was pleased to dodge the long train of tennis fans snaking their way around Queen’s Club for ground passes and head straight for the dizzy heights of the media gazebo. I was immediately distracted by a dashing familiar stranger directly in front of me – former Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash. It never fails to amaze me how many famous faces you will see mingling with the public at both Queen’s and Wimbledon. That’s what I love about these tournaments.

While waiting for my press pass, BBC Commentator and Andy Murray’s former coach, Mark Petchey surprisingly needed to give his name to the girl behind the counter. Two famous commentators spotted and I hadn’t even entered the grounds yet.

I was led to the media centre directly behind centre court, shown where the press seats were situated and was greeted by the lovely Sue Barker, ex Davis Cup Captain, John Lloyd, commentator John Inverdale and former British No. 1, Annabel Croft congregating in the bar area – how surreal!

I found my way through the maze of stairs and corridors to the press seats to watch the first match on centre – Britain’s wild card entry, Jamie Baker versus Denis Istomin. Baker, ranked No. 254 in the ATP World Tour rankings failed to get any sort of grip on the match or the slippery grass surface as he lost 6-1, 6-4, falling no less than three times on his backside, repeatedly chastising his shoes for letting him down. In the post match press conference, he looked a little forlorn as he mentioned the difficulty of “stepping up to the level of the player” he was up against. It remained to be seen whether Brits, James Ward and Alex Bogdanovic would fare any better.

During the second set of Baker’s match, I couldn’t help but notice a tanned and gorgeous Novak Djokovic strolling nonchalantly to the practice courts beneath us – knowing how close you can get to the players practicing, I rejected the nonchalance and nearly broke my leg rushing down the several flights of stairs in heels to get a prime position to watch my favorite player’s tomfoolery on the beautiful grass.

He didn’t fail to disappoint with his series of jokes, trick shots and a well timed shirt change! I wished I’d brought my tennis gear and trainers, as I have a feeling he could have sneaked me on court for a quick rally or two – well, maybe in my dreams!

After the Djoker sadly left the practice courts, I wandered back to the press seats to see if Britain’s James Ward could fare any better. He was against stiff opposition in the form of American Robby Ginepri, who looked a little incongruous in his colored shorts and shirt on the grass. Ward put up a decent display and should have had a convincing 5-2 lead in the second set if he’d held his serve after breaking the American in the sixth game, but instead he allowed Ginepri to come back and secure a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Ward spoke of his relationship with the new British Davis Cup Captain, Leon Smith in the post match press conference, revealing, “I’ve been in contact with Leon the whole time I was in America. I was away for seven weeks. E-mails, text messages, BBM, everything. Since I’ve been back, he’s been to see me practice a lot, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

A fellow journalist told me the Murray brothers were training on an outside court in preparation for their doubles match later that evening, so I nipped out of the media centre to watch Britain’s top hopeful. When I arrived I barely recognized his brother Jamie, who appeared to have had an argument with his hairdresser, as he was sporting a pretty horrific crew cut fit for the army. Apparently Andy commented on Twitter, saying he hoped Jamie had kept the receipt – who said he doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Team Murray were on good form as they practiced varying volley to ground stroke drills to a heaving crowd. A Spanish coach tried to get them off the court early – on home turf – adios! French maestro, Richard Gasquet was due on Centre court so I left the Murrays to it and headed back once again up the stairs to the press seats – who said being a reporter wasn’t hard work?

Eleventh seed, Gasquet faced Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who turned out to be no push over in a 6-3, 6-3 victory for the Frenchman, whose glorious backhand was really a sight to be seen first-hand. Gasquet often needed a translator to answer journalist’s questions, but revealed he believes the French have had such a great tradition on grass due to “good technique” and the talent needed to succeed on grass rather than clay.  No one could ever say he lacks talent, but it remains to be seen if he will ever weave his way like a cobra to the top ten again – his highest ranking was No. 7, but is now placed at No. 45.

Britain’s No. 2, Alex Bogdanovic was up next after getting through the qualifying rounds to play Bulgarian former Wimbledon junior champion, Grigor Dimitriv, currently ranked 360 in the ATP World rankings. Bogdanovic looked comfortable in front of his home crowd winning the first set convincingly 6-4, but lost the second 6-3. Rain stopped play at 2-1 in the third. If Bogdanovic loses the third, then Murray will be the only Britain left in the tournament – a situation he is very familiar with.

For the past eight years, a first round defeat at Wimbledon for Alex Bogdanovic following wild card entry has been as predictable as rain stopping play, but he still must have been a little bemused that he had been left out of the All England Club’s first batch of wild cards along with being denied one for the Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club this week. He has also stubbornly refused to rejoin the Davis Cup fold following his miserable performances in the past. I really do hope that tomorrow brings some much needed luck for Alex and sunshine instead of rain for my second day reporting for www.TennisGrandstand.com Watch this space for more news, views and gossip from London.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.