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Turbulent Day for American Tennis as Nine Get Ousted at Citi Open Including No. 2 Seed Stephens

DSC_89130001Sloane Stephens

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite home soil advantage, it was a rocky day for American tennis players on the grounds of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. as nine players went out in the first round of play on the men’s and women’s side.

DSC_89130001Sloane StephensIn the biggest stunner of the day, 19-year-old Sloane Stephens went down to world No. 88 Olga Puchkova in very uncharacteristic form, 7-5, 6-3. From her first service game, Stephens was broken and it continued downhill through five more breaks. She continued to send balls long and mid-way through the second set, she seemed void of energy, just standing in frustration looking to her team in the stands after errors.

But Stephens herself isn’t that worried about Monday night’s performance, citing the quick turn around from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the differing courts and her poor practice in the days prior to her match.

“Leading up (to the match), I didn’t practice that great,” admitted Stephens. “I just wasn’t feeling the ball that well. Sometimes you just have tough days like that. Unfortunate that it came today and I couldn’t really get it together.”

Physically, she “felt fine,” even joking that “when I’m injured I play great, and then when I’m healthy I can’t hit a ball right.”

Looking forward to the US Open, she feels the home pressure is inevitable based on her recent Slam results, but chooses to focus on her game, saying “I don’t care anymore” about the buzz.

“Everyone is going to be like, ‘You should do really well here because you’ve done well in all of the Slams,’” commented Stephens. “If I lose first round, you guys, just don’t be upset.”

Earlier in the day in just his fourth tournament of the year, Mardy Fish continued his comeback on unsteady ground as he found himself down a set against Australian Matt Ebden, 6-2. He opened up the second set by winning a 22-point game, breaking Ebden three times before taking it 6-1, and closing it 6-3 in the final set.

A sober Fish arrived in press, feeling healthy and “satisfied to win,” but he admitted to being drained of energy.

“It’s a process. Fitness is a big a part of playing, and sometimes that spells trouble for me … My expectations as far as winning the tournament are pretty low. I’m just enjoying competing right now.”

2002 champion James Blake also faced a tough opponent in another fellow Aussie, Marinko Matosevic, except the end results didn’t favor the American as he went down 6-2, 7-6(6).

“I never really got any real rhythm at all on my serve, and that made all the difference in the first set,” said Blake. “I got back into the second set, and had my chances … but missed it.”

Despite the early exit, Blake still has fond memories of the tournament, and enjoys the support he gets from fans

“(Washington, D.C.) was the first tournament I ever won,” he said. “It was an unbelievable week beating one of my idols, Andre Agassi in the semis. And really fond memories of beating Paradorn Srichaphan in the final.”

So, what is next for the 33-year-old father?

“I don’t know. Right now, that’s a tough question. I don’t feel great about the way I played today. My plan has always been, play through the summer and then see where I’m at. See where my body is at, where my head’s at, how I’m feeling, how much I want to travel, how much I still enjoy it all — if my body allows me to keep going.”

Monday play also included a late night win by 21-year-old Melanie Oudin. However, seven additional Americans failed to reach the second round, including Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Rhyne Williams, Rajeev Ram, Christian McHale, Jessica Pegula, and Beatrice Capra.

Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend Continue Their Winning Streak

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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.

Gallery: Opening Weekend at Citi Open with Del Potro, Petkovic, Raonic, Haas and More

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Play is already in full swing as qualifiers took to the courts for their matches, and top players like Juan Martin del Potro, Andrea Petkovic and Tommy Haas hit the practice courts on a hot weekend in Washington, D.C. to kick off the Citi Open.

Check out the full gallery from opening weekend, including other players like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Irina Falconi, Jessica Pegula, Rhyne Williams, Donald Young, Christian Harrison, Caroline Garcia, Matt Ebden, and Sloane Stephens.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

Stephens, Townsend Play Tennis on National Mall; Players Hit the DC Practice Courts

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(July 26, 2013) Prior to the official draw ceremony for the Citi Open in Washington, DC with Marcos Baghdatis and DC Mayor Vincent Gray, WTA players Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend hit the National Mall.

The duo took part in a mini-tennis exhibition with some of DC’s youth set against the incredible backdrop of the US Capitol.

Earlier in the day, several players took advantage of the quiet surroundings and practice courts, including Grigor Dimitrov, Alison Riske, Mitchell Frank, Mona Barthel and more.

Qualifying play begins Saturday at 10am at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center. Stay tuned all week for full coverage direct from the grounds!

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.

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.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: Meusburger Defeats Hlavackova for Maiden Title

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(July 21, 2013) At 29-years-old, Austrian Yvonne Meusburger captured her first WTA title in Bad Gastein on Sunday, defeating Andrea Hlavackova, 7-5, 6-2.

Meusburger had previously made two WTA finals, with runner-up showings at Bad Gastein in 2007 and at Budapest a week ago. Twenty of Meusburger’s 46 WTA main draw wins have come at Bad Gastein, and this week she didn’t drop a set. She is projected to surpass her career-high of No. 60 in the new rankings on Monday.

This was Hlavackova’s first trip to a WTA final, and in fact, it was her first time past the quarterfinal round of an event. She is expected to climb roughly 25 ranking spots, back up to around world No. 83.

In the doubles final, Sandra Klemenschits and her partner Andreja Klepac took out Kristina Barrois and Eleni Daniilidou, 6-1, 6-4, for their maiden title both as a team and individually.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: Beck, Hlavackova, Martic, Rus and More

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The Nurnberger Gastein Ladies WTA tournament this week in Austria has featured some great talent and stories, and the last of the second round as well as the quarterfinal action was no exception. Players such as Annika Beck, Karin Knapp, Arantxa Rus, Petra Martic, Mandy Minella, Yvonne Meusburger and more took the court the past two days.

Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

WTA Bad Gastein Gallery: 1970s-Themed Player’s Party with Beck, Minella, Martic and More

Nurnberger Gastein Ladies Player's Party 1970s

(July 17 2013) In honor of the 40th anniversary of the WTA Tour, players of the Nurnberger Gastein Ladies tournament paid an homage to the decades in a 1970s-themed player’s party. The ladies really took to the event with glam, bold patterns, bandanas, and even peace sign necklaces.

Check out all the players, including Annika Beck, Mandy Minella, Aranxta Rus, Petra Martic and much more in the gallery below!

WTA Gastein Gallery: Rus Breaks 17-Match Losing Streak; Barthel Cruises

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(July 15, 2013) Monday at the Nurnberger Gastein Ladies tournament in Austria saw one player’s nearly year-long heartbreak end in triumph. After a 17-match losing streak which ended back to August 2012, 22-year-old Aranxta Rus finally won a Tour-level match against the tournament’s No. 7 seed Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Top seed Mona Barthel also quickly dispatched of American Chiara Scholl in just 35 minutes, as No. 3 seed Irina-Camelia Begu defeated German wildcard Carina Witthoeft, 6-3, 6-3. (Gallery at bottom)

NÜRNBERGER GASTEIN LADIES
Bad Gastein, Austria
July 15-21, 2013
$235,000/International
Red Clay/Outdoors

Results - Monday, July 15, 2013
Singles – First Round
(1) Mona Barthel (GER) d. Chiara Scholl (USA) 60 60
(3) Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) d. (WC) Carina Witthoeft (GER) 63 63
Arantxa Rus (NED) d. (7) María-Teresa Torró-Flor (ESP) 75 57 64
(8) Karin Knapp (ITA) d. Valeria Solovyeva (RUS) 63 62

Doubles – First Round
(1) Minella/Scheepers (LUX/RSA) d. Kostova/Shinikova (BUL/BUL) 62 64
Kapshay/Mircic (UKR/SRB) d. (2) Grandin/Martic (RSA/CRO) 63 64
(3) Olaru/Solovyeva (ROU/RUS) d. (WC) Moser/Neuwirth (AUT/AUT) 63 57 108 (Match TB)
Ferrer Suárez/Rus (ESP/NED) d. Clerico/Zaja (ITA/GER) 61 26 104 (Match TB)

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