Serena Wins Fourth US Open

Serena Williams collapsed to the tennis court and then jumped for joy after she won her fourth US Open of her career yesterday. The 15th Grand Slam victory of her career wasn’t as easy as it seemed at the beginning, and Williams was actually two points away from losing her second-straight US Open final.

Serena dominated the first set of the matchup, winning 6-2, and breaking the serve of her opponent, 23-year old Victoria Azarenka, ranked #1 in the world, three times. It appeared that the 30-year old Williams would win the final easily, without losing a set to any opponent, something she also accomplished in 2002 on her way to the US Open title. But Azarenka stormed back to take the second set 6-2, to create the first US Open Women’s final to go to a third set in 17 years.

Williams and Azarenka traded breaks in the third and final set, and Azarenka was in control, up 5-3 and a break. At 30-30, Williams took over, holding serve, then breaking Azarenka to tie the set at five, then held serve again before converting a final break that crowned her the champion.

Serena talked about her opponent being two points away from handing her defeat after the match. “At 30-all I figured I could serve out and just make her serve for it…after that, I thought I could just force another game and obviously never give up. I never, never quit. I have come back so many times in so many matches.”

With her win, Williams becomes the first woman ever to win a Grand Slam title in three different decades. “That’s kinda cool” she responded, when asked about the accomplishment. Serena praised the play of her opponent. “You can tell by the score line that she really worked hard and she pushed me.”

Azarenka also had positive things to say about Williams. “She never gives up…she’s definitely the toughest player mentally there is. She continued, with an upbeat attitude. “I have to be positive, you know, because I feel like these kind of matches, every time I play Serena, it really pushes (me) to be better, to improve, to move forward. I have to be thankful to her for that.”

There were numerous entertainers in the star-studded crowd of 23,771, including tennis legends Billie Jean King and Boris Becker, New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Mets pitcher RA Dickey, actors Will Ferrell, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Judd Hirsch, and James Caviezel, actresses Jennifer Connelly, Minka Kelly,and Vivica Fox, musicians Redfoo of LMFAO and Mandy Moore, supermodel Tyra Banks, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Maria Opens Up

FLUSHING MEADOWS – Maria Sharapova is back to being the front on star of tennis. She is crushing her opponents, while acting like the starlet we all know and love.

After she dispatched Mallory Burdette today – in a match where she thought she would be booed – the 25 year-old started to reflect on her career with the up and comers, like Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens making names for themselves, while Kim Clijsters is retiring to motherhood.

“Well, I’ll tell you, when I was 18 or 19, if someone told me I was going to be playing at 25, which was seven years from then, I’d be like, Stop, this is ridiculous.  You’re crazy,” she said.  “But here I am at 25 years old.  Although I didn’t play for nine, ten months in my career, I’m 25, and I feel like I have so many more years left.  I still wake up in the morning and feel like I can be better and motivated.  I have energy and I’m healthy.”

And she has a legit chance to win her second US Open and start on a second career slam, after winning the French Open this year to gain her first. After being injured with a bad shoulder, Sharapova looked like a has been in recent years, but the strength and skill has returned.

That makes for interesting topics from the mercurial Russian, who at times can seem somewhat arrogant. But that’s her nature and she doesn’t mean to be mean.

In fact she had some kind words to say about her competitors and because of her experience; Sharapova offers some unique insight about each of them.

First there’s Robson , who Sharapova said she knew for years.

“Laura was someone who was obviously throughout the years ‑ I think she won junior Wimbledon, and she’s someone that I think a lot of people expected to do well at an early age,” Sharapova said. “I mean, this is definitely her breakthrough tournament, her breakthrough Grand Slam where she’s been playing extremely well.

“I’ve practiced with her a few times.  Played her at the Olympics and last year at Wimbledon.  She has a big game, and also a lefty, which adds to her strength.”

And then there is Stephens, the young American who many have been comparing to the next coming of Venus Williams. Stephens is the daughter of former NFL running back John Stephens who played for the New England Patriots.

“I played against her in Miami,” Sharapova said.   “I don’t remember the score, but she’s a great athlete.  Moves so well.  I watched a little bit of her match yesterday.  She’s a great fighter and, you know, was able to come back from that match.

“Obviously that’s the newer generation, and I’m somewhere in the middle there. “

Sharapova also had kind words to say about Clijsters, who was sent home by Robson on Wednesday and into retirement.

“I was very fortunate to play a lot of matches against Kim and follow her career,” she said.   “I mean, she was such a great athlete, a great competitor.  We always had really tough battles against each other. It was amazing to see her career unfold.  The way she came back after, you know, becoming a mom and having that dedication and, you know, that fire again, it was pretty incredible.

“It showed how much she loved the sport and how much passion she had for it.”

With all of this going on – and let’s not forget Andy Roddick – it’s easy to forget Sharapova, but she easily won her first three matches, especially today against Burdette, 6-1 6-1.

Seeded No. 3, Sharapova is feeling pretty good about herself.

“I didn’t know too much going into this event because I hadn’t played on hard in a few months,” Sharapova said.   “I think that made me extra focused, and I wanted to really get going from the beginning and be aggressive.

“Yeah, took a little bit of a break after Wimbledon and went home.  I think I kind of recharged a little bit.  Certainly feel a lot more energy than I did maybe after the French.”

She’s going to be tough and someone to watch out for next week.

Q & A with Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet, the 26 year old Frenchman reached a career high no. 7 and made it to the semis at Wimbledon in 2007:

TL- What do you think about the Andy Roddick retirement?
RG: For 8 or 9 years he was on top. He was no. 1 in the world. He is a great one.

TL:Do you know that because of your game you have been called a little Federer?
RG:Yes people have said that.

TL:What do you think of Federer?
RG:He is no. 1. He is never sick. He never retires.He talks to every player and is the President of the Tennis Council. Everyone respects him.

TL:How have you done against him?
RG:I have beaten him twice on clay. I have lost many other times (10).

TL:Roland Garros is a great site,especially court no.one.
RG:Yes it is but they are tearing that one down and I don’t know why.

TL:Are the top four really that much better?
RG:Yes they are. They are very strong mentally. They have a big advantage at Slams.

In The Twilight Of His Career Blake’s Still Looking Forward

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – As James Blake stood on the court of Arthur Ashe last night, you had to wonder if this was going to be his swan song. After all, the 29 year-old has struggled with injuries the last few years and he’s not getting any younger.

“A couple people mentioned something like that to me,” he said after downing Kristof Vliegen in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 6-4. “They’re trying to get rid of me already.  I hope that’s not the case.

“But, you know, I was just really honored to be there.  I didn’t think of that until it came up yesterday when someone sort of mentioned that to me, ’cause I really, when I got the call first or email first actually about being a part of it, I didn’t tell any of my friends or even my coach or anyone, because I thought in a couple weeks they were going to call and tell me, We found someone better, forget it, you don’t need to be here for it.”

Blake, though, is not ready to hang it up. He is planning of playing as long as possible and just looks at his friend and confident Andre Agassi, with whom he had that classic encounter, back in 2005, where the future Hall of Fame legend came back from two sets down to win quarterfinals.

“I think we all remember his speech here in his last match,” he said.  “He’s someone that also played with a little bit of emotion and fed off the crowd and enjoyed tennis and appreciated as much, had a second career as well when he dropped all the way down to 141 and came back to No. 1.

“What he did, he belonged there last night as well as someone that’s inspired so many others, including myself.  He finished here, he beat me when he was 35, I think, 34, 35.  You know, there’s a chance I still could be playing in four or five more years.

“His brand of tennis maybe took a little less punishment on his body because he was the one doling out all the punishment.  I’m proud to say I’m a friend of his.  He’s someone that helped me.  You wouldn’t think of a superstar like that calling a young kid to give him a scouting report, helping him out when he really didn’t need to, treating him at his nightclub in Las Vegas.  Everything you could think of for a superstar they normally wouldn’t do, he was there to do.  To be a normal guy, to be one of the guys in the locker room, I respected him so much for that.

Also Blake can look at Mardy Fish, whom many have picked to be a dark horse choice at this Open. Fish lost 30 pounds and is in the best shape of his life. Yet Blake feels it’s different with him as he tends to need to put on weight, rather than lose it.

So there may still be a chance for Blake, but he is clearly on the downside of his career and may pack it in, even as early as this year and if he does he will be able to look back at all the great matches the Yonkers native played.

His best though: At the Davis Cup in 2007 when he beat Mikhail Youzhny, 6–3, 7–6, 6–7, 7–6 in the finals over Poland.

“It’s the most memorable, yeah,” he recalled.  “That’s the one that I think I’ll remember forever ’cause that Davis Cup team was one that had been through a lot together.  We played so many matches together, I think the most of any group, specific group, in U.S. history.

“We just had so much fun together.  We had won a lot, we had lost a lot.  We made it through that whole journey, got to the finals, and we all contributed.  Andy won.  I won a close one.  The Bryans closed it out.  We were all part of that year, part of that victory, shared holding that victory, being part of something special.

“For me, that was pretty darn exciting, especially since I lost to him the year before on the clay in Russia.  To get a win over him, three tiebreaks, it wasn’t on cruise control by any stretch.  Came through in a lot of big points, had a lot of confidence at that time.  Had the fans and the team right behind me.

“That’s always going to be a pretty good memory.  When you have the Bryan twins playing doubles for you, you feel pretty confident going into Saturday up 2‑0.”

Maybe, though he will have one more memorable match in his at the 2010 US Open.

Nikolay Davydenko Looking to Capture First Career Grand Slam Title in 2010

January 18, 2010Bordentown, NJ, - After a sensational past few months, including the biggest title of his career at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the oft-overlooked Nikolay Davydenko has forced tennis fans and media around the world to sit up and take serious notice.  Constantly competing against tennis’ more marquee names, the 28 year-old Russian has been a fixture in the ATP top 10 the past three years and, in recent months, has consistently knocked off the best players in the world – beating both the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in the same tournament, on two separate occasions (London and Doha).   In the process Davydenko has grown a strong underground legion of fans and now, on the eve of his first round match at the 2010 Australian Open, has his eyes set on capturing his first career Grand Slam title this year.

“I am competing very well and feel like I belong and can challenge any other player on tour.  I hope to continue to play at a high level will continue to work for every ball, every point.”

Davydenko, the No. 6 seed in Melbourne has also been very vocal in crediting his racquet for much of his on court success. He was one of the first players on tour to adopt O-technology – a visible racquet technology built around a unique “hole” system along the hoop of the frame proven to increase aerodynamics and enlarge the hitting zone on the strings.  Davydenko has continually sung the praises of the technology and his racquets making it clear that, for him, there is no other choice.

“I don’t make it a secret that I love this racquet,” says Davydenko. “I have tried other racquets and to me nothing compares to Prince. The feel is special.”

“According to Helge Capell, Global Tour Manager for Prince and the person responsible for providing Nikolay with his racquets, “Nikolay is very in tune with his equipment. He was one of the first players on tour to switch to O-tech in 2005 and knew when he picked up the Ozone Pro Tour model in 2008 that the denser pattern would give him added control.  He has not looked back and has quietly put together an incredible few years.  Players are very aware of what O-technology has done to raise the rankings of their peers. We have a special, visible technology here, Nikolay realizes it, as do a growing number of tour and club-level players around the world.”

In fact, after his title run at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami in 2008, only a few days after picking up the Ozone Pro Tour, Davydenko said to on-court interviewer Mary Joe Fernandez that he wanted to “keep this racquet forever.”

Nikolay is also acutely aware that he has not amassed the wide-reaching notoriety of some of the other top 10 players on the men’s tour, but has slowly gained a loyal and strong underground following of fans who appreciate his hard nose playing style, heart and determination on tour – week in and week out.  As Davydenko puts it, “I am not Federer or Nadal, but lot of fans now come to me and tell me that I am their favorite. I don’t know, maybe they respect how hard I play and how much I work.”

As his official racquet sponsor, Prince will continue to provide Nikolay with his racquets through 2010, will work with him on new product development and utilize him in a variety of its on and off-line marketing functions. While not officially under contract with the brand last year, (though he continued to use and praise the product) after reaching the end of a long-term three-year deal, an agreement has been renewed for 2010.

“Nikolay is the perfect example of a player who truly stands by his racquet and we are proud to have him represent the brand and our racquet technology – especially during our fortieth anniversary year,” said Gordon Boggis, President and COO of Prince Sports, Inc.  His clear affinity for O-technology is not an anomaly.  We continually hear from players at every single level of the game who, once they make the leap and spend time playing these racquets, simply can’t go back to using anything else.  We are happy Nikolay is so comfortable with our frames and our team and wish him all the best in 2010.”

For more information on Nikolay Davydenko, including personal stats and detailed information on his Ozone Pro Tour racquet, log on to www.princetennis.com.

About Prince Sports, Inc.
Prince Sports, Inc, based in New Jersey, is a company of racquet sports enthusiasts whose goal is to create cutting edge, functional and technically advanced products that deliver performance benefits for avid players.  The Company’s portfolio of brands includes Prince (tennis, squash and badminton), Ektelon (racquetball) and Viking (platform/paddle tennis).   The Company has a history of innovation including inventing the first “oversize” and “longbody” racquets, the first “Natural Foot Shape” tennis shoe, the first “synthetic gut” string and the first electronic ball machine.  Today, Prince markets leading technologies in racquets (EXO3), string (Recoil), footwear (Precision Tube Technology) and apparel (Aerotech).   It has operations on three continents with distribution in over 100 countries. For more information on players, products or programs please visit www.princesports.com.

Contact: Zach Perles; Prince Sports, Inc. zperles@princesports.com 609.291.5932

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GETTING TO KNOW NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO:
•        Born in the Ukraine on June 2, 1981
•        Began playing tennis at 7 years
•        Racquet: Prince Ozone Pro Tour
•        Favorite players growing up were Ivan Lendl and Yannick Noah
•        Married his wife Irina in 2006
•        Coached by his older brother Eduard
•        Made his ATP debut at Amsterdam in 1999 – reaching the semi-finals
•        Made his Grand Slam debut in Melbourne in 2001 reaching second round before losing to then world No. 1 Pat Rafter
•        Favorite surface to play on is clay despite his two biggest career titles coming on hard courts
•        When not playing tennis, he enjoys fishing, soccer/futbol and ice hockey
•        20 ATP Tour titles – Australian Open would be his first career Grand Slam title
•        Was one of the first players on tour to play a racquet with O-technology in 2006

It’s A Family Win For Clijsters

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s tough to say what made Kim Clijsters happier tonight. Was it just winning the US Open or being able to celebrate it with her 18 month-old daughter Jada?

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

“Just the way [Jada] was looking at herself up on the screen,” Clijsters said after she defeated Caroline Wozniaski in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3 to win her second US Open title. “[Husband] Brian [Lynch] and I were just talking to her and like laughing, with, yeah, the way that she was handling it all.

“Brian and I were, you know, a lot more nervous than she was. She just thought it was the most normal thing, I guess. So, no, it was nice to share that with my family, that moment, yeah.”

With just two tournaments under her belt, Clijsters comeback is complete with the US Open championship. Even without that much practice, she mowed down her competition throughout the two weeks and came back to a sport she enjoyed.

And that’s the same sport she put behind herself two and a half years ago. In fact when Jada was born a year and a half ago, she would never of even thought of coming back to the courts and would have hung up on anyone who suggested it.

“I would have gone click,” she said simulating hanging up the phone. “Not until the start of this year, that’s when it came back. So 18 months ago or 18 and a half months ago, tennis wasn’t even on my mind at all, you know. I was just a new mom and just going through those experiences, as well, which is a lot of fun.

“But, you know, yeah, no, I would have definitely hung the phone on you. Sorry.”

Clijsters is trying to prove something to working mothers everywhere. You can have a career and at the same time enjoy your family. Although it would make sense for her to keep it going, the Open Champion is going to take it easy and pick and choose her tournament.

The next will be in Luxembourg in October and then she will think about when she will play next, although the Australian Open is on the calendar. By picking and choosing she will stay fresh and at the same time she will pretty much be the stealth contestant on each of these tournaments, because she won’t accumulate points to move up in the rankings.

But all of that doesn’t matter to Clijsters. She’s a mother now and for her family comes first.

“I don’t know how I’m going to top this, but it’s a challenge, you know,” she said. “It’s a challenge now at each tournament you play to try to show your best tennis and to stay in good shape, obviously. It’s something that I’m going to be, you know, really focusing on is to try to pick, you know, think wisely about my schedule and pick my tournaments and just try to really whatever I play and whenever I play, just really try to, you know, peak at certain situations.

“And, yeah, so I think it’s something that, you know, now with my coach, my physio and everybody, that’s something that we’re just going to keep focusing on, is making sure that, you know, I still work hard and everything.

“But also, they also know how important it is to have that family life at the same time. So I’m not, you know, playing next week or anything. I just want to go home and relax for a little bit.”
And she will enjoy herself. The beaming look on her face tells the whole story. Clijsters wasn’t just able to just win, but she also had Jada there to enjoy the moment.