Knee Ends Wozniacki’s Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In the pale moonlight over Louis Armstrong Stadium, the sunset for Sunshine at the US Open.

Caroline Wozniacki was sent home after a first round defeat to Irina –Cameila Begu 2-6 2-6. In a stunning loss where the former US Open runner-up was favoring her right knee.

“You know, you always want to go in and do your best no matter what’s happening out there,” she said.  “I tried.  I didn’t succeed to play well.  I didn’t play particularly well, made too many errors.

“You know, it’s unfortunate because it’s a huge tournament, a tournament you want to play well in.”

With her right knee tightly wrapped, Wozniacki couldn’t muster her usual baseline speed that makes her so dangerous. She was at the Romanian’s mercy as she couldn’t catch-up to the baseline shots.

“I haven’t really had a machine out there measuring,” Wozniacki said. “I definitely felt like I couldn’t hit through her today and I couldn’t hit past her like I wanted to.  When she had the opportunity, she went in and finished off the point.”

During the second set and down a break, Wozniacki brought out the medical trainer to check and re-wrap her knee. It really didn’t help as Begu was able to break her later in the set and Wozniacki couldn’t do anything on the return service.

And that makes for the first major upset of the Open. A mainstay in the second week, Wozniacki will be missed. Even though she was seeded eighth this year, her lowest since 2009, she did have the star power to make it through the first week.

Now she goes home early wondering what’s next.

“You know, the year’s not done yet,” Wozniacki said.  “Obviously definitely the Grand Slams this year hasn’t been great.  You know, after the year is finished you can evaluate you can see what was good and wasn’t so good, yeah, work from there.”

“I still have plenty of years in me.  Hopefully I can just turn it around and play even better.”

If her knee heals, she probably can.

Blake Storms Into Third Round With Impressive Win

James Blake has delivered dazzle and disappointment in some enthralling New York nights. Honored on opening night at the US Open earlier this week, he’s heard the whispers wondering if this might be his Flushing Meadows Farewell. But dancing on his toes behind the baseline tonight like a boxer eager to beat his opponent to the punch in an entertaining brawl, Blake showed he still knows how to throw a block party and brought a few thousand of his fans along for another memorable ride.

Exhorting the fans inside Louis Armstrong Stadium with the wave of his hand, Blake drew a double fault from a rattled Peter Polansky to break serve then put the hammer down in closing a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 crowd-pleasing win to surge into the US Open third round tonight.

The Yonkers, N.Y. has spent part of his injury-ravaged season fielding questions about his future, but showed he still has juice left in his 30-year-old legs and plenty of lightning in his electric forehand in reaching the third round for the eighth straight time.

Based on the way Blake worked the crowd into a rousing state it looked like he spent some of his Wednesday evening watching good friend and former Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick lose focus over a foot fault call in the third set and ultimately fall in four to Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

A cranky Roddick did not engage a crowd eager to impose itself in that match. Blake wisely broke down the barrier between athlete and audience tonight in bouncing in exuberance on his toes, waving the fans on as the 205th-ranked Canadian qualifier stepped up to serve down break point at 4-all.

The crowd responded with a roar, Polansky’s right arm tightened slightly and he sent a double fault beyond the service box as Blake broke for 5-4.

“People  say I’ve been struggling and everything, but I’m still having fun. I’m still having a great time competing,” Blake said. “I still love what I do. Our here, I love it even more.”

As a kid, Blake and older brother Thomas, who was in the support box, tried sneaking into the Open. He needed a wild card to gain entry into his 10th Open and the 108th-ranked Blake played with the passion of a man eager to extend his stay for at least another couple of days.

Hobbled by a right knee injury that sidelined him for two months, caused his ranking to plummet to outside the top 100 for the first time in five years, Blake has looked distracted and disconnected at times this year.

Returning to the place where he’s produced some of his most memorable tennis, Blake regained the buzz in his game and reconnected with the fans all too eager to show their support. The result was Blake turning a two-man competition into a festive match in which he fed off the crowd participation.

“When I have the fans behind me, they helped me get through that at the end,” Blake said. “I’m going to show some emotion out there and try to get the fans involved. I’m going to do my best. That’s what they can expect from me.”

Of course, working in concert with the crowd to dispatch a qualifier playing in his first Grand Slam main draw appearance is one thing, can Blake lift both his level of play and the fans along with him in a potential third-round clash against third-seeded Novak Djokovic?

“I would expect it to be a pretty good match,” Blake said. “He has one of the more underrated serves in the game. He’s got a great service motion, a great serve, one of the best backhands in the game. His movement is unbelievable. I’m going to have to play well, that’s for sure.”

Blake can still unload on his mammoth forehand that sometimes comes off his strings sounding as if its hit with all the force of a steel door slamming shot.  But he will be up against one of the best athletes and hard-court movers in the sport in Djokovic, who induces errors out of opponents with his ability to transition from defense to offense and run down virtually any shot. Djokovic is a more consistent player, which puts more pressure on Blake to squeeze shots closer to the lines in a search for open space.

“If I got out there and I start dictating, I feel like I have a good shot,” Blake said. “But there’s also a good shot that he comes out and plays great tennis and proves why he’s No. 3 in the world right now. But it will be on Ahse Stadium. I think I’ll have pretty good crowd support. Hopefully, I can come up with some of my best as I’ve been known to do before.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

No Oudin Run In 2010

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Melanie Oudin turned her back to the court, faced the blue back wall and stared at her Wilson racquet as if searching the strings for solutions to the problems posed by Alona Bondarenko. Oudin mastered the art of the comeback during her rousing run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals, but the resignation on her face in the final game today revealed a woman well aware Cinderella stories only come once in a career.

This time, the ferocious forehand was weighted with worry, the “courage” emblazoned on her shoes contrasted with the concern on her face and the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium waited for a moment that never came.

The 29th-seeded Bondarenko ran off 10 consecutive points to send Oudin out of the US Open second round, 6-2, 7-5.

Oudin conceded she felt a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.

“I think the nerves got the best of me today a little bit, especially in the first set,” Oudin said.  “Second set I started playing a lot better, making the points a little bit longer. But, yeah, the first set definitely like the crowd was like really, really loud.  It was just like a lot. The second I got out there, I guess it kind of overwhelmed me a little bit, so.”

On match point, Oudin pushed a running backhand down the line wide, looked down with vacant eyes then walked to the net to shake hands as the crowd, which was nearly mute during the final two games, offered appreciative applause.

The 18-year-old Oudin, who made “believe” her personal mantra in etching the word on her adidas in playing with resolve and resilience at the ’09 Open, snapped a four-match losing streak in her first-round win over 143rd-ranked qualifier Olga Savchuk. But she has not beaten a top-30 ranked opponent since scoring three consecutive comeback wins over Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova at the Open last year and could not hold off the 33rd-ranked Bondarenko today.

A nervous Oudin could not find her first serve at 5-all in the second set. She slapped her forehand into the net, netted a backhand down the line and missed another forehand before lofting a running lob long to drop serve at love.

Oudin won just eight of 25 points played on her second serve. Unable to break Bondarenko down in baseline rallies, Oudin began to play closer to the lines.

“I mean, it’s tough coming back, especially after like the US Open I had last year, coming back and expecting to do that well again,” Oudin said. “And, yes, the expectations for me I think from like the fans were extremely high.  You could tell by the crowd.  Even the second I walked out there, people like expected me to win again like last year.”

Tennis is all about adjustments and opponents have learned that Oudin thrives off pace, particularly to her forehand. She has worked with coach Brian de Villiers to move forward in the court on her terms, but at 5-feet-6 Oudin does not have a lot of sting on her serve and her reach can be exposed when opponents draw her into net with short slices.

Oudin is at her best when she’s running around her backhand and hammering her favored forehand, but Bondarenko refused to let Oudin find her comfort zone in the final stages of the match.

The match showed Oudin’s game is still very much a work in progress and she views every match as another credit course on the learning curve that is the pro circuit.

Five minutes after her post-match press conference concluded, a relieved Oudin was on the receiving end of a hug from her younger brother as they walked down the hallway inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I guess I’m a little tiny bit relieved now,” Ouudin said. “I can kind of start over, I guess like start over from all the expectations from like last year.  And now I can just go out and hopefully do really well the rest of the year and keep working hard.”

Her US Open dream may be over for this year, but Oudin is still part of the tournament, playing mixed doubles with Ryan Harrison.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

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.

The History of Grand Slams On Exhibit at the Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the live tennis going on at the US Open, some of the attractions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are often overlooked.

Yet, every fan needs to check out the US Open Gallery in Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Run by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, this year’s exhibit is entitled “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Achievement” and showcases the winners of the four majors in a calendar year.

According to the press release, “These stories include singles (Don Budge, 1938; Maureen Connolly, 1953; Rod Laver 1962 and 1969; Margaret Court Smith, 1970; and Steffi Graf, 1988), doubles (Frank, Sedgman and Ken McGregor, 1951; Maria Bueno, 1960; Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, 1984; and Martina Hingis, 1998), mixed doubles (Margaret Smith and Ken Fletcher, 1963; Margaret Smith, 1965; Owen Davidson, 1967), and junior singles level (Stefan Edberg, 1983).

In the exhibit you will find an explanation of the four tournaments, various trophies and players’ equipment and also a short video.

All of this is put on by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which is located in Newport, RI, a non profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of tennis. The location in Newport was where the 1881 US National Tennis Championships took place, which evolved into the US Open. For more information call 401-849-3990 or visit the website www.tennisfame.com.