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Barely Breathing: Dominika Cibulkova and the Choke Which is Not One

Dominika Cibulkova Sony Open

Long after the last point of a match is won (or lost), it is unlikely to be remembered by its combatants’ first serve percentages or backhand errors. No, in the immediate aftermath of a match, especially at a big tournament like the Sony Open in Miami, how a match is remembered largely depends on how it is framed by fans and media. Was it a tension-filled epic, or was it an inconsequential blowout?

Unfortunately, tennis matches are not remembered through such a clean-cut binary. There is a third, shame-based category known as “the choke.”  Once reserved for a tear-stained Jana Novotna, the choke has come to more broadly encompass any and all matches during which a player loses from a winning position. While a true choke knows no gender bias (according to Tennis Channel, three of the top five “greatest” chokes happened during men’s matches), the supposedly more “hormonal” sex has been assigned the greater concentration of “chokeworthy” matches over the last several years.

Can one then classify yesterday’s fourth round encounter between top seeded Serena Williams and Slovakian dynamo Dominika Cibulkova as a choke? That Cibulkova, far from a notorious closer, lost the match from a set and 4-1 up would imply at least a numerical case of neck constriction.

But in order to properly “frame” this match, it needs to be made clear what a choke is and is not, and we need look no further than Cibulkova herself for a relevant historical precedent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVWBx1TusI

Exactly one year ago, at the exact same tournament in the exact same round, Cibulkova also had the top seed, Victoria Azarenka (then undefeated in 2012) on the ropes. Taking advantage of a flat, uninspired opponent, the Slovak was punching well above her weight class to outstanding effect, redlining her already aggressive game to take the World No. 1 within moments of defeat.

Yet, when twice given the opportunity to serve out the match, she froze. Throwing in consecutive double faults, Cibulkova did not leave the door slightly ajar. She hammered at its hinges until she had broken it down herself. She would recover to play an exciting third set after losing the second in a tiebreaker, but the result was a foregone conclusion. Azarenka had been allowed to believe she could win and Cibulkova had choked away the chance to snap the Belarusian’s winning streak.

Fast forward to yesterday, and it was a very different story. Yes, Serena was flat for a set and a half, but flat in the “two winners, eighteen unforced errors” sense of the term. Where Cibulkova was gunning for outright winners against Azarenka a year ago, she was playing Williams tough enough for the American to make the mistake. This was not a case of one opponent outplaying the other only to become tentative, the purest definition of a choke. For Cibulkova, this was the athletic equivalent to a participation grade. She had shown up, and was being rewarded for doing so.

But down an early break in the second set, Serena Williams went from bad to better. She started moving her feet and stopped spraying the ball to dramatic effect. While she showed marked improvement, the top seed did not begin playing at a superhuman level, the kind we’ve seen from Williams over the years when her back is to the wall. She raised her level just enough to make what had been an embarrassing steamroll into a competitive match.

A competitive match, evidently, was not what the Slovak had signed up for. Not having been asked to play anywhere near her best until two games from the finish line, she was unable to ramp up her game in the same way Williams had done almost involuntarily. Stuck in third gear, she had no answers for the sleeping giant she had accidentally awoken and lost 6-2 in the final set.

So, did she choke? Not in the traditional sense. The form that took her within points of upsetting Serena pales in comparison to the brilliant ball bashing that nearly took out Azarenka a year ago. Cibulkova’s fire did not burn out at the last minute, because it was hardly there in the first place. However, a giant-killer type like Cibulkova knows the intensity needed in order to defeat a Williams or an Azarenka. Even if she had not been at her best the entire match, the time to raise her level came when she was serving for 5-2 in the second.

Instead, she remained static, and in a way, that can be equally disappointing.

Djokovic Visits Former Coach Gencic with Wimbledon Trophy; Talks About Goals and His Head in 2012

TENNIS-GBR-WIMBLEDON

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has been busy! After finishing up at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, he spent the weekend in Belgrade celebrating and visiting his childhood coach Jelena Gencic, received GQ’s “Ace of the Year” award, filmed a movie cameo in Bulgaria, and traveled to Bosnia to pick up another award, while talking with reporters about his outlook for the 2012 season – and joking about his head.

News broke out on Wednesday that Novak Djokovic would be playing himself in the upcoming Sylvester Stallone-written movie “Expendables 2,” alongside actors Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Filming for the tennis star took place in Sofia, Bulgaria along with some extraneous fun relishing the citiy’s trendy night life.

Interestingly enough, the only clue to Djokovic’s initial post-season adventures came by way of countryman Janko Tipsarevic, who said the two were heading to the Maldives for vacation after the ATP World Tour Finals. But I guess when Sylvester Stallone, your childhood idol, asks you to star in a movie, you don’t deny the opportunity.

First on the agenda though was a weekend of celebrating that included a night out at club Magacin in Belgrade.

The trip to Belgrade, however, was inspired for an entirely different reason. American television company CBS is currently filming a documentary on the world’s #1 tennis player, and it included a sweet reunion with his childhood coach Jelena Gencic after not having seen each other for four-and-a-half years. She also revealed the secret to Djokovic’s match point-saving return forehand winner against Roger Federer in the semifinals of the U.S. Open earlier this year.

Djokovic arrived to her house with a big hug, telling her “I have brought that which we have been dreaming about and which I had promised you I would win.” He then showed her his prized Wimbledon trophy. Gencic held the trophy and replied that her “happiness at this moment has no end.”

Before going into the house, he asked to see her garden. It was the same one which they had spent countless hours conversing in and where he had told her he would one day be #1.

As they entered the house, the jokes began and it became reminiscent of a time many years prior. Gencic teased her pupil and confessed she still had his childhood racquet from where everything had originated 17 years ago.

Gencic: “Do you remember this racquet?”

Djokovic answered jokingly: “Of course, I remember! I know that the cap fell off the bottom of the handle and I know that … oh my, you never changed the strings!”

Gencic replied: “Yes, I did!”

They were like old friends, with Gencic even bringing up his famed forehand return winner against Federer at the U.S. Open: “On match point [down], you played the most impossible shot, the most difficult shot …” But Djokovic interrupted, “How is it impossible when that is the shot we were training for for years?” To which Gencic joked, “But that’s why I’m bringing it up!” followed by laughter from both. Djokovic admitted to media that he learned his signature “crosscourt returns and down-the-line backhands” from Gencic’s unique training style when he was a kid. All things have come full circle as that save on match point has now become his career-defining moment.

Djokovic ended his visit with an invitation for Gencic as his guest for the opening day of Wimbledon in 2012. But she joked, “Nole, prepare me a seat two weeks later when the finals are, so we can celebrate a new [Wimbledon] trophy together!”

“If I didn’t have Jelena Gencic or my parents who believed in me and my potential, I probably wouldn’t have had the desire to become world #1,” Djokovic concluded. See the full video of their reunion below including video footage of Djokovic hitting on court as a kid.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH_3zzqReZg

Following this momentous visit, he departed for a short trip to Banja Luka, Bosnia to accept the country’s “Person of the Year” award. There, Djokovic was asked by reporters concerning his movie role to which he said that “he had just filmed his [movie cameo] yesterday,” calling the cast “legends” and jokingly admitted that he’s better as a tennis player than an actor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTxSZUebk3k&feature=player_detailpage#t=96s

During the same news conference, he also talked about his goals for 2012.

“It’s crucial that if I prepare well for next year, I will have a great chance to begin the year [right], and it is that beginning that is crucial for the entire season. So, in Australia I’ll try again to get the title, and I believe [my play at the Australian Open] will give me good knowledge about how the rest of my season could go. I think I’m at the top of my career and my abilities, and I believe in the quality [of my game], and why not? I will always have bigger goals.

When asked about his injury status, he playfully replied: “I don’t have any injuries. I have enough time to heal everything – especially my head, which is a little crazy.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_kPaXJ68v8

(Magacin photo courtesy of HelloMagazin.rs; screen shots via YouTube)

Nadal No Match for Superb Federer in London – Live Coverage

Federer Nadal London

by Ahmed Ibrahim and Stephanie Neppl

Expectations. It’s hard to not be caught up in the hype when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal face off on the tennis courts. Before meeting in the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals, the two had met on 25 previous occasions, including countless Grand Slam finals. Given their illustrious history, it’s easy to expect magic every time they take the court.

Well, the only magic being showcased during Tuesday night’s round robin match between the two tennis greats was on Federer’s side of the court. He barely erred during the hour-long match, blasting winners from all over the court, serving superbly and moving with lightning speed.

Rafa, on the other hand, barely knew what hit him. He looked a half step slow, only hit four winners (compared with 28 for Roger) and his groundstrokes fell too short, time and again.

Rafa fans were stunned into silence as he was broken once to lose the first set, and then was dealt the ultimate humiliation of a bagel in a quick second set.

What went wrong? Rafa has never beaten Roger on the indoor courts. He’s 0-4 against the 16-time grand slam champion in the ATP World Tour Finals, and has historically not performed well in the indoor season.

As much as we Rafa fans want to look for reasons why he lost so badly tonight, it didn’t seem to be about the surface. Fed played nearly immaculate tennis, and Rafa being a bit flat and slow, his short, high balls were just eaten alive by Federer.

Being in the stands watching your favorite lose so badly is not pleasant. There’s nowhere to hide and suddenly the fervent cheers for the other player seem louder and more disruptive. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those difficult nights for this Rafa fan, but all credit to Roger for his stunning play. He certainly looks on track to repeat his 2010 World Tour Finals win.

For the Federer fans in the O2 Arena, however, nothing prepared them for what they would be witnessing: Roger Federer playing at his very best. It was like being transported back to 2005 with the crisp, clean, early hitting of the ball and dominating play from the baseline.

Federer did not give Rafa an inch to maneuver as he played deep ball after deep ball to keep Rafa off-guard and make him move around the court before executing the perfect winning forehand/backhand into the open court.

Notching up 28 winners to Nadal’s paltry four is testament to how well Federer played tonight and the risks he took to outplay his opponent. A 6-3 6-0 scoreline surely gives Federer a huge boost of confidence against the rest of field. No one else is producing this high level of tennis in the indoor circuit.

The atmosphere inside the O2 Arena was electrifying throughout and for Federer fans the cheers grew louder and louder with every winning shot he produced. Why can’t Fed play like this day in and day out? There came a point when Fed fans must surely have asked the question when will Federer’s form suddenly switch off (as is often the case!)?

Witnessing this performance against one the game’s greatest ever players is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Federer vs Nadal legacy will live on forever but for those of us fortunate to see a match live, we should be savoring the moments as they will become less and less frequent.

Stephanie Neppl and Ahmed Ibrahim are in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as guest contributors for Tennis Grandstand. Stephanie, an avid Nadal fan, maintains the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and her twitter is @StephInNZ, while Ahmed, an avid Federer fan, is the author of the website Tennis Addict and his twitter is @TennisAddict_.

Navratilova Edges Evert to win Australian Title – On this day in Tennis History

Martina Navratilova

With tennis being in its off-season – wait, tennis has an off-season? – we thought we would give you daily content courtesy of Randy Walker’s book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, so you can have your daily tennis fix. ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), makes for an ideal companion for the tennis fan and player. It fits perfectly under your tree or in a stocking for the Holidays. The following are events that happened ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY….

December 7

1985

Martina Navratilova defeats Chris Evert Lloyd 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to win the Australian Open in Melbourne for her 17th victory over Evert Lloyd in the last 19 matches and her third career Australian singles title. “That was tough on the nerves,” says the 29-year-old Navratilova after the match. “It seems Chris and I always play great matches. Even though I lost the second set, I felt in control. I knew this was it. I knew it was for the No. 1 ranking. I was going to go after it, and I did.” Navratilova previously wins inAustralia in 1981 and 1983. Says Evert, the defending champion, “After the second set, there was a lot of pressure on both of us, and she handled it better.” In men’s singles, Mats Wilander advances into the final, finishing up a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 rain-delayed victory over unseeded Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia. The other men’s singles semifinal between Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg is suspended due to rain after only 10 minutes of play, Edberg leading 2-1.

1987

Ivan Lendl defeats Mats Wilander 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to win the year-end Nabisco Masters Championship for a fifth time. Says Lendl, ”Today may have been the best I hit the ball and moved. I think I still can get better, though. I can work on new shots and my physical strength and conditioning.” Wilander implements a more aggressive strategy against Lendl, coming to net more often and using his one-handed chip backhand in an attempt to close the gap between he and Lendl. Earlier in the week, Wilander says that his goal is to become the No. 1 player in the world. Says Wilander, “I tried to come in on his backhand, but that didn’t work. After a while, you don’t know what to do. A couple of times I was thinking, ‘he’s just too good for me.’” Says Lendl of his goals and how he can he can improve his game, “”There are millions of ways I could improve. There are new shots, new ways to hit the shots, ways to become more flexible, stronger…There are still so many things I want to do. Everyone in tennis would like to win a Grand Slam…I paid my dues on and off the court and now I’m enjoying the fruits of it.”

1980

December 7 becomes a day of infamy for Pam Shriver as the American blows seven match points in losing to Wendy Turnbull of Australia 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the final of the New South Wales Open in Sydney. Turnbull trails 6-2 in the final-set tie-break against the 18-year-old Shriver.

Have Tennis in Your Life 365 Days a Year

On this day in tennis history

Compiling information for more than 15 years, former U.S. Tennis Association press officer Randy Walker has published a compilation of significant anniversaries, summaries and anecdotes from the world of tennis in his book On This Day In Tennis History. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches, trivia, statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings for every day of the calendar year.

On This Day In Tennis History is an informative guide that brings significant – and quirky – tennis matches and happenings from the past into the context of the present,” saidWalker. “It is uncanny the number of significant events in tennis history that occurred on other significant and appropriate anniversaries, such as Boris Becker and Michael Stich both winning their first Wimbledon titles on the birthday of the first great German tennis champion Gottfried von Cramm. It’s fun to pick up the book every day and read what happened on each day of the year.”

Some of the quirky and significant events documented by Walker include from February 5, 1985, when Ivan Lendl defeats Larry Stefanki 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Lipton Championships in Delray Beach, Fla., in a match that ends without an umpire or linesmen, from July 18, 1930 when Wilmer Allison saves a record 18 match points in his Davis Cup victory against Giorgio de Stefani of Italy and from April 28, 1968 when Ken Rosewall wins the first ever “Open” tournament, defeating fellow Aussie and fellow professional Rod Laver 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-3 in the final of the British Hard-Court Championships in Bournemouth, England.

Said former world No. 1 Jim Courier of “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important—and unusual—moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.”

Walker is a New York-based sports marketer, publicist, writer and tennis historian. A 12-year veteran of the USTA’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.

On This Day In Tennis History is published by New Chapter Press, also the publisher of The Bud Collins History of Tennis. More information on the book can be found atwww.tennishistorybook.com.

Looking Back on John McEnroe’s Davis Cup Captaincy

John McEnroe

While the U.S. Tennis Association prepares to choose and name a new U.S. Davis Cup captain to replace Patrick McEnroe, it is interesting to look back 11 years at the start of the U.S. captaincy of Patrick’s older brother John. Arguably the greatest American Davis Cupper in the history of the competition, John McEnroe was named by the USTA to replace Tom Gullikson as U.S. captain during the 1999 U.S. Open (incidentally, the press conference occurred on Gullikson’s 48th birthday).

Following his US Open press conference where he was officially introduced as the skipper of America’s tennis team, McEnroe’s next public appearance as U.S. captain came a month later when the draw for the 2000 competition was made on October 7, 1999.

The following is what took place, as documented in Randy Walker’s book “ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com) on the afternoon of October 7, 1999.

1999 – Less than one month after being named captain of th

e U.S. Davis Cup team and John McEnroe creates his first international incident as the United States is drawn to play an away match against the African nation of Zimbabwe in the first round the 2000 Davis Cup. Speaking to reporters at a U.S. Tennis Association organized event at the ESPN Zone in New York City, McEnroe says of the away match against Zimbabwe, “I am sure that word is seeping out that our worse case scenario has just taken place. We need like 27 shots or something to go down there.” After meeting with reporters, McEnroe takes questions from fans at the theme restaurant and is asked what surface he expects the match to be on. Responds McEnroe, “That is their choice. They are going to try to pick a surface that they feel they have the best chance of beating us on which will probably be cow dung …” The following day, “Page Six” the famous gossip column in the New York Post reports the Zimbabwean government’s outrage over McEnroe’s comments. “This is disparaging,” Immanuel Gumbo, attache at the Zimbabwe mission to the UN tells Page Six. “When we beat Australia last year we didn’t play on a cow dung court. We admire Mr. McEnroe for his gifts but you have to wonder what must go on inside his head.”

With the current situation that is ongoing in Zimbabwe, under the tyrannical rule of President Robert Mugabe, one can say that insulting the Mugabe government would not be considered such a sin.

McEnroe and the U.S. team were able to barely edge Zimbabwe 3-2 with Davis Cup rookie Chris Woodruff winning the fifth-and-decisive rubber from Wayne Black. After another 3-2 knee-knocker win in Los Angeles over the Czech Republic, the U.S. was shut-out by Spain 5-0 in the semifinals in Santander, Spain. McEnroe was not able to convince Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras to step up and play in the post-Wimbledon clay-court semifinal against Spain and resigned as the U.S. captain later in the year, paving the way for his younger brother Patrick to assume the helm and serve as U.S. captain for 10 years.

Hingis Plays First WTA Match, Federer Plays First Match in Japan, Koubek DQed – On This Day in Tennis History

Martina Hingis & Anna Kournikova

From the October 4 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

1994 – Future world No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switzerland, two weeks past her 14th birthday, makes her professional debut with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Patty Fendick in the first round of the Zurich Indoors. The Hingis debut comes after a celebrated junior career where she becomes the youngest player to win a major junior title at age 12 at the 1993 French Open and earning the world No. 1 junior ranking the next year with wins at the junior French and Wimbledon. Says Hingis of her debut match, “The first time is always difficult. But I didn’t have anything to lose, and I enjoyed it toward the end especially.” Hingis goes on to lose to Mary Pierce of France 6-4, 6-0 in the next round.

2007 – Austrian Stefan Koubek is disqualified from his second-round match with Sebastien Grosjean at the Metz Open in France when he uses inappropriate language in an argument with tournament referee Thomas Karlberg. With Koubek leading 5-7, 7-6, 4-2, the Australian left-hander argues with Karlberg over the ruling to replay a point due to a linesperson being unsighted and missing a call. Says Karlberg, “On the first point of the seventh game, on Grosjean’s serve, a Koubek forehand close to the baseline gave a 0-15 advantage to Koubek, but the umpire realized Grosjean was in the way of the line judge, who was therefore unable to judge the point. In this case, the rule is to replay the point. Koubek disagreed and asked for the supervisor’s intervention. He did not want to accept the rules and used strong language. I told him the match was over and asked the umpire to announce it.”

2007 – Roger Federer plays his first ever match in Japan, defeating Serbia’s Victor Troicki 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the AIG Japan Open in Tokyo.

1986 – Pat Cash wins 16 of 20 games played and defeats Tim Mayotte 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the completion of a rain-postponed match to give Australia a 2-0 lead over the United States in the Davis Cup semifinals in Brisbane, Australia. Mayotte begins play leading Cash 6-4, 1-2. Cash the pairs with John Fitzgerald in the doubles match, and nearly puts away the Americans by an insurmountable 3-0 margin, but darkness postpones their match with the ad-hoc U.S. doubles team of Ken Flach and Paul Annacone, with the Aussies leading 10-8, 6-1, 5-7. Annacone, in his Davis Cup debut and what ultimately becomes his only Davis Cup playing experience, substitutes for an injured Robert Seguso.

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

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic

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!

American Tennis Triumphs At The Farmers Classic

Bob and Mike Bryan

A Super Sunday for Southern California natives as the Bryan Brothers become the all time best doubles team in tennis history, and Sam Querrey repeats as champion trumping mopey Murray in three sets that thrilled the Los Angeles crowd as American tennis sets the US Open Series ablaze going two for two.
The first match was the historic one. Bob and Mike Bryan, twins, who personify synergetic, aggressive doubles tennis like no one else, take on the other guys on yet another perfect afternoon on the UCLA campus at the Farmers Classic Open. The first set was tight, and Bob later admitted that his arms felt like “spaghetti” throughout, as the other guys stood their ground, taking the initiative, looking as though they weren’t going to simply lay down and let the Brady Bunch script unfold without difficulty. Father Bryan, who instituted tennis to his twin sons at a very early age, was the MC of the event, and sat in the stands without objective restraint as he could be seen cheering his boys on with his signature enthusiasm. Fist pumps issued forth from father Wayne Bryan, and the crowd rallied as the Bryan brothers dropped the first set in a very tentative display by the twins, who were seeking their 62nd title, one ahead of the legendary team of Woodford/Woodbridge. Mark Woodford was on hand to see if his record would hold, and the other guys (Butorac/Rojer) looked to keep the Bryans at bay for at least another week. The first set wrapped in a weakly played tiebreak by the brothers Bryan, but what seems to be the going trend with the So Cal native sons, is the ability to bounce back and that they did. The Bryans easily took the second set 6-2, as the nerves subdued and the confidence returned. The custom for doubles, once it reaches a split, is to play a ten point super tiebreak. Did you expect anything less? Taking the quick lead 4-0, it looked like no. 62 was inevitable. The other guys fought back, and even broke the big serve of lefty Bob and the match was tied at 7-7. A few crucial mistakes, including an untimely double fault by Butorac gave the boys a match point and after putting away the volley the Bryans leapt into each other arms thrusting their names into the history books. Bob Bryan told reporters what he felt: “Sixty two brings a smile to our face. It’s been an emotional ride, talking about it every day for the past couple of months. To finally do it is incredible. There were definitely nerves out there and those guys were playing great. It was a very hard fought match. Our legs felt like jelly, arms spaghetti… It was a flood of emotion. I never thought we’d be this consistent, this healthy our whole career. Sixty one looked like it was on the other side of the moon. If you stay consistent, and never give up on each other – even in dry spells – anything can happen. We’ve never given up on each other.”

The singles championship was going to be decided after the Bryans match, between returning champion Sam Querrey, the local favorite and first time Los Angeleser Andy Murray. The battle ensued right from the get go, as the two men held nothing back. Querrey told reporters after his semi-final win that he needed to go for more against Andy, and take some chances. He certainly did just that. The American was going for his shots without delay and the first set slid Andy’s way mostly because Querrey wasn’t quite hitting his marks. Whether or not the nerves were a factor Andy held steady and was able to break Sam late in the set and hold for a 7-5 lead. This wasn’t new territory for the American number 20. Sam’s last three matches all went the distance and he trailed in all of them. But could he do it against a top player like Andy Murray? You wouldn’t have guessed so, but Andy was caught in familiar territory as well, as in all of his matches leading up to the final he started with a bang only to take a catnap in the second. He didn’t exactly sleep this set away but had some strong opportunities to dunk the trophy home in straights. But Sam showed what he has been showing for the past week: pure So Cal heart. I feel with this comeback, especially against a player of Murray’s caliber, can only send Sam across the ravine of steady, workhorse, blue collar man to white collar, trophy collecting, net jets flying, elite player. After a gritty tiebreak triumph in the second set, utilizing that big serve, big forehand one two to perfection, Querrey rolled on to wrap up the third and deciding set 6-3, and becoming one of the few to repeat in LA. With Mardy’s win in Atlanta, and now Querrey’s repeat, and Blake looking like his injuries have subsided, and Isner climbing the ranks steadily, and Roddick consistently re-proving his dominance on hard courts, this year’s US Open looks mouthwatering for American tennis. Could the flag of Spain, Switzerland, Serbia, and UK flap dead across the Hudson this August? Could the Unites States Open crown one of its own native sons? The tide of tennis is fickle, and if one were to venture a guess with the current shift, I would start singing the pledge of allegiance folks.

Richard Bloomfield Is On The Verge Of Making Tennis History

Richard Bloomfield

Richard Bloomfield is on the verge of making tennis history.

Ranked No. 552 in the world, Bloomfield is two matches away from becoming the lowest ranked player to ever win an ATP World Tour event. The 27-year-old from Norwich is ranked two spots worse than Lleyton Hewitt, who was ranked No. 550 when he won the singles title in Adelaide, Australia in 1998 as a 16-year-old, as documented in the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com)

Bloomfield reached his first career ATP World Tour semifinal with a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win Friday over heralded 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison. He will play Mardy Fish of the United States, ranked No. 76, in the semifinals. The other semifinal features Olivier Rochus of Belgium, ranked No. 65, against Brian Dabul of Argentina, ranked No. 105.

Entering this week, Bloomfield had won only one career ATP World Tour level match – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win at Wimbledon in 2006 over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina – a victory that attracted world-wide attention due to the suspicious betting patterns during the match. Due to irregular betting patterns, suspicious amounts of money was bet on Bloomfield, alleging that perhaps Berlocq could have been injured or was paid to “tank” the match to allow for profiteering among gamblers. Coincidentally, Bloomfield’s first-round win here in Newport over Christophe Rochus also attracted similar unwanted gambling attention.

Online gambling exchange Betfair told The Associated Press on Friday that Bloomfield’s 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Rochus Tuesday attracted an unusual $1.5 million in wagers and was the subject of dramatic price movement.

Bloomfield was rated even money against his Rochus, ranked No. 160. In the hours before the match, the odds on Bloomfield winning were shortened to 1-4. After he won the first set, the odds shorted to 1-8.

“If people are willing to risk 4 pounds to win one, that is indicative of a substantial gamble,” Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said to the Associated Press.

Notification of the irregular betting pattern was reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an independent body created by the sport’s governing bodies to lead the fight against corruption.

It is standard procedure for the betting industry to share irregular activity on its markets with the TIU.

“It is not operational policy of the TIU to make any comment about an investigation that it may or may not be involved in,” TIU spokesman Mark Harrison told the AP

Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

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