By Romi Cvitkovic
From a grandmother doing “The Dougie,” to 2011 Washington Kastles’ tennis players receiving commemorative championship rings, to familiar D.C. faces in the crowd like Kastles’ owner Mark Ein, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and current Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber, there is something in store for every tennis fan during the Washington Kastles’ season at The Wharf in downtown D.C.
Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Sportimes marked the Kastles’ 19th straight win that stretched from last year’s perfect 16-0 season. Returning players Leander Paes, Bobby Reynolds and Arina Rodionova, along with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova, entertained the crowd with five tight matches and energetic play, that culminated in a 20-18 win.
The evening festivities began with mixed doubles as Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes took on the duo of Martina Hingis and Robert Kendrick. Paes, a thirteen time men’s and mixed doubles Slam champion, carried his partner with his deft hands at net to even the score at 4-4. Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without a disputed call, and after a brief discussion with the official by the Sportimes coach, play continued — but the Sportimes had lost their momentum. Paes quickly knocked off four clean winners, including a backhand volley to seal the set, 5-4(1).
Next up was women’s doubles featuring the Rodionova sisters (the “Hot Rods”) taking on Martina Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad (the “Models”). With Hingis, a former World No. 1, and Harkleroad, a former World No. 39, the Rodionova sisters had an uphill battle. But with competitive rallies, good looks, and giggling players, it was difficult not to get energized. Arina’s serve was broken at love with a couple of unforced errors and the “Hot Rods” quickly went down 1-3. They re-grouped and broke back on Hingis’ serve but two games later, the “Hot Rods” were again broken by the “Models”, losing 3-5.
With the Sportimes leading with a score of 9-8, the men’s doubles team of Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds kicked it into high gear over the tandem of Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten. Reynolds, a former World No. 46 in doubles, blasted serves while Paes fed off his lead to put away easy volleys. In the blink of an eye, the Kastles’ were up 4-0 on a Sportimes team that was struggling to find their balance. Reynolds, nicknamed “The Closer” for his ability to seal the team win on the final men’s singles matches, did much the same as he served out a 5-0 win in doubles, giving the Kastles’ a 13-9 edge.
Halftime was full of spectator giveaways, quickstart tennis with Paes and Coach Murphy Jensen with two lucky young fans, as well a ring presentation for Rennae Stubbs, who was part of the 2011 Washington Kastles Championship team. The short ceremony had Coach Jensen and Paes praising Stubbs, Paes receiving a kiss from both Stubbs and Jensen(!), and Stubbs commenting on her love of the city of Washington D.C.
After crowd applause and appreciation, the tennis action was quickly underway as Anastasia Rodionova took on Martina Hingis in the women’s singles. As Hingis hit deep into the court, Rodionova responded with wicked backhand winners to even the set out at 2-2. After failing to convert on three break points, Rodionova self-destructed hitting error after error, giving Hingis the set, 5-2.
With the score tightly standing at 15-14 for the Kastles, the concluding men’s singles match between Bobby Reynolds and Jesse Witten had a whole season riding on the outcome. Always the most intense match of the night, it didn’t disappoint as it went the distance with a tiebreaker at 4-4 and a Reynolds fistpump to the crowd. Witten, although deceptively agile and hard-hitting, couldn’t do much to hold back an energized Reynolds who reeled off three winners to go up 3-0 in the tiebreaker. After a Witten error and an unreturnable serve by Reynolds, the Kastles “Closer” sealed the win, 20-18.
Catch the Washington Kastles this month as they battle for another perfect season! Full schedule and for tickets, click here.
Full gallery below; credit to author.
NEW YORK – Jesse Witten and Martina Hingis each won a singles and doubles match as the NY Sportimes defeated the Philadelphia Freedoms, 22-16, in World TeamTennis action at Sportime Stadium on Randall’s Island Friday night.
The doubles team of Robert Kendrick and Witten ralled for at 5-3 win in the opening set, winning five of the last six games to top Luka Gregorc and Jordan Kerr. Hingis then won a singles match over Kristyna Pliskova and mixed doubles with Kendrick, both by 5-3 counts, to lift the Sportimes’ advantage to 15-9.
But Philadelphia battled back behind twins Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova, who beat Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad, 5-2, to trim the Freedoms’ deficit to 17-14.
Witten completed the scoring with a 5-2 singles win over Gregorc for the final margin.
The Sportimes (2-1) visit the Kansas City Explorers on Sunday and Sacramento Capitals on Monday before returning to Randalls Island on Wednesday for a rematch vs. Philadelphia. The Freedoms (1-2) host Springfield Saturday at Villanova. For more info, go to www.NYSportimes.com
NY Sportimes 22, Philadelphia Freedoms 16
Men’s Doubles – Robert Kendrick / Jesse Witten (Sportimes) def. Luka Gregorc/Jordan Kerr, 5-3
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis (Sportimes) def. Kristyna Pliskova, 5-3
Mixed Doubles – Hingis/Kendrick def. Kerr/Karolina Pliskova
Women’s Doubles – Pliskova/Pliskova def. Ashley Harkleroad/Hingis, 5-2
Men’s Singles – Witten def. Gregorc, 5-2
NEW YORK – The NY Sportimes opened their World TeamTennis season with a 22-14 victory over the visiting Springfield (Mo.) Lasers at Sportime Stadium on Randall’s Island. Sportimes Marquee Player Martina Hingis won her singles, doubles and mixed doubles to pace the hosts.
The Lasers’ Amir Weintraub began the night with a decisive 5-2 singles win over Robert Kendrick. Hingis’ 5-3 victory over Timea Babos pulled the Sportimes to within 8-7, before the doubles tandem of Kendrick and Jesse Witten downed Weintraub and Devin Britton, 5-2, to give New York a 12-10 advantage.
Hingis then teamed with Ashley Harkleroad to top Babos and Maria Sanchez, 5-3, then partnered with Kendrick to down Sanchez and Britton, 5-1, for the final margin.
Springfield (0-2) hosts the defending WTT champion Washington Kastles on Wednesday. The Sportimes (1-0) next visit the Kastles on Thursday. The next home match for the Sportimes will be Friday, July 13 at 7 pm against Philadelphia at Randall’s Island. For ticket information, go to www.NYSportimes.com
NY Sportimes 22, Springfield Lasers 14
Men’s Singles – Amir Weintraub (Lasers) def. Robert Kendrick, 5-2
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis (Sportimes) def. Timea Babos, 5-3
Men’s Doubles – Jesse Witten/Kendrick (Sportimes) def. Weintraub/Devin Britton, 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Ashley Harkleroad/Hingis (Sportimes) def. Babos/Maria Sanchez 5-3
Mixed Doubles – Hingis/Kendrick (Sportimes) Sanchez/Britton, 5-1
By Matt Fitzgerald, Special for Tennis Grandstand
On a crisp January morning in Texas, four-time Grand Slam champion Mark Knowles found himself in an elementary school classroom in Southlake. Accompanying his eldest child Graham to a breakfast function, “Donuts For Dads”, Knowles spent the morning with his son’s classmates and fellow fathers in the area, who had made their usual plans to attend the occasion before heading off to work. But Knowles was turning out for the first time. The Bahamian’s profession is unlike anyone else’s in his community. His occupation forces him to make personal sacrifices on a consistent basis. Sacrifices like quality time with his children. But on this day, in this month of January, Knowles put his family first… and tennis second.
9,000 miles away in Melbourne, the Australian Open was just underway. It was an event Knowles had played professionally since 1993, a tournament where he first tasted Grand Slam glory in 2002. At 40 years old, it’s hard to fathom many players, if any, would forgo the year’s first Grand Slam tournament with a full bill of health. But Knowles isn’t ordinary. He’s extraordinary. Knowing it may have been his final opportunity to play Down Under, the precious time with his family is something Knowles wouldn’t trade for anything else. “I have been fortunate to have a long, successful career and I have reached a stage where all my decisions are family based as opposed to being based around my tennis,” Knowles tells Tennis Grandstand in Delray Beach.
“Things have changed a lot for me with the addition of our third child, and with my oldest son, Graham, starting Kindergarten last September. I always told myself that I wanted to be there for my kids growing up as much as I possibly could.”
His wife Dawn, whom he married in 2003, relished the change in dynamics. “Mark has a close bond with the children. For us as a couple, it was great, as we got to do so many things as a family. I’m usually doing many of things by myself,” said the Texan.
“The day in and day out of having Mark home with the kids was wonderful. One minute, he’s outside kicking the soccer ball with Brody. Or he’s working on Graham’s baseball since it’s starting up. The next minute, he’ll take Presley outside in the Baby Bjorn. There’s not a minute where he’s not with one of those kids, so it’s great for me.”
Family has always been a priority for Knowles, but with the birth of daughter Presley last March, it would seem to be even more difficult to strike a perfect harmony between his loved ones and his career. But not for the former world No. 1, stating, “I want to be a major influence in my kids’ lives. And with that comes the responsibility of being there for my wife and my kids.
“It takes so much hard work and dedication to be a great tennis player and I have chosen to shift those energies towards being a great husband and great father for my family. Just like tennis or anything else, you have to dedicate yourself completely to it. The best part about it is that I love being with my family so much that it makes it easier to be away from the tennis sometimes.”
The couple has found it challenging to deal with the requirements of Knowles being on and off the road, in particular with six-year old Graham, explains Dawn. “Mark will say that he’s just going to play tennis for a few days, but Graham knows the difference now with how long a day is. Brody doesn’t know the time frame.
“The hardest part is the kids are getting smarter, so we can’t keep saying dad is going to be gone for a couple days, because they’re counting the days he’s away. They ask for him at night. Mark helps Graham with his homework, taking the time to read the books and oversee all of his assignments. When it’s me doing it, it’s not the same for him. His expectation is that time is for him and his dad to spend together.”
Perhaps the best decision Knowles made after having two months with his family was a return to action at the Dallas Challenger in February, a virtual hometown event that would allow him to ease back into the reality of his career. Playing an ATP Challenger event for the first time in 11 years, Knowles didn’t put himself above the level of competition at the tournament, knowing that it would be an ideal environment to acquire some match practice. “It was interesting returning to the Challenger level. It was a chance for me to get some matches in and also to play at home with family and friends watching,” says Knowles.
“The level is so high at challengers that it prepares you well for the ATP World Tour events. Being from the Bahamas, I have never had a home event. To be able to drive 20 minutes and play and then come back to your own house and be with your family was awesome!”
Partnering Robert Kendrick, Knowles reached the semifinals, and then headed off to San Jose to rejoin Xavier Malisse. The two enjoyed success during the North American summer hard court swing in 2011, winning the title in Los Angeles and reaching the third round of the US Open. They clicked more with each match in San Jose, and went on to finish in the winner’s circle to win their second team trophy. The victory gave Knowles his 55th career title, and extended his impressive streak of winning at least one tour-level title to 19 of the past 20 seasons. He also became the first player in his 40s to win a doubles title since John McEnroe (who also won in San Jose). “Playing Dallas was a huge benefit and the reason I did well in San Jose. There is no substitute for match practice and match situations,” believes Knowles.
“I always go into a tournament thinking that I can win it. I think everyone feels that way. However, I know how hard it is to win tournaments, especially coming off a prolonged break. Xavier and I were able to raise our games with each match and that is what it takes to win at this level.”
Knowles hasn’t set any specific goals for this season, but will continue playing provided his ranking holds up to gain him entry into tournaments. For Dawn, she would love nothing more than for Mark to play in another final, with Graham cheering him on from the front row. “Graham is beginning to understand sports. Before Mark went to San Jose, he said, ‘I hope you get the trophy.’ His idea of winning is Mark getting a piece of silverware. That’s what they do at his age. For him to see Mark lift the trophy would be huge. He thinks that’s the best thing in the world.”
Either way, Dawn is backing her husband 100 percent, whether he decides to retire tomorrow, at the end of the year or further down the road. Being there with him through all the ups and downs, the former model believes his accomplishments speak for themselves. “If I could waive the magic wand and give him the men’s doubles Wimbledon title, I would totally do that. But that doesn’t define his career. He’s a good candidate for the Hall Of Fame. He has a proven record with a variety of partners to show he can win.
“If he decides at the end of this year that he’s done, I want him to walk away like he’s done it all and is satisfied. I’m going to support him through that decision. He’ll go down as one of the best doubles players to play the game and I’m not saying that because I have to as his wife. In a broader context, he has earned that among his peers.”
(All photos courtesy of Mark’s wife, Dawn Knowles via the author)
Matt Fitzgerald is the web editor for the ATP World Tour and Tennis Grandstand’s resident doubles specialist. He is in Indian Wells, California this week covering the BNP Paribas Open and will be in Key Biscayne, Florida next week covering the Sony Ericsson Open. Follow Matt on twitter @tennisfitz.
James Blake knocked out defending champion David Nalbandian, 6-2, 6-4, from the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening. He was looking like his former top 10 self and claimed to have served better than any time in the “past 2 years.” But a deeper story lied within his after-match press conference.
Aside from detailing his great play this evening, he was the second American of the night to specifically call out Wayne Odesnik for carrying banned performance enhancing drugs. Ryan Sweeting had called Odesnik out in his own presser earlier in the evening as well.
Romana Cvitkovic: Speaking of friendships on tour, and Robert Kendrick being in the media recently, testing positive for a performance enhancing drug, what’s your take and have you rallied behind him?
James Blake: “Yea, I’ve talked to him and I’ve written a letter to help him in his appeals’ process. He’s a great guy. I grew up in juniors with him; I go way back … I played him the first time when I was about 14 years old. He’s always been a generous and great guy. I know there s no ill will in what he did. He was trying to get over jet lag, something that he thought was completely legal, and… he wasn’t doing anything performance enhancing to put him out for a year. For all intents and purposes, to end his career, I think is pretty harsh. I don’t know all the details of the appeals’ process … but I do think it’s harsh. I’d love to see him back on tour; he’s a great guy. And that would be a terrible way to end his career. I was faced at times with my career possibly ending not on my terms and for him to possibly end it not on his terms, is unfair, after a career that he’s put a lot of hard work into, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. And to go out this way, I don’t think it’s fair. Especially when we got a guy who’s playing in this tournament that I think has done a lot worse.”
A follow-up question by Ben at the Daily Forehand dealt with his allusion to Odesnik above and Odesnik’s status in American tennis: “Oh, is he American? Oh, I didn’t even know that. (laughs) I wouldn’t say he’s at our dinner table too often, or at our card games too often. I actually don’t think I’ve really said a whole lot to him since he’s been back. I didn’t agree with what he did, and as I think he said, I saw some article about him where he even admitted that he probably wasn’t that close to a lot of the Americans before all this happened. And now that it has happened, it’s probably even more of a divide. He’s never really been on the forefront of any of our minds as a guy to call and really support and go out and cheer for. [All the other Americans] are out there cheering for me, I can’t say that I ever seen Wayne doing the same for us.”
Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week. @TennisRomi
By Lindsay Gibbs
The New York Sportimes will kick off their 2011 World Team Tennis season this week as they take on the Boston Lobsters on Tuesday night (in Boston) and make their home debut on Wednesday (July 6th) at Sportime Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City at 7:00 PM. Martina Hingis, the former world No. 1 and five-time major champion, will play for the Sportimes as they take on a Boston Lobsters team featuring former U.S. Davis Cupper Jan-Michael Gambill.
World Team Tennis is an innovative co-ed sports league that was co-founded by Billie Jean King. The competitive team atmosphere, multi-colored courts, mixture of stars, and integration of singles and doubles provides a fresh and energized take on the conventional tennis format.
The New York Sportimes have been competing in World Team Tennis since 2000. They are currently defending their 2010 Eastern Conference Championship and hope to win their second World Team Tennis Title this year to match the one they earned in 2005. The Sportimes 2011 team includes Martina Hingis, John McEnroe, Robert Kendrick, Katie O’Brien, Jesse Witten, and Abigail Spears and is coached by Fritz Buehning.
The Sportimes will play five matches at Randall’s Island (July 6, 11, 14, 15, 20), and two home matches in Albany at the SEFCU Stadium (July 18 and 19). Many legends of the game will compete this year as World Team Tennis celebrates its 36th season, “A Season of Number Ones.” On July 14th at Sportime Stadium, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors will renew their heated rivalry when Connors’ Philadelphia Freedoms come to town. On July 20th Serena Williams and Martina Hingis will face off when the Washington Kastles come to Randall’s Island.
Ticket information and a full schedule for the highly anticipated New York Sportimes season can be found at www.NYSportimes.com You can also find out more information on the other nine World Team Tennis Teams and sixty-three matches happening around the country this summer at WTT.com.
Yesterday was semifinals day for the men at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships. In the end, Canadian upstart Milos Raonic defeated vetran American Mardy Fish in a tough three setter and Andy Roddick beat Juan Martin del Potro for the very first time, having met three times previously. Both matches were absolutely incredible to watch. At some point, all four guys played really impressive tennis, but Raonic and Roddick really shined which is why they were the ones to come through.
The difference between Raonic in his match yesterday versus Friday was striking. On Friday, he was actually winning against Kendrick, but looked extremely flustered. He was constantly looking at his coach and mumbling between points. Yesterday, he was totally calm and collected throughout the match even when it wasn’t clear which guy would win. Fish was playing some really great tennis, particularly in the second set and very easily could have taken this match if Milos hadn’t amped up his already impressive serve when it really mattered. When I asked him about this ability in the press conference, he said, “I sort of have my strengths that I try to rely on” and “they’ve been peaking at the right times.” Fish, who was extraordinarily gracious after his loss, had this to say about the capabilities of the Canadian.
“From the waist down, he’s strong, as strong as I’ve ever seen anyone’s legs. I mean look at his legs, his legs are twice the size of mine. I mean he’s full grown, you know in his legs. You can tell he’s still got some growing into in his upper body and his face. It’s a scary thought to think that he’s got a ways to improve. He can improve a lot of things. You know, he just makes you a little uneasy.”
It’s easy to see where Fish is coming from when you see Raonic play in person. He is strong and his serve is already intimidating. To think that he’s only 20 years old and he’s still filling out means that he’s only going to get fitter and stronger. The room for improvement is tremendous. He’s already the highest ranked Canadian in ATP rankings history and he’s not just going to fall off the planet at the end of this week. He’s going to keep playing tournaments and because he has almost no points to defend, he can really only go up in the rankings for the rest of the year.
Even though the matches were spread out throughout the day, by the time Milos and Mardy finished up their press conferences, it was already time to head back to the stadium to watch Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro. This had the makings of a blockbuster match. These guys have played three times before and del Potro won all three. Interestingly, he dropped the first set in two of those matches, much like he did yesterday. At the end of the match, Andy was absolutely elated with the win. It’s the happiest I’ve seen him to win a match in quite a while, so clearly this was very important to him. It was clear through his press conference that Andy has a great deal of respect for Juan Martin. When asked about del Potro’s level of play, Roddick responded, “I played really well today to beat him. I think on a lesser day, it would have been a lot tougher. I had to play my best tennis to beat him today.” Andy also said that he thinks del Potro will be back in the Top 10 by the end of the year. When del Potro appeared for his post-match presser, one journalist asked him what he thought about this comment. Del Potro responded, “well, I hope so. It’s a long road. Andy will be Top 10, I think forever. He’s many years in the Top 10 and I have very nice relationship and he’s a nice guy with me.” It’s nice to see that these two have so much mutual respect and to be honest, his ‘Andy will be Top 10’ forever comment was pretty funny.
This is kind of a landmark final for Andy Roddick. It will be his 50th career ATP final. If he goes on to win the title, it will be his 30th career ATP title and he will become the third man to win the RMKC Memphis tournament three times. It’s a pretty different story from Raonic’s side. He’s riding high on the success he’s had over the past two weeks and that makes him a dangerous opponent. When I asked Andy what role experience would play in the final, Andy said experience wouldn’t be the issue, that Raonic was playing without pressure. In typical Roddick form, he managed to slip in some of his personal feelings, saying, “He’s already the highest ranked guy ever from his country after this week so he’s already set the precedent. He’s not really dealing with the lineage that some of us do.” There was a bit of a smirk at the end there, understandably. Andy has been the cornerstone of men’s tennis in the United States for almost ten years now. He’s our best guy and he has been for a long time so people expect a lot from him. Unlike the US, Canada has no history of really successful tennis players. Raonic has won one title and made one final and he’s already the highest ranked guy from the country, ever.
It’s tough to choose a winner for today’s match. Raonic has all the momentum in the world, he’s playing with a ton of confidence, and he does not seem to be crumbling under the pressure in any way. In fact, he seems to be getting more and more confident each day and executing his game plan even better. For him to keep so calm during the Fish match and bring that 140+mph serve even if it was break point, is going to be a huge advantage against Andy. He’s proved that he can stay cool under pressure and still play his game. Milos is fearless when it comes to his serve. Even down break point, he goes for serves in the 130s and 140s, trying to hit an ace. It’s risky, but like he said, so far it’s worked really well for him. I’m a little concerned about Roddick. He had some real issues yesterday with his shoulder. Clearly he was still playing well, but he did take a medical time out and have the trainer work on him. During the MTO, Roddick looked like he was in some serious pain. He tends to be one of those players to downplay an injury or not discuss, so I would not be surprised if it was a little more serious than the “possible pinched nerve” he mentioned to us in his presser. He also seems to have been battling a little cold, but that’s pure conjecture. He’s shown up to both press conferences with a little bit of a cough.
Friday in Memphis was pretty action packed. I got to the press room bright and early in hopes of doing some writing before the start of play, but not quite early enough to actually get a full post written. Even though I wasn’t quite finished writing, there was no way I was going to miss the first match, Milos Raonic v. Robert Kendrick. There’s been so much hype around the young Canadian and based on the matches I’ve watched him play on TV/streams, I knew I wanted to see him in person. I don’t want to get side tracked, but I have to say that I’m incredibly impressed with Raonic. He’s been playing so well. He also gave a great press conference that I’ll likely write about later.
The real action was reserved for the night session. The first night match featured two former Grand Slam champions, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. Andy’s pretty much a favorite at any American tournament, but I was surprised at how much support Lleyton got last night. I think that’s a true testament to Lleyton as a player and as a person. I’m not sure that there’s another player on tour who fights the way that Lleyton does for each and every point and I think crowds really respond to that level of dedication.
Hewitt started out playing incredibly well and Andy started out just the opposite. Roddick got broken in the very first game of the match and was taken to deuce on his serve nearly every game in the first set. I was sitting directly behind Lleyton’s parents, and they were incredibly supportive throughout the match, constantly yelling encouragement. This became significantly more important once Roddick found his rhythm in the second set and the match went into a third set. While Roddick broke Hewitt’s serve fairly early in the third set, Lleyton was in every single game. There were a lot of long rallies and games with tons of deuce points. He definitely had some chances to get back on serve, but as Lleyton mentioned in his presser later on, Andy’s a great closer and he knows how to finish a match.
Comparing Andy’s match with Lleyton and Andy’s match with Janko on Thursday is basically night and day. Even though Roddick was in control for the vast majority of his match against Tipsarevic, he was angry. He was mad about line calls and at times, he looked like he was actually mad at his opponent. To be honest, Hewitt had a very similar in his match against Mannarino. He was arguing with the umpire about the lack of Hawkeye and throwing dirty looks at his box. Last night was totally different. Both guys had moments where they were frustrated, but overall, both were much more calm and collected. Lleyton actually got called out for foot faults three separate times, but each time he just accepted the call and moved on.
The tournament hasn’t been requiring players to do press after a loss, as far as I know, but Lleyton Hewitt agreed to do a press conference after the match last night. He was in the interview room not 10 minutes after the end of the match. He was very gracious about the loss. He mentioned that it was tough for players like him and del Potro who aren’t seeded because they’re “in the hands of the Gods a little bit” in terms of drawing top players in the early rounds of the tournament. He said that he started out well, but was definitely helped out by Andy’s high unforced error count in the first set. While a lot of players would be frustrated by such a close loss, it almost seemed like that made it easier for Lleyton. He said, “with a little bit of luck I could have beaten Nalbandian [at the Australian Open] and I could have beaten Andy here tonight.” He’s right. There was really no shame in this loss. Lleyton forces players to take control of the victory because he never gives up. Finally, when a journalist mentioned that Hewitt appeared to be dealing with some kind of foot/leg injury, Lleyton rebuffed the comment, saying, “Yeah, no I’m alright.” It was the least forthcoming he was all night and led me to believe that something was definitely going on.
Only minutes later, Andy arrived to do his press conference. He looked like he was ready to leave the second he walked in the room. The entire press conference lasted about three and a half minutes, including some awkward silence. However, he did have some really important things to say. First of all, he recognizes that he needs to start his matches better if he’s going to continue on in the tournament. In two out of his three matches, he acknowledged that he started slow and was able to turn things around, but that isn’t always the case. But he felt that in the second and third sets, he was playing his best tennis of the tournament thus far.
By far the best thing to come out of Andy’s presser was what he had to say about Hewitt. When asked about his opponent, Andy said, “There’s a reason why Lleyton is going to be a Hall of Famer in this game. He just fights so hard. I don’t know what exactly was wrong, but he was fighting through something tonight and he does it in a way, he doesn’t bring attention to it, he’s not full of a bunch of histrionics. The guy just goes out and competes and he certainly has the respect of all of us.” I love that Andy was able to acknowledge his respect for Lleyton and how he plays the game.
Andy Roddick will move on to face Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals on Saturday night. Lleyton Hewitt will not play again until Indian Wells in March.
Coming into the US Open, Fresno native Robert Kendrick hoped to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, but his dreams were cut short on Thursday morning.
Facing an in-form Tommy Hass, the No. 20 seed in the event, Kendrick was unable to break Haas’s serve while facing break points in over half of his own service games, falling 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) on the Grandstand court.
“He doesn’t give you very many chances out there, and I wasn’t able to use the ones that I had,” said Kendrick.
Kendrick had two break points in Haas’s first service game to go up 2-0, but Haas saved them both with aces. They were the only chances that Kendrick had in the set as Haas unleashed a flurry of forehand winners, eventually breaking Kendrick at 3-3 and riding that lead to a 6-4 opening set.
An ace by Kendrick on game point at 3-3 was ultimately called a fault after Hawkeye (the electronic challenge system used at the US Open) overruled the call. Two points later, A mistimed lob by Kendrick sent him down 4-3 as he smashed his racket to the ground.
Down two set points at 3-5, Kendrick hit two service winners to win that game and make Haas serve out the set. Kendrick had two points to level the set at 5-5, but a winner by Haas and a mistimed forehand by Kendrick erased them. An ace by Haas on his fourth set point gave him a commanding two set lead.
“That was probably the turning point,” said Kendrick. “If I had won one of those points, anything could have happened.”
Kendrick soon found himself scrambling to stay in the match, fighting off a break point in his opening service game with a 126 MPH ace, and again at 2-2 with a forehand winner. Two groundstroke errors found Kendrick down break point at 4-4, but he hit two service winners to eventually hold for a 5-4 lead. Down break point once more at 5-5, Kendrick hit a volley winner to erase the deficit and eventually hold serve.
The third set tiebreaker was a one-sided affair. A volley into the net sent Kendrick down an early mini-break, and Haas soon took a 3-0 lead. An overhead by Haas on his first match point sent him into the third round.
Kendrick said he will head to Asia next to play a three week series of ATP events in the fall.
Taking advantage of a visibly injured opponent, Kendrick crushed groundstroke winners in front of a packed crowd on Court 4, easily moving into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina.
Vasallo-Arguello, a clay-court specialist known primarily for his retrieving skills, looked to be moving lethargically throughout the match. Standing well behind the baseline, his shots lacked power and depth, allowing Kendrick to dominate the rallies.
Kendrick broke Vasallo-Arguello in his first service game, holding on to the lead throughout the set before winning it, 6-3. In the second set, Kendrick increased his first service percentage and showed more of a willingness to come into the net, taking advantage of his opponent’s limited power.
“I had a good warm-up this morning and came out playing well from the first point,” said Kendrick. “I try to take control of the points anyway, but with his style of play, I knew this was my match to win or lose.”
Kendrick raced to a 4-0 lead into the second set and had game points for 5-0 before Vasallo-Arguello held serve with a well-timed drop shot. Kendrick fired off aces in each of his next service games to take the second set, 6-2.
A winning lob by Kendrick gave him an early break to the third set as a dejected Arguello threw his racket to the ground. Kendrick gave himself an extra break at 3-1 with a winning forehand volley, and an ace on his first match point sent him into the second round.
After mainly playing on the challenger circuit for most of his career, Kendrick has almost exclusively played ATP Tour events in 2009. He has posted solid results including a 3rd round finish in Miami and winning a round at Roland Garros. His most memorable match came in the first round of Wimbledon, where he took a set off then world No. 3 Andy Murray on Center Court before losing in first sets.
Kendrick, who will play No. 21 seed Tommy Haas of Germany in the second round, is now seeking to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
“I’m not too worried about the match,” said Kendrick. “I’ll have a day off before and know that I can play with anyone if my game is on.”