Sony Ericsson Open

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Follow Novak Djokovic on his victory lap after winning the Sony Ericsson Open

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

What happens to a tennis player in the moments after they win a tournament? Well, after Novak Djokovic won the Sony Ericsson Open against Andy Murray, the cameras followed the champion around during his first hectic hour around the grounds.

After the awards ceremony, but before leaving the stadium, Djokovic rewards a lucky fan with literally the t-shirt off his back before going off-court to hug his agent followed by his girlfriend, Jelena Ristic. There, he is further greeted with friends, including former NBA and current Serbian professional basketball player, Marko Jaric. Jaric may best be known for taking Brazilian model Adriana Lima off the market when they wed back in 2009. Djokovic is then taken to speak with the media before going on to a more fan-friendly atmosphere.

From there, Djokovic steps outside and is greeted by the Pope from Sarasota who immediately starts singing “Mnoga ljeta” meaning “many more years” alluding to Djokovic’s invincibility on court. He then walks over to the ballpersons tent, thanking them before being taken to a hospitality tent to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans. At the end, the swarm of fans around Djokovic is more akin to a Nadal or Federer sighting, but Djokovic takes it in stride before jogging back to presumably celebrate with friends — or maybe take a nap — or have a bagel. I don’t know. They all sound good if you’re Novak Djokovic.

Enjoy the full video of Djokovic’s victory lap below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOJjydpN3ZE

Azarenka’s streak ends; Wozniacki thrills then disappoints — The Friday Five

Victoria Azarenka's streak ends at the Sony Ericsson Open (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Maud Watson

It Ends

Victoria Azarenka managed to find a way to come back from the brink of defeat in her fourth round match against Dominika Cibulkova (thanks in large part to a choke job by the Slovak), but she couldn’t pull off the feat twice.  The Belarusian crumbled under the relentless pressure of the penetrating groundstrokes coming off the racquet of Marion Bartoli to suffer her first defeat of 2012.  There’s no shame in the loss.  Bartoli has collected several big wins and is ranked number seven, but it was evident by the way Azarenka handled herself at the end that this was one of the toughest losses of her career.  Still, I like Azarenka’s chances of making a quick mental recovery and continuing to be the player to beat throughout the course of the season.   She’s matured and improved her game too much not to, and in the long run, the fact that the pressure of extending the unbeaten streak is over should only help her cause heading into the French.

Finding a Balance

So it was a just quarterfinal match at a premiere event, and she did fall to Sharapova in the semis.  But the win Wozniacki posted over Serena Williams earlier this week in Miami was just what the doctor ordered to get her back on track and infuse her and her fans with the belief that she may have what it takes to win a major.  And contrary to Serena’s assessment of herself, she didn’t play poorly.  She posted typical Serena numbers with 36 unforced errors that were nearly completely offset by her 34 winners.  And while Wozniacki’s consistency played a large part in allowing her to weather the barrage of Williams, it was refreshing to see her adding a little more “oomph” to her groundies and serve.  If she has in fact reconciled herself to the fact that she needs to beef up her game and take a few more risks, she could be well on her way to moving back towards the top and capturing that elusive major singles title.

Maddening

Less than 24 hours after he had completed a huge breakthrough win by claiming just his third victory over Roger Federer, Andy Roddick found himself out of Miami in straight sets – including a second set bagel – to Juan Monaco.  No offense to Monaco, who continues to enjoy a good run this week, but this was a bad loss for Roddick.  It’s understandable that he’d be mentally and physically drained after the Federer match, especially since his injuries have hampered his ability to stay in shape.  But what made the loss to Monaco so maddening was the way he lost it.  Against Federer, it appeared Roddick had turned back the clock and finally returned to the brand of tennis that took him to the top.  He was going after his shots, aggressively attacking the ball and taking it to Federer.  Against Monaco, he reverted to playing it safer and hanging out well behind the baseline, even though his lack of fitness should have encouraged him to be even more aggressive in an attempt to shorten the points.  For his sake and his fans’ sake, he needs to employ the tactics he did against Federer.  Otherwise, that win against the Swiss will turn into a fluke instead of the turning it could be for the twilight of his career.

Reality Check

Where’s Petko when you need her?  Following in the (two left) footsteps of Monica Seles, Martina Navratilova became the first competitor to be booted off of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars this past Tuesday night.  Navratilova found herself at the bottom of the pack for two straight weeks, so it wasn’t unexpected.  But in many ways, it was still sad to see her go.  Clearly out of her comfort zone and at times struggling to remember the routine, you could see glimpses where she was enjoying herself and the challenge of trying something she’d never done before.  It is a shame her journey had to come to such an early end, but no doubt she has been an inspiration to others to get out and try something they never thought they could.

Hobbling to the Finish

At this point, it would virtually be a more shocking news story if Kim Clijsters were healthy.  It seems every week we’re hearing about a new injury for the Belgian No. 1, and this week was no exception.  Clearly hampered in her loss to Wickmayer, it was later revealed that she has a tear in her hip muscle and will be out four weeks.  Following the loss, rumors abounded that she was considering early retirement, and though she herself has put a stop to the rumors, I’m still not wholly convinced.  With each injury setback, the desire to work at regaining her top form has to dwindle, and the fear factor she once had in the locker room is going to be all but non-existent come Roland Garros.  Kim’s a great competitor and an even better person, but it will be a bigger surprise if she manages to nab just one of the three prizes that enticed her to return to the game than if she calls it a career before season’s end.

Bartoli Ends Azarenka’s Win Streak

Marion Bartoli defeated Victoria Azarenka at the Sony Ericsson Open quarterfinals to end the Belarussian's 26-match win streak.

With the result of the match no longer in question, tears began forming in Victoria Azarenka’s eyes. There would be no magic escape from defeat this time around.

Marion Bartoli, ranked a career-high No. 7, beat world No. 1 Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 in a convincing fashion to end the Belarussian’s 26-match win streak. The 27-year-old Frenchwoman kept Azarenka on her heels all night and won six out of 10 break points. As the match wore on, it was evident that the 22-year-old Azarenka was running out of steam. She finished the match with 16 winners to Bartoli’s 27.

“I honestly never seen her play that well,” said Azarenka, who owns an 8-3 head-to-head edge over Bartoli. “But, I mean, all the credit to her. She did an amazing job today.”

Bartoli will play fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska next in the Sony Ericsson Open semifinals. She is through to the final four in Miami for the second time (2010) and is aiming for her first final at the WTA Premier Mandatory event.

“I think the main key for me was the belief and really to step up on the court trying to win the match,” said Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up. “Not only thinking about how well she’s playing and everything, but really go on the court, having a game plan and try to go for my shots.”

Azarenka has been the dominant player on the WTA Tour this year. She has won four titles, including her first Grand Slam – the Australian Open – to become the top ranked player in the world. But in the quarterfinals against Dominika Cibulkova in Miami, Azarenka was forced to dig deep and fought back to emerge with a 1-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory, keeping her 2012 win streak alive. It was the longest win streak to start a year since Steffi Graf began the 1990 season with 25 wins. Five-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis holds the record for the longest season opening streak at 37 wins.

“What I’ve done in the last couple of months, I have to be really proud of myself,” said Azarenka. “For sure, you know, I could have maybe played better today, that’s for sure, but I gave it all I had. Physically I was just not able to do anything today. It was just not possible. You know, I’m a human, not a super woman, and I wish I could be but I’m not (smiling).”

While Azarenka will get some time to rest, Bartoli will be getting ready for Radwanska, a player she has not defeated in six tries.

“I know the stats (smiling),” said Bartoli. “But I think a first is always to happen, so maybe it’s going to be my first tomorrow. But I know it’s not going to be easy. That’s for sure. I know I will have to run a lot, a lot more forward, because I know she’s going to make a lot of dropshots. I’m going to be ready.”

Get to know Marion Bartoli as she talks french cooking, snakes and Pierce Brosnan

Marion Bartoli at the Sony Ericsson Open (Photo credit Neal Trousdale)


Marion Bartoli is set to play Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals of the Sony Ericsson Open today, but I bet you didn’t know she likes to oil paint and her best friend on tour is Dominika Cibulkova. I had a chance to chat with the bright, enthusiastic and funny Marion this week about Pierce Brosnan, her most memorable moment on court, snakes, chocolate cake, and being a humanitarian at heart.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

Semifinal Wimbledon 2007 against Justine Henin … before everything. The court … beating the #1 in the world … meeting Pierce Brosnan after the match. (Laughs) I felt like I was on top of the world for 10, 15 minutes after the match.

What is the best part of being a pro tennis player?

Traveling, meeting different people, having the crowd cheering for you, playing in front of a packed house. (Smiles)

If you weren’t a tennis palyer, what would you be and why?

I would probably be a scientist or someone who helps other people. That’s the education I received from my parents – my dad is a doctor, my mom is a nurse. They really have passed that on to me. Both of them were volunteers in some projects for people who didn’t have enough money that had cancer and HIV. They were going there and helping them for free.

Where you able to go with your parents to any of those projects?

Yes, I was going with my dad and my mom, and helping them out. I was a young child, my brother and I did go. It was very important to me.

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

Pete Sampras. (Laughs) Monica Seles. I met both of them and they were extremely nice people and that would be a dream.

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite and why?

Gael Monfils (Laughs) … because he’s so funny and his dancing level is extremely high. Dominika Cibulkova because she’s my best friend on the tour. And either Rafa or Roger because I just love them. (Smiles)

What are three things you couldn’t live without?

My paints … I love to oil paint outside of tennis. I love to do it every time I have some time off. My iPod… iPhone .. iPad … actually all three of them! (Laughs) And my Louis Vuitton bag.

Is it a purse?

Yes, it’s a purse. But they made is especially for me and I have my initial on the outside of the bag in gold.

What is your biggest indulgence?

When I’m at home, I love to cook. But actually I don’t really eat it. (Smiles) So I love to cook for others, my neighborhood. Anything with chocolate would work for me. (Smiles)

What is your favorite meal to make?

I love to make chocolate cake, of course. (Smiles) I love to make some crepes, spinach-and-ricotta-filling crepes as an appetizer. And then as a main course, l’agneau– it’s like a roasted lamb, but you roll it in paper and cook it in the oven with some potatoes and some French beans. (Smiles)

What is one thing that scares you?

Spiders, snakes – I hate them, oh my gosh! (Smiles) You can’t make me hold a snake in my hand, it’s just impossible.

If they had a player promotion where you had to hold a snake —

Yes, every time in the Sony Ericsson Open they have players hold this huge snake and I’m like, ‘No! I don’t want to do this!’ The dolphin, yes. But the snakes, no! (Laughs)

 

(Photo courtesy of Neal Trousdale. To check out more photos from the Sony Ericsson Open, check out Neal’s Flickr page.)

Rafael Nadal comments on decision to resign from ATP Players Council citing “not enough energy”

Rafael Nadal in press (Photo courtesy of author)


KEY BISCAYNE, FL. — After his close win over world #16 Kei Nishikori at the Sony Ericsson Open, Rafael Nadal addressed the media answering questions on why he has stepped down as the Vice President from the ATP Player’s Council.

As reported yesterday by Simon Briggs of The Telegraph, Nadal had stepped down due to business differences citing that his “pet project” of switching to a two-year ranking system for ATP players was unsuccessful. The Spaniard has reasoned that the change would prolong the careers of players and encourage them to withdraw from a tournament if physical injury heeded it.

Likewise, Nadal encouraged the introduction of former player and current Rotterdam tournament director Richard Krajicek as the new CEO of the ATP Tour. But the job eventually went to Brad Drewett, former director of the ATP’s operations in the Pacific and Asia region.

On both points, Federer was one of Nadal’s biggest objectors citing firstly that a two-year ranking system would inhibit lower-ranked players to break through, and secondly, that Krajicek was too inexperienced in business to make any marketable contribution.

Today, Nadal elaborated on his decision to resign from the ATP Players Council stating that he had exerted himself into making changes but that not everything was a success, in his eyes.

“Well, I have been there for a couple of years.  You know, I really don’t know how to do things without [putting] my 100%. I put all my energy there.

I believe that we did [a] few things well for the sport; I believe it’s not enough.  So today I believe that I am not the right one to keep working there.  So I think another people can do better than me today.”

When asked if frustration forced him to resign, Nadal was quick to reject the notion, but his voice still carried some speculation.

“I never said that I have been frustrated, no.  I just said that I am not the right one.  You know, I don’t have enough energy to [do it]. I cannot still put in my 100% there in the player council.

I can be there just listening, but that’s not my style.  I understand my [time in the Council has] finished, and that’s it.”

Alluding to the fact that he still was not able to put 100% of his energy into his projects, Nadal is leaving dissatisfied.

“There is always troubles there.  I understand sometimes the trouble from the other part, from tournaments, but I don’t understand sometimes the trouble from our part, from our [players].”

The top 50 ATP Tour players now have the opportunity to vote for a replacement representative for Nadal, and a vote will be put in during this year’s Wimbledon.

Exclusive: Caroline Wozniacki on being an actress, her biggest fear and future karaoke battles with Serena Williams

Caroline Wozniacki (REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity)


Former world #1 Caroline Wozniacki holds not only 18 WTA Tour titles but also a great sense of humor. During the Sony Ericsson Open, the 21-year-old Dane cheerfully chatted with me about her most memorable moments on court, the best part of being a tennis player, her aspirations to be an actress, her biggest fear,  and the three tennis players she would most want to party with.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

I’ve had a lot. I think reaching the #1 ranking for the ranking and what happened in Beijing was definitely a big moment for me. Or lifting up my first trophy – or any trophy. Or walking into the opening ceremony of the Olympics was huge as well.

What is the best part of being a pro tennis player?

To travel the world and get to meet new people and get to experience things that others maybe never experience, which is great.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

I would like to be an actress – I think that would be quite fun. Always, when we had plays in school, I wanted to be in there. I had the leading role quite a few times, which is cool.

How old were you when you did that?

I can’t remember. (Smiles) I think it was all from 9 to 14 years old. I remember I was Sandy in Grease as well, so I had to sing and I’m a terrible singer. I wasn’t shy I just sang. (Laughs)

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be any why?

That’s a tough one because I would Martina Hingis, but I’ve played her before. She was my role model growing up.

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?

I would invite Serena [Williams] – she would have to bring her Karoake. (Laughs) I would bring Agnieszka Radwanska and maybe someone like … of the guys … maybe someone like Rafa [Nadal].

Which actress would you like to play you of a movie of yourself?

Maybe Cameron Diaz or Scarlett Johansson.

They have your likeness.

I don’t know, maybe. I would like to think that. (Smiles)

What are two things you couldn’t live without?

My mobile phone and … (Shyly) maybe some chocolate once in a while. (Smiles)

What is one thing that scares you?

Spiders. And I’m a bit afraid of the dark, especially if I have to walk outside when it’s dark, I don’t like it. (Laughs)

(Three watermarked photos courtesy of Neal Trousdale. To check out more photos from the Sony Ericsson Open, check out Neal’s Flickr page.)

Serena Williams defeats Sam Stosur: “I don’t get enough credit for being a super nice person”

Serena Williams (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)


In a hotly anticipated match that was to be a repeat of the 2011 U.S. Open final, Serena Williams took on Australian Sam Stosur. With more intensity and less drama, the American blasted her opponent off the court for most of the match, ending with a score of 7-5, 6-3 in Williams’ favor.

Although Stosur broke Williams in the first game of the match and held a steady momentum, it didn’t last long. In pure Williams’ fashion, she broke Stosur twice, including the final game of the first set.

The start of the second set witnessed back-t0-back serve breaks for both ladies as Williams won only one of her four second serves in the first game. While an ominous start for most players, Williams rebounded back to fire six aces in the fifth game alone. Stosur failed to recover as she only won one more game before Williams took it all, 6-3.

During one particular Hawkeye challenge, Williams sort of apologized to Stosur with her racquet for incorrectly challenging a call.

“I always do [that] kinda out of habit.  I don’t mean to.  I don’t get enough credit for being, you know, a super nice person and clapping on good points.  They only focus on me yelling at umpires. I’m actually an unbelievable professional competitor out there.”

Overall, Williams blasted 20 aces for the match,  which is not only a record high this year for all WTA players, but also matches her career-high from back at the 2009 Wimbledon.

In much the same way Williams came to support Grigor Dimitrov during his top 10 defeat of Tomas Berdych yesterday, Dimitrov was spotted watching Williams’ match today.

All of Tennis Grandstand’s exclusive 1-on-1 interviews with ATP/WTA players from the Sony Ericsson Open

Sam Stosur vs Serena Williams on stadium court at the Sony Ericsson Open (Photo credit to author)

Missed any of Tennis Grandstand’s one-on-one interviews with a particular player during the Sony Ericsson Open? Or just want to laugh along with the players as they answer funny and tennis-related questions? Well, you’re in luck as below you’ll find a full list of interviews from Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Janko Tipsarevic, Sabine Lisicki, Sam Stosur, Milos Raonic, Maria Kirilenko, Flavia Pennetta, Yanina Wickmayer, Robin Haase and Vania King.

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Maria Kirilenko on sharks, her best friends on tour, and hitting with Steffi Graf as a 9-year-old

maria kirilenko cover


Russian tennis player and current world #22 Maria Kirilenko may best be known for her beauty, but tennis fans know her as one-half of the best women’s match of the 2011 U.S. Open when she played eventual champion Sam Stosur. On the court, Maria is fierce and competitive, but off, she is feminine, charming and engaging. I had the opportunity to chat with Maria during the Sony Ericsson Open about the time she hit, as a 9-year-old, with Steffi Graf, how she was almost a ballet dancer, and sharks. (Photo gallery at bottom)

What is your most memorable moment on court?

Of course, when I win! There are so many matches … the first tournament that I won was Beijing and that was a big one. There are so many matches. (Smiles) I won twice against [Sam] Stosur, [Maria] Sharapova,[Jelena] Jankovic when she was #3.

What is the best part of being a tennis player?

The best is that you can compete at a good level and that people come and watch you. You play in front of – I don’t know how many people, 10,000 maybe more – it’s the greatest.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

Difficult to answer, I don’t know. (Smiles)

Do you have any hobbies on the side?

I mean, before tennis, I was a ballet dancer, and I was good as well. I had a partner and we won first place. So I would be a dancer, maybe. But I like tennis more. (Smiles)

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

It would be nice to play against Steffi Graf, because when I started to play [pro], she already finished.

Did you ever have a chance to hit with her?

Yes. I was, I think, 9-years-old and she came to Moscow and did a kids’ clinic. They chose the best little girls and that was me as well, so I had a chance to hit with her then.

That was the last time?

Yes, it was the last time! Didn’t happen again yet.

If you are hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite and why?

Three tennis players? (Smiles).Of course, I’m going to invite my girls, Elena Vesnina, Nadia Petrova, and Victoria Azarenka. We are good friends.

What are two things that you couldn’t live without?

Um, my phone. Yea, the phone is important. (Smiles) And the second … maybe my credit card?! It’s tough to live without. (Laughs)

What is one thing that scares you?

I’m very afraid of sharks. (Smiles)

Do you like swimming in the ocean?

I like, but every time I go to the ocean or sea, I am so afraid. (Laughs)

I’m the same way. When I was little, I used to think there were sharks in the pool.

Oh yea? (Laughs) I have this in my mind as well! It’s silly. (Smiles)

(Sony Ericsson Open photos courtesy of Rachel Vinson of OnTheGoTennis; other photos courtesy of Neal Trousdale. For more photos from the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open by Neal, check out his full gallery on Flickr.)

Wozniak Shows Winning Attitude in Loss to Venus at Miami

Aleksandra Wozniak played Venus Williams tough in Miami

Aleksandra Wozniak played Venus Williams tough in Miami

Aleksandra Wozniak was a forehand away from scoring one of the biggest wins of her career in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. The 24-year-old Canadian held match point against seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, but couldn’t close the deal, falling 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)in a two-hour, 53 minute match that had more ups and downs than a roller coaster.

Wozniak showed flashes of her Top 20 form from two years ago against the inspirational Williams who is playing her first tournament since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome at last year’s U.S. Open. After getting through her first two matches, Williams appeared sluggish and Wozniak took full advantage, playing deep, penetrating shots to keep her opponent on her heels.

Still, every time it looked like Wozniak was going to knock out the tournament sentimental favourite, either nerves or Williams’ champion’s mentality got her in the way. Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Wozniak survived two wild double faults to earn a match point which she wasted by putting a sitting forehand into the net. The Canadian didn’t go away though as she rebounded to force a third set tiebreak which, like the rest of the match, went back and forth until Williams converted her second match point with a service winner. Despite the pain of the circumstances, Wozniak showed a lot of class staying to sign autographs on court after shaking hands and chose to focus on the positives in her post-match comments.

“It would have been a big victory for me. It hurts and it is disappointing, but the important thing is that I’m healthy and progressing,” Wozniak said. “One thing is for sure, I am going to keep fighting.”

Wozniak is no stranger to coming up short in tight matches against top players. In 2010 she lost a pair of matches 6-4 in the third to Elena Dementieva at Roland-Garros and Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon. A few weeks ago in Dubai she lost 7-5 in the third to Agnieszka Radwanska. While all of the attention has been about the Williams comeback, Wozniak is also climbing the ranks again following a series of personal and physical setbacks that kept her off the court for significant chunks of time over the past two seasons. She won her maiden WTA title four years ago at Stanford, defeating Samantha Stosur, Serena Williams and Marion Bartoli en route. Wozniak reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in June of 2009 and Williams was the first to acknowledge that a formidable player was across the net from her on Centre Court in Key Biscayne.

“It was tough out there. It was made even tougher because she played well, Williams said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her play as well as she did. She was close to the Top 20, so she has that tennis in her. I have to give her a lot of credit.”

With her third round performance in Miami, Wozniak will move close to Top 60 on the WTA rankings after a fruitful March that also saw her win the Nassau Challenger in the Bahamas. She is once again the top-ranked Canadian and is making a strong push towards her season goal of representing Canada at the Olympics in London. With her free-flowing all around game and genuine personality, Wozniak will come through in her fair share matches in 2012, and win over a lot of new fans in the process.

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