Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – Monaco Wins Fourth Title Of Year; Peya/Soares Win Doubles

Singles – Final
[2] J Monaco (ARG) d [7] J Benneteau (FRA) 75 46 63

Doubles – Final
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) 57 75 10-7

WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID

Monaco: “I think we played a great match, with a lot of ups and downs. I got a little nervous when I had chances, but I never gave up, particularly in the 12th game of the first set. He surprised me a little bit with his comeback in the second set. In the final set, I knew I had to be more aggressive and I am happy the way I finished the match.
“I’d like to relax now and enjoy the victory. It isn’t easy to win tournaments, but I will focus on the next challenge and go to Tokyo tomorrow. It has been nice to be in this city and win the trophy. It feels very good. When I win a title, I think of my family and my team, as they believe in me, they have supported me and we have worked hard to win tournaments.”

Benneteau: “I was very focused on this game, because I wanted to win this final. The fans were great; there was a lot of French in the crowd. It was a nice atmosphere and the game was a good level.”

Soares: “It feels very nice. Every title is very good, really special; a different story and different atmosphere. It is only our fourth tournament, so it feels really good. This week was special, because we felt we were playing better with each match.”

Peya: “We are starting to click more as a team, also on our off days as we work on our games. It paid off this week. We enjoyed the tournament a lot, it was a lot of fun.”

A New Lease on Life For Blake

FLUSHING MEADOWS – James Blake knows the time was coming and now, he is hearing it.

He’s become the old man of the tournament at the tender age of 32.

And those young ones are letting him hear about, every single time he plays.

“I have been that way for a while,” Blake said after he sent Lucas Lacko packing in four sets, 7-5 6-2 3-6 6-3 for his first Grand Slam win of the year.  “The thing is I knew I was going to get them, because when I was a kid starting out around here I dished them out.  So I knew they would come back to haunt me.

“I remember I used to make fun of Todd Martin.  Todd Martin was one of my key guys I would get.  I made fun of him for taking so long to warm up, for his gray hair, for all that kind of stuff, for just in general being old.

“He said, Just wait, just wait.  You will be, too.  Now I’m getting it from everyone.  I deserve it, because if I dish it out, I’ve got to be able to take it.  I’m getting the old jokes, the grandpa jokes, and I’m okay with that.”

Even with his advanced ago, grandpa…err.. Blake, may have a chance of advancing pretty far this Open. His knee is healed and he says he is the healthiest he has been this decade.

“My knee was giving me problems for a while and I didn’t bring it up a lot,” he said.  “I didn’t want to talk about it because it was something that would nag at me.  Then it would go, I could be okay for half a match, and then it starts getting worse.  Then I know the next day is going to be terrible.

“It just eventually got to a point where I couldn’t even make it through a match and it got worse and worse.  Eventually the only option was surgery. It was a while, but I kind of battled with that and it feels good.”

And now he is ready for the 2012 Open. Blake is still obviously a long shot. He is a long way from being No. 4 in the world. But this is the tournament that pumps him up. Being from Yonkers, Blake considers this his hometown tournament and tries to play his best tennis at Flushing Meadows.

“It’s a good feeling,” he said.  “You know, every time I come back here it’s still sort of the goosebumps walking out on Louis Armstrong or Arthur Ashe.  I’m excited, and I get a lot of ticket requests.  I get to see my fans and friends having a good time.  That definitely keeps my spirits up, keeps my head up throughout the whole match.

“You know, I can’t believe that it’s been I think 12 years I have been playing here just about every year.  You know, it still doesn’t feel normal.  It’s still an incredible feeling to be here and to be doing what I dreamed of as a kid.”

He has a new sponsor in Travis Matthew and a new outlook on life with a young daughter. He looks thinker and ready, something the Slovak Lacko found out today.

But still, it’s a long shot and for Blake to make any kind of noise, he needs to take it the proverbial one match at a time.

“Well, you know, for me, I think I need to get there,” he said. “I need to worry about one match at a time.  I can’t worry about quarters or semis or finals right now.

“I’m still kind of scratching to get through these matches and get my confidence back and feel like I’m ready to compete.  I don’t think that will change if I’m playing someone that’s 1, 2, or 3 in the world.

“I have been fortunate enough.  I am an elder statesman.  I have been around and have won a lot of matches.  I have beaten guys 1 in the world, I’ve beaten guys that are top 3, top 4, top 5 plenty of times.  There is no reason for me to go out there and play one of those guys and be scared.

“I think it will take an unbelievable effort.  I will have to play my best tennis.”

Maybe he will endure a few more grandpa jokes over the next few weeks.

 

 

Q & A With Rafael Nadal

Q.  What are your thoughts about being here during a hurricane, and how will you spend your time?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t know what’s going on, I think.  Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, no?

But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed, so not much.  Just stay in the hotel.  Maybe watch some films.  But we will see what’s going on.  I never had an experience with a hurricane.  Is something new.

I think is very bad for the city, for the weekend, for everybody.  But, you know, that’s a new experience, and not enjoyable experience, but we know how is when is hurricane.

 

Q.  How are the fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Much better.  I am able to practice with normal conditions.

 

Q.  Bandages?  No bandages or anything?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Bandages, yes.  The skin is still very thin, but it’s fine.

 

Q.  A lot of people have said you’ve been stymied, you’ve been flummoxed by Djokovic this season.  I mean, do you feel like if you possibly meet him in the US Open this week or next week that you have good chance against him?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am here.  You know, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic.  I have to win a lot to play Djokovic.  And probably him, too.  He’s not in the final yet.

I am focused on try to play well and try to have very good practice this week.  That’s what I am doing.  And the good chances against Djokovic, those chances always depends how I am playing, how he’s playing.  Not talking about here, talking in general.

After we will see, no?  I think I played a fantastic year this year.  I had a lot of victories all the year; I am not happy about how I played against him.

 

Q.  Could you talk about exactly what happened to your fingers?  You got burned in Cincinnati at some restaurant, right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Yeah, I get burned in a Japanese restaurant.  Probably, you know, the Teppanyaki grill was there, probably the plate.  When I arrived at the restaurant the plate was there, so probably the plate stayed there for a long time.  Not inside the grill.  Something like this away to the grill.

You know, when they put the food, I tried to put the plate closer to me and was obviously very hot.  (Smiling.)

Q.         So your pointing finger and two fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Two fingers.

 

Q.  Can you tell us a little bit about this book?  Was it important for you to do something like this?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, it is something that we decided to do.  Was the really first autobiography I was able to do.  Was a good opportunity to work with John Carlin.  We had a very good feeling together.  He speaks in Spanish, too, so it makes a little bit easier everything to talk about the emotion and to talk about, you know…

I think it was a fantastic experience.  I talk a long time with him and remember a lot of things that you normally usually don’t think about the past, no?  So when you start to talk you remember, yeah, few moments of your career, few moments when you were a kid.  Was interesting and I had fun, and hopefully the book will like to the people.

 

Q.  In the book where you talk about your parents’ separation, it seemed like it came out of the blue for you, that you did not realize that they were having any troubles.  Is that right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I didn’t understand that very well.

(Translation.)  You know, what happened there was ‑‑ but in the book ‑‑ I never talk about my personal things in the press, but, you know, all the changes in your life needs a little bit of time.  That’s what happened.

So after a little bit of time I was perfect, but, you know, at the beginning it’s tough.  But, you know, I am not the only one who has the parents divorcing in one moment of my life.  Only thing is that Mallorca the family is very important, you are very close of the people that your friends, your family.  So any change in this part, these people close to you, affects you, no?

That’s happened.  That’s past.

 

Q.  I understand how it affected you.  What I don’t understand is how you did not see problems between your mother and father.  You did not notice problems between your mom and dad?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I know the problems, but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don’t want to talk about that now.

 

Q.  How does it feel to come here after having you won it last year?  Do you see the tournament different?  Is it less pressure because you won it once?

RAFAEL NADAL:  The emotions probably are a little bit different, because when you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher.  Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four.  Was very, very nice moment of my career, one of the biggest moments of my career.  That makes the comeback a little more special.

But if we talk about the goal, is the same.  Play well, try to arrive to the final rounds.  That’s the same, no?

Pressure?  I don’t feel extra pressure.  I am happy about how I did.  I didn’t play very well during the summer, but I am practicing much better here.  So we’ll see.

 

Q.  Have you been surprised this year by the turnaround, where before it was you and Roger for so long at the top, and now all of a sudden ‑ Djokovic didn’t come out of nowhere, but he really has jumped up very quickly this year.  Have you been surprised by that change?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Djokovic didn’t arrive this year, no?

 

Q.  But he was not playing at the level that you were…

RAFAEL NADAL:  He was No. 3 of the world for three years.  That’s not bad.

 

Q.  But he only won one slam.

RAFAEL NADAL:  Only one, and most of the people never won one.

For me is a little bit strange about the people here from tennis talks about Djokovic, about his big new improvement.  Djokovic was here before, no?  Djokovic played fantastic before.  He had fantastic potential to be where he is today.

He’s doing great.  He’s playing without injuries.  He’s playing very solid, the mental, the tennis.  What he’s doing is something very difficult to repeat.

For me surprise?  I think for everybody surprise see a player that he’s not losing.  He’s only lost two matches during all the year.  For everybody surprising, but for me is no surprise that Djokovic is No. 1.  For me is not a surprise that Djokovic is able to win Grand Slams, because he’s very good.

That’s not from six months ago.

 

Q.  Two questions:  One, you’re 25 years old.  Does it feel strange to have a book about your life at 25?  And second, you seem like generally a pretty private person.  What did you want to tell?  What did you want to accomplish with this book?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am lucky.  25 years old and I enjoyed a lot of experiences in my life.  You never know if you can have another book in the future, but I felt it’s a good time to have that one.

Is a little bit of the history of my life.  Is a little bit of the history how I am where I am today.  Just open a little bit more of my life to them, to the fans, to the people who support me, the people who are interested about me.

For me, you know, now I am a little bit more open with the fans with the Twitter with the Facebook, and now with the book.  So I am trying to be more connected with them, and that’s probably a good way to do it.

Maria Sharapova Transcript

Q.  How do you feel going into this tournament winning in Cincinnati?  Must have given you a lot of confidence.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I came into Cincinnati, you know, asking to play a lot of matches for myself, as many as I could at that tournament.

It was great to win the tournament.  I beat some really good opponents, played some good matches.  You know, the final was a little whacky, but I just managed to win that one.

Yeah, it’s great.  Obviously coming into the Open it’s great to have a title under your belt.

 

Q.  How different are you this year compared to last year at the same time for the US Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m seeded higher.  I’ve won two titles this year.  You know, I feel like my tennis is at a much better level than it was last year.  Yeah, I’m a better player, definitely.

 

Q.  How do you expect to deal with the expected hurricane in the next 24 hours?  What are your plans and what are your thoughts about being here for this?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m a Florida girl so I’m used to this stuff.  (Laughter.)

I think everyone’s a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that.  But, I mean, where are we gonna go?  All hundreds of us?

So I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy, you know.  That’s all we can do, right?

 

Q.  What do you know about Heather Watson?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Not too much.  I’ve never played her before.  I saw a little bit of her matches in the past I think at Wimbledon her first rounds.  Yeah, she’s someone that’s up and coming, and those are sometimes dangerous because they’re quite fearless when they go on the court, don’t have much to lose.

It’s not too often that you play an opponent you haven’t played against before, so, yeah, it’s not an easy first round.

 

Q.  You had experience of that obviously at Wimbledon against another British youngster in Laura Robson.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Uh‑huh.

 

Q.  Sort of a similar situation?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I guess, but they’re two different players.

 

Q.  In the (Head) advertising you were on the court with Djokovic or it’s…

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah.  I was there watching it happen.

 

Q.  You always say you enjoy the process, but now that the process is paying off, where is your level of enjoyment in competing right now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re winning more matches, that’s for sure.

Actually it’s a lot easier to go out on the practice court.  I mean, even when you take a few losses it’s a little bit easier to shrug them off because you know you have that level.  You just need maybe sometimes a little time or just a few things to click to get it back.

Whereas when you haven’t had it for a while, you kind of are trying to find it, trying to find it.  You play one good match, and then, Do I have it now?  Do I feel it?  It’s definitely different.

 

Q.  Coming to a tournament now, fourth seed, obviously people think you’re one of the favorites here.  Do you feed off that?  Does it give you confidence coming into a tournament like this?  Do you feel a bit more pressure now that you’ve got more of an X on your back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, to be honest, I have been seeded a lot lower and I’ve still been one of the favorites, so it’s not anything new for me that people expect me to do well.

 

Q.  How do you look back now on your run to the final at Wimbledon?  What do you come out of that tournament with?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, my opponent played a really unbelievable match.  You know, I had my chances, and it’s quite important in tennis to take them.  She was able to find an answer, you know, in things that I kind of challenged her with.

It was a really great match for her at a big stage.  That’s the only way you can really look at it.

 

Q.  She hasn’t had a great summer since then.  Is that pretty normal when you come off a great breakthrough win like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, it’s not easy, that’s for sure, especially after your first one, definitely.

Yeah, I think she’s a good enough player to find her form back here.

 

Q.  In all the time since your shoulder problems, how would you compare how you feel now with the process which was discussed earlier?  Getting over that, the surgery, everything till now, what is your feeling now compared to all the times since then?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s just great to still be a tennis player.  I’ve said this many times.  I’m very fortunate to do what I do, obviously, to do it at a high level and to win tournaments and to win big matches obviously.

It gives you tremendous amount of confidence and delight that the work you’ve put in, you know, is paying off.  It’s the time that you spend away from the courts, the time that people don’t see what you put into the sport of trying to get back there.  Just to play a match, and then do it over and over again, not many people experience that feeling, see it.

So to be able to prove to yourself that you’ve put in that work and there you are at that stage again, giving yourself these opportunities to win Grand Slams again, it’s a good feeling.

 

Q.  But your level of play now and your level of confidence, how would you compare it with all the time since your shoulder problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I just feel like this year I’ve improved.  Last year I felt like I would play a couple good matches and then I’d play a bad match.  I didn’t have that sense of consistency, and that’s something I felt like something that has changed this year.

 

Q.  Do you have any memories of working out with Freddy Adu at IMG?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No.

 

Q.  Somebody was doing something on him and said you guys might have crossed paths for a couple weeks.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think we worked out at the same facility in Florida, but I don’t think I’ve ever ‑‑ I mean, I sure hope I wasn’t doing a soccer workout.

 

Q.  Just one of those questions we needed to ask.  Were you in the city at all this morning?  Could you characterize the mood here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  This morning?

 

Q.  Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I left pretty early.  I left at 8:00 a.m., so I’m not really sure if everyone was sleeping in New York on a Saturday morning or if it’s the hurricane effect.  But it was pretty quiet.

 

Q.  You were talking about your chances and things like that.  When you see the news that somebody like a Kim Clijsters is not playing, what goes through your mind?  Do you feel like it opens up another alley?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I can’t really think like that.  I don’t think that’s a mindset of a winner, to be honest.  You’ve got to be ready to face anyone at any given moment.  It’s obviously unfortunate that she can’t come back as a defending champion.

But on the other hand, you know, she is the one that has the memory of holding up that trophy last year.  It’s I have been in that position before.  It’s definitely tough, there is no doubt about it, to not be able to defend such a big title.  It’s sometimes the adversity that we’re faced with.

Caroline Big Under the Sunshine (With A Great Dress Too)

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The only thing brighter than Caroline Wozniacki’s game today may have been her dress. The exclusive adidas design features a florescent yellow inseam to go with it more earth tone appeal.

“Well, I’m so lucky that I am the face of adidas and Stella McCartney and I have my own special line that no one else is wearing,” Wozniacki said.  “I think that’s really nice. For me it’s important to feel good on court and of course to look good.  Then I can focus on my tennis at 100%.”

Of course, the size of the dress is something that has turned a few heads, which is a big tight compared to other outfits.

“I think it’s nice.  I definitely am sure I’ll get a lot of male fans now,” she laughed.

Actually Wozniacki could have worn a burqa out there and still turned won over fans after beating Maria Sharapova, 6-3 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals. The 20 year old showed tremendous confidence on the court and fought back her toughest challenge to date.

“I was going out there and I knew I could win,” said Wozniacki, who now improves to 19-1 since Wimbledon.  “But I knew it was going to be tough.  I knew that I had to fight for every point.  I knew that she wasn’t going to go away.  I knew she was going to hang in there and keep fighting till the end.”

The No. 14 seed may have fought, but she made just too many mistakes today. With 36 unforced errors, 9 double faults and a putrid 1-8 on breakpoints, Sharapova essentially made it easy for Wozniacki.

“Against someone that’s playing really well, playing with a lot of confidence, it’s really important to take those chances that you have, the very few that come your way,” she said. “I felt like I played a couple of good points and then, you know, make an easy error, hit a return long or miss a first serve, give her many looks at second‑serve returns.  You know, didn’t feel like I put much pressure on her.

The biggest fight in the match came in the first set after Wozniacki went up 4-1. Sharapova raged back to bring the set back on serve with the Russian serving to tie it up, but the Dane was able to the break the 2006 Champion back and went on cruise control from there.

No matter what Sharapova tried to do, Wozniacki had an answer. When she won a few points with the light lob to bring her opponent in from the baseline, the winner of the Pilot Pen Championship was able to have an answer.

And even when she fell down, Sharapova wouldn’t capitalize, by shooting the ball over the line.

“Well, you know, at first I was like, Okay, I should have hit that first shot better,” Wozniacki said.  “But then I was, Okay, I’m at the net.  Then I see her lobbing me.  Okay, I have to go back.  Then I fall on my butt.  I’m like, Okay, well, tough luck, I lost this point.  Then I look back, and I couldn’t see whether it was in and out.  Then I look at the linesman, I see it’s out.  I’m like, Okay, I was pretty lucky.

“You know, I thought it was quite funny, too.”

But to Sharapova this was no laughing matter, as the former champion apparently still have a ways to go before she can get back to the top.

Today was just another step.

“Obviously, losing a match, 30 minutes later, you’re not the happiest person in the world,” said Sharapova who now falls to 12-15 since Wimbledon. “But at the end of the day, I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, but it’s a tennis match.  You’ve just got to look back at the match and what you should have done differently, what you need to work on.”

Tearful Murray Accepts Loss

During the past two weeks, Andy Murray has played the best tennis of his life. On a roll, it looked like nothing could stop him.

Then he ran into Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.

And much like the last Grand Slam final when they met back in Flushing Meadows in 2008, the Scot was not match for the Swiss Master, losing in straight sets, 3-6 4-6 6-7 (11-13).

“Tonight’s match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows,” Murray said. “You know, like I say, I had a chance at the beginning of the match, and I had chances, you know, at the end of the match.

“It’s just the second set that didn’t go my way. Not that any of them went my way. But obviously I felt like I had opportunities in the rest of them.

Yeah, I mean, obviously I’m getting closer. I mean, my results in the Grand Slams would show that. Just got to keep working hard.”

Even with the loss, Murray is still one of the rise stars on the tour. As a top rated Brit, the eyes of the United Kingdom are on him and is followed around like a rock star in his homeland.

All of this doesn’t make life easy for 22 year-old and after the last night’s match, he was in tears.

“I don’t feel great,” he said. “You know, obviously worked really hard, you know, to get to this stage. I wanted to win the tournament. You know, I think it was more the way the end of the match finished. You know, obviously it was pretty emotional end to the match.

“If it was a complete blow‑out, if I lost 3, 4, and 2, you know, it probably wouldn’t have happened. But I had my chance to get back into the match. That was probably why I was upset.”

One day, Murray will win a major, and it could come in the most unlikely of places. He’s not the biggest fan of the clay courts, and of course there’s Wimbledon which would not just make him popular, but the greatest British hero since Winston Churchill.

And maybe that’s what makes it so hard for Murray, since the pressure from back home is so great as the UK years for their own major tennis champ.

“It didn’t feel it on the court,” he said. “You know, you get a lot of good luck messages. You know, everyone wishing you well from back home. You know, that’s obviously nice.

“Once you get on the court, it’s not what you’re thinking about at all. And then obviously after the match, you know, I would have liked to have done it for everyone back home, you know, won the tournament. Obviously for myself and for the people I work with as well.

“But it wasn’t to be.”

Eventually, though, he will make his breakthrough. Although Federer is still in his prime, Murray has time to catch up. And that’s what keeps driving the Scotchman.

“I’m hungry to win one,” Murray said. “I haven’t since I was 16, 17 years old when I started playing the junior Grand Slams. You know, I realized I wanted to win one of them, you know, when I was playing.

“Like I say, I worked really, really hard to try to do it and give myself the opportunity. You know, so far it’s not been good enough.

“But I’m sure one day, it will be. When it comes, maybe because of the two losses, it will be even better.”

A Tougher Wickmayer In Melbourne

If Yanina Wickmayer was a feel good story at the US Open, then in Melbourne, she should be a sentimental favorite.

After serving about a little over two months of a year-long suspension for failing to fill out her whereabouts to the Flemish anti-doping tribunal, the 20 year-old was able to get back on the court when her appeal was upheld.

Yet, it meant she had to qualify for the Australian Open, something the “tougher” Wickmayer did with ease.

“Well, I’m 16 in the world, so I think I should be main draw,” said Wickmayer after she won her first round match against Alexandra Dulgheru, 1-6 7-5, 10-8. “I mean, I’ve asked myself that question a lot of times. I knew I was going to have to play quallies. I knew it a couple of weeks before, so I could prepare myself for the qualifying matches, which was, in a way, positive. I knew I was going to play them and I could prepare myself mentally.

“Had a great preparation in Auckland and was playing well. I had a good few matches here. I rather had them in Sydney, but I had them here. When I played them, I really enjoyed being on court, and I just played my matches the way I wanted to play them. It all came out good. “

Things were going so well for Wickmayer in Flushing, losing in the Semifinals to Caroline Wozniacki and she was only going to get better.

Then October happened and she was given a one-year suspension because the Belgium native failed to fill out the whereabouts forms online, which she said was because the anti-doping tribunal failed to provide her with the password.

Yet, she appealed her suspension – along with Xavier Malisse, who also got a year for the same reason – and it was overturned in December.

Every positive, Wickmayer sees this as a growing experience.

“You know, it was a tough time,” she said. “I’ve been through a tough time. It was tough for me not knowing when I was going to play again, not knowing what the future will bring.

“But I kept on practicing, working hard, and trying to put a goal for myself. I was really happy to be back on court. I had a great week last week, won my first title of the year, and played some great matches in the qualifying, which I really enjoyed playing.

“It was tough, but I think it made me strong. Yeah, it made me a little tougher maybe. Today was a tough fight again. It’s only good mentally to get stronger and get tougher also as a person and an athlete. It just makes you stronger.”

She will need her new found strength to get through this Open. Even though a top 16 player, as a Wild Card, she will get some tough draws early on, with No. 12 seed Flavia Pennetta up next in the second round.

Yet, Wickmayer is just happy to be on the court, especially as a Non-Australian qualifier.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen when I got suspended,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be here. But then when I hear I could play again, I got a wild card in Auckland, which was great. Those people gave me the chance to compete again. That was great.

“And I understand in a Grand Slam it’s really hard to get a wild card. I asked for it, but I understand that that’s really hard for a tournament director to give a wild card to a non‑Australian player. So I accepted I had to play quallies.

“I think for me mentally, yeah, it was good playing them. I got a little stronger, a little tougher mentally. I think it’s going to serve me well in the future.”

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.

Wickmayer Enters The Radar

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the press Melanie Oudin received at this Open, Yanina Wickmayer has flown under the radar.

Yet, like her American counterpart, this Belgian has surprised everyone at Flushing Meadows and now is on the verge of the Finals.

“It has surprised me in one way,” she said. I have been feeling really well the last few weeks. I’ve been playing a couple of great matches, and I’m really playing under a lot of confidence.

“So coming here I was feeling pretty good, and physically and mentally I was feeling really strong. So the first couple of matches, yeah, of course you’re always a little bit surprised of winning great matches in a Grand Slam.

“For sure if it’s the first great Grand Slam you’ve played, because before this my best result was second round. So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually, I’ve been staying pretty calm. I’ve worked really hard for this.”

She defeated Kateryna Bondarenko today, 7-5, 6-2, to earn a date with Caroline Wozniacki. The 19 year-old is very confident, mainly because the bad bounces are now going her way.

“The last couple of weeks I lost some tight matches to the top players,” she said. I lost 6-4 in the third, 7-6 in the third. So it was always like those few key points that I lost.

“I guess now those key points I just feel more concentrated physically and mentally. I feel stronger on the court. I’m sure that those two points has helped me a lot this few weeks.”

It’s been a long road for Wickmayer, who moved to the United States to learn at the Saddlebrook Academy back in 1999. Her mother Daniella passed away from cancer and she convinced her grieving father Marc to move away from Belgium and her family.

“I lost her in ’99, and I just started playing tennis a few weeks or a few months before that just to get my mind off things,” she said. “I guess I just decided as a little girl to get away from home and put my memories and thoughts to something else, so we moved to Florida just to, yeah, my dad and me, just to get things off, just to, yeah, focus ourself on other things in life and try to move on.”

And move on she has. Although she will never forget her mother, the bond she developed with her father is unbreakable. Wickmayer now is realizing her dream. Never past the second round before – she made it past the first at Roland Garros this year – the young rising star is now on the verge of the spotlight.

How she will shine is anyone’s guess, but Wickmayer is ready for Wozniacki, a person she played back in juniors.

“I’ve not really watched her play a lot, so I’m going to watch a little bit on TV today,” she said. “But like I said before, every match I play, I just go on the court and play my own game.

“Sometimes I’ll adjust a little bit during my match, but not really a lot. I just go out there, have fun, and do everything I can.”

Ivanovic Ends Her Open Early The Second Year In A Row

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – First for the good news: Ana Ivanovic has plenty of time this year to shop on Fifth Avenue and take in the sights and sounds of New York City.

And now for the bad: This is the second year in a row, she became a tourist after in the first week.

Much like last year the 21 year-old former No. 1 took an early exit at the US Open, this time losing to  52 ranked Kateryna Bondarenko in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (7).

“I created a lot of chances for myself,” Ivanovic said. “I’m really disappointed that I made a few mistakes in the important moments and my forehand let me down on a few occasions and obviously it hurts.

And it hurts her in the rankings as well. Last year, she was the No. 1 seed and in 2009 she fell to spots to No. 11. This Open is the cumulation of a bad year for the Serbian who just really couldn’t put it all together.

“I think it’s been, you know, as much as it hurts and was disappointing, you know, times so far, I feel I learned a lot from it,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself and you know, people around me and about what I have to do and in order to become a better player, because there was a point that, you know, I really trusted the team around me, so I didn’t question many things that were happening.

“Many times, you know, I didn’t know why I was doing certain things. So now we have, with the changes that happened, I’m more aware of certain things and more aware of the things that helped me get better. That’s obviously really good things.

“Now I know for myself what’s going to help me to improve, and you know, what kind of work it’s going to help me, rather than just rely 100% on a coach, because many times they can’t feel – all the time they can’t feel what I feel. That’s one thing that I feel I learned in last month or two.”

This time she lost top Bondarenko, who was nursing a “strained muscle” in her upper left leg, which she injured playing in Toronto. “She was wearing a wrap all game and it looked like it was aggravated by the end the match.

“It started to hurt more,” Bondarenko said. “Before the match it was okay but by the end it was more.”

Ironically as the match went on Ivanovic was the one that faltered. She won the first set 6-2, but then dropped the second 6-3. The Serbian was able to come back being down in the third to force a tie breaker, but could not withstand the Ukrainian’s will and determination.

“You know, 6-5 in the third and deuce I believe and  I played great and set myself up and made the mistake, in the net every time,” said Ivanovic who is now 24-13 this year.  “It’s a little frustrating. And then on match point, maybe it was wrong shot. Also, a few times I think I made a wrong shot selection, as well.

“Just also a little bit to do with confidence, just some of the shots I think weren’t the right shots but were not really coming. That was really frustrating.”

Now she will have some time to think about it and maybe take in the sights and sounds of New York. And don’t worry, after last year, Ivanovic knows the good places.