Thailand Open (Bangkok, Thailand) – Gasquets Wins Seventh Title; Lu/Udomchoke Clinch Doubles Crown

Singles – Final
[2] R Gasquet (FRA) d [4] G Simon (FRA) 62 61

Doubles – Final
[WC] Y Lu (TPE) / D Udomchoke (THA) d [4] E Butorac (USA) / P Hanley (AUS) 63 64

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WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID

Gasquet: “I played against a French player, who is also my friend, so of course it a little bit strange, but for me it’s a title and I’ve had some tough matches this week so I’m very happy to win. The people here are very nice, the crowd was very nice. The night I played against [Grigor] Dimitrov it was late, but the people stayed and cheered for me so it’s more reason for me to come back next year and defend my title.”

Simon: “I was playing some of the best tennis I ever played yesterday [against Janko Tipsarevic] and today I just couldn’t play at all. Thierry [Tulasne] was here to watch, but it was our last week together so I really wanted to win.”

Lu: “I feel very happy, there’s no reason to be upset at all. I’m very happy for Danai [Udomchoke] to win on his home ground. I don’t know how I can explain how I feel, I’m just very happy and I appreciate playing with my friend. This is another experience we go through as friends and I’m happy.”
Udomchoke: “I was at my happiest moment during match point because I’ve always dreamed of holding a Thailand Open trophy in the 10 years I’ve played the tournament. I feel very proud of having done it today.”

The Koz with Bud Collins

The Koz had the pleasure to interview Bud Collins at the US Open last week for Indie Tennis and Tennis Ledger.

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Steve Flink Wrapup

Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski caught up with pre-eminent tennis journalist STEVE FLINK to review the women’s & men’s US OPEN singles finals.

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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.

 

 

 

Maria Opens Up

FLUSHING MEADOWS – Maria Sharapova is back to being the front on star of tennis. She is crushing her opponents, while acting like the starlet we all know and love.

After she dispatched Mallory Burdette today – in a match where she thought she would be booed – the 25 year-old started to reflect on her career with the up and comers, like Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens making names for themselves, while Kim Clijsters is retiring to motherhood.

“Well, I’ll tell you, when I was 18 or 19, if someone told me I was going to be playing at 25, which was seven years from then, I’d be like, Stop, this is ridiculous.  You’re crazy,” she said.  “But here I am at 25 years old.  Although I didn’t play for nine, ten months in my career, I’m 25, and I feel like I have so many more years left.  I still wake up in the morning and feel like I can be better and motivated.  I have energy and I’m healthy.”

And she has a legit chance to win her second US Open and start on a second career slam, after winning the French Open this year to gain her first. After being injured with a bad shoulder, Sharapova looked like a has been in recent years, but the strength and skill has returned.

That makes for interesting topics from the mercurial Russian, who at times can seem somewhat arrogant. But that’s her nature and she doesn’t mean to be mean.

In fact she had some kind words to say about her competitors and because of her experience; Sharapova offers some unique insight about each of them.

First there’s Robson , who Sharapova said she knew for years.

“Laura was someone who was obviously throughout the years ‑ I think she won junior Wimbledon, and she’s someone that I think a lot of people expected to do well at an early age,” Sharapova said. “I mean, this is definitely her breakthrough tournament, her breakthrough Grand Slam where she’s been playing extremely well.

“I’ve practiced with her a few times.  Played her at the Olympics and last year at Wimbledon.  She has a big game, and also a lefty, which adds to her strength.”

And then there is Stephens, the young American who many have been comparing to the next coming of Venus Williams. Stephens is the daughter of former NFL running back John Stephens who played for the New England Patriots.

“I played against her in Miami,” Sharapova said.   “I don’t remember the score, but she’s a great athlete.  Moves so well.  I watched a little bit of her match yesterday.  She’s a great fighter and, you know, was able to come back from that match.

“Obviously that’s the newer generation, and I’m somewhere in the middle there. “

Sharapova also had kind words to say about Clijsters, who was sent home by Robson on Wednesday and into retirement.

“I was very fortunate to play a lot of matches against Kim and follow her career,” she said.   “I mean, she was such a great athlete, a great competitor.  We always had really tough battles against each other. It was amazing to see her career unfold.  The way she came back after, you know, becoming a mom and having that dedication and, you know, that fire again, it was pretty incredible.

“It showed how much she loved the sport and how much passion she had for it.”

With all of this going on – and let’s not forget Andy Roddick – it’s easy to forget Sharapova, but she easily won her first three matches, especially today against Burdette, 6-1 6-1.

Seeded No. 3, Sharapova is feeling pretty good about herself.

“I didn’t know too much going into this event because I hadn’t played on hard in a few months,” Sharapova said.   “I think that made me extra focused, and I wanted to really get going from the beginning and be aggressive.

“Yeah, took a little bit of a break after Wimbledon and went home.  I think I kind of recharged a little bit.  Certainly feel a lot more energy than I did maybe after the French.”

She’s going to be tough and someone to watch out for next week.

Q & A with Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet, the 26 year old Frenchman reached a career high no. 7 and made it to the semis at Wimbledon in 2007:

TL- What do you think about the Andy Roddick retirement?
RG: For 8 or 9 years he was on top. He was no. 1 in the world. He is a great one.

TL:Do you know that because of your game you have been called a little Federer?
RG:Yes people have said that.

TL:What do you think of Federer?
RG:He is no. 1. He is never sick. He never retires.He talks to every player and is the President of the Tennis Council. Everyone respects him.

TL:How have you done against him?
RG:I have beaten him twice on clay. I have lost many other times (10).

TL:Roland Garros is a great site,especially court no.one.
RG:Yes it is but they are tearing that one down and I don’t know why.

TL:Are the top four really that much better?
RG:Yes they are. They are very strong mentally. They have a big advantage at Slams.

Blake Makes It To The Third Round

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Andy Roddick may be retiring, but James Blake is still going strong.

Actually, he’s better than strong, he looks downright deadly after today’s second round win over No. 24 seed Marcel Granollers, 6-1 6-4 6-2.

“Yeah, today’s match was one of the best matches I played in years I think,” Blake said.  “I served really well.  I took care of my serve.  I don’t think he had a breakpoint all match.  That doesn’t happen with me.  I’m not Andy Roddick.  I don’t go through matches like that that often, especially against a guy that’s 20‑something in the world that’s known to be a pretty darn good returner and very solid.

“I think that was a good testament to how well I was serving and how well I was taking care of my serve, which puts a lot of pressure on him, which is going to work out for me.  Any time I get to take chances to take rips on my returns, because I’m serving so well, I think it’s going to be a good matchup for me.”

Blake was able to take the match from the beginning with Granollers not able to handle the veteran’s serves. He looked strong and made very few mistakes.

He credits himself from being healthy and now playing his best tennis in years. In fact, if it wasn’t for this run, Blake may have had a presser today to announce his retirement.

“Everyone’s at different points,” he said.  “I’d say if this was going on three months ago, I might have had a different answer.  I might have been thinking a lot more seriously about it, too.

“It’s funny now, I feel like I’ve got sort of a youthful exuberance out there again.  My match tonight, I think a couple years ago, five years ago, six years ago, I would think this is a relatively routine win, get through it, get to the next round, thinking about that.

“I’m going to try to enjoy this.  I’m excited now.  It’s a lot of fun because I went through a pretty tough time.  With my knee injury and surgery, I really thought it might be time.  It might be time to call it a career.  Now that it’s not and I feel good again, it’s fun.

“It’s so much fun to keep getting better because for six months or so earlier this year, I didn’t feel like I was getting better.  I didn’t feel like I could improve or compete.”

Blake also credits fatherhood for giving him a new lease on life. With the birth of his new daughter, he now sees why life short and to enjoy everything every day.

“Fatherhood has been unbelievable,” he said.  “Now it’s tough to imagine it beforehand.  I didn’t expect it to be so great, so exciting so fast.  It was something where I think I was thinking about it, and I thought, I kind of want the kid to come out at two or three years old, walking and talking and stuff.  I didn’t realize the baby stage can be so much fun, when they fall asleep on your chest, when they’re cooing a little bit, thrashing around on their play mat.  Everything about it is so much fun.

“Now I can’t imagine life before Riley”

And we can’t imagine tennis without Blake. So hopefully he postpones his retirement for a number of years.

 

 

Harrison Shows He Belongs

FLUSHING MEADOWS – Is Ryan Harrison America’s Great Hope?

Well, he certainly hopes so.

“I mean, hearing the good stuff is always exciting,” he said. “But I think that those guys have obviously had such extraordinary careers.  They’ve done so well for U.S. tennis.  I’ve got such a long ways to go.  Hearing stuff like that doesn’t really come into play.  I mean, I’ve never made third round of a slam.  After that you got to get second week.  It only gets tougher from there.

“The closer you get to the top, the more difficult it gets.  I have a long ways to go.  I do believe I can get there ‑‑ and I’m going to do my best to get there ‑‑ but it’s not going to be easy.”

And it won’t be easy in the second round when he get Juan Martin Del Potro, after the young American beat Benjamin Becker 7‑5, 6‑4, 6‑2 to win a round this year.

 

“It’s going to start with my serve,” he said. “If I serve well, everything kind of becomes a lot less, I guess, pressure on the rest of my game because I can dictate and I can actually swing out on some return games and have a little bit of a crack because there’s not as much pressure.  It’s going to start with that.

“If things go my way, then I know I can return well enough to where I can put some pressure on him.  I play good defense, so with some of his shot‑making, I can make him hit a couple extra balls on some of his service games.

“Like I said, it’s not going to be easy, but I think I have the game to do it.”

That’s great confidence and he will need it to beat the No. 7 seed, but there is work to be done. Harrison has a goal to make the second week, but he knows the obstacles in front of him. Just 20, he has a long career ahead of him and can work on his game and make this Open a learning experience.

“Obviously you want to, but I’ve got a really tough opponent next round,” he said. “I know I can do well and I know I can win this match if I play well.  It’s going to be not easy, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

“It will be fun.”

Yes it will. Watching this American always is.

 

 

Querrey The Forgotten Man

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the attention going to Andy Roddick, John Isner, Mardy Fish and at this tournament, James Blake, Sam Querrey has become the forgotten man at the US Open.

And it was just a year ago when he was 17th in the world but then fell to 120th after a knee injury.

Now he’s back to 28th in the world and is the No. 27 seed at the Open.

“I was hurt last year and dropped from 17 to 120,” he said. “But it was very tough to get back to where I am now at 28.”

Today he made a step to continue his climb by beating Yen-Hsun, 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5 to move onto the second round of the Open.

“Lu is a tough player,” he said.  “A little windy.  Hits the ball low and flat.  It’s tough for me because I’m a taller guy, I like it up a little higher.

“I didn’t play my best out there, but I just stuck with it so I’m happy to move on.”

Believe it or not, Querrey could be the face of American’s tennis in the near future. He is only 24 and by today’s standards approaching his prime. A former Top 20 player in the world, Querrey has a chance to make some noise.

But he has to keep on track and that includes staying healthy and keep on winning.

“I need to keep winning like I’ve been doing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing at a higher level than 28.  I feel like if I keep doing what I’m doing, I can get back into the top 15 and hopefully top 10.

“I want to keep serving big, hitting big forehands and taking risks and going for it more like I’ve been doing.”

He said we are in a period where guys in late 20s have been taking center stage. He things eventually the cycle will swing back to the teenagers eventually but that’s not anytime soon.

So with some of the top players getting older, Querrey has a chance to make some noise, even at this Open where he feels like he’s playing his best tennis.

But the second round comes first with a match against Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

“I play Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo who I played once before on grass in Newport like four years ago,” he said. “So I don’t really remember a whole lot.  I feel like if I serve well and do what I did today, hit big forehands, I have a good chance to win that and hopefully move on to the next round.”

If he does, he may not be the forgotten man in American men’s tennis anymore.

 

 

The New Blake

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – James Blake seemed very pleased when asked about his bloved New York Mets. Last year he was blunt about his feelings about the management, saying general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel “must go.”

And now that Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took their places he seemed like a very happy fan.

“That is good,” he said with a smile. “I wish we could have kept Beltran and will keep Reyes. This year was a tough one as the last few have been. We are a little more optimistic than we were last year.”

Yet, even though he wears his trademark Mets cap after every match, baseball is his hobby and tennis is his job and after a tough 2010 where he was injured, Blake seems very content with his 2011 performance.

So much so that he wants to continue playing even after this season.

“I want to play this year and I want to play next year and the year after that. My body was worse off last year. I have ice on now, but that’s just preventative,” he said after he won his first round match against Jesse Huta Galung, 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4. “I feel good. My legs are back under me and I am feeling great. I am happy to be playing here at 60 in the world and hopefully I am on the path moving upward. I am having fun and I love playing here with as much fun as I am having.”

With a bad shoulder and bad knee, tennis became a chore for the 31 year-old New Yorker. He struggled through matches last year and ultimately looked for different answers. He found that less is more and let his body heal itself.

“I think it was just general healing. My trainer and I have been on the path to get this healthy. At one point we were at a little bit of pain and we just accepted it. We tried to get it to perfect. At 31 years-old there will be nagging things and it will be hard to be this old and not have things after beating up my body for 12 years.

“Once that happened and once I relaxed and didn’t stress about it, there was less pain. I didn’t think about it as much and it’s really been incredible. All the treatment have been the same, but we did change a little bit on how we did with the ibuprofen and message and stuff, but no huge changes. We just worked smarter.”

And it worked against Huta Galung with a four set win. He was in total control during the first two sets, but has a bit of a hiccup in the third, ultimately finishing off the Dutchman in four sets.

Blake was very pleased with the results.

“It’s never easy when you are playing guys who are hungry to win, are talented and have the confidence to win,” Blake said. “I played the first two sets. In the third set he stepped his game up. I played one bad game and broke myself but he played hard to get back into that set. That was on him. He played great.

“The fourth set, I was in control getting more looks than his looks and I just played a good game to break me. I just broke back and the crowd helped me there. He looked uncomfortable at that time when I was up. I don’t know how many matches he played here, but nerves can get to you. That can definitely be a factor.

“When I got that break I was real confident.”

He hopes to continue that confidence in the second round against fifth ranked David Ferrer, a buzz saw of a second round matchup, although Blake had success against the Spaniard in the past with a 2-0 record.

“I have a ton of respect for him,” Blake said. “He played in incredible match in the Davis Cup to beat Mardy [Fish]. I have a tremendous respect for him. I am 2-0 against him and I hope to continue that pattern. He’s a tremendous player and I have been seeded up there and not seeded and if you want to go deep you have to beat some seeded players. It’s what I have to deal with it from where I am.”

Last year you had to wonder if Blake could win, but this is a new James Blake or rather the old James Blake.

“I hope it’s more like the old James Blake before the knee injury and before the shoulder was back,” he said. “Either way I am having a lot of fun and I am trying to get back to getting better and having fun doing that.”

Now if only the Mets could have the same success.