rajeev ram

Page 1 of 11

Turbulent Day for American Tennis as Nine Get Ousted at Citi Open Including No. 2 Seed Stephens

DSC_89130001Sloane Stephens

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite home soil advantage, it was a rocky day for American tennis players on the grounds of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. as nine players went out in the first round of play on the men’s and women’s side.

DSC_89130001Sloane StephensIn the biggest stunner of the day, 19-year-old Sloane Stephens went down to world No. 88 Olga Puchkova in very uncharacteristic form, 7-5, 6-3. From her first service game, Stephens was broken and it continued downhill through five more breaks. She continued to send balls long and mid-way through the second set, she seemed void of energy, just standing in frustration looking to her team in the stands after errors.

But Stephens herself isn’t that worried about Monday night’s performance, citing the quick turn around from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the differing courts and her poor practice in the days prior to her match.

“Leading up (to the match), I didn’t practice that great,” admitted Stephens. “I just wasn’t feeling the ball that well. Sometimes you just have tough days like that. Unfortunate that it came today and I couldn’t really get it together.”

Physically, she “felt fine,” even joking that “when I’m injured I play great, and then when I’m healthy I can’t hit a ball right.”

Looking forward to the US Open, she feels the home pressure is inevitable based on her recent Slam results, but chooses to focus on her game, saying “I don’t care anymore” about the buzz.

“Everyone is going to be like, ‘You should do really well here because you’ve done well in all of the Slams,’” commented Stephens. “If I lose first round, you guys, just don’t be upset.”

Earlier in the day in just his fourth tournament of the year, Mardy Fish continued his comeback on unsteady ground as he found himself down a set against Australian Matt Ebden, 6-2. He opened up the second set by winning a 22-point game, breaking Ebden three times before taking it 6-1, and closing it 6-3 in the final set.

A sober Fish arrived in press, feeling healthy and “satisfied to win,” but he admitted to being drained of energy.

“It’s a process. Fitness is a big a part of playing, and sometimes that spells trouble for me … My expectations as far as winning the tournament are pretty low. I’m just enjoying competing right now.”

2002 champion James Blake also faced a tough opponent in another fellow Aussie, Marinko Matosevic, except the end results didn’t favor the American as he went down 6-2, 7-6(6).

“I never really got any real rhythm at all on my serve, and that made all the difference in the first set,” said Blake. “I got back into the second set, and had my chances … but missed it.”

Despite the early exit, Blake still has fond memories of the tournament, and enjoys the support he gets from fans

“(Washington, D.C.) was the first tournament I ever won,” he said. “It was an unbelievable week beating one of my idols, Andre Agassi in the semis. And really fond memories of beating Paradorn Srichaphan in the final.”

So, what is next for the 33-year-old father?

“I don’t know. Right now, that’s a tough question. I don’t feel great about the way I played today. My plan has always been, play through the summer and then see where I’m at. See where my body is at, where my head’s at, how I’m feeling, how much I want to travel, how much I still enjoy it all — if my body allows me to keep going.”

Monday play also included a late night win by 21-year-old Melanie Oudin. However, seven additional Americans failed to reach the second round, including Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Rhyne Williams, Rajeev Ram, Christian McHale, Jessica Pegula, and Beatrice Capra.

What to Watch in the ATP This Week: Bastad, Stuttgart, Newport Draw Previews

Returning to home soil should raise Sam Querrey

A day after the dust settled on the Wimbledon final, several notable men launch back into action at tournaments on clay and grass.

Bastad:

Top half:  The apparently indefatigable Tomas Berdych surges into Sweden just days after his appearance in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  This spring, Berdych complained of fatigue caused by an overstuffed schedule, but a substantial appearance fee probably persuaded him to enter this small clay tournament.  Not at his best on clay this year, the top seed should cruise to the quarterfinals with no surface specialist in his area.  Viktor Troicki, his projected quarterfinal opponent, produced some encouraging results at Wimbledon but lacks meaningful clay credentials.

Much more compelling is the section from which Berdych’s semifinal opponent will emerge.  The fourth-seeded Tommy Robredo, a surprise quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, will hope to repeat his victory over the Czech in Barcelona.  On the other hand, Robredo cannot afford to dig the same early holes for himself in a best-of-three format that he did in Paris.  A first-round skirmish between fellow Argentines Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos features two thorns in Rafael Nadal’s side this year.  While Zeballos defeated the Spaniard to win Vina del Mar in February, Berlocq extended him deep into a third set soon afterward in Sao Paulo.

Bottom half:  The most famous tennis player to visit Stockholm this month will not appear in the Swedish Open.  Following her second-round exit at Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova accompanied boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov on a brief summer vacation before his appearance here.  Dimitrov holds the fifth seed in a wide-open quarter as he aims to thrust an epic Wimbledon loss behind him.  The man who stunned Novak Djokovic on Madrid clay this year has receded in recent weeks, and dirt devil Juan Monaco may test his questionable stamina in the quarterfinals.  Two Italian journeymen, Filippo Volandri and Paolo Lorenzi, look to squeeze out all that they can from their best surface.

Probably the most compelling quarterfinal would emerge in the lowest section of the draw between Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco.  Like Berdych, Verdasco travels to Sweden on short rest after reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals.  Unlike Berdych, his result there astonished as he suddenly rediscovered his form in a dismal 2013, even extending Andy Murray to five sets.  Verdasco can resuscitate his ranking during the weeks ahead if he builds on that breakthrough, and he has won five of seven meetings from Almagro on clay.  Slumping recently after a fine start to the year, Almagro faces a potential early challenge against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Final: Robredo vs. Verdasco

Stuttgart:

Top half:  Often at his best on home soil, the top-seeded Tommy Haas eyes a rematch of his meeting in Munich this spring with Ernests Gulbis.  The veteran needed three sets to halt the Latvian firecracker that time.  But Marcel Granollers might intercept Gulbis in the first round, relying on his superior clay prowess.  In fact, plenty of quality clay tennis could await in a section that includes Monte Carlo semifinalist Fabio Fognini and Madrid semifinalist Pablo Andujar.  All of these men will have felt grateful to leave the brief grass season behind them as they return to the foundation of their success.

Much less deep in surface skills is the second quarter, headlined by Jeremy Chardy and Martin Klizan.  Despite his Australian Open quarterfinal when the season started, Chardy continues to languish below the elite level, which leaves this section ripe for surprises.  Granted, Klizan took a set from Nadal at Roland Garros, an achievement impressive under any circumstances.  He opens against Nice champion Albert Montanes, who once defeated Roger Federer on clay with a quintessential grinder’s game.  Perhaps Roberto Bautista-Agut will have gained confidence from his four-set tussle with David Ferrer at Wimbledon, or Daniel Gimeno-Traver from his upset of Richard Gasquet in Madrid.

Bottom half:   Never a threat at Wimbledon, Nikolay Davydenko chose to skip the third major this year to preserve his energy for more profitable surfaces.  Davydenko will begin to find out whether that decision made sense in Stuttgart, where he could face fourth seed Benoit Paire in the second round.  Both Paire and the other seed in this quarter, Lukas Rosol, seek to make amends for disappointing efforts at Wimbledon.  Each of them failed to capitalize on the Federer-Nadal quarter that imploded around them.  Another Russian seeking to make a comeback this year, Dmitry Tursunov, hopes to prove that February was no fluke.  Surprising successes at small tournaments that month have not led to anything greater for Tursunov so far, other than an odd upset of Ferrer.

Another player who skipped Wimbledon, Gael Monfils looks to extend a clay resurgence from his Nice final and a five-set thriller at Roland Garros against Berdych.  Two enigmatic Germans surround the even more enigmatic Frenchman, creating a section of unpredictability.  Philipp Kohlschreiber returns to action soon after he retired from a Wimbledon fifth set with alleged fatigue.  While compatriot Florian Mayer also fell in the first round, he had the much sturdier alibi of drawing Novak Djokovic.

Final:  Haas vs. Paire

Newport:

Top half:  Not part of the US Open Series, this cozy grass event at the Tennis Hall of Fame gives grass specialists one last opportunity to collect some victories.  Wildcard Nicolas Mahut could meet top seed Sam Querrey in round two, hoping that the American continues to stumble after an opening-round loss at Wimbledon.  But Querrey usually shines much more brightly on home soil, winning all but one of his career titles there.  A rising American star, Rhyne Williams, and doubles specialist Rajeev Ram look to pose his main pre-semifinal tests.  Ram has shone in Newport before, defeating Querrey in the 2009 final and reaching the semifinals last year with a victory over Kei Nishikori.

Among the most surprising names to reach the second week of Wimbledon was Kenny De Schepper, who outlasted fellow Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet.  De Schepper will try to exploit a section without any man in the top 50, but Igor Sijsling has played better than his ranking recently.  The Australian Open doubles finalist defeated Milos Raonic and won a set from Tsonga on grass this year, while extending Robredo to five sets at Roland Garros.  But Sijsling retired from Wimbledon with the flu, leaving his fitness in doubt.

Bottom half: Currently more dangerous on grass than anywhere else, Lleyton Hewitt reached the Newport final in his first appearance at the tournament last year.  The former Wimbledon champion more recently upset No. 11 seed Stanislas Wawrinka at Wimbledon after defeating Querrey, Dimitrov, and Juan Martin Del Potro at Queen’s Club.  Hewitt holds the fourth seed in Newport, where an all-Australian quarterfinal against Marinko Matosevic could unfold.   A former Newport runner-up in Prakash Amritraj and yet another Aussie in Matthew Ebden add their serve-volley repertoire to a section of contrasting playing styles.

Meeting for the fourth time this year are two struggling Americans, Ryan Harrison and the second-seeded John Isner.  The latter man aims to defend his Newport title as he regroups from a knee injury at the All England Club, but fellow giant Ivo Karlovic could loom in the quarterfinals.  Just back from a serious medical issue, Karlovic opens against Wimbledon doubles semifinalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Potential talents Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil also square off, while Adrian Mannarino looks to recapture the form that took him to the brink of a Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Final:  Querrey vs. Hewitt

Keeping Score: How American Men Fared in Melbourne

Ryan Harrison led a legion of American men into Melbourne this fortnight.

With all of the American men gone by the third round of the Australian Open, we look back on how each of them fared.  Interestingly, the greatest accomplishments came from some of the least expected names, while the more familiar figures often fizzled.

Ryan Harrison:  Avenging his Olympics loss to Giraldo with a four-set victory, he relied on defensive tennis to a startling degree and could not trouble Djokovic at all in the second round.  Harrison’s serve looked sharp, but he appears to have improved his game little over the last year or so.

Sam Querrey:  The last man to fall fulfilled the expectations for the 20th seed, falling only to the higher-ranked Wawrinka.  That straight-sets loss ended a reasonably good week for Querrey, although he benefited from Baker’s retirement and did not defeat anyone of note.

Brian Baker:  Perhaps the saddest story of the tournament, he injured his knee in the second round against Querrey and may miss the next four months.  That said, Baker impressed by battling through a tight five-setter against former American Bogomolov, and he had won the first set from Querrey in a match that looked like an upset before his injury.

Michael Russell:  He drew Berdych in the first round and unsurprisingly had no answer for the Czech’s offensive arsenal, unable to match him hold for hold in a straight-sets defeat.

Tim Smyczek:  The most pleasant surprise of the tournament among American men, he entered the draw as a lucky loser when Isner withdrew and made the most of his opportunity.  Smyczek somehow tamed the towering serve of Ivo Karlovic in the first round, not even losing a set, and he snatched a set from world #5 David Ferrer in the second round before succumbing gallantly.  Especially impressive was his comeback from losing the first nine games of that match to make Ferrer earn his victory.

Steve Johnson:  Making his main-draw debut at the Australian Open, this former UCLA star qualified for the main draw and then received the unpleasant tidings of an opener against Almagro.  But Johnson rose to the occasion with panache, firing first strikes with abandon through five entertaining sets as he stood toe to toe with a top-15 opponent despite his inexperience.  His passion captivated and suggested that he can score an occasional surprise if he can refine his game.

Rajeev Ram:  More noted for his doubles expertise, this serve-volley specialist surprised by winning his first match over baseliner Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.  Falling meekly to Cilic in the next round, Ram still probably overachieved by reaching that stage.

Rhyne Williams:  The winner of the Australian Open wildcard playoff, he deployed his booming serve and forehand to brilliant effect in claiming a two-set lead over top-30 opponent Florian Mayer.  Williams later would hold match points in the fourth-set tiebreak before the German wriggled out of the trap to complete a comeback in five.  But the experience should help this promising young star evolve into a fitter, more tenacious competitor, which could prove a dangerous combination with his obvious talents.

All things considered, the American men produced respectable results in view of prominent absences like Fish, Isner, and the retired Roddick.  With expectations especially low, they competed with credit and, in some cases, produced results on which they can build.

Around The Corner: A Newport Preview

With Wimbledon ended it seems odd to have any grass-court tennis left and yet that is exactly what we have in the week ahead in Newport, Rhode Island. A sparse field is set for the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship but there are a few names worth noting.

Seeded first is American Sam Querrey. After winning the grass-court title at Queen’s Club a few weeks ago, Querrey is the favourite this year to win in Newport. He finished runner-up here a year ago to Rajeev Ram. He opens the tournament against Jesse Levine.

Ram is also back to attempt to defend his title in both singles and doubles where he was victorious in both draws in 2009.

Other notable Americans include 5th seeded Mardy Fish and the 8th seeded Taylor Dent. Fish was beaten by Querrey in the Queen’s Club finals while Dent is always dangerous on a fast surface due to his imposing serve.

Dent is still trying to find his form since returning from a serious back injury that kept him off the tour for two years between 2006 and 2008. After some encouraging results a year ago Dent seems to have stumbled and holds a 4-11 record in ATP events in 2010. Perhaps a return to Newport, where he won in 2002, will help spark his game.

Canadian Frank Dancevic is also coming back from a back injury and is the lone Canuck in the draw in Newport. Dancevic will be trying to round into form as his home tournament at the Rogers Cup in Toronto is merely a month away.

Following this tournament the Davis Cup will resume with the quarter-finals followed by a few clay-court tourney’s in Europe and the start of the summer hard-court swing in North America.

Resurgent Taylor Dent, NCAA Champion Devin Britton, USTA Boys’ 18s National Champion Chase Buchanan Among US Open Wild Card Recipients

Taylor Dent has received a wild card for the US Open

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 19, 2009 – The USTA announced today that a talented group of Americans consisting of Devin Britton (Jackson, Miss.),Chase Buchanan (New Albany, Ohio),Taylor Dent (Newport Beach, Calif.),Brendan Evans (Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jesse Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Rajeev Ram (Carmel, Ind.), along with two international players including Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association, have been awarded men’s singles main draw wild card entries into the 2009 US Open Tennis Championships.  The 2009 US Open will be played August 31 – September 13 at the USTA Billie Jean King NationalTennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total potential payout of $2.6 million) based on their performance in the 2009 Olympus US Open Series.  In addition, both US Open singles champions will receive a new 2010 Lexus IS Convertible.

Britton, 18, of Jackson, Miss., burst onto the tennis scene by reaching the 2008 US Open boys’ final as a qualifier.  After winning the doubles title at the Dunlop Orange Bowl in December, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where in May he became the youngest man ever to win the NCAA Division I singles title.  Britton then returned to junior competition this summer, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at Roehampton, a Wimbledon warm-up, and then advancing to the semifinals of the Wimbledon juniors.  He is currently No. 14 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.

Buchanan, 18, of New Albany, Ohio, earned his wild card into the 2009 US Open main draw by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships on Sunday.  Last year, he won the Easter Bowl singles title and the USTA Boys’ 18s doubles title (earning a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles main draw with partner Ryan Harrison), and peaked at No. 6 in the ITF World Junior Rankings after reaching the singles quarterfinals and the doubles final at the Dunlop Orange Bowl.  Buchanan went 17-7 (11-4 in singles) to help lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to the 2009 NCAA team final as a freshman.

Dent, 28, of Newport Beach, Calif., returned to the ATP World Tour briefly in 2008 after three back surgeries that forced him to miss two years and nearly ended his career.  This year, he played in the main draw at the 2009 Australian Open, advanced to the fourth round in Miami and qualified for Wimbledon.  Dent finished in the year-end Top 35 every year from 2003-05 and climbed to a career-high No. 21 in 2005.  He advanced to the bronze medal match at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team and reached the round of 16 at the US Open in 2003.

Evans, 23, of Key Biscayne, Fla., is currently ranked a career-high No. 122.  He recently reached the quarterfinals at the ATP World Tour event in Newport, R.I.  Also this year, Evans has won Challengers in Noumea, New Caledonia, and Nottingham, England, and he reached the final at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Dallas and qualified for the ATP World Tour event in Indian Wells.  In 2004, Evans and fellow American Scott Oudsema teamed to win three of the four Grand Slam junior doubles titles, including the US Open.

Levine, 21, of Boca Raton, Fla., broke into the Top 100 earlier this year and is currently ranked No. 112.  He had his best Grand Slam showing at Wimbledon this summer, upsetting 14th-seeded Marat Safin and reaching the third round as a qualifier.  In 2008, Levine was a quarterfinalist at Pilot Pen in New Haven,Conn., an Olympus US Open Series event, and reached the second round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.  He played one year of college tennis, going 24-1 as a freshman at the University of Florida in 2007

Ram, 25, of Carmel, Ind., is currently ranked No. 121.  He won his first ATP World Tour title this summer at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, in Newport, R.I., after receiving a “lucky loser” spot into the main draw, defeating Sam Querrey in the final and also winning the doubles title.  On the USTA Pro Circuit, he has won 20 doubles titles and two singles titles.  Ram played one semester at the University of Illinois in 2003 and won the NCAA doubles title.

Guccione, 24, of Australia, is ranked No. 124 and received his wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant a men’s main draw wild card into the 2010 Australian Open to a player designated by the USTA.  On this year’s USTA Pro Circuit, he swept the singles and doubles titles at the $75,000 Challenger event in Aptos, Calif.

An eighth player will also receive a main draw wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which granted a men’s draw wild card at the 2009 French Open to John Isner. (Isner was forced to withdraw due to illness.)

In addition to the eight US Open men’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced the nine men who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Players receiving US Open qualifying wild cards are: Lester Cook (25, Sherman Oaks, Calif.), 2008 US Open boys’ singles champion Grigor Dimitrov (18, Bulgaria), Alexander Domijan (17, Wesley Chapel, Fla.), Ryan Harrison (17, Bradenton, Fla.), Scoville Jenkins (turns 23 on Sunday, Atlanta), 2009 USTA Boys’ 18s runner-up Ryan Lipman (18, Nashville, Tenn.), Tim Smyczek (21, Milwaukee, Wis.), Blake Strode (22, St. Louis) and Michael Venus (21, Orlando, Fla.).  Strode and Venus are both members of the 2009 USTA Summer Collegiate Team.

The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31 through Sunday, September 13.  Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways: 1) at usopen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866­OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.  American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.

RAJEEV RAM WINS HIS FIRST CAREER ATP WORLD TOUR TITLE

RAJEEV RAM WINS HIS FIRST CAREER ATP WORLD TOUR TITLE

NEWPORT, RI – Rajeev Ram became the 15th player in the history of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships to claim his first career ATP World Tour title on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. On Sunday, Ram won his maiden title with a 6-7(3) 7-5 6-3 win over fellow American Sam Querrey.

Ram is the first lucky loser to claim the Newport crown. Initially in the qualifying tournament, Ram entered the main draw when top seed Mardy Fish withdrew on Monday in order to replace Andy Roddick on the US Davis Cup team for a tie against Croatia. No lucky loser had ever advanced beyond the quarterfinals previously in Newport. Ram is the first lucky loser to win on the ATP circuit since Sergiy Stakhovsky won last year in Zagreb.

On the ATP World Tour, Ram is the third player to claim his first career title in 2009, joining Benjamin Becker (‘s-Hertogenbosch) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Kitzbuhel). The most recent Newport champion to be claiming his first career title was Robby Ginepri in 2003.

Querrey, who fired a tournament record 80 aces during the week, was in search of his second career title. This is his second runner-up finish of 2009, having lost to Juan Martin del Potro in Auckland in January.

The all-American final was the ninth in Newport history and the first since 2002 when Taylor Dent defeated James Blake. It was the first all-American title match on the ATP since 2007 when Blake defeated Fish in the New Haven final.

Ram is the15th American champion in tournament history, and joins Roddick and Fish as the only American winners on the ATP World Tour in 2009.

Ram later teamed up with Jordan Kerr to defeat Michael Kohlman and Rogier Wassen 67(6) 76(7) 10-6. This was the first time either team was playing together on the ATP World Tour.

Ram is the third player in tournament history to claim both the singles and doubles titles in the same year while Kerr adds to his record haul of Newport trophies by winning the title for the fifth time.

Ram was the 15th player in tournament history to contest both the singles and doubles titles in the same year, and joins Dan Goldie (1987) and John Fitzgerald (1983) as the only three players to win both.

Kerr moves to 18-1 lifetime in Newport, having won the title in 2003 with David Macpherson as well as 2004, 2005 and 2007 with Jim Thomas. His five doubles titles are the most in tournament history, and it ties him with Vijay Amritraj for the most overall (Amritraj won three singles and two doubles titles).

The 2010 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships will take place July 5-11 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The next event at the venue is the 2009 Hall of Fame Champions Cup Aug. 20-23 featuring Pat Cash, Jim Courier, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin, Mikael Pernfors, Mark Philippoussis and Mats Wilander.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis and its champions. For more information regarding the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, Tennis Tournaments, Events and Programs, please call 401-849-3990 or visit our website at www.tennisfame.com.

Page 1 of 11