Sloane and Serena Become Friends

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Serena Williams, one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, who is 30-years old, and Sloane Stephens, a 19-year old emerging star who has been compared to Serena on the court, have forged a friendship recently that is somewhat of a mentor/mentee relationship.

But you would be surprised at who plays what role. “I think she’s more my mentor than anything,” Williams said in an interview after her win over Coco Vandeweghe in the first round of the 2012 US Open. Serena had some more compliments of Stephens on and off the court. “I think she’s an amazing player. She’s playing so smooth. She looks like she gives no effort when she plays.”

Serena continued to talk about Sloane’s on-court performance, adding “I hope I can teach her some things, and hopefully she’s able to do it. I think that we can kind of feed off each other. She can teach me some things, maybe how to be calm on the court.”

Off the court, Serena had even more praise. “I think she’s a great person. She’s always encouraging me not to be single,” Serena said with a smile. Williams was later asked if she thinks Sloane has the potential to be the next superstar on and off the tennis court. “I think she has a great smile, a beautiful face. I think she has such a wonderful personality and attitude. So yeah, I think it’s totally possible.”

Earlier in the day, after her upset win over Francesca Schiavone, Stephens was asked some questions about Serena as well. “We’re really good friends. We just have a really good relationship. I felt like I knew her in a past life or something, I don’t know. It’s so strange” Sloane said.

One thing that makes Serena Williams so great is her confidence. When asked if she believes in her heart if she is the best player in the game, she responded “Of course I believe that. I think there are a number of players on this tour, a few players who believe that. I don’t think we would be playing if we didn’t believe that.”

Perhaps some of Serena’s confidence has rubbed off on Sloane. When asked if Sloane Stephens will be to be the next superstar in tennis, she simply, and confidently, replied “She is.” With a winning smile, a great personality and confidence to match, many are hoping that Sloane Stephens is the next superstar in the tennis world, and with a mentor like Serena Williams, she is well on her way.

Florida’s Andre Alexandre Lacroix Beats Kentucky’s Eric Quigley To Win Wild-Card Into Future USTA Event

ST. HELENA, Calif., (Sept. 26, 2010) – The NCAA meets USTA experiment was deemed a huge success by all the parties involved as the final day of the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic concluded at the Meadowood Resort on Sunday.

Florida senior Alexandre Lacroix started his morning beating U.S. Open champion and newly turned 18-year-old Jack Sock, 6-3, 6-1 and then mowed his way through the championship tiebreaker round beating Cal’s Nick Andrews, 10-3, and then taking out a pair of Kentucky players — Alex Musialek, 10-6, in the semifinals and Eric Quigley, 10-7, in the final, to win the 10th annual event which pitted four players from six top collegiate teams and eight top USTA juniors.

USTA Director of Men’s Tennis Jay Berger announced after the match that Lacroix would receive a USTA wild card into a future professional event. Lacroix was also honored with the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award named in the memory of former Meadowood member Norma Miner.

“It was a great weekend for me,” Lacroix said. “It’s tough in those tiebreakers because not always the best player wins. I just tried to play smart and not make too many mistakes.”

After three days of round-robin play, the eight flight winners moved onto the quarterfinal tiebreaker round. Two USTA juniors advanced that far, including Mitchell Frank of Annandale, Va., who was the only junior on the weekend to win all three of his matches.

“You just kind of say a little prayer and hope you play well,” said Frank of the tiebreaker shootout in which he lost in the first round, 12-10, to Musialek. “It was a great weekend for me. I got some good experience and liked playing against the collegiate guys.”

USTA junior Alexios Halebian of Glendale, Calif., finished second in his flight, but advanced on to the tiebreaker shootout after Texas had to leave early. Halebian fell to Quigley 12-10 in his quarterfinal match. “I missed an easy forehand that would have given me a game-point,” Halebian said. “But what can you do? You just try and play it safe and not go for too much.”

Tournament Director Doug King said the Napa Valley event has been a huge success in the past and took a chance this year altering the format and inviting the USTA juniors. “We’ll tweak it a little bit if we think we can make it better in the future,” King said. “But all indications are it was a really great event. Everyone seemed happy.

“This is the highlight of the year for us. This is one of the premier events for the spectators and a little bit of a different venue then some of the players are used to. They get a little bit of a different flavor at an event like this.”

Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was one of the day’s highlights for the USTA as he beat Florida’s Bob Van Overbeek, 7-5, 7-6 (5). He finished with two wins over the collegiates during the three days and just missed winning his flight.

In another tight match Sunday, USTA 15-year-old Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., fell to USC’s JT Sundling (USC) in a three-set tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4).

Berger said Giron could have easily gone 3-0 as he was up a set and a break in his only loss, 6-4 in the third set to Musialek on Saturday. “This has overall been an incredible event,” Berger said. “It’s something if invited back we’ll do every year. The boys have taken it all in. They’ve competed hard and they’ve had a lot of success.

“We knew our olders players would do well and were a little concerned about our younger players, but they’ve all done well.”

USTA coach Ricardo Acuna agreed: “I think it’s a good environment to see what the next level is for them. I think they’ve done pretty well and still have a lot to learn. They’re young so this kind of opened their eyes a little bit on what they need to work on.”

USTA coach Jose Higueras said he hopes there will be more events featuring both collegiate players and the top juniors.

“We’re hoping to do this a couple of times during the year,” Higueras said. “I think it’s a great way for the USTA to deliver the message that we do care about college tennis and that we want to get some pros out of college tennis just like so many other sports do. Most of the kids are going to go to college. The percentage that turn pro is very, very small but at the same time just because you go to college doesn’t mean you can’t turn pro.”

DAY 3: Sunday’s Final Round-Robin Results

Note: Bold names moved onto tiebreaker shootout

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Vasko Mladenov (Texas), 6-4, 6-2

Marcos Giron (USTA, Thousand Oaks, Calif.) def. Bob Van Overbeek (Florida), 7-5, 7-6 (5)

Jean Andersen (Texas) def. Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.), 7-6 (3), 6-3*

Jaak Poldma (USC) def. David Holiner (Texas), 7-6 (3), 6-4

Sekou Bangoura (Florida) def. Mitchell Krueger (USTA, Aledo, Texas), 6-3, 4-6, 6-0

Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois), 6-4, 7-6 (4)*

Johnny Hamui (Illinois) def. Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5)

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Raymond Sarmiento (USC), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4

Anthony Rossi (Kentucky) def. Jonathan Dahan (Cal), 6-1, 7-5

Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Nassim Slilam (Florida), wo, injury

Nick Andrews (Cal) def. Hunter Harrington (USTA, Spartanburg, S.C.), 6-3, 6-1

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Jack Sock (USTA, Lincoln, Neb.), 6-3, 6-1

Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA, Pittsburgh, Pa.) def. Carlos Cueto (Cal), wo, injury

Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.) def. Abe Souza (Illinois), 6-2, ret.

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Maks Gold (Kentucky), 6-1, 6-0

JT Sundling (USC) def. Mackenzie McDonald (USTA, Piedmont, Calif.), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4)

Note: Both Andersen and Corrie from Texas won their respective flights but had to leave early. Halebian and Andrews took their spots in the tiebreak tournament.

Championship Tiebreaker Round

Quarterfinals

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.), 11-9

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.), 12-10

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Sekou Bangoura (Florida), 12-10

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Nick Andrews (Cal), 10-3

Semifinals

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Dennis Nevolo (Illinois), 10-5

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Alex Musialek (Kentucky), 10-6

Final

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Eric Quigley (Kentucky), 10-7

The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game.  A not-for-profit organization with 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game.  It owns and operates the US Open, and launched the Olympus US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open.  In addition, it owns the 90-plus Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S., is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games.  USTA Serves, the National Charitable Foundation of the USTA, provides financial support for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities through tennis and education programs.  For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

Fish Finishes Off Columbia As The United States Advances

Mardy Fish lost 30 pounds over the last year.We all know that by now.What we don’t fully realize is that Fish may be the best player in the United States right now.Certainly the Colombian Davis Cup team would not disagree with that as Fish became the first American in 15 years to win three David Cup matches in one tie.

Fish defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia,3-6,6-3,7-5,4-6,8-6 in Bogota today on red clay to clinch the victory.There is no fifth set tiebreaker in Davis Cup tennis.

With the win,the United States advanced to the World Group.Only once in history has the United States not advanced to the World Group.Columbia has never advanced to the World Group.

Isner won his opening match in 5 sets against Alejandro Falla and teamed with John Isner to win the doubles.Isner dropped his opening singles contest to Giraldo.

It has been quite a year for Fish.He won at Newport and Atlanta and lost in the finals at Cincinnat to Roger Federer after beating Andy Murray.

Fish had two wrist surgeries in 2005 and fell to #341 in the world.That is long forgotten.

The win allowed Patrick McEnroe to keep advancing as United States Davis Cup Captain.He had announced at the US Open that he would step down as davis Cup Captain after this Davis Cup year is over.

Has Field Caught Up To Federer?

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – A US Open Final without Roger Federer?

That’s like the Yankees without the postseason or New York without the Statue of Liberty.

Or even Batman fighting crime in Gotham without his cape and utility belt.

Well it happened and you can thank the Djoker for having it come true.

In what is maybe the best match of the tournament, The Maestro goes down in a five set classic to Novak Djokovic, 5-7 6-2 5-7 6-2 7-5.

Djokovic wasn’t perfect in the match, but it does show how much ground was made up over the past few years. Before, Federer was clearly the best player in the tournament with every other player hoping for second place. Now, the playing field seems more level.

“It’s normal, because you can’t go through 10‑, 15‑year career thinking you’ll always be at the very top,” Federer said.  “I think I did incredible work staying so long in the top 2 in the world. I never would have guessed in ’04 when I got to No. 1 for the first time that it was going to carry me for so long and that I was always going to be part of quarters, semis, finals of slams, and get a shot over and over again.

“I struggled to get into my first Grand Slam final back in 2003; whereas everybody predicted I was gonna win many and get to No. 1.  It’s just not as easy as it seems.  You can see with other players who are trying it.  There’s many tough guys out there, and it’s gotten very physical, very mental. But I think I’m doing really well under the circumstances with as many challengers.  I got a few guys back who were able to beat me, and many times when I lose I feel like it’s on my racquet.  That’s a good thing, you know.

“I wouldn’t want to feel the way that I couldn’t compete with the new generation, but I can.  It’s not a problem for me.”

Of course, Rafael Nadal is still standing in the Serbian’s way to his second Grand Slam title and after the Spaniard’s easy win, 6-2 6-3 6-4 over Mikhail Youzhny, Djokovic may have his hands full.

Federer, though, isn’t even bothering to watch. After being immersed in tennis over the past few weeks, the five-time champion said he had no interest in watching a final where he’s not playing.

“I will be spending time with the kids and go shopping,” he said. “I don’t know if the shops are open on Sunday in New York, but something will be.”

You can’t blame him though. The Maestro played his heart out and had a double match point in Game 10 of the fifth set. Yet, Djokovic was able to fight back, win that point and break Federer in the next game.

“I lost a couple more with match points this year, so they all pretty much feel the same, you know,” said Federer, whose only Grand Slam this year came in Melbourne.  “They feel somewhat empty at the end because you have tried everything, and maybe it was luck.  Maybe it was he played well.  Maybe you didn’t pick the right shot; maybe he did, you know.

“Can’t turn back time, but, look, obviously had to come up come up with a couple of good shots on match point, so I don’t feel I have that many regrets in that regard.  Obviously you feel like you left something out if you lose the match having had match point.

“Yeah, it wasn’t the final, so I’m not as disappointed it would have been the final.  That’s the only positive news to enjoy anything out of it.”

What was surprising, though, was the relative easy Djokovic had in the second and fourth sets, where Federer only managed one and two games, respectively. It may have been there, where the former US Open Champion lost the match, because it gave the Serbian a belief he could win.

“Oh, it was close in the fifth,” he said.  Unfortunately the second and fourth just kind of snuck away from me, I guess.  The 1‑All 40‑15 game for me was a tough one to take in the second set, because I thought momentum was completely on my side. I tried to play aggressive, not to give him too much rhythm, and it all came back at me.  I let him back in the match like that.

“At the end, it’s not easy, you know.  3‑All, 4‑All, 5‑All in the fifth, anything can happen.  That’s the good part, not the bad part, because it’s not purely in your control.”

“Sure, now looking back I missed a few too many forehands at the very end, but the match won’t be decided on winners only.  You can also see mistakes, and he pushed me to make those.  Credit to him.”

And so on a day where New York wanted to finally see the ultimate matchup of Federer vs. Nadal, the Djoker spoiled the plans. And now Gotham’s Dark Knight will have a rare early September Sunday off, while the world’s eyes will turn to Federer-free final for the first time since 2003.

Tennis King Meets British Prince

With Prince William on hand to watch Roger Federer cruise into the third round, you have to wonder, who was more excited to see whom?

Although, not every day a member of the Royal Family comes around, the World’s No. 1 has met his share of stars and celebs over the years. And frankly, earlier in his career he said he was more nervous when his family came around.

“[It] used to be my friends and parents early on,” Federer said after his straight sets Second Round win over Victor Hanescu, 6-2 6-3 6-2. “Then it goes other athletes, actors and musicians, Royal Highness. Just moves on. So I’ve had plenty. Obviously depends on the situation. Obviously having legends of the game watching, for me, is very nice always.

“But then, of course, where he comes from, you know, he knows tennis, and Wimbledon’s big, you know. So for me it was very ‑‑ I mean, a big honor that he came to watch me.”

Federer was able to chat with the Prince for a few minutes although he didn’t divulge everything, the Swiss Master did say, “he looked really happy coming to a sports venue. I think he’s had a very busy schedule the last few days. He shook a lot of hands, and I knew mine was one more. From what I’ve heard, I think he met Serena and myself, and came to watch my match.”

Even if Prince William was happy, for Federer this was just another day at the office. After getting a scare and not playing sharp in his first round match against Igor Andreev, he looked in control against Hansecu, pretty much cruising though out the hour and 39 minute match. With a first serve percentage of 82% (40 of 49), eight aces to just one double fault, the best player in the world looked pretty sharp.

“Against, let’s say lower‑ranked players outside of top 10, you do sometimes in the rally get a second chance; whereas against top players it’s pretty obvious how you going to play,” Federer said.

“That’s how my two opponents played. They know they have to step it up and not give me a chance in the rally. That’s why it’s dangerous for me to play against all these guys. They take huge cuts at the ball and nothing to lose. And if they win they are heroes, and if they lose, it’s an incredible experience.”

“From my standpoint, it obviously depends also on how the opponent plays. Today I was willing to go for more points and rallies where I decided I not to miss and only go for it if I’m perfectly set up. I think the tactic worked tonight.

“For the next round opponent, I definitely have to adjust my tactics again.”

And for the third round, Federer will be playing 31st seed Albert Montanes of Spain, who beat France’s Stephane Robert in five sets, 4-6 6-7 2-6 3-6 2-6.

Federer Rests and Italy Stays Alive

It didn’t matter to host Italy that Roger Federer was out for doubles. With Switzerland opting to rest the men’s grand slam record holder, the Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Potito Storace took advantage posting a straight sets 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over sub Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka Saturday.

“We all know he’s had a very heavy schedule over the last days and weeks, so we preferred that he rest today and be ready for tomorrow,” explained Swiss captain Severin Luthi of keeping Federer out so he wouldn’t be forced to play three consecutive days following a busy Open that saw him fall just short of matching Bill Tilden.

Instead, the Federer Express will look to clinch his country’s 20th straight place in the World Group when he takes on Andreas Seppi in reverse singles later today. Wawrinka, who beat Seppi in straights will face Bolelli in the other match concluding the best-of-five series in Genoa, Italy.

“The Italians just played better today,” Luthi added. “[Federer] has no problem. You can expect him to play for sure tomorrow.”

For Italy who’s trying to make it 4-1 in five head-to-head Davis Cup ties versus their gifted opponents, they are aware that it will take an awful lot to pull off the upset.

“It will definitely not be easy to beat Federer, he is the best player of all time and these are not words but fact. But we are still alive and will try our best, also with the support of our homecrowd,” Starace quickly noted. “We will try to give him as much trouble as possible,” added Bolelli.

They can take solace knowing the crowd will be with them giving overwhelming support.

“Yesterday, the fans were here but sort of weren’t,” pointed out Starace. “Today, they really were a factor for us and we saw that they can make a difference.”

They’ll need all the help they can get along with inspired tennis to give the fans what they want to see.

In Defeat Britton Keeps His Sense of Humor

As draws go, this was a tough one. Someone needed to be the sacrificial lamb to Roger Federer. And when Devin Britton heard the news, he was surely less than thrilled.

“I didn’t really believe it at first,” said the 18 year-old from Mississippi. “Thought it was just a bad joke. No, and then started getting texts on my phone and realized it was true.”

To say Britton was overmatched is an understatement and it took just one hour and 28 minutes for the best player in the world to finish off his first round match, 6-1, 6-3, 7-5.

Yet, it wasn’t always a walk in the park. The first break of the match went to Britton.

“I was pretty excited after the break,” Britton said. “And I got broken ant Love. I think I lost 13 or 14 points after that. I was thinking, I’m up a break. This is awesome. Then it only lasted about 30 seconds.”

At least he has a sense of humor. Many players would look at being Federer meat an insult, especially in their first open. Britton, though, took at is a challenge, at least not to get embarrassed.

“My goal was not to get crushed,” he laughed. “And make it interesting for a while. At least which I thought. I got up a break a couple of times and that was fun the little time it lasted.”

This was Britton’s first Open as a professional. He came to New York three years ago as a junior, but was sent home after a couple of days. Before Federer, he said he faced, Marcos Baghadatis and Benjamin Becker, but no one on the class as Federer  (Is there anyone who is?) and certainly there’s a difference.

“It’s just slightly different,” Britton said. “I mean, he’s the best. It’s a little different than those guys that were ranked 80 or 90. He’s obviously got plenty of confidence right now. This is his sixth, going for his sixth US Open in a row. I wasn’t expecting too much.”

So Britton was reduced to spectator as Federer went about his business. It took him two sets to realize that this was the US Open and was able to make a game of it in the third. By then it was too late.

Now this young man from Mississippi will hand around New York for a few days. He is looking to get into the doubles tournament as a wild card.

As for Federer, he’s off to the second round on what should be a long tournament for the five time champion. Next up is German Simon Gruel, ranked 65th in the world, which is a little higher than Britton’s 1370th ranking.

“It was a tricky match more for me,” Federer said. “I was playing a guy who had nothing to lose obviously.”

Yet this is Federer, who just never loses.

Murray Ready For Open Run

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Believe it or not, the US Open is a lot easier then Wimbledon for Andy Murray. I New York, the second seeded player can be more relaxed, compared to the scrutiny he gets in London.

“Yeah, it’s normal,” said Murray, who hopes to finally win a Grand Slam this year after losing to Roger Federer in straight sets in the 2008 Finals. “It’s not like you sort of get followed around. People are not sort of following you back to the hotel whereas back home, you know, you can get people waiting outside your house or following you to dinner if you want to go out. It’s not like that here. So it makes it easier to relax away from the court.”

It’s on the turf at Arthur Ashe where Murray looks to make his mark. Last season he was the surprise of the tournament, rising up from sixth seed to challenge Frederer for the title. Yet, much like many opponents, the now five time champion swatted away his 22 year-old opponent.

“If you watch Roger playing against anyone, if leave the ball in the middle of the court against him, you give him enough second serves to attack,” Murray said. “He comes forward against anyone.”

Now the page has turned and Murray is looking for the elusive slam, which he said “is the one thing he wants to do in tennis.” Although he was the hometown favorite during Wimbledon, the tennis star lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals in four sets.

But just two months later, Murray has a chance to make his mark in New York, and even though he was the clear favorite in London, he knows the Flushing crowd will support him.

“Obviously at Wimbledon, the support that I has has been great over the past few years, but I have also had great support here,” he said. “I’ve played some of my best matches here and last year had a very good run.”

If Murray plays Federer again it will be in the final. Although he fared well against the best player in the world, he most recently lost to the Swiss native during the Cincinnati Master semifinals last week.

“I started off a bit sluggish and hit balls in the middle of the court,” he said. “I’ve given him too many opportunities in the first set.”

That’s too weeks away and Murray will have to go through the tough last summer tournament first. He faces Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the first round.

Hopefully no one follows him around.