Sloane Stars On The Grandstand

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Eighteen year-old Sloane Stephens has a plan for this year. It has nothing to do with tennis, but what to do after she returns to her native Los Angeles.

“Now I know for sure when I get home after the season’s over I’m getting a car,” she said after disposing of23rd seed Shahar Pe’er in the second round, 6-1 7-6(4).  “That’s the only thing I’m really looking forward to now.”

And what kind of car?

“I don’t know,” she answered.  “That’s a big question.  My mom wants me to get a truck.  I want to get a small car.  It’s very confusing.”

What’s not confusing is the run this young girl is having here in Flushing Meadows. Along with Christina McHale and Irina Falconi, Stephens is one of the young American girls making some noise during the first week and hoping it will continue as Labor Day Weekend heats up.

“I don’t even think about it,” she said.  Fun fact: Christina, Irina, and myself are all in the third round of the US Open and playing the PanAm Games together.”

That’s Stephens for you. This girl is smart, engaging with a mind going a million miles a minute. She likes to talk in a very plain speak to the 15 reporters in the interview room after her match. There’s no intimidation or at least she doesn’t think there should be.

“I think it’s pretty cool, just like talking to normal people,” she said.  “It’s not like you guys are a bunch of aliens sitting there and I should be like, Oh, my God, freaking out.

“It’s definitely fine for me.  Should I be scared or something?”

That’s not inexperience talking. This girl is fearless. She doesn’t care if she’s facing a ranked player on the court or a bunch of cynical reporters in an interview room.

And Pe’er learned that today. Stephens played aggressively and attacked the Israeli star. She said she definitely likes to hit the ball “I don’t know where that came from,” she said. “But it happens.  Comes off pretty hard, I think, sometimes.”

Outside of the courts, Stephens is an avid Tweeter on her Twitter account. She sends inspirational messages to her followers such as, “There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen. In the right time, with the right person, for the best reason.” And, “Happiness is not a goal, but a decision. Life is 1% what happens to you and 99% how you react to it.”

“I just see something, I’m like, Wow, everyone should read this,” she said.  “It’s not really like, Oh, I’m like trying to get people to like do certain stuff or anything.  It’s like, Oh, I saw that.  I thought it was cool.”

Other than that, Stephen’s also helps take care of her 13 year-old brother, someone she drives around and picks up from school.

And all of this came after moving back to Los Angeles after living in Florida for a few years.

“L.A. is an awesome place,” she said.  “I have a little brother, so I try to spend as much time with him as possible.  He’s been playing baseball.

“L.A. gets tricky for us because there’s a lot of traffic and I don’t like to drive.  It’s kind of hard.  But definitely L.A. and Florida are two different places.  It’s just what you like basically, what we’re in the mood for.”

And yes, she is buying a car even with a disdain for driving.

“See, the thing is, I don’t like traffic,” Stephens said.  “It’s very hard for me to drive in traffic.  And my brother is the most annoying person to have in the car when you’re driving.

“Seriously, he’ll be like, Why aren’t you honking?  What are you doing?  Get in that lane.  I’ll be like, Can you stop?  I need to focus.  He’ll be reaching over to honk the horn.  It’s crazy.  He’ll have to sit in the backseat when I get the car.”

Yet, that’s going to have to wait. Right now Stephens has a third round match against former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic and she wants a bump up in venue after winning today on the Grandstand.

“Maybe we’ll be on a bigger court,” she said.  “Maybe we’ll be on Armstrong.  I’ve got to work my way up.  Today I almost got Ashe by default and I didn’t want it.”

One step at a time, and if she does win, Stephens said to expect some sort of special celebration by her like the American flag waving by Falconi yesterday.

“Everyone has to have their own special thing that they do,” she said.  “So she does the American flag.  Hopefully Christina will give us something tomorrow to work with.  Then the next day I’ll give you guys something.”

Something to look forward to.

 

 

Carroll: Very little U.S. at U.S. Open

It has not been a secret that Americans have not been dominating the world of professional tennis since the days when Andre Agassi would routinely battle Pete Sampras in the finals of Grand Slam events.
American futility on the men’s side was clearly in evidence at the U.S. Open as the fading Andy Roddick and the perpetually mediocre Taylor Dent, Donald Young and Robby Ginepri were all eliminated before Labor Day weekend. James Blake managed to survive until Saturday when Novak Djokovic disposed of him with ease in straight sets.

Things were not brighter for the red, white and blue on the women’s side as Venus Williams was the only American left at the tournament’s halfway point, though it’s safe to say that her sister, Serena, would have been there as well had she not hurt her right foot and missed the tourney. Melanie Oudin, the teenager from Atlanta who went deep into the Open last year, was gone by the second round. This year’s Cinderella story, Maryland’s Beatrice Capra, was slaughtered 6-0, 6-0 by Maria Sharapova in a third round match.

A United States Tennis Association executive looked as if she was about to cry in the press room when 18-year-old Louisiana native Ryan Harrison lost a grueling five-set match that required a tiebreaker to Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Harrison blew three match point opportunities in the tiebreaker. If he were a more seasoned player, the media would have called it a “choke,” but since he is young, and was quite mature in his post-loss press conference, everyone was charitable.

James Blake is a huge Mets fan, and he frequently wears a Mets baseball cap into Interview Room 1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He became far more passionate about the Mets’ woes than about his tennis game when he was asked what the team needs to do next year. “I believe that they need to make changes at the top,” he said, referring to Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon, General Manager Omar Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel.

Blake chatted with me briefly after the formal press conference. “They need to blow the whole team up and start over,” he added emphatically, meaning that he would not be averse to seeing such core players as Jose Reyes and David Wright traded. When I mentioned that it would highly unlikely Jeff Wilpon would leave anytime soon since he’s the son of team owner Fred Wilpon, Blake replied somewhat forlornly, “I know.”

SECOND YEAR OF US OPEN ON TENNIS CHANNEL STARTS WITH FIRST DAY OF PLAY MONDAY, AUGUST 30

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23, 2010 – Tennis Channel’s second year of US Open coverage will provide viewers with 73 hours of live matches as the tennis world descends upon New York, and will also introduce a new team member who knows a thing (or two) about on-court glory in the Big Apple.  This year two-time US Open singles titlist Tracy Austin joins the network’s returning on-air roster of tennis champions, with a lineup that includes lead analysts Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova and US Open Tonight / Breakfast at the Open host Lindsay Davenport.  In all the network will offer 234 hours of US Open telecasts, with nearly 24-hour, “Grounds Pass” level of coverage during the two-week competition.

When live matches are not taking place in Flushing Meadow, Tennis Channel’s signature US Open Tonight and Breakfast at the Open will recap all the excitement of that day’s play, and lead into the following morning’s contests.  Again hosted by 1998 US Open champion Lindsay Davenport and Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight fame, the news, interview and highlight shows will air alongside encore matches throughout the night during the tournament, giving viewers a close to 24-hour daily US Open experience.

Beginning with its opening-match coverage on Arthur Ashe Stadium or Louis Armstrong Stadium the first day of play Monday, Aug. 30, Tennis Channel’s typical US Open schedule features live matches daily from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (all times ET).  US Open Tonight immediately follows the conclusion of the final US Open match of the evening, and airs with encore matches until Breakfast at the Open premieres at 6 a.m. and runs next to encore matches until the start of that day’s play at 11 a.m.  During Labor Day weekend Tennis Channel’s live-match window moves to prime time, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.  As with the other three Grand Slams, Tennis Channel will combine with ESPN2 to bring fans virtually round-the-clock coverage during the US Open, each network utilizing its own commentators.

On-Air Talent

Though new to the network’s Grand Slam team, Austin has been a Tennis Channel regular via Tennis Channel Academy, the coaches-and-clinics series she has hosted since 2008.  She has also done commentary and analysis work for the channel’s coverage of top events like the women’s year-end championships.  During the US Open she will serve as Tennis Channel’s afternoon and late-match analyst, appear in short features and interact with fans on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center grounds.

A tennis prodigy, Austin is best known for dethroning four-time US Open champion Chris Evert in 1979 at the mere age of 16, making her the youngest US Open champion in history.  She was the No. 1 women’s singles player in 1980 and boasts an impressive collection of 30 singles titles, including two US Open championships along with a Wimbledon mixed doubles title.  She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

“Tennis Channel tries to put as much of the US Open on fans’ television screens as is humanly possible, and I’m thrilled to join them this year,” said Austin.  “This is an exciting time of the tennis season and this tournament has such special memories for me.”

Tennis icons Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova are back as Tennis Channel’s lead US Open analysts, again putting the all-time men’s and women’s singles titlists in the same booth.  They will be joined once more by veteran sportscaster Bill Macatee, a mainstay of the network’s Grand Slam coverage since its first effort in Paris in 2007.  Lead commentators Ted Robinson and Ian Eagle are also back on Tennis Channel’s on-air roster, as are former players Leif Shiras, Katrina Adams, Jimmy Arias, Justin Gimelstob and Corina Morariu.  Year-round Court Report anchor Cari Champion will also be on the tournament grounds for special news and feature segments.  US Open Tonight and Breakfast at the Open are hosted by Davenport and Frazier from Tennis Channel’s Los Angeles studio, with nightly Court Report segments from reporters Arlene Santana and Angela Sun.

“Grounds Pass”

After bringing its “Grounds Pass” Grand Slam coverage approach to the US Open last year for the first time, Tennis Channel is doing even more to give audiences the feel of spending a late-summer afternoon at the tournament.  New in 2010 is the “Tennis Channel Plaza,” a fixed interview and fan-interaction site centered just outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Throughout each day’s coverage Gimelstob, Champion and others will conduct interviews while surrounded by tournament ticket holders, routinely carrying on public address conversations with the crowd in the interim.  The network’s main set has been moved from the top of Louis Armstrong Stadium and brought outside to the second level of Arthur Ashe Stadium, in full view of the public.  Usually featuring Robinson and Eagle, this set will be the center point of Tennis Channel’s coverage, from here taking viewers to center court with Macatee, Connors and Navratilova; off to the outer grounds with roving reporters; and on-air analysts or anywhere between.

Broadband and Digital Coverage

What the network cannot squeeze into viewers’ television sets over the Flushing Meadow fortnight is likely to be found on Tennis Channel’s Web site, www.tennischannel.com.  Beyond real-time scoring, schedules, draws and order of play, the site will include on-court video highlights, behind-the-scenes features, interviews and Court Report news segments.  Exclusive US Open photo gallery scenes capture the raucous energy of the event, while reporter Steve Flink and humorist James LaRosa have become Tennis Channel digital favorites who will again offer their online opinions as the competition unfolds.  At the same time, Web visitors can sign up for network sweepstakes and play its “Racquet Bracket” prediction game.  Tennis Channel’s YouTube (www.youtube.com/tennischannel), Twitter (www.twitter.com/tennischannel) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/tennischannel) pages offer additional opportunities for fans to stay digitally engaged.

Tennis Channel’s Live 2010 US Open Match Schedule

Date                                        Time (ET)                   Event

Monday, Aug. 30                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round Action

Tuesday, Aug. 31                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round Action

Wednesday, Sept. 1                 11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round, Second-Round Action

Thursday, Sept. 2                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Second-Round Action

Friday, Sept. 3                         11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Second-Round, Third-Round Action

Saturday, Sept. 4                      7 p.m.-11 p.m.             Third-Round Action

Sunday, Sept. 5                        7 p.m.-11 p.m.             Third-Round, Round-of-16 Action

Tuesday, Sept. 7                      11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Round-of-16 Action, Doubles

Wednesday, Sept. 8                 11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Doubles Quarterfinals, Mixed Semifinals

Thursday, Sept. 9                     11 a.m.-8 p.m.             Doubles, Juniors, Wheelchair

Tennis Channel’s US Open Tonight, Breakfast at the Open Schedule

US Open Tonight runs evenings and mornings Monday, Aug. 30-Sunday, Sept. 12, while Breakfast at the Open will air Monday, Aug. 30-Friday, Sept. 10.  Both are interspersed with same-day, encore matches.  This year US Open Tonight will start at the conclusion of play each evening which, especially the first week, could mean well into the early morning hours.  Because of the uncertain start time for US Open Tonight, Tennis Channel’s 11 p.m.-3 a.m. schedule will vary in terms of the number of times US Open Tonight airs, as will the length of the encore match.  The schedule is generally as follows (all times ET):

11 p.m.-3 a.m. – US Open Tonight / Encore Match

3 a.m.-4 a.m. – US Open Tonight

4 a.m.-6 a.m. – Encore Match

6 a.m.-7 a.m. – Breakfast at the Open

7 a.m.-10 a.m. – Encore Match

10 a.m.-11 a.m. – Breakfast at the Open

On Friday, Sept. 10, Tennis Channel will air a four-hour special, US Open Tonight: Best of the US Open, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.  Three consecutive encore editions of this will run through 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.  From 12 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, the network will air four US Open encore matches.  During the week of Sunday, Sept. 12, Tennis Channel will run encore replays of the men’s and women’s singles and doubles finals and mixed doubles final, TBD.

Tennis Channel (www.tennischannel.com) is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle.  A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community.  It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Olympus US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup.  Tennis Channel is carried by nine of the top 10 MSOs, Verizon FiOS TV, and has a national footprint via DIRECTV and DISH Network.

Beach Tennis To Have Finals on Labor Day

New York, NY (August 10, 2009) – Beach Tennis USA® (BTUSA), the organization responsible for launching the pro sport of beach tennis in North America, will hold its 2009 National Beach Tennis Championship in Long Beach, New York on Labor Day Weekend. The National Championship tournament, which is the final event of a 10-city tour, will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 5 and 6 and will be taped for broadcast on Tennis Channel. The event site is located on the beach at Riverside Boulevard near the Boardwalk in Long Beach, New York.

This year as many as 75 Men and Women’s Pro division teams from 12 countries are expected to compete in the National Championship event. Although the defending champions, Matteo Marighella and Alex Mingozzi (Ravenna, IT) are favored to win, several teams from the U.S. and other countries are hoping to quell the Italian’s dominance in the new pro sport. One such team that looks to have the best chance to bring the title back to the US is comprised of two Californians, Marty “Kid Kodiac” Salokas and Donny “The Golden Bullet” Young, who are looking to add a National Championship to an already successful season. In the Women’s Pro Division, three-time National Champion Nadia Johnston (Long Beach, NY), will be entering into the competition with new partner Nicole Melch (Long Beach, NY) to try to reclaim her title after having lost her first National Championship title match last season to the sister team of Laura and Lisa Maloney (San Diego, CA).

The weekend-long event kicks off on Saturday, September 5 with a new addition to the beach tennis National Championship, the “Paddle Battle”. BTUSA has begun integrating the use of paddles in their competitions and are giving credence to it by pitting beach tennis veterans against one another using specially designed paddles. The Amateur and Junior Paddle Battles begin at 9:00 a.m. and are open to first-time players through intermediates.  The Men’s and Ladies Pro Divisions begin at 10:30 a.m., with the Finals of both divisions at 5:30pm and 6:30pm, respectively. To kick off the paddle version of beach tennis, BTUSA will be providing complimentary paddles for all players. As a special treat, The Pulse 87.7 FM, New York’s hottest dance music radio station, will be on hand along with Curb Records recording artist, Kaci Battaglia. The day’s events conclude with a family movie night on the beach as Beach Tennis USA and the City of Long Beach, NY sponsor the Starlight Movie Night.

On Sunday, September 6, the 2009 Beach Tennis USA Racquet matches will begin with an Amateur tournament at 9:00 a.m. Winners receive BTUSA Prize Pack & BTUSA Paddles. The Men’s and Ladies Pro Tournament will kick off at 10:00am with the Ladies and Men’s Pro Division Finals taking place at 5:30 p.m. and
6:30 p.m., respectively. To learn more about the great sport of beach tennis or to register to play, visit www.beachtennisusa.net

About Beach Tennis USA

Beach tennis, which was launched in the U.S. as a pro and recreational sport in 2005 by real estate developer Marc Altheim, combines tennis and beach volleyball into one exciting and fast-paced game. Now in its fifth season, Beach Tennis USA has garnered increased attention while hosting events throughout Florida, Southern California, South Carolina, and New York. Beach Tennis USA has also gained recognition in the tennis world, attracting many former top-rated tennis players.  The company continues to grow by adding new licensees in various U.S. cities and establishing “Team Beach Tennis,” which promotes year-round league play. To learn more about this fast-growing sport, or to learn how to join the movement, please visit www.beachtennisusa.net.

Week One US Open Stuff

The first week of the U.S. Open is almost done. Five days are in the books at Flushing Meadows.

We’ve seen our share of upsets on the women’s side while the men have held form setting up some intriguing match-ups this Labor Day weekend.

Here are some observations on what’s been a fun week of tennis in the final grand slam in NYC:

-Kudos to Melanie Oudin for upsetting No.4 seeded Russian Elena Dementieva in a thrilling second round match coming back to win in three sets against one of the WTA’s best. Lena was considered a contender and our pick to reach the final but we knew the 17 year-old Atlanta native would be a tough out. She proved to be too much as the blond haired kid showed mettle beyond her years, proving that her third round Wimbledon conquer of Jelena Jankovic was no fluke.

No doubt Oudin can play and is giving American tennis fans someone new to get excited about aside from the Williams sisters. Can she keep it going tomorrow versus former champ Maria Sharapova who’s only dropped six total games? It will be a tall order but if the three-time slam winner isn’t sharp, things could get interesting. Especially with the New Yorkers pulling for the kid. And we know one thing. They’re great fans who can always give an underdog a lift. Should make for some great watching.

-Loved the Taylor Dent-Ivan Navarro second round epic earlier tonight. This match was easily the best on the men’s side thus far as both players made it a point to get in and finish off points at the net. It made for classic tennis which we know John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors had to appreciate. You just don’t see it enough.

The 28 year-old Dent is an inspirational story having made it back from three back surgeries which at one point had him in a wheelchair wondering if he’d ever get another opportunity to play a game he loves. But the throwback serve-and-volley specialist worked extra hard when told he could comeback getting into great shape. Tonight, the heart and passion was on display as he rallied from a set down to pull out a well earned five set epic taking the final breaker 11-9. That he had to fight off a few match points before chipping a perfect backhand slice pass erupting into celebration at the old Grandstand made it even more special. This was great stuff. Both guys dug deep but a determined Dent won the four-plus hour marathon to the crowd’s delight.

All in all, a pleasure to see with both players combining for 255 times at the net with each winning a high percentage (Navarro-62 percent, Dent-69 percent). Not surprisingly along with 20 aces, Dent finished with 121 total winners compared to his game opponent’s 70. Remarkable numbers. What made it all the more great was how efficient each was. Combine high energy tennis with an electric atmosphere and it was a real treat.

Best part had to be after Dent won. It was his first time back at the Open in four years. Having missed two and a half years, he had to wonder if he’d ever make it back to his favorite grand slam event. At the match’s conclusion, after a handshake, he took the umpire’s microphone and thanked everyone for their support. After a postmatch interview with ESPN’s Pam Schriver, he then pulled a Todd Martin taking two laps around the place slapping everyone five.

Easily one of the coolest things ever. That is what makes this sport so compelling. You could feel the love just coming across the TV.

Can Dent keep it going this weekend? He didn’t exactly get a great reward drawing Andy Murray next. But the No.2 seeded Scot did go four Friday and will certainly need to be better versus a higher quality foe. The game’s best returner pitted against a classic serve and volleyer should make for a nice contrast. Figure it to be a fun watch.

-It’d be easy to get on Jankovic for bowing out early falling in a tight three to Yaroslava Shvedova. Indeed last year’s runner-up has had a rough season at the majors not making one quarterfinal. However, she just lost her grandma and that had to be extremely difficult Thursday. So, let’s cut her a break and send our best wishes.

-Keep an eye on Caroline Wozniacki. The ninth seed from Denmark entered having won in New Haven and has continued to look in top form rolling through the first couple of rounds. She could get a stiff challenge from Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. If the improving 19 year-old looker moves on, Svetlana Kuznetsova might be a fourth round opponent. Interesting considering they recently were hitting partners in Eastbourne earlier this summer as seen here.

-Can’t wait to see that Round of 16 encounter between Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. Should be a barn burner!

-Can anyone threaten Serena? She’s looking mighty tough. Don’t expect much from Daniela Hantuchova who while a steady hitter just doesn’t have enough in her arsenal.

-Give Nicolas Kiefer plenty of credit for making it a match versus Rafael Nadal tonight. Especially after getting bageled in the first set and down an early break before making things much more interesting taking the second. The third seeded Spaniard looked pretty good running down balls but he can elevate his game a couple of notches and will have to. That anticipated fourth rounder against flying Frenchman Gael Monfils would be fun.

-We like what we’ve seen from Andy Roddick but now it gets more challenging as he’ll see giant American server John Isner later today. If he gets through that, then it’s either Tommy Haas or Fernando Verdasco. So, it sure won’t be easy.

-Some other good matches to check out include emerging Sam Querrey taking on Robin Soderling and James Blake battles Tommy Robredo. There also will be a former final when Roger Federer faces old nemesis Lleyton Hewitt. Can the gritty Aussie vet push the five-time defending champ?

Tomas Berdych also plays Fernando Gonzalez this weekend and Juan Carlos Ferrero takes on Gilles Simon in France versus Spain. It’s interesting to note that for the first time ever in the Open Era, all top 16 men’s seeds remain alive. By weekend’s conclusion with Fall around the corner, some of those will be gone.

One of the best weekends of the year.