Andy Murray, The “Coach”
First up on Stadium Court was Andy Murray who advanced over Alejandro Falla in straight sets with little resistance from the Colombian, 6-2, 6-3. In Murray’s press conference, he acknowledged Falla’s presence in tennis as a “tough player” since he “pushed Federer in Wimbledon” and beat Mardy Fish at the Australian Open.
The other day I commented on how Ivan Lendl didn’t seem to be “coaching” during Murray’s practice session, rather being a bit passive. It seems that Lendl posing questions to Murray has worked better for their relationship than Lendl simply directing Murray as to what needs to be done on court. Murray, the always independent thinker, commented thoroughly and honestly on the way his relationship with his coach has developed.
“A lot of ex‑players view things like ‘This is how I would have done it in that situation,’ or ‘That’s how I would have played,’ or whatever. Whereas Ivan has been actually very, very good with that.
He asks a lot of questions, as well, to understand why you maybe chose to hit a certain shot or what your favorite shots in certain moments are. He’s been very, very good with that — which is not the case with all coaches. He also understands that there are a lot of things that coaches can do that maybe annoy players. (Murray then cited Tony Roche feeding balls from the side of the court as one of these annoyances.)
He just asks the questions and I give him the answers. We have had no problems so far (smiling).”
Ana Ivanovic, The Wine Taster
Serbian Ana Ivanovic had a tougher time against her opponent Vania King, but finally prevailed after being broken in the second set, 6-4, 7-5. The American moved well and executed her backhand down-the-line especially well, making her a tough riddle for Ivanovic to solve. Ivanovic mentioned the heat as not being a factor and the minimal wind to be the difference between here and Indian Wells. The Serb also wasn’t shy talking about how she will celebrate reaching one of her goals this year.
“I’m just really happy with where my game is at the moment. Also, I was real excited to be ranked 10 in the race, which was kind of my goal for the year. So that kind of was exciting. I was like, ‘Oh, we have to have a glass of wine tonight.’”
When asked about what kind of wine, she answered: “I like Australian shiraz. Red wine. I don’t drink white. That’s actually the only thing I can drink.”
Novak Djokovic, The Ambassador
Although Novak Djokovic had no match today, he conducted a special media press conference answering questions on a variety of topics. He was quick to remind the media that the Sony Ericsson Open was the first ATP-level tournament he won in his career back in 2007. What a path this current world #1 has paved in the last five years!
Usually the entertainer, Djokovic took a more serious yet still cheerful tone to his interview as he talked about enjoying the island life at Key Biscayne, “walking” and “biking” around. He also commented on Serbia’s influence in tennis, but in a slightly different wording than the tennis world is used to:
“[The Serbian tennis players] are always seeking to improve and get better. I believe that our past that we had in our country, which was very turbulent, I have to say, helped us to discover that great desire for success and to become one of the world’s best tennis players. This mentality — very, very strong mentality — is actually something that separates, I think, people from that region from any other.”
John Isner, The Wannabe Singleton
Newly-crowned world number 10 John Isner found himself in a jam when he soundly lost the first set to Nikolay Davydenko, 6-2. He was able to recover and win in three, and even finished off with four of his fastest serves of the night — 137, 135, 136 and 129 mph. In his post-match presser he elaborated what the new ranking meant, or rather didn’t mean, to him.
“I didn’t look at the rankings and stare at it or anything like that. It’s something I thought I could accomplish. Now that I have, I’m happy, but I’m definitely not satisfied.
But for sure, it has sunk in. It sunk in, I guess, as soon as I got into the top 10. But, you know, I’m number 10. As my coach says, I want to become a singleton. I want to … have a single digit by my name instead of two.”
Does ‘9’ count, John?
Czech Radek Stepanek ran away with the title at this year’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. versus entertainer extraordinaire Gaël Monfils, 6-4, 6-4. Both players were on their best behavior as they showcased brilliant tennis and provided lots of goofy photos (below)!
Stepanek strolled into the media interview room and began downing not a refreshing bottle of Gatorade or water, but instead, his drink of choice was a Pepsi. Content and relaxed about his week, he stated that it was two years since he’d played this well, the last time being his title run in San Jose in 2009. At age 32, he is the oldest player in the top 100 but states that “it’s not age, it’s how you feel” that determines how long you can play this sport. With the age of top players increasing steadily into their late-20s, he cites that players like him “are like a wine, the older we are getting, the better we are.” He was feeling so good in fact, that he did his trademark dance move on court after his win, The Worm. “The emotions are there … especially after a year of struggling … and a lot of injuries. I still believed in myself, in hard work … and I do The Worm only when I win tournaments, so that’s why I did it today again.”
He commended his opponent Monfils who fought for every point on the court. With an acrobatic and “Cirque de Soleil” style of tennis, Monfils is a true entertainer on court attracting the crowds. He is any photographer’s dream subject as evidenced by the shot below. But what the photo doesn’t show it how quick and agile he is in retrieving and running down every single ball.
Today, however, Monfils was quick to point out that he was a bit unlucky with the scheduling this week, having to finish his three-set semifinal match against John Isner at 1:15am the night before. “I think I was a fraction slower today” than usual. He claimed to be “seeing the ball a fraction late” on Stepanek’s serves as well.
Even while ranked #7 in the world, Monfils is only 3-for-14 in ATP tour level finals as of today. With his aggressive style of play, it makes one wonder why the discrepancy exists. Monfils comments: “I had two opportunities [in past finals] that I didn’t make it … I’m unlucky [to win a title], last year I twisted my ankles in the finals. Today I finished at 1:15am, and I never had a chance to get a good rest.”
Even though he served better than Stepanek, Monfils was broken in the Legg Mason finals twice, both at early parts of each set. “Superman” Monfils was showcased during several points, flying through the air, but rarely won those entertaining points, again showing that it was the steady game of Stepanek’s that really dictated play. There was a rhythm to the match with a slight favor toward Stepanek, but Monfils was threatening him with up-to two aces per game at times. Even as a spectator, it really is a workout tracking Monfils’ every move on court.
At 4-3, 15-all in the second set, Stepanek double-faulted giving Monfils his first glimpse of breaking back. Monfils jumped ahead of himself and powered a backhand just wide, screaming in frustration nearly pounding his racquet to the ground. Even on Stepanek’s next serve, which happened to be a second serve, he still somehow controlled the point and ran Monfils around so much that he slipped and skidded his elbow on the ground, tumbling. Monfils laid silent for several extended seconds (probably catching his breath) before he emerged. But he was clearly shaken up and couldn’t convert the early break. Stepanek won the final game easily, approaching the net four-out-of-five times, and took it 6-4 in the second.
With the awards’ ceremony following, both players showed great sportsmanship and laughed with each other, showing that you can still be friendly even in defeat. In fact, Monfils was caught giggling even bigger than Stepanek at one point – not sure what made him happy, but we’ll take it. For a sport that requires the “loser” to stand up and analyze his game right after a loss, it can be both difficult and therapeutic. You don’t see the Miami Heat being asked why they lost in the NBA Finals 15 minutes after the buzzer, but tennis is different. The stress put on a player doesn’t cease after the last ball is played , it continues for several hours as they are grilled by the media, commentators, and possibly their team on “what went wrong.” But Monfils’ effort today was valiant and humbling: no matter how much work you put in, there’s always more you can do. And he stated that earlier in the week when he said “When I do two hours of practice, I need to add 30 minutes more. I need to feel something inside to go further. I think I show too much respect to my opponent. Maybe I can be more selfish.”
The best (and goofiest) shots from the finals are below. You can follow me on twitter as well for more tennis coverage! @TennisRomi
Like we mentioned yesterday in our post: Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki are close friends and attended dinner together. I went out and tried to find some good photos of that. But photos of the event, unfortunately, are scarce. Lucky for me, I did find one and it’s a beauty.
@vika7 Seriously girl! You looked great! You will look good even in a potato sack! And you looked cool!
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I tried, honest!
And don’t they look cute together? I do think so. I’d dine with them any time. Well ofcourse that would require an invite to a dinner party in the first place. But I have a vivid imagination. Ofcourse that would mean I’d have to vividly imagine Caroline, the dinner table, the other attending guests, the wine and so forth. Anyway you get the picture. No wait, I get the picture. A very very vivid picture…
Enjoy the photo!