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Back Into the Top 50: The Resurgence of Dmitry Tursunov

DSC_01470001Dimitry Tursnov friday-2

DSC_01470001Dimitry Tursnov fridayWASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly twenty years ago, Dmitry Tursunov stepped off the plane from Russia, ready to take on the tennis world at the tender age of twelve. His father was determined to make a tennis champion in the family and the talented Tursunov obliged with a move to the United States.

Despite rising to a career-high ranking of world No. 20 in 2006, it wasn’t always an easy road for the Russian as he was forced off tour multiple times with injuries and surgeries, and a strained relationship with his father did not help his confidence.

Tursunov himself calls his career a bit of a “rollercoaster,” but his most memorable win came against an American great in 2006, as he won 17-15 in a fifth set.

“Most people might say that the highlight of my career was beating Andy Roddick on clay during Davis Cup — on a surface he doesn’t really like,” joked Tursunov exclusively to Tennis Grandstand. “But it was a good match for the fans and it had a lot of suspense.”

After breaking into the top 100 exactly ten years ago, it was another three years before the Russian’s ranking steadied within the top 40. Over the next three years, he won six tournaments and defeated a top 10 opponent on seven occasions. At about this time, injuries started to creep in and they took him out of the game as he fell outside of the top 500.

“With every injury, you also have doubts, and the last couple of injuries have been probably more difficult than the first ones,” admitted Tursunov. “They always give you a scare and you’re never sure if you’re going to be or not going to be playing again. But for some reason the last couple [of injuries] were kind of hard to get through.”

The expectation with injury recovery among athletes is that once your body has healed, you will be able to return to your previous prime quite quickly. But that is rarely the case and often times you begin to question your game.

“When you’re coming back [from injury], that’s the hardest thing,” Tursunov continued. “Because when you’re coming back, you don’t have much confidence in anything. You’re constantly in doubt and you’re taking bad results closer to the heart … When you’re taking hits and you’re down, it’s a lot harder to get through those. You just suck it up or call it quits.

Despite his rocky time with the sport, the Russian who now trains in California never doubted his place in tennis.

“I felt there is not much I could do outside of tennis … As much as I sometimes hate being on court when I’m not playing well, I understand that it’s much better than being in the ‘real world’ and having a 9-to-5 job … I would rather be a player on tour than even a coach.”

Tursunov got his start on a tennis court at a very early age, under the careful tutelage of his father.

“[My father] had a tremendous belief in me from the very beginning,” stated Tursunov. “He put 150% of his energy into my tennis. Any money he had was not going to the family, it was going to my tennis. He essentially gambled quite a lot on my tennis.”

With a father so involved with his budding career, it was only inevitable that this strained their own relationship off the court.

“I had a difficult relationship with my dad because of tennis,” commented Tursunov. “Tennis was basically the link that bonded us together. And for a very long time, when I was practicing – when I was little – I didn’t see myself as anything other than a tennis player because it was so engrained into my lifestyle. There was no speculation about what I would become when I’m older. Everything was around tennis.”

If this story sounds familiar, you might be right.

Andre Agassi, in his book “Open,” also heavily commented on the difficult relationship he had with his own father on the tennis court, and many aspects of his and Tursunov’s relationships run in parallel.

“Some people might say that he vicariously lived through me, but as a parent, I don’t really believe you think of it this way. You always want your child to succeed,” stated Tursunov. “I also don’t believe my dad abused our relationship and dynamics, like some press have said.”

He continued: “Yes, he was fanatical about it. … If anything, I wish that we had found a common ground earlier. … The last few years, he finally started asking me about life outside of tennis and how I’m doing.”

With his father’s passing last year, Tursunov is playing with a renewed determination. Though he admits to “wearing [his] emotion on [his] sleeve” on court and often being quite negative, his new coach repeatedly reminds him to be more optimistic and positive, and it seems to be resulting in some good wins.

This year already, Tursunov has defeated two top-10 opponents, including David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic, and just this week at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. he ousted 2011 champion Radek Stepanek and tournament fifth seed Gilles Simon. His ascension back to world No. 61 has been a sweet affair, and his semifinal appearance this week will propel him back up to at least No. 43 in the rankings.

At thirty years old, Tursunov is now near the twilight of his tennis career, but he finds inspiration in a fellow ATP player who has defied age stereotypes.

“Tommy Haas is giving a lot of hope to all of us to play far into our thirties,” stated Tursunov. “I think in general you can see the trend of older players playing longer into their careers … I’d like for the last two to three years of my career – whenever that may be – to really make it count. Not just win one, two rounds but win tournaments.”

With his semifinal against John Isner at the Citi Open on Saturday, there may be no better time than now to announce his comeback.

Grigor Dimitrov Q&A: Fun Fan Encounters, Ultimate Dinner Guests, and Maria Sharapova

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-two-year-old Grigor Dimitrov has much to be happy about.

He kicked off his 2013 season by reaching his first ATP final in Brisbane, pushing Andy Murray in a tight two set match. He continued his good performance making two more semifinals and one quarterfinal on the year, while taking tennis’ top men to their limits on court.

In Monte Carlo in April, Dimitrov took Rafael Nadal to three sets, and a few weeks later, he stunned world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Madrid.  Directly following his win over the Serbian, tears welled up in the young Dimitrov’s eyes, and it was clear how much the win meant to him. His ranking also catapulted to a career-high of 26 in the world.

After his successful clay court campaign, the focused Bulgarian now shifts gears to the U.S. hard courts and hopes to build on his great season.

“The clay season was a lot of fun this year for me,” commented Dimitrov following his first round win over Xavier Malisse at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. “I would like to do even better on the hard court … I love playing in the States. It’s a place where I always feel comfortable.”

Charismatic and approachable, Dimitrov has also gotten plenty of buzz surrounding his off court relationship with WTA player, Maria Sharapova. Though he prefers his privacy about his personal life, he realizes it is an inevitable popular topic with the press and fans.

“Of course, there is a lot of talk off the court, and in the end, I think that’s part of the game … In England (during Wimbledon), in general, there were a lot of these questions. But what can I do?” stated Dimitrov, still smiling.

On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., I had a chance to sit down with the enchanting Dimitrov for a few minutes as he talked memorable moments, crazy fan encounters and who his ultimate dinner guests would be. After the interview, he extended his hand as I stepped off a rather tall stage that a three-year-old would probably enjoy jumping off of. What a perfect gentleman.

What is your most memorable moment on court?
I think definitely there are many, and one of them was when I played Novak Djokovic this year. I think that’s one of the most memorable matches for me. Of course, can’t forget the match against Rafa (Nadal). I’m trying to make every moment to stay with me and keep it in a special way.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be doing?
I would be definitely into sports. My mom is a former volleyball player. I like playing soccer, volleyball, basketball – any sports. I’m pretty active when I have my time off, so I would definitely try to be sport-oriented but I don’t think there’s one sport in particular over the others.

If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Johnny Depp, for sure. This is my number one pick of all-time. Other two … my girlfriend, but I’m having dinner with her every night. (Laughs)

Hmm. Two people … I would go with … Monica Bellucci. And then … it has to be a musician, but I cannot name one. Any musician that I like nowadays that would be it probably.

What is the funniest or craziest encounter you’ve had with a fan?
I must say there are lot of these, because I always do some things with the fans whether it’s going to be practice or when I come out to sign autographs. I always do something – whether I’m going to give a t-shirt or wristband. The fans always have some funny gifts. Once I got one crazy gift, I received a little (stuffed) bear and there were sentences in Bulgarian on it. I don’t know how long that took, but I think it was an extremely big effort for someone to do it. I remembered that for quite a bit; I was in Asia then. In Asia, I think I had one of the biggest supporters out there. One year, it was just crazy; everyone had their t-shirt with my sign, and they made a special t-shirt for the matches. So I think that was kind of cool.

Sorana Cirstea Talks About Her Early Career Struggles, and Dishes on Friendship with Ana Ivanovic

DSC_93020001Ms. Cristea-2

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By 16, she was a top 10 junior player in the world. Only three years later, she took the WTA Tour by storm, reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open en route taking out two top 10 players.

Romanian Sorana Cirstea is a seasoned tennis veteran despite being only 23-years-old. Her time in juniors combined with her quick ascension in the pro ranks primed her to succeed for years to come. But her good initial results in 2009 were clouded by injury and letdowns. It would be three more years before she found her best tennis and a ranking to go with it. Just last month, she reached her career-high ranking of world No. 22.

After her semifinal appearance in Stanford over the weekend, Cirstea had a quick turnaround into the humidity of Washington, D.C. to play in her first Citi Open tournament.

Following her first round win over Lesia Tsurenko, I chatted with the friendly, engaging Cirstea about the tough time her injury presented her with and how she bounced back, as well as her close friendship with Ana Ivanovic.

What is your most memorable moment on court?
Probably it would be when I won Orange Bowl when I was 13 because I was such a kid. Now, I’ve become a little more mature towards everything. I don’t get that excited or that down anymore. But when I was a kid, I was so excited. I felt like I could move mountains when I won the Orange Bowl. It was just pure euphoria. I think I will never experience that kind of feeling. That moment was one of the most important for me, and from there on (tennis) started to become a proper career.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be doing?
I loved school, so I was one of those kids that were really good students — like an ‘A’ student. Even when I playing tennis, I still went to school and had really good marks. I’m not sure what I would have pursued, but probably I would be really good in school in whatever subject I would choose; I was always a very disciplined student. For example, I like different areas now, but I’m not sure how my life would have turned out if I was not a tennis player. Maybe I would have been interested in politics, economics, languages, communications.

What is one thing that scares you?
Getting to the end of my life and not reaching the dreams that I have. Probably this is the thing that scares me the most.

You and Ana Ivanovic are very close. How did that friendship come about?
(Smiling) She is my best friend. We are like sisters. It’s so nice to have someone like that on tour. We actually discovered each other a little bit late. I think I was 19, she was 22 or something. So maybe like four years ago when we first started to train together because of the adidas team, and interact.

And suddenly we realized that we had the same values, same way of seeing life, same background, same kind of families, same education. Because we are so similar in everything, now a lot of times we don’t even have to speak, we know what we are feeling. It’s just so nice to have someone like her on the circuit and just be able to share this time together because we spend so much time at the tournaments. So it’s nice to have someone you can call almost family.

After a successful first season on the WTA Tour in 2009, there were some struggles for a couple of years. How did you deal with all the trials and what have you learned about yourself? 
I think I was a really good junior, so the transition to the WTA happened for me quite fast. I was quite talented. The first years on tour were very easy for me. Then players started to (know my game) a little bit. I had a very bad injury, I broke my heel, and that took me a little bit out of the game. So it was a little like a domino. It took me back and I fell in the rankings. And then it actually took me a while to get back. But I really really appreciate this time because I fell down to 100 and then I really had to work hard to get back.

Now I achieved my best ranking last month – I was 22 – so now I actually I feel that I do deserve to be here. I belong here; I worked hard to be here. I feel that I’m way more disciplined and appreciate things way more than I did when I was climbing the rankings. So I think it’s a learning process.

I’m very grateful for things good and bad that happened in my life because otherwise I wouldn’t be here today. So it’s a different way of thinking now than when I was 19. But, of course, everyone develops, gets experience and matures, and start seeing things different. But at the moment, I’m quite happy with the way things are going.

Ryan Harrison on Decision and Effects of Recent Coaching Switch to USTA

DSC_93230001Ryan Harrison-2

DSC_93230001Ryan HarrisonWASHINGTON, D.C. — With his run to the semifinals of Atlanta last week, and his straight set win over veteran Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open on Tuesday, American Ryan Harrison seems to already be benefitting from a recent coaching switch on his team.

The 21-year-old Louisiana native served up three straight aces in his second service game alone and continued dominating, breaking the Aussie three times to book a second round match up against Juan Martin del Potro.

“It was a good win,” said Harrison. “I felt good out there. I played a really good first set. And then when (Hewitt) fought hard to break me back, I was still able to stay ahead and stay on serve and finally get that break there at 5-all.”

After training at the Austin Tennis Academy, Harrison partnered up full-time with one of it’s lead coaches, Tres Davis, last Fall as the American was looking to take his game to the next level.

The partnership itself seemed to work out for the two who call each other “close friends,” but the results didn’t quite translate onto the court as Harrison most recently fell outside of the top 130.

“Tres and I are close friends,” Harrison spoke candidly to Tennis Grandstand. “He’s been involved, and we still communicate about tennis. But it got to a situation where we had to reevaluate after the first six months of the year. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for my career, just like I want what’s best for my career.”

After deciding to part ways, Harrison brought the head of men’s tennis for the USTA, Jay Berger, back into the coaching team, as well as former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert. The choice was made to train out of the USTA center in Boca Raton, FL where the “competitive crop of guys they have down there was going to be the best situation for me,” commented Harrison.

“Jay and I have always had an extremely close relationship, and been very proactive and involved in my tennis every since I met him really,” he continued. “I had a really good training week down there after I lost in Newport, and played well last week (in Atlanta). And Brad being involved is nothing but beneficial. He’s obviously got an extremely talented mind. I’ve had some advice from him and it’s been nothing but good.”

Given that his recent good form occurred just after his coaching switch, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the two might be correlated.

“You never really know what is going to happen,” said Harrison. “I also was down 1-2 break point in the third set of the first round of Atlanta – those are just moments that could change here and there … (But) I believe that the work I put in that week-and-a-half down in Boca certainly helped out in my Atlanta run and getting a good win here today.”

Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend Continue Their Winning Streak

DSC_87400001tennis-2

DSC_87400001tennis-3WASHINGTON, D.C. – Partnering for just the first time since winning the Junior Girls’ Doubles title at Wimbledon last year, Canadian Genie Bouchard and American Taylor Townsend took out their first round opponents in just 41 minutes at the Citi Open in Washington, DC on Monday.

As former top juniors with several singles and doubles Slams to their names, the two rising teenagers were on a doubles partnership streak that extended back to Roehampton of last year, and they weren’t ready to give that up quite yet.

“I told (Taylor), we have a streak to defend! … It’s been twelve matches or something – we can’t end that now,” commented Bouchard exclusively to Tennis Grandstand.

The pairing was a spontaneous decision that came about one recent evening after a World TeamTennis match, when the two decided to pick up where they left off last spring.

Today, during their post-match interview, the two friends were all smiles, frequently commenting on each other’s answers and playfully teasing each other when asked if they would continue the pairing.

“Are we?” questioned Townsend, looking at Bouchard. “Are we?” answered Bouchard, smiling back. “I hope so!” stated Townsend. “We better!” concluded Bouchard.

“I really enjoy playing with her,” said the 17-year-old Townsend. “We have really good chemistry on court. It’s really nice to have someone that you get along with and have so much fun on the court with as well as do really well with. So, I hope we can continue to play.”

The 19-year-old Bouchard has already been playing full-time on the WTA Tour for the past year, with her most notable results being a straight set win over Wimbledon No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic in the second round this year. She has shot up the rankings to world No. 58, but feels there is much more to be accomplished.

“I played my first pro Slam at the French (Open), and then Wimbledon,” stated Bouchard. “It’s what I have worked my whole life for to play at this stage. I got to play on Center Court on both, which was really exciting for me. It’s what I have always dreamed of doing. To me, it’s just normal – just a step. It’s still a really long journey, still not where I want to be. But it’s heading in the right direction.”

And did she believe the good Slam results and high ranking came sooner than she anticipated?

“No. I always believed in myself and I always expect myself to do really well. So, it usually happens. Now, it’s like, what’s next?”

Townsend, on the other hand, is ranked 338 in the world and just starting her pro career while still strategically placing some junior tournaments into her schedule.

DSC_87270001tennis“Basically, I’m not sure if I’m playing US Open juniors,” Townsend commented. “But I’m playing the (USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships) because if you win it, you get a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. So, why not play? It’s a great opportunity to get a lot of matches … and just work on a lot of things. I think that’s one of the main things I’ve been using the juniors for … Hopefully, next year, especially when I turn 18 and I don’t have a limit on the number of tournaments I can play, I think we can make more of a full schedule and incorporate more of the bigger tournaments as well as the pro circuit events.

Despite their young age and relative inexperience amid a veteran-packed tour, the two rising stars possess styles and weapons that make them dangerous floaters in any draw

“Most of the time when we play on the tour, we’re the underdogs so we have nothing to lose,” said Bouchard. “We can go out and play freely.”

Townsend echoed her partner’s thoughts: “No one knows who you are, no one is expecting you do to anything. You don’t really have any pressure. That’s the great thing about it. You can just go out and play freely, and enjoy everything – the crowd, the city wherever you are, and take it all in.”

The two are scheduled to play in their respective singles matches on Tuesday, where Bouchard will take on No. 3 seed Ekaterina Makarova and Townsend will open up against Monica Niculescu.

Alarm Calls for Roger Federer as Martina Hingis Storms Back into Tennis — The Friday Five

Roger Federer on a losing streak

By Maud Watson

Roger Federer on a losing streakTailspin

Another tournament and another surprising early exit for Federer, as the Swiss goes out in two routine sets to Daniel Brands in Gstaad.  The good news for Federer fans is that the Maestro has never been one to quickly panic and shows no signs of looking like he’s getting ready to throw the towel in anytime soon.  In fact, he’s already committed to Brisbane next season.  But this latest loss undoubtedly has some alarm bells sounding in Federer’s head.  He’s having some issues adjusting to the new racquet and is also unsure which stick he’ll be using on the summer hard courts.  In addition to Federer being in limbo regarding his racquet, his mental toughness has also taken a hit. You can read the increasing doubt on his face, and that doubt is creeping into his game as evidenced by the unforced errors that continue to mount in each match.  To say that the next few months are “do-or-die” might be an overstatement, but they are certainly critical.  How he fairs the remainder of 2013 could have a major impact on how long it takes him to right the ship and determine whether or not he hangs around for Rio in 2016.

Heartbreak

Another sentimental favorite who suffered a tough loss this week was Mardy Fish.  The American was in Atlanta, making just his fourth appearance since the US Open last season.  Up a set, it looked like Fish might be able to start his return to competition with a win.  But a rain delay and a refusal to fold from veteran Michael Russell saw the lower-ranked American upset his countryman and advance at his expense.  The defeat itself was understandable.  Fish played well all things considered, but he had been out of the game for over four months.  With no substitute for match play, nerves likely helped play a part in his loss.  What was troubling about Fish’s loss, however, was that he wasn’t available for comment afterwards – something that has happened in the past just prior to Fish taking an extended leave of absence.  American tennis fans will wait with baited breath to see how Fish follows up this latest setback and whether it will include the commitment to carry on or hang it up for good.

Give and Take

Thanks to an overwhelming 47-1 vote by the New York City Council, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has been approved for a $500 million expansion.  Not surprisingly, a large part of the expansion will be devoted to the renovation of the older facilities “that have reached the end of their useful lives.”  But the USTA isn’t the only one benefiting from the deal.  In exchange for the approval, the USTA has agreed   to start a non-profit group to help fund Flushing Meadows, host a yearly job fair for the residents in Queens, serve as a potential host to high school graduation ceremonies, and provide tennis coaching programs for area children.  All in all, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Changing Tunes

John Tomic has finally been brought to court for the much-publicized events that took place before the start of the Madrid Masters, and depending on who you believe, is possibly changing his story, along with his son, from what they originally told police back in May.  Bernard Tomic is claiming his father told him the day of the incident that it was the hitting partner, Drouet, who hit him.  John Tomic is also insisting that it was Drouet who started the fight and doesn’t “know how” Drouet fell down.  Both Tomics are blaming the alleged misunderstanding on police officers who had a poor grasp of English.  Time will tell if there really was a misunderstanding or if this is just John Tomic trying to weasel his way out of trouble – and given his track record, the latter seems more plausible.  If that is indeed the case, Bernard Tomic had better wise up, or the court is going to give him a lot more to worry about than his forehand.

Stay Awhile

It appears that Martina Hingis’ decision to play doubles with Hantuchova in California won’t be just a one-off.  The former No. 1 is planning to play doubles in some other big events this summer, including Toronto, Cincinnati, and the year’s last major, the US Open.  Say what you want about Hingis from a personal standpoint, but from a tennis perspective, there are few in the modern game who can match her court craft and guile.  What she lacks in size and power she makes up for with impossible angles and exquisite touch.  With any luck, these summer hard court events will be the start of something bigger, but if not, get your tickets and take the opportunity to see some of the greatest hands in the game work their magic one more time.

Sock, Baker, Oudin Lead Strong Men’s and Women’s Fields for Citi Open Qualifying

Citi Open 2013

Citi Open 2013WASHINGTON (July 23, 2013) A very strong and deep field of players will compete for a spot in the ATP and WTA main draws at the Citi Open’s qualifying rounds, held July 27 and 28 at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.

First round match play begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with National Parks Community Day, featuring fun family activities held throughout the day. Final qualifying round action begins Sunday at 10 a.m. with Celebrating our Heroes day, which offers complimentary tickets to active duty military, veterans, and first responders.

On the men’s side, Americans are among the must-watch of the qualifiers. The list includes former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri, former Washington tournament semifinalist Donald Young, and the next generation of U.S. tennis stars, Jack Sock and Rynne Williams. One of the best comeback players of the sport, Brian Baker, will also compete at the tournament for the fifth time in his career.

The men’s tournament has also granted singles qualifying wild cards to two promising young players from the University of Virginia: Mitchell Frank, of Annandale, Va., who trained at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., and helped to clinch the NCAA tennis championship for the Cavaliers; and Jarmere Jenkins, who was the No. 1 ranked NCAA player in 2013 and recently named the 2013 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National College Player of the Year.

International players looking to compete for the tournament title include Indian Somdev Devvarman, Croatian Ivo Karlovic, and Canadian Jesse Levine. University of Virginia champ Devvarman is a two-time NCAA champion. Karlovic, who at 6’10” is the tallest player in ATP history, won last week’s ATP tournament in Bogota, Colombia, after a two-month absence from the tour due to illness. Levine, who reached a career-high No. 69 in 2012, has played in the main draw of the Citi Open in two prior years (2008 and 2012).

The tradition of the tournament being a launching pad for many young stars’ careers continues in the women’s field. Young American hopefuls Alison RiskeMelanie Oudin, and Shelby Rogers are among those vying for a chance to win the women’s singles title. Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal is also on the list, on the heels of her triumph over No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon. Former top 10 player Shahar Peer, who reached the 2011 WTA Citi Open finals, will also compete in the qualifying rounds.

“For those who want a full slate of high-level professional tennis while enjoying family-oriented activities and ceremonies recognizing our national heroes, the tournament’s qualifying competition is for you,” said Jeff Newman, Citi Open Tournament Director. “We hope to see many area fans and residents out for a fun-filled weekend.”

The Citi Open, held from July 27 – August 4, is one of only 11 elite ATP World Tour 500-level events worldwide and the only one held in the United States. The event is also part of the prestigious Emirates Airline US Open Series, the five-week summer tennis season that links nine  North American hard-court tournaments to the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. In addition, the Citi Open features a WTA International Tournament which provides fans the opportunity to watch simultaneous competitions of both world-class men’s and women’s tennis throughout the nine-day event. The tournament features 48 men’s singles players and 16 doubles teams, 32 women’s singles players and 16 doubles teams.

The tournament’s owner and beneficiary, the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF), provides underserved children in the D.C. area with a safe environment to learn critical life skills both on and off the courts through academic and athletic enrichment.

Ticket pricing and package details plus a full listing of the player fields are now available atwww.citiopentennis.com, or by phone at 202-721-9500. Daily and single session tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Qualifying round prices start at just $10 for reserved tickets.

For more information, visit the Citi Open on the web at www.citiopentennis.com. The Citi Open is on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/CitiOpen and on Twitter at @CitiOpen. To receive news and updates about the tournament, join the growing Citi Open Text Club by texting DC to 25973. The 2013 Citi Open is a Lagardère Unlimited production.

Washington Kastles Continue Winning Ways with Martina Hingis

Washington Kastles

Washington KastlesWASHINGTON, D.C. (July 18, 2013) The shifting and the surprises seem to be over for the reigning Mylan World TeamTennis champs Washington Kastles. As the halfway point of the WTT passes, the Kastles are playing like a true team again.

Coach Murphy Jensen has altered the order of matches to play to his new strengths aimed at starting and finishing strong. Gone are those early matches of the season wondering who would be the newest Kastle-of-the-day. The team is finding matches tougher, yet still winnable.

“We had a couple of in and out, in and out, with players,” Kastles player Bobby Reynolds said following Washington’s 21-15 win over the Springfield Lasers, in a battle of WTT conference leaders on Wednesday. “We are a solid team now. We are clicking on all cylinders.”

Last week the Lasers dealt Washington its first ever loss at its current home court, Kastles Stadium on the Wharf. It was the second straight loss for the Kastles after they set a new streak in U.S. major professional sports of 34 straight wins earlier in the week.

Those losses came without Martina Hingis in the lineup and, as Jensen noted, a combination of understandable fatigue, the law of bad breaks and the determination of other teams to knock off the Kastles.

“We were coming in to win two matches to make history and that took a lot out of us,” Jensen said after Wednesday’s match.”These other teams don’t play to win the championship, they play to beat the Kastles.”

Halfway through the season, the 6-2 Kastles are two up on their closest conference rival, the New York Sportimes. After Friday’s away match against the Texas Wild – the team that ended the winning streak – the Kastles play out the season against with five matches against Eastern Conference foes in a home-away rotation, starting with the Sportimes Saturday at home. The Kastles are 4-0 against conference teams.

The loss dropped Springfield to 5-3 and back into the tight mix in the Western Conference in which three teams are within one-half game of the lead, and the squad in last is only two games out of first.

The Kastles got back to their winning ways on the road last Saturday, in a convincing 23-14 road victory over the Sacramento Capitals, who they beat by one point to win the 2012 championship.

Anastasia Rodionova, in the number one women’s role, had her first singles victory of the season, a 5-2 decision over 17-year-old American Taylor Townsend. Perhaps equally as key, symbolically in the Kastles lineup was substitute Raquel Kops-Jones, who was 4-0 last season in
mixed doubles with the Kastles.

She only returned for that match but Jensen inserted her into the lineup to team with Kastle captain Leander Paes in the closing mixed doubles set that sealed the victory.

Now Jensen is closing matches with the mixed doubles team of Paes and Hingis, who are undefeated. Their play has been so inspired that Hingis said it was what helped prompt her to come out of retirement to play doubles.

The regular season ends July 24, with conference championships scheduled for July 25. The 2013 Mylan WTT championship match is set for Sunday, July 28, at the home court of the Eastern Conference Champion.

“Every night is an important night,” Hingis said Wednesday. “The others are going to go out to give it to you. We just have to play hard.”

Nicolas Mahut Attempts to Rewrite History with Already-Memorable 2013 Season

Nicolas Mahut wins first title

Nicolas Mahut will probably be remembered for one thing and one thing only.

After all, he has been on tour for 15 years and has been inside the top 50 for a whole 6 months. He has been a top 300 player for about 12 years running, but top 300 players don’t usually make the annals of tennis history. No, Nicolas Mahut’s career, as it stands now, has one memorable moment.

Let’s be honest, losing the longest match in tennis history is not something you want to be remembered by.

Sure, Mahut reached the finals of Queens and Newport back in 2007. And a Queen’s Club final is nothing to scoff at. But both of those pale in comparison to his marathon match against John Isner.

However, in 2013, at the age of 31, Mahut is trying to rewrite his tennis memoirs.

An injury-riddled and poor 8 months stretch at the end of 2012 and the beginning of this year saw Mahut’s ranking drop outside the top 200 for the first time since February of 2010. Fortunately for him, though, it was still high enough to get him into qualifying at Hertogenbosch and into Wimbledon before the entry deadline. Whether it’s because of his big serve or his ability to get to balls very close to the ground, Mahut is strongest on grass.

Nicolas Mahut wins first titleMahut proved that quite well when he qualified for Hertogenbosch, beating Lukasz Kubot (a strong grass player in his own right) along the way. Then Mahut went on to win the tournament without dropping a set, upsetting Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.

Mahut couldn’t carry his momentum past Tommy Robredo in Wimbledon, losing to the Spaniard in straight sets in the second round. Mahut flew through the draw in Newport though (which he needed a Wild Card to get into), once again reaching the final without dropping a set. He lost the first set of an exciting final to Lleyton Hewitt, and took full advantage to come back and win the match after Hewitt couldn’t serve it out at 5-4 in the second set.

Now Mahut is riding the best 2 months of his career into the summer hard court season. He has won 14 out of his last 15 tour-level matches, including 3 qualifying rounds at Hertogenbosch. He is currently getting adjusted to the hard courts as the second seed in the Granby Challenger, where he won his first-round match in 3 sets.

Now Mahut has a chance to have a real season to be remembered by. He has two ATP tour-level titles already this year and his ranking is high enough to get him directly into the US Open. Whatever he does for the rest of the year, Mahut now has something to tell his grandkids about other than losing the longest match in tennis history. And who knows? Maybe he can ride this momentum even further and pick his ranking up even higher, achieving even more to cap off his career.

Tim Smyczek Answers Tennis Grandstand Fan Questions on Video

Tim Smyczek answer tennis fan questions

(July 15, 2013) A few weeks ago, Tennis Grandstand teamed up with Athletic DNA to give three lucky fans the chance to submit a question for American tennis player Tim Smyczek, while in the process winning one of the brand’s new tops from their popular summer 2013 line.

Last week, Smyczek defeated top American Sam Querrey in the first round of Newport, and this morning, he will be battling it out alongside fellow American Rhyne Williams for the Newport doubles title.

Many great fan questions were submitted, Smyczek had a good time answering them and even reminiscing over a few, and now the entire video is viewable for all to enjoy.

Smyczek dishes on how he first started in tennis, his greatest strength, who his idol was growing up and even jokes about the mustache he had to sport last Fall because of a lost bet. Check out that and more in the fun video below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDspfsF5QEE

(Video courtesy of Athletic DNA)

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