Azarenka Comes Out At The Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – She dances, she sings, and heck she can hit the ball too.

This is a different Victoria Azarenka we are used to seeing. In the past, she could be testy, yelling at the umpires, linespersons and even ballboys and ball girls.

But now, she is having fun.

All thanks to a sitdown with her grandmother Nina.

“I guess it’s just the mentality change, you know, the approach change,” Azarenka said. “I just know how to prepare myself to be in that state of mind.  It’s never always the same.  Sometimes to come up with that fire it takes a little bit more energy out of me or, you know, a little bit of adaptation, something that I have to bring myself.

“But, yeah, the approach is there.  I enjoy playing on the court.  It’s always there.”

Quietly, we have started to see it the last two weeks. Even though she’s the No. 1 seed, the 23 year-old has been overshadowed by the more household names on the tour.

But after her thrilling 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Maria Sharapova in the Semifinals, everyone is starting to know her now.

And she is having the time of her life.

“It’s sometimes it’s not as fun,” she said with a laugh.  “Especially in that first set today it wasn’t that fun. But I try to enjoy my moment.  I feel like I don’t want it to end.  I’m living this great run, you know, this great opportunities that coming at me, that I just want to continue and enjoy that ride.

“When I’m on the court, I feel like I’m in paradise.  I’m in that most comfortable place I can be.  Why not enjoy it?”

The Belarusian has made a name for herself this year. In the semifinals once in a Grand Slam before 2012, she is now on the cusp to win her second major of the year after winning the Australian earlier this season.

But now, she is facing maybe her toughest competition: Serena Williams.

“Well, first of all, if you look at our record it says it all,” Azarenka, who is 1-9 careerwise against Serena, said. “I mean, I haven’t won in any last meetings, so I definitely need to find something to surprise her tomorrow, because she’s in a great form, you know, feeling really confident right now.

“She has everything on her side.”

And that includes the crowd, who will support the American every day of the week. Azarenka, though isn’t going to be wearing Bobby Bonilla style earplug to drown out the noise.

“I will not really use ear plugs, but I definitely I would be surprised if it would be the other way, so I kind of know that already,” she said. “It’s not the first time for me to kind of face that.  It’s definitely gonna be the first time being in the US Open, but, you know, there is a lot of things that been for the first time for me in this year.  I just need to adjust and try to be, you know, who I am on the court.”

But to win the championship or even make it a game, what does she have to do?

“Well, I have to, you know, try to return well, definitely,” she said smiling.  “And serve.  Because, well, with Serena it’s not really the long rallies.  It’s all about, you know, who grabs the first opportunity, who is more brave to, you know, step it up right from the beginning.”

And if she does it, she will have a puncher’s chance against Serena. But whatever happens, the No. 1 seed will have fun with it.

At least that’s what her grandmother told her to do.

 

 

The Bryan Brothers Claim 12th Slam

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – This week, everyone is talking about the Manning brothers and their quest for a fourth world championship.

Yes, four. Eli has two and Peyton has one.

Move over Mannings, it’s time for the Bryan Brothers – Bob and Mike – to get some love.

Yes, tennis’s wonder twins are at it again with another Grand Slam win on the resume – that would be their 12th for those counting at home – after beating the team of Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-4 to win the Men’s Doubles title.

“We were just thinking about playing a good match and executing the scouting report our coach gave us and winning our home slam in front of all these fans that were pumping us up the whole day,” Bob said. “I mean, we’re extremely pumped to leave 2012 with a Grand Slam title.  I think it’s eight years in a row now we’ve at least got away with one of them, which we’re very proud of.”

Maybe the Bryans are the standard bearers of men’s tennis now with the retirement of Andy Roddick. Although they play doubles – a sport that isn’t really cared about – their success is extraordinary winning a slam a at least year for eight years.

And this is their fourth Open win, on bested by Australia with five.

“You know, it doesn’t get the notoriety that, you know, a Federer record does,” Mike said.  “We have fun slipping under the radar.  Probably get asked once or twice a week ‑ by Doug ‑ but that’s about it.  This isn’t our first time sitting in this room in front of a bunch of media.

“But they’re special to us and we talk about them with our camp.  My dad definitely he shoots e‑mails to us with all our records and they’re fun to look at.

“Then it’s up to you guys to, you know, determine where we stand in history or whatever.  You know, that’s what we play for.  We set goals every year.  This was just another goal that we went after.  It’s fun to achieve it.”

Oh and let’s not forget the Olympic gold this year too, which is just as important for the brothers.

And after that what’s next?

“Got to finish it off strong with Davis Cup,” Mike said. “You’re only as good as your last match.

“So we’re leaving tomorrow night, going to get our clay court shoes on, and hopefully help the U.S. out.”

Like they have done for the last eight years.

 

 

 

Roddick Still Goes Out On Top

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – After his loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick was asked to say a few words.

For the first time in a long time, his mouth was at a loss.

“I mean, I don’t know that I had a plan,” Roddick said.  “You know, I was just going to try to win.  It was perfect.  This whole week has been perfect, you know.

“Rain‑delayed match, come back the next day.  It’s like typical US Open.  Played with me in the end, so I guess it was right.”

It wasn’t the storybook ending for Roddick, but it was his ending, as the No. 7 seed took him out of the Open with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 win today in a match that was restarted after postponed last night.

But it didn’t matter for Roddick. He didn’t think he would have lasted to the final with some younger and better players in front of him. Rather, he wanted to go out on his terms. And today, he did.

Even in his final press conference.

“I was walking out of the locker room, and I said, Man, I think I have more expectation of this press conference than I did the match today,” he said.

“So, you know, like you said, I think it’s at the point now where I look back on rough moments fondly, you know, in these rooms.  I hope you all do, too.  There has certainly been some good ones; there have been some fun I ones.

“There has been some horrible ones both ways, but it wasn’t boring.”

Maybe that’s Roddick’s legacy. He wasn’t boring. Much like John McEnroe and Andre Agassi before him, he knows tennis is entertainment and besides being an athlete, he is there to entertain the crowd. He is always witty and funny and of course never a snoozer.

His matches with Federer were epic at times, even though he could never break through, and he played to the crowd in exhibitions, such as last March when he imitated Rafa Nadal on his serve much to the laughter of those in attendance.

He was no clown prince, though. Tennis was a serious business to him and he never gave up, which is why the Arthur Ashe crowd was chanting, “Let’s Go Andy!” throughout the match.

“I know the thing that is certain is I didn’t take any of it for granted,” he said.  “ I think I went about things the right way.  The umpires might disagree with me.  (Laughter.)

“I was consistent, and I don’t feel like I left a lot on the table on a daily basis.  When I look back, that’s probably what I’m proud of.”

What’s next for him, well that’s anyone’s guess, but Roddick will be humbled when the accolades come down, especially if he gets the call from Newport.

“That’s not for me to say,” he said.  “That’s not my choice.  Obviously it’s the ultimate honor of any tennis player, and that’s something I’d be extremely humbled by. But I’m certainly not going to be presumptuous about anything.  If it happens, I’ll be thrilled and amazed.  If it doesn’t, I’ll probably still be thrilled and amazed with what I was able to see.”

Because deep down inside, Roddick is still that 12 year-old kid who dreamed about playing Ivan Lendl or Stefan Edberg and now that they are his contemporaries, he is definitely satisfied.

“Yeah, it’s funny, because if you tell a 12‑ or 13‑year‑old kid that he’s going to win 30‑some odd titles and become one of 20 for this and 20 for that and be No. 1 and have a slam, you’d take that in a heartbeat,” he said.  “Going back, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.

“There were a lot of tough moments but unbelievable moments.  I mean, who gets to play in Wimbledon finals and who gets to play in an Open and who gets to be part of a winning team?  Most people don’t get to experience that.”

Roddick did and today he closed that chapter in his life on his terms.

 

 

 

 

Serena Williams Steamrolls the Competition

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Serena Williams has been playing some of the best tennis of her career over the last three months. Williams won Wimbledon in July and a few weeks later won the gold medal in Women’s Singles at the 2012 London Olympics. She also added Women’s Double’s gold with her older sister Venus. Next up for Serena was the US Open.

Through the first four rounds of the 2012 US Open, Williams has defeated Coco Vandeweghe, 6-1, 6-1, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-2, 6-4, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4, 6-0, and Andrea Hlavackova, 6-0, 6-0. Serena has won an incredible 20 straight games, and is the favorite going into the round of eight.

When asked what her play through the first four rounds means, Serena responded “it says I’m focused.” Serena, always critical of her game, said “I feel like today I am getting more comfortable with the court and comfortable with the conditions…I like to play better during the second week.” Fitting, because the best players are the only ones playing in the second week and Serena is not only one of the best of this era, but of all time.

Not everything has gone perfect for Serena, as she and older sister Venus were defeated Monday night in Doubles by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Venus also lost in the second round to Angelique Kerber in front of a boisterous crowd that included actress Vivica Fox. With the singles and doubles losses, Venus Williams is now done for the 2012 US Open, but don’t be surprised if she hangs around to see her younger sister play.

Serena, who is 30-years old, and Sloane Stephens, 19, 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 Vandeweghe in the first round. 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 first-round, 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.

Serena Williams will face Ana Ivanovic Wednesday (rain permitting) for a chance to go to the semifinals of the US Open Wednesday. Ivanovic defeated Stephens in the third round for the second year in a row, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, and Stephens will definitely be cheering her mentor on.

Fish Withdraws From Open and Federer Match

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – This was the last thing Roger Federer wanted in his fourth round match against Mardy Fish.

But he will take it anyway.

Fish withdrew from the US Open for precautionary reasons after Saturday’s night win against Gilles Simon. It was unknown if it was for the same heart condition which sidelined him back in May, but the 30 year-old is not taking any chances.

“I am really sorry for Mardy,” Federer said in a statement. “I just want to wish him a speedy recovery. We all want to see him back on tour soon.”

Fish was sidelined for 2 1/2 months back in March for an accelerated heart rate and had a medical procedure done. It first happened on March 29th in Key Biscayne, FL, after losing a match, and being checked out for the heart rate.

He said in a statement today’s action was for “precautionary measures” and looks forward to “”to resuming my tournament schedule in the fall.”

For Federer, his walkover means he reached his 34th consecutive quarterfinal, extending his own record. The Swiss Master will be playing No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, who beat No. 11 seed Nicholas Almagro 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1.

“It will be a tough match against Tomas,” Federer said.  “We have played many times in the past and he has always been a tough opponent.  I will have to continue to serve well and dictate the points.”

Fish’s withdrawal means Andy Roddick is the only American man left in the single’s draw.

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.

Andy Roddick Discusses His Retirement

Flushing Meadows, NY – Andy Roddick shocked tennis fans, players, and media alike with his announcement of his retirement after the 2012 US Open yesterday evening. Here are some comments he made last night at his press conference announcing his retirement.

When Roddick was asked, why now, he responded “I just feel like it’s time. I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event. I have a lot of family and friends here. I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament. When I was playing my first round, I knew.”

Roddick also talked about his ability and desire to compete. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been someone who’s interested in existing on tour. I have a lot of interests and a lot of other things that excite me. I’m looking forward to those.” He continued, “I’ve always, for whatever my faults have been, felt like I’ve never done anything halfway. Probably the first time in my career that I can sit here and say I’m not sure that I can put everything into it physically and emotionally. I don’t know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home. I had plans to play a smaller schedule next year. But the more I thought about it, I think you either got to be all in or not.”

Some in the tennis world thought Roddick took extra time saying good bye at a Grand Slam tournament earlier this year. “On some big moments this year, I think I’ve known. You know, walking off at Wimbledon, I felt like I knew,” he said.

When asked if he made the decision on that day to give fans a chance to say good bye, Roddick responded “those are good reasons. I think I wanted an opportunity to say good bye to people, as well. I don’t know how tomorrow’s going to go. I hope it goes well and I hope I’m sticking around. I just imagine being off the court tomorrow in an empty locker room. I think I wanted a chance to say good bye.”

When asked what he is most proud of looking back on his career, Andy responded “you know, I was pretty good for a long time. The reason I gave earlier about not feeling like I could be committed to this thing a hundred percent, that’s one of the things I’m proud of. That for 13 or 14 years, I was invested fully, every day.”

When asked about being the face of American Men’s tennis for so long, Roddick said “it’s been a pleasure. It’s not something that’s easy every day, for sure, especially when you get kind of anointed at a young age, 17, 18.”

Finally, Roddick talked about playing at Arthur Ashe Stadium for night matches. “I mean, it’s the most electric atmosphere in our sport,” he said, referencing the 23,000-seat arena that is the biggest in the sport. “There’s something about it. There’s a lot of eyeballs on TV sets from people who don’t even normally watch tennis during night matches of the US Open. I think I’ve played as many as anyone. Again, it’s just something I’ll look back on with really fond memories. Hopefully won’t be my last one,” he said. Many in the tennis world hope that tonight isn’t his final match on the court as well when he takes on Bernard Tomic.

Hold The Retirement For Another Day

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – And he lives on. Andy Roddick delayed his retirement by at least another two days by beating Fabio Fognini of Italy in a hard fought 7-5, 7-6, 4-6 and 6-4 match before a very highly partisan Roddick crowd.

The match featured many entertaining rallies and a between the legs shot by Fognini which almost passed Roddick at net.

There is no doubt that Roddick is suffering from a hurt right shoulder, but he is deriving energy from the crowd. He noted that, “it was loud out there, about as loud as I remember.”

Roddick will have a much harder time Tuesday night as a decided underdog against Juan Martin Del Potro, like Roddick also a US Open winner and the only player besides Federer, Djokovic and Nadal to win a major in the last 30.

Roddick is 1-3 all-time against Del Potro, winning their last contest in Memphis in 2011. All of Roddick’s losses have been close.

Fognini called Del Potro a slight favorite but would not be surprised with a win by Roddick.

Roddick feels that he has an edge in serve but that Del Potro has an edge in his return game.

Federer is Proving He’s Still the Best

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Fernando Verdasco is no slouch. He is ranked no. 25 at the Open. That is the good news. The bad news is that he had to play a very hot Roger Federer today.

Game over quickly.

Federer won 6-3,6-4,6-4.

And the match had am amazing statistic. Federer was 26 of 27 in net points won. And it could have been worse if he had come in more. It was a bit too windy for that.

In the post-match press conference he seemed stunned by the stat.

He also would not admit that playing doubles in the Olympics helped his net play.

This came a day after his double partner, Stan Wawrinka said that Federer would be the best doubles player in the world if he played more doubles.

No one is better than Federer, but when in an age that he is trying to close out points earlier, some more serve and volley in his game would help appreciably.

There is no doubt that coach Paul Annacone is trying to incorporate that aspect more into his game.

Federer was effective coming in against Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. Admittedly, the rough was closed and it was easier to do.

If Federer incorporated some more doubles into his regimen at places like Miami, Montreal and Cincinnati he could even be more effective when he plays the likes of Nadal and Djokovic.

And he could also preserve some wear and tear on his 31 year old body.

This May Be Serena’s Tournament To Lose

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Here’s an interesting news and note you don’t find out every day.

If you tell a secret to Serena, she will keep it.

That’s what Andy Roddick did and no one knew about the retirement heard around Flushing until A-Rod divulged the news himself.

“I’m good at keeping secrets, so if you tell me something, I never open my mouth to anybody,” she said.  “You know, not even to my friends. I was hoping he’d change his mind.  I love that guy.  I love Andy.  He’s just a great person.”

So yeah, they are good friends and we are sure if Serena gave Roddick a secret, he will keep it.

But the younger Williams sister is like an open book these days and frankly, it’s no secret that she is dominating this tournament.

And today she dispatched Ekaterina Makrova in straight sets, 6-4 6-0 to advance to the fourth round.

“Definitely was motivated,” she said.  “Knowing that I lost, could definitely happen again.  Did not want that to happen.

“So whether I learned something, I don’t know.  I really hate watching matches that I lose unless I’m punishing myself.  I didn’t punish myself.”

And here’s a secret, Serena learns from her mistakes. Makarova beat Serena in the fourth round of the Australian Open back in January, so there was some vengeance here.

But Serena didn’t watch any tape or anything like that when preparing for the rematch.

“Definitely was motivated,” she said.  “Knowing that I lost, could definitely happen again.  Did not want that to happen. So whether I learned something, I don’t know.  I really hate watching matches that I lose unless I’m punishing myself.  I didn’t punish myself.”

She said watching her losing matches was like “stabbing herself” so she relied upon others to do that. In this case her father gave her some advice.

“I talked to my dad, who always gives me the right advice and tells me what to do, but not too much outside of that,” she said. “I really focus on what I need to do in my game.  You know, what happened in Australia was that and that was then; really try to focus on the now.”

And now, Serena is advancing. She is becoming the star attraction again in Flushing Meadows after missing the tournament two years ago. She made the finals last year but was still coming back from her pulmonary embolism.

Now though she is fully healthy and looking tremendously strong.

“It’s been extremely fun,” she said.  “I’ve really appreciated the past few months.

“Really the past year has been really amazing.  Coming back playing ‑‑ starting at Wimbledon, even though I think I lost in the fourth round, but pretty much did really well since then, really consistent, and came from, you know, 170‑something to back being, you know, top 5 and obviously trying to move ahead with that.

“So it’s been really a great, fabulous time for me.”

If she is keeps rolling next week will even be more fun.

And that’s no secret.