The Koz with Stefan Kozlow

Stefan Kozlov is an American Player to watch. At age 14 he was the youngest player in the Wimbledon Junior Championships and the Junior US Open. He has already turned professional and collected his first ATP points. Dave “Koz” Kozlowski recently caught up with the American rising star.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Roger Federer’s Tales with Tiger Woods and Pete Sampras

Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer brings readers back to Roger Federer’s meeting with Tiger Woods and how Federer was not quick to respond to a text message from Pete Sampras after winning the 2006 US Open in his celebrated book ROGER FEDERER: QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $19.95, www.RogerFedererBook.com), the first U.S.-published book on the Swiss tennis champion. The excerpt from the 2006 US Open is provided below.

When Tiger Woods achieved the “Tiger Slam” in 2000 and 2001—winning all four of golf’s major championships in a row—Roger Federer was not yet 20 years old. The way that Woods dominated golf and reignited interest in the sport certainly caught the attention of the young Federer. However, he never thought that he would ever be compared to someone as dominant as Woods. “His story is completely different from mine,” he said in the spring of 2006. “Even as a kid his goal was to break the record for winning the most majors. I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time.”

Despite their different developments and the differences between their sports, the commonalities between Woods and Federer became unmistakable through the years. Like the four-time Masters champion, Federer is in full pursuit of sports history. While Woods is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships, Federer is chasing Pete Sampras and his 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Both Woods and Federer are amazing because of their mental resilience, which is evident from the fact that they manage to make the most terrific shots under the greatest of difficulties.

Unlike his parents, Roger Federer is not a passionate golfer, but he follows Woods’ career with great interest. “It would be interesting to meet him and to see what he’s like in person,” Federer said in Key Biscayne in 2006.

Both Federer and Woods are clients of the International Management Group (IMG) and Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, is friends with Mark Steinberg, the agent of Woods. In the summer of 2006, Federer asked Godsick if he could arrange a meeting with Woods. “The next thing I heard was that Woods would be delighted to come to the US Open final,” Federer recollected. “At that time the tournament hadn’t even started. I would have preferred meeting him in a more relaxed atmosphere than on the day of the US Open final—and I still had to get there first.”

The public had no idea that a spectacular meeting was in the making behind the scenes at the US Open. After Federer defeated the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals, he was informed that Woods was going to make good on his promise. He flew to New York from Florida on his private jet with his wife, Elin, to watch the US Open final in person. To everyone’s surprise, Woods took a seat in Federer’s guest box—which was quite noteworthy given the fact that Federer faced an American, Andy Roddick, in the final. “The fact that Tiger was sitting there put me under extra pressure,” Federer later admitted. “It was just like when I was younger when my parents or Marc Rosset watched me play in person. You want to play especially well.”

Woods’ timing was perfect. He watched and cheered as Federer won his third straight US Open title, defeating the resurgent Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. For the third year in a row, Federer won both Wimbledon and the US Open—a record that he didn’t have to share with anyone.

While Federer briefly met Woods before the final, the two spent well over an hour together in the locker room following the match, drinking Champagne and gazing at the US Open trophy that Federer just won. Woods even talked on the phone to Federer’s parents who were at home in bed as it was nearly three in the morning in Switzerland.

“I was impressed by how much we had in common,” Federer explained when Woods was on his way back to Florida. “He knew exactly what I was going through and I see what he has to go through. I’ve never spoken with anybody who was so familiar with the feeling of being invincible.”

“It was terrific for me to see him go into my player’s box, shake his fist, and enjoy himself,” he recollected a few weeks later. “He was the loudest one in my box. I was surprised how loose he was about it. He was happy as a kid to be able to watch the final. I think we’ll do things together more often.”

The appearance of Woods at the 2006 US Open final sparked more comparisons—and debates—between the two “athletes of the century” as to who was greater and more dominant. With all due respect to Woods, James Blake came out in favor of Federer. “In tennis, it’s a tournament where you have one bad day and you’re out,” said Blake. “That’s what we do every single week. Roger is winning every Grand Slam except for the French, winning every Masters Series tournament. That means he can’t have one bad day—that’s incredible. Not to mention he has to be out here for four hours running as opposed to walking while carrying one club—again not taking anything away from golf. Tiger’s proven himself every Sunday every time he has a lead. But look at Roger’s record in Grand Slam finals, too. In Grand Slam finals, he’s 8-1. That’s unheard of.”

The Woods camp and golf fans pointed out that the American, in contrast to Federer, already won all four major tournaments in his sport and instead of only having to defeat seven opponents at the biggest tournaments, Woods had to fight off around 150 contenders. Tennis aficionados emphasized that Grand Slam tournaments lasted two weeks and not just four days and that in tennis, having an off day is enough to get knocked out whereas in golf, players could always save the day in such a situation.

Still others highlighted the commonalities between the two. “Despite their total dominance, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer show a modest self-discipline that would have impressed the most chivalrous medieval knight,” The Daily Telegraph of Britain wrote. The Calgary Sun stated unequivocally which of the two super athletes it favored—“(Federer) is infinitely more human than Tiger Woods, more precise, more likable, more honest, less robotic, seemingly enjoying his place as a tennis player for the ages.” The Daily News of Los Angeles, by contrast, questioned all of these comparisons. “You say the Swiss dude is definitely the greatest tennis player of all time? Good, then we can switch back to the Bengals-Chiefs. Equating Roger Federer to Tiger Woods isn’t a backhanded compliment, it’s a forehanded insult. An athlete of Federer’s all-around refinement deserves better than to be defined in terms of another athlete.”

After his US Open victory, Federer returned home to Switzerland when he received a surprise phone call. Pete Sampras, whose legacy and records were now one of Federer’s biggest rivals, called to offer congratulations. “He had already text messaged me three days ago and now he was calling me to congratulate me personally,” said Federer shortly after the US Open. “He asked if I had gotten the message. I said I was just about to reply. It was almost embarrassing. Perhaps I should have replied quicker.” Sampras told Federer how much he liked to watch him play and emphasized that he now was more clearly dominant than he was during his prime. “To hear something like this from him was incredible,” Federer said. “It’s never happened to me before that my earlier idol called me to compliment me.”

Sampras and Federer continued their text message relationship, with Sampras offering more good wishes over the following few months. Before the tournament in Indian Wells in March of 2007, Federer then took the initiative and called Sampras, who meanwhile announced he was returning to competitive tennis on the Champions circuit run by his contemporary Jim Courier. Federer asked Sampras if he would like to hit some balls and train together. “I wanted to see how well he could still play because, after all, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Federer explained. With a wink in his eye and devilish grin, he then said, “beating him in his backyard in Wimbledon was so special to me, so I wanted to try and beat him in his house.”

Federer and Sampras only played once during their careers—the memorable round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Late in Pete’s career, the two had one brief practice session together in Hamburg. “It started to rain,” Federer recollected. “I was so disappointed, but he was happy to get off.”

After their training session together in Los Angeles in the spring of 2007, Federer expressed his surprise at how well Sampras could still keep up during their practice session. “We played some great sets and tie-breaks. I’m glad to see that he’s actually still enjoying tennis.” The scores of these practice matches? “They’re secret,” Federer said. “Surprisingly, he was very good, but not good enough to beat me!”

Federer found that he and Sampras shared many commonalities and could talk in great detail of their respective lives and pressures on the tour, as well as common experiences, experiences at particular tournaments and even about players who they both played against. With Woods, this was not the case. “Pete and I played the same tournaments and even played against the same opponents,” Federer said. “I have much more in common with Pete than I have with Tiger off court.”

“When I was new on the tour, I hardly ever spoke to Pete,” he continued. “First of all, he was never around at the courts, and when he would come into the locker room, everything was quiet because he was respected so much by all the other players.” Several years later, Federer finally got a chance to find out what made Sampras so unique and what brought him so close to perfection.

 

WILSON WOMEN WAGE FIERCE BATTLE AT 2012 US OPEN SINGLES FINAL

CHICAGO (September 9, 2012) – Wilson Racquet Sports (www.wilson.com), the official ball and stringer of the US Open, was omni-present at the women’s singles’ final with WTA no. 4 Serena Williams playing fellow Wilson player and world no. 1, Victoria Azarenka. Williams, fresh from her Olympic gold medal and playing with her Wilson Blade Team, continued her momentum with a hard fought win over Azarenka, playing with her Wilson Juice 100. Winning her 15th career Grand Slam and fourth US Open title, Williams defeated Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Williams, who lost only 19 games in six matches leading into the final, took the first set with a dominating serve and precise groundstrokes. Azarenka broke Williams’ serve twice in the second set to level the score to one set apiece. The 23-year old Belarusian came out strong in the third, breaking Williams’ serve to lead 2-1 before Williams reversed the lead by breaking right back. Williams’ win here caps off a steady string of wins, sweeping Wimbledon and the Olympics.

“It’s incredible to win in front of a home crowd,” said Williams. “I felt their energy the entire match and thank all my fans for their support. Vika didn’t make it easy for me — she played a tough match, but I was able to hold on and achieve what I came here to do.”

This is Williams’ 45th WTA career title and tenth victory over Azarenka in their last 11 meetings, all played with Wilson rackets. Williams has won more major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles than any other active player, male or female and is the second woman ever to win a Golden Slam.

“Serena showed incredible focus and we couldn’t be more proud,” said Renaud Vallon, global tour director of Wilson Racquet Sports. “She is incredibly passionate and shows the next generation what it takes to win.”

The Wilson Blade Team flex and pinpoint accuracy make it the racket of choice among top professionals, including Serena and her sister Venus. The larger head size provides more punch, while the lighter weight gives players greater maneuverability for hitting big shots with increased control. The Wilson Juice 100 features Amplifeel™, Wilson’s proprietary handle system, designed to increase power and spin for hard-hitting players.

Wilson won the US Open mixed doubles final with Bruno Soares and Ekaterina Makarova defeating Kveta Peschke and Marcin Matkowski 6-7(8), 6-1,12-10 in a tiebreak. Soares played with his Wilson Six.One 95 and Ekaterina played with her Wilson Tour BLX. Wilson also swept in juniors with Filip Peliwo (Wilson Blade 98) and Samantha Crawford (Wilson Tour BLX) winning the boys and girls finals respectively, and Kyle Edmund (Six.One 95) and Gabby Andrews (Wilson Juice 100) securing victories in the boys and girls doubles finals.

Wilson owns more Grand Slam titles than any other racket brand.

About Wilson: Wilson Racquet Sports is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment and owned by Amer Sports. Wilson designs, manufactures and distributes sporting goods throughout the world and focuses on making technologically advanced products which help players of all levels perform better. For more information, visit www.wilson.com.

Murray’s Biggest Challenge Comes Next

Some players may feel there’s a higher power helping them.

And it very well could be the case.

But if God is too busy, Andy Murray can rest assured he has Sean Connery on his side.

The Oscar winning actor had an unexpected cameo during his post match presser after the Scotsman beat Tomas Berdych in four sets 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 to reach the Open Finals for the second time of his career.

The match was marred by high winds which made play very difficult for both sides.

You can’t really sort of allow yourself to enjoy it because anything can happen,” he said. “The match turns around so quickly.  He serve‑volleyed a couple times, came to the net more, and played a couple of good points.

“All of a sudden, you know, you’re back tied at 3‑All when you’ve been in total control for two hours of the match.  You can’t allow yourself to lose focus.  If you do, it can get away from you quickly.”

But Murray survived and he will face the winner of the David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic match with Ferrer up 5-2 in the first set before it was called due to a pending storm.

Murray, though, may have a good chance to win it all. He has been playing his best tennis this year, going to the Wimbledon final and then winning the London Olympics.  He lost to Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open finals, but the other three Slams he went to, Roger Federer was standing in his way and the Maestro was sent home by Berdych earlier this week.

“I think, you know, my results in the slams over the last couple of years have been very good,” he said. “And obviously this year in the major tournaments, you know, along with the Olympics, it’s been my best year.  Never made two Grand Slam finals in a year, so that’s obviously a good sign that I’m playing better and still learning.

“And the Olympics was the biggest win of my career by far.  You know, it meant a lot to me, too.  Whatever happens in the final, it’s been a great year.  But, you know, all I want to make sure I do in the final is that I give 110%.

I know how hard these opportunities are to come by, and, you know, I will give it everything.”

And he knows the road will be hard no matter who is facing on Monday. Both Djokovic and Ferrer are very tough competitors.

But neither are lopsided with Djokovic holding a 8-6 edge over Murray, while the Scotsman is leading 6-5 over Ferrer.

David makes it very, very hard.  He makes it very physical.  He’s in great shape.  He’s playing the best tennis of his career this year,” he said. “I have played him many times, and, you know, unbelievably tough match with him at Wimbledon.  I lost to him at the French Open; the previous year I played him in the Aussie Open, as well.  That was also a brutal match.  It was very, very tough.”

I handled a big match against (Djokovic) well in Australia this year,” he said of his other possible opponent. “ It was a great match.  I think both of us played very well.  It came down to a couple of points. I know how much the Olympics meant to all of the players, and winning against him in the Olympic semifinal, you know, was a big win for me.  I know how tough it is to beat the top, top players in big matches.”

But Murray will have the rest as he the Men’s Final was moved to Monday. And with the momentum, the Scotsman certainly has a chance to get the monkey off his back and win a Slam.

So hopes Sir Sean Connery.  

 

Federer Stunned By Berdych

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – To paraphrase the late Howard Cosell: “Down goes Federer! Down Goes Federer!”

A shocker in the Men’s Quarterfinal saw Czech Tomas Berdych beat No. 1 seed Roger Federer in four sets  7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

For the first time since 2003, the Maestro will not be in the US Open Semifinal and went home pretty unhappy to say the least.

“I’m sure it was a combination of many things,” Federer said.  “I mean, obviously I rarely go through matches where I have no chances, you know.

“So obviously I missed some tonight again, but that’s normal.  When you end up losing at the end, you know, you always hope that you made every chance you had.  It’s just not possible.

“He probably created more than I did, and that’s why he ended up winning tonight.”

It could have been the extra rest Federer received when Mardy Fish pulled out of the Open on Monday that ruined his sharpness. Like a pitcher, most tennis players tend to like the regular rhythm of a tournament, but the Swiss Master was forced to sit out Monday’s match when he received a walkover.

Federer though didn’t use that as an excuse.

“I have been there before,” he said.  “Once I had six‑and‑a‑half days off and I ended up winning Wimbledon.  I don’t think this was the issue tonight.”

Federer looked off from the outset, after electing to receive in the coin toss, was put on his heels by Berdych, who blew the Maestro away in the tiebreaker 6-1 and broke Federer early in the second set.

Only late in the second did Federer look like the Maestro, but down two breaks was just too much for the Swiss Master and Berdych eventually was able to come through.

But then the third set came and Federer was able to break Berdych and take the set rather easily.

“I still was down two sets to one, so I wasn’t celebrating too much,” he said. “It was good.  The momentum switch no doubt gave me a chance, put the score back to zero, put him further away from winning, and made the match go longer, make it more physical, more mental.

“Yeah, so obviously I was excited winning the third, but the problem was the first couple of sets ‑ particularly the first one.”

At that point it looked like Federer was going to paint another masterpiece, but Berdych was able to break him in the middle of the fourth to end it quickly for the Master.

“The fourth set all of a sudden ended quickly,” Federer said.  “He played good the last couple of points on my serve I think at 30‑All.  But that’s always a danger with Tomas if you’re down in the score and he can take some chances.  He’s obviously a shot‑maker, so, yeah, it’s dangerous.

“I should never lose the first set.  But anyway, it happens.  Move on.”

It will be a very different Open now that both the biggest story in Andy Roddick and its biggest draw in Roger Federer are no longer playing.

It also gives Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray excellent chances to win the whole thing.

 

Serena Williams Steamrolls the Competition

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

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

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

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

Serena, who is 30-years old, and Sloane Stephens, 19, who has been compared to Serena on the court, have forged a friendship recently that is somewhat of a mentor/mentee relationship. But you would be surprised at who plays what role. “I think she’s more my mentor than anything,” Williams said in an interview after her win over Vandeweghe in the first round. Serena had some more compliments of Stephens on and off the court. “I think she’s an amazing player. She’s playing so smooth. She looks like she gives no effort when she plays.”

Serena continued to talk about Sloane’s on-court performance, adding “I hope I can teach her some things, and hopefully she’s able to do it. I think that we can kind of feed off each other. She can teach me some things, maybe how to be calm on the court.”

Off the court, Serena had even more praise. “I think she’s a great person. She’s always encouraging me not to be single,” Serena said with a smile. Williams was later asked if she thinks Sloane has the potential to be the next superstar on and off the tennis court. “I think she has a great smile, a beautiful face. I think she has such a wonderful personality and attitude. So yeah, I think it’s totally possible.”

Earlier in the day, after her first-round, upset win over Francesca Schiavone, Stephens was asked some questions about Serena as well. “We’re really good friends. We just have a really good relationship. I felt like I knew her in a past life or something, I don’t know. It’s so strange” Sloane said.

One thing that makes Serena Williams so great is her confidence. When asked if she believes in her heart if she is the best player in the game, she responded “Of course I believe that. I think there are a number of players on this tour, a few players who believe that. I don’t think we would be playing if we didn’t believe that.”

Perhaps some of Serena’s confidence has rubbed off on Sloane. When asked if Sloane Stephens will be to be the next superstar in tennis, she simply, and confidently, replied “She is.” With a winning smile, a great personality and confidence to match, many are hoping that Sloane Stephens is the next superstar in the tennis world, and with a mentor like Serena Williams, she is well on her way.

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

Andy Roddick Discusses His Retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federer is Proving He’s Still the Best

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

Game over quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Laura Robson, the Surprise of the Open

FLUSHING, NY – Move over Andy Murray, there’s a new Brit in town.

Laura Robson has become the feel good story at this Open, after she won her third round against Na Li, 6-4 6-7 6-2 to advance to the fourth round.

And this comes after she sent Kim Clijsters into retirement.

Call her the Giant killer.

“When the draw first came out I wasn’t really looking past the first round,” the 18 year-old said. “ And then, you know, when I heard that I was playing Li Na after I played Kim, I didn’t really think anything.  I just knew that it was going to be an extremely tough match, which it was, and that she’s a great player.

“So I knew I had to play well; that’s what I did.”

So far in 2012, Robson seemed to take a step back. After making the second round last year at Wimbledon and the Open, she was one and done at the other majors this year.

But that isn’t stopping her here.

She fought Clijsters in straight sets, 7-6(4) 7-6(5), in the second round, sending the three time US Open champion into full time motherhood.

And now she took down Li, who was seeded ninth at the Open and many expected to make the second week.

“I have had a fairly tough draw, haven’t I?” she asked with a smile. “Well, you know, you have to beat who is in front of you.  That’s what I managed to do so far.  I think I play [Sam] Stosur now, who is defending champ.  That’s going to be really tough.  I’ve never played her before, so, you know, I’m going to just work hard tomorrow and recover as best as I can for the next one.”

Ah yes, the defending champ. That would be a tough matchup, but they said that about Clijsters and Li. In today’s match, Robson easily took the first set and then lost a tie break in the second to give Li life, even though she was up 3-1 at one point in the breaker.

Then in the third, she took control with a 6-2 cruising, putting her on the map. The funny thing she never gets down on herself, which many 18 year-olds do.

“I’m only 18, so if I was that negative, you know, last year or a year ago, then who knows what I’m going to be like in a few years,” Robson said. “But, no, I have always thought that I can play with the top girls.  Whenever I’ve practiced with, you know, Caroline or Maria, I’ve always felt that the level was there.

“It was just taking that onto the match court and keeping the level up for the whole match.  That’s what I have worked on.  Yeah, that’s been the biggest difference.”

Well maybe Murray can give her pointers now on handling on the British press. Well on second thought, the way she took care of them today, she will do just fine.