Sacramento Capitals advance to WTT Finals

CHARLESTON, S.C. (September 14, 2012) —  There has been a lot of talk about the Washington Kastles historic 30-match win streak leading into the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, but the Sacramento Capitals will have an opportunity to make history of their own after defeating the Orange County Breakers 25-15 to win the WTT Western Conference Championship and a spot in Sunday’s WTT Finals at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

The Capitals will be vying for a League-best seventh Championship title on Sunday when they face the winner of Saturday’s New York Sportimes-Washington Kastles Eastern Conference Championship match.

Sacramento jumped out to an early lead with a first set win in men’s singles.  Kevin Anderson overpowered the Breakers’ John-Patrick Smith 5-3.  Anderson started mixed doubles and won the first game on the South African’s big serve before Caps coach Wayne Bryan brought in doubles great Mark Knowles to join Coco Vandeweghe.  Knowles was spectacular, hitting winners and leading the Caps to a 5-4 set win with Yasmin Schnack,  who replaced Vandeweghe at 2-2.

Sacramento took a commanding 15-8 halftime lead after Anderson and Knowles overpowered Smith and Travis Parrott in men’s doubles, 5-1.  Coco Vandeweghe edged the Breakers’ Jana Juricova 5-4 in women’s singles to give the Caps an eight-game lead going into the final set.

Schnack and Asia Muhammad closed out the victory for Sacramento with a 5-3 win over Groenefeld and Juricova in women’s doubles.

WTT action continues at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. when Venus Williams  leads the Washington Kastles against the New York Sportimes with John McEnroe.  The Kastles are riding a 30-match win streak that started with their unbeaten 2011 season, giving them the second longest U.S. pro sports team win streak in history.

The roster for the Kastles includes Williams, Leander Paes, 2012 WTT Male MVP Bobby Reynolds, Anastasia Rodionova and Arina Rodionova.  McEnroe will be joined by Jesse Witten, Robert Kendrick, Kveta Peschke and Ashley Harkleroad for the Sportimes.

Ticket specials for the WTT Finals Weekend are available through the Family Circle Tennis Center box office, which opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday.  For tickets, travel packages or more information, please contact the Box Office at 1-800-677-2293 or visit www.familycirclecup.com.

Final results from the WTT Western Conference Championship presented by GEICO:

(Home team in capital letters)

Sacramento Capitals def. ORANGE COUNTY BREAKERS, 25-15

Men’s Singles – Kevin Anderson (Capitals) def. John-Patrick Smith (Breakers) 5-3

Mixed Doubles – Mark Knowles\Yasmin Schnack (Capitals) def. John-Patrick Smith\Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Breakers) 5-4

Men’s Doubles – Kevin Anderson\Mark Knowles (Capitals) def. John-Patrick Smith\Travis Parrott (Breakers) 5-1

Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (Capitals) def. Jana Juricova (Breakers) 5-4

Women’s Doubles – Asia Muhammad\Yasmin Schnack (Capitals) def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld\Jana Juricova (Breakers) 5-3

Next Matches:

9/15/2012

WTT Eastern Conference Championship presented by GEICO:  New York Sportimes vs. WASHINGTON KASTLES, 6:30 PM (ET)

9/16/2012

WTT Finals:  Sacramento Capitals vs. EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION, 3:30 PM (ET)

For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com

Media contacts:

Rosie Crews – rcrews@wtt.com; C: 817.691.5424

Weather Aids Djokovic To Final

It was a different day and a different player. No wind. And Novak Djokovic was up to the task.

His match with Spain’s David Ferrer was stopped on Saturday with Ferrer up 5-2. There were weather concerns in the Flushing area and the wind was awful.

The match re-started on Saturday at 11 am under perfect conditions and Djokovic was perfect. After Ferrer won the first game to take the first set, 6-2 Djokovic got into high gear. He rolled 6-1 in the second set and won the third 6-4, at one point winning 12 out of 14 points. The fourth was no different with Djokovic closing out Ferrer 6-2.

Ferrer was not despondent in his press conference. He noted that the top four in the game are much better than the next level of which he is a part.He applauded Djokovic’s performance.

Djokovic was thrilled after the match and rated his Monday final with Andy Murray as even.

Murray beat Tomas Berdych on Saturday in bad conditions.

Murray enters the final with a mark of 0-4 in finals. He is now coached by Ivan Lendl who was also 0-4 in finals when he won the French Open in 1984.

Djokovic is one of the best returners ever in tennis. Murray needs to have his serve in top flight form to win.

Djokovic holds an 8-6 lead over Murray, but in their last match-up Murray prevailed at the Olympics.

 

No Joke, Blake Exits Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – A streaking James Blake caught up to the ball before it expired, pushed a precise pass up the line and danced across the court with a fist-pump during the second-set tie breaker against Novak Djokovic tonight. Blake still has a burst, but Djokovic put an end to his US Open run.

Playing pivotal points with precision, Djokovic won five consecutive games to open the match and quell the crowd then put down a second-set uprising in registering a 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory on a windy night to advance to the US Open fourth round.

Because he plays with more variety and can put more air under his shots, Djokovic can dial down his play when the elements require more safety and net clearance, whereas Blake basically hits the same hard flat shots time after time that gave him little margin for error.

“It’s a big mental struggle when you have such a strong wind to find a way how to try to play good tennis, especially if you have somebody across the net who is so aggressive, taking everything early and playing a risky game,” Djokovic said. “I think I was serving very well. It was a high percentage of first serves in. It was important in these conditions.”

Blake earned break points in the first game of the match only to see Djokovic, whose serve has been shaky at times this season, drill successive aces to erase both break points and ignite his first-set run. Djokovic plays with more spin than Blake, he takes the shorter preparation steps to set up for his shots and controls his game amid the bluster better than Blake.

“It was tough, tough conditions. He did a great job of handling them,” Blake said. “He’s one of the best defenders in the game, which makes it tough on a night like that where I need to rely on my power and speed to sort of dictate and move forward. It’s tough when you need to get into position and the ball can move one way or the other. You are not going to hit it cleanly. If I don’t hit it perfect, he’s too good of a counter-puncher. He hurt me too many times when I was in position and in my head to win the point. He did a great job of turning it around.”

Since Djokovic’s draining five-set win over Serbian Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki in the first round in which he found back from a two set to one deficit to earn a 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory, he’s run through six straight sets. And tonight’s match was ideal preparation for his fourth-round clash with Blake’s former Florida neighbor and long-time golfing buddy Mardy Fish.

“We had a tough one here a couple of years back at the US Open,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s playing his best tennis at this moment. He’s moving really well. He’s serving good as he served always. He has a lot of talent. He’s recognizing the moment, coming to net. He has a lot of variety in the game. I guess I have to be on top of the game to be able to win.”

Though Djokovic is unbeaten in four matches with Fish, the Vero Beach, Florida native has taken a set in three of those four meetings. Djokovic beat Fish, 7-6(5), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) in the 2006 US Open before Fish transformed himself with a fitness and nutrition regimen. They faced off most recently in Indian Wells in March with Djokovic prevailing 6-1, 0-6, 6-2.

Five-time US Open champion Roger Federer said Fish earned his respect before his 30-pound weight loss.

“I always thought he was an incredibly good player, regardless of his weight, to be honest.  I think it’s great to show maybe other players, too, to see what’s possible at a later stage in your career, if you come up with some new ideas,” Federer said. “It’s great to see him playing well, doing well.  He’s a nice guy.  He’s always been talented, so we knew that.”

Fish is playing for his second trip to the US Open quarterfinals.

New York fans showed two-time quarterfinalist Blake their appreciation when he was honored on opening night of the US Open. Djokovic showed Blake the door tonight.

The inevitable “is Blake done?” speculation began before Blake was even done walking out the door of his post-match press conference. Blake insists he’s intent on playing next season.

“I really hope that wasn’t my last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium,” Blake said. “I definitely want to be back next year. If it was (my last match), you know, I competed my heart out. I did everything I could. But I think I got more in me and I think I’m going to be back there. Maybe more night matches, some more excitement for the crowds, some good times. I definitely believe that. I hope it comes true next year.”

Clearly, it’s unlikely Blake will ever return to the heights he ascended when he reached No. 4 in the world, but to suggest Blake is done because he was swept by the No. 3 in the world after an injury-plagued season in which he never really found his form is foolish.

This is a man who came back from a broken bone in his neck after his horrific collision with a net post and a bout with Zoster that left one side of his face frozen to play the best tennis of his life. If Blake has shown you anything aside from a ferocious forehand and lighting speed around the court, it’s his willingness to work his way back and not back down from a challenge.

“Once I got hurt in ’04 and got sick, I never planned on this career as a marathon,” Blake said. “I tried to treat it as a sprint, every match being its own sort of entity, working hard to win that. If it’s my last, it’s my last. If that came at 25 when I blew out my knee, if that came at 30 when I do something to my back so be it. I’m going to treat every match as a sprint and just do my best every time. When it ends, it ends. I don’t feel like right now I’m out there looking for charity. I think I can play with just about anyone still and I don’t think I’m at my best physically right now.”

If Blake can regain his health, is he willing to make the adjustments to his game to make the best use of his ability. Contrast the court sense and dynamic all-court game Ryan Harrison showed in his five-set loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky with the tennis Blake played tonight. Harrison, who is not nearly as quick around the court as Blake, understands that tennis is a sport that requires the ability to play offense and defense and the knowledge of when to transition.

The former Harvard all American doesn’t need tennis and tennis doesn’t need him, but Blake still brings the buzz and class to court and still believes he’s got something left in the tank.

“Even if I’m not 100 percent right now I don’t feel like I’m hurting the game by being out here,” Blake said. “I’m not on a pity tour just getting beat up first round every week by kind of nobodies. I lost to a pretty darn good player. I’m playing okay and I know I can play better because the preparation can be better.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

An Excerpt from “Quest for Perfection”

Roger Federer is looking for his sixth straight US Open men’s singles title at the 2009. The first of his five straight titles in New York came in 2004 when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt, his third-round victim in 2009, in the final. Rene Stauffer, the author of the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) details the 2004 US Open final between Federer and Hewitt in his celebrated tome. The brief book excerpt is seen below…

Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.

It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer contin­ued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.

“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”

Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.

“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, look­ing into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”

An Excerpt from “The Education of a Tennis Player”

The court was greasy, but somehow slow, which favored me because Tony’s slice didn’t take. Movement was tough, and this was a break for me because Tony decided not to put on spikes. He figured his strained thigh muscles would be jarred by the quick stops you make in spikes, possibly bringing on a cramp.

That first set was one of the strangest I’ve ever played. I should have won it and deserved to lose it. I got what I deserved and Tony took it 9-7, just took it right away from me after I’d been serving for the set at 5-3. He did it with beautiful backhands. I was sloshing and slipping around, and a couple of times I had asked referee Mike Gibson for permission to put on my spiked shoes. I’d wanted to begin the match in them, but he’d refused. After that game, Mike said all right. It meant all the difference to me.

Tony immediately won his serve in four points, but I felt surer on my feet and I knew I’d get going. Especially when I stopped him two points short of the set to keep even at 6-6. But I wasn’t so sure when I lost that first set anyway. I’d had a lot of luck during the year, and I wondered if it had run out at last. Although I’d worn spikes here and there throughout my career, the occasions were so rare during my professional days that they took some getting used to. You consciously changed your movements at first. Picked up your feet. No sliding. It was a new sensation until you were re-accustomed to them.

The slight uncertainty of moving in spikes was gone for good in the first game of the second set when I came through with a big serve at the crucial point of the match. With the first set his, and the pressure on me, Tony got me down 30-40 on my serve. One more point and he’d be up a set and a break, a pretty good edge in that mush.

We both knew this was a huge point. He took his time getting ready to return, and I did the same lining up—not overly so, maybe not even noticeable to the crowd, but we had to be right for this one. I was righter. I threw myself into the serve, and sliced it wide to his forehand. It didn’t come back. He barely touched it, and I could tell it pained him to miss the opportunity. You don’t get too many break-point chances on grass—and he didn’t have another.

It wouldn’t be apparent for a while, but the match turned upside down right there. I won the game and began hitting harder and harder as I got surer of my footing. Then I won the next and the next—five straight. From that break-point chance in the first game, Tony managed to win only five of the last 23 games. He came all apart as I wrapped him up, 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Not even a rain delay of a half-hour at the beginning of the third set could rust my concentration or help him pull his together.

Unlike 1962, I had control of myself all through the final match of the Grand Slam. I was never dazed as I had been against Emmo seven years before during a brief case of nerves down the stretch.

Serving match game, I opened with an ace. I knew what I was about, and wasn’t going to let Tony breathe. It was 40-0 when I did try to end with a grand-slamming flourish on a forehand volley. I blew it. A minor disappointment not to be able to score with a put-away as I had on the championship point at Wimbledon.

It fell to Tony to lose it with a forehand that he hit long. Both of us were glad it was over. Afraid to use spikes, he’d been victimized in sneakers, unable to counteract my better shots, including a number of very good lobs. It was one of my best days with the lob, always a useful shot, but even more damaging that day when running was tough.

Not enough ordinary players realize the value of the lob, and I guess I didn’t until I became a seasoned pro. It’s much more than a desperation measure. As an amateur, even if the odds were against my making a shot, I’d usually let fly anyway. When I became a pro, I couldn’t risk throwing away points like that because the opposition was equal or better.

This meant I had to be realistic. If my chances of making a shot from a difficult position were doubtful, I found you seldom get hurt with a lob.

But there were no more lobs to be hit. Not one more stroke on a chase that began God knows how many strokes ago in Brisbane when I hit the first serve to a fellow I wouldn’t know if he walked into the room, Massimo di Domenico. The others I knew pretty well . . . Andres . . . Arthur . . Emmo . . . Tony . . . Newc . . . Dennis . . . Kenny . . . Okker . . . Smith.

There were 1,005 games in 26 Grand Slam matches, and now it was all over.

Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.

I am delighted that THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.

Collins, himself a 1994 inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, first met Laver in 1956 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston during the U.S. National Doubles Championships. Thirteen years later, the two collaborated on the book that was only to be published if Laver won the Grand Slam. Collins is best known for his colorful television commentary – and his colorful wardrobe – as well as his columns in the Boston Globe. Collins currently works as a commentator with ESPN2 and Tennis Channel.

Rod Laver is one of the greatest treasures we have in tennis and THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is one of our sports most important literary works,” said Collins. “Rod was always so humble and gracious, but he could play tennis like a hurricane. He was as a great a champion as we have ever had in tennis and one of the all-time nicest guys.

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS by Bud Collins, THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer and BOYCOTT: STOLEN DREAMS OF THE 1980 MOSCOW OLYMPIC GAMES by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli among others. More information on New Chapter Press can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.