U.S. Open Main Draws Revealed
The main draws for the 2015 U.S. Open were released this afternoon for both the ATP and WTA Tour's. Have a look at the links below. We will be posting our annual preview later on today so please be sure to check back with us at ProTennisFan.
U.S. Open 2015 Qualifying Draws
By Mike McIntyre
The qualifying draws for the 2015 U.S. Open were released on Monday and will allow 16 players on both the ATP and WTA Tour's access to the main draw. Play begins on Tuesday August 25th at Flushing Meadows with 128 participants on both sides. Players must win three matches in order to advance. Here are the two qualifying draws for you to check out:
Simona Halep vs Belinda Bencic in Rogers Cup Final
By Mike McIntyre
Even though Serena Williams has not advanced to her third straight Rogers Cup final in Toronto this year, tennis fans should be in for a treat in the match-up between No. 2 seeded Simona Halep of Romanian and 18 year old rising WTA star Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
While Halep leads their career head-to-head by a meager 1-0 margin, I would give each player an even shot of hoisting the trophy here at the Aviva Centre today. That prior encounter was on the grass of Wimbledon a year ago and the conditions today and the events that have led both players to this moment are entirely different.
Halep came into the tournament this year on a slump that lasted through the clay and grass court seasons. A little time off back home in Romanian has done wonders for her game apparently as she is back to her early season form where she won Indian Wells. Halep has amassed a 29-3 record on hardcourts up to today.
Bencic for her part served notice on the grass of Eastbourne that she was indeed one of the WTA Tour's rising stars. There she claimed her first tournament victory and she has been on fire this week knocking off players she grew up admiring like Ana Ivanovic and of course Serena Williams last night.
Here are a few of our better pictures of the two finalists as their big moment in Toronto nears.
Serena Williams Weighs-in on Drake's Tennis Skills
By Mike McIntyre
After Serena Williams' 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal victory Friday night against Robert Vinci at the Rogers Cup, the world No. 1 seemed to be in a pretty decent mood in her post-match press conference in Toronto. For the second night in-a-row Serena's friend and Canadian superstar Drake was in attendance courtside. After my colleague David Li asked Serena about what his support meant to her I decided to wade in a little further with a playful question about his tennis skills.
"Yeah, we actually hit several times," Serena revealed. "He's really a good player. He said he played tennis when he was younger. I thought, really, of all sports. So he's always kind of been into tennis. So we hit a lot. Not a lot. But we used to hit a lot. Yeah, he's really good."
Drake rocking a Blue Jays jersey of course. Photo cred David Li
Serena then continued with a comment that brought both her and the entire media room down with laughter when she revealed, "He says he can take me lefty, which (rolls eyes) gets me charged up."
The eye roll from Serena. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Probably the most animated I've seen Serena in my eight years of covering the Rogers Cup. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Seizing this rare opportunity when an athlete is letting their guard down and giving a glimpse into their sense of humor, I then asked her whether Drake would make a better tennis player or herself a better rapper.
"Oh, man. I guess that's the start of another question. You know, that's a good question, because tennis takes a lot of years of skill and of, you know, practice." I could sense the playful dig towards Drake's profession forthcoming. Serena then continued, "I'm not saying rap doesn't, but I don't know. Rap, you gotta like think off the spot and do all this other stuff. So I don't know. Let's just say I'm doing the right thing and I think he's doing the right thing."
I guess we'll call it a draw on that one.
Here is the audio from the Press Conference for those who wanted to have a listen.
Thursday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
Thursday at the Rogers Cup saw the singles field reduced to its final eight players as the tournament begins to feel much smaller as it nears completion. While all of the matches saw the higher ranked player prevail that did not necessarily mean that the results went according to predictions.
Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka had previously won seven or eight matches against 15th seeded Sara Errani including the last six matches in-a-row without dropping a set. It was the Italian who prevailed however with a 7-5, 6-3 scoreline.
Here are some of the best pictures we took from third round action at the Aviva Centre. Enjoy!
First of all I just have to say that the practice courts of any tournament are often a gold mine for tennis fans. Not only can you simultaneously see players like Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki side-by-side but you can also catch the athletes in a less structured setting which often produces some unique moments. They let their guard down and give us a glimpse into their personalities. Case in point, the few photos I took below between Wozniacki and Flavia Pennetta as the two discuss the tabloid tennis moment between Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka from Wednesday night in Montreal.
I was sitting court side and could hear Wozniacki delivering the scoop of Kyrgios' controversial comments to her practice partner Pennetta.
Here is Pennetta's reaction as Wozniacki looks to her coach for confirmation on the story.
Pennetta then told Wozniacki an equally shocking story between two other players that garnered this beauty of a reaction from the Dane.
Still couldn't contain the laughter when she went back to practice.
Venus Williams is still in Toronto working on her game in practice but seems to have an uncomfortable issue with her right elbow.
Alize Cornet tries to avoid a throng of LEGO reporters
Azarenka leaving the practice courts. I guess the pressure got to her!
World No. 1 Serena Williams with her Coach Patrick Mouratoglou (who now follows me on Twitter thanks to these pictures)
Lots to smile about if you're Serena these days.
Although even she has some frustrating moments on the court.
Always checking those nails!
Turning towards the actual matches now, here is 20 year old Carina Witthoeft whose solid run ended at the hands of Lesia Tsurenko 6-3, 6-4.
I spoke with the young German the day before and she mentioned that still needs to work on her "mental strengths."
Alize Cornet also stumbled despite being up a break in the 3rd vs Aga Radwanska.
Radwanska was rocking "the dress" of the tournament again yesterday.
She said she likes others players reactions including some who said, "Don't go on court with that."
Sara Errani looking super-focused as she walks onto Centre Court. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Sometimes it's just not your day. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
When asked, Vika says the best DJ's can be found in Vegas. That was an actual question.
Big serving German Sabine Lisicki had a match point but could not beat 18 year old Belinda Bencic
I asked Bencic if it helped her to sometimes introduce her racquet to the court. Here she is being scolded for it by the chair umpire.
Here she is celebrating the victory with her team as she leaves the court.
No. 2 seed Simona Halep is rediscovering her confidence. Into the QF after tough 3 set win vs Angelique Kerber. Photo cred Bob McIntyre.
Kerber's streak ended after 7 wins in-a-row on the WTA Tour. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
An intense Halep. Photo cred Bob McIntyre.
Now that's a warm-up jacket. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Even the pros have brain cramps. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Andrea Petkovic could not match Serena. Went down 6-3, 6-2. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
None other than Drake was in attendance to watch Serena cruise to victory.
Not often you see both players smiling at the end of the match. Photo cred Bob McIntyre
Quarterfinal action gets going at 1pm on Friday with Radwanska vs Halep, Tsurenko vs Errani, Serena vs Vinci and Bencic vs Ivanovic. Check back with us later for another recap in photos from the Rogers Cup and follow us on Twitter for regular updates.
Wednesday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
As seems to be the case this year, Serena Williams was waiting for the rest of the field to catch-up to her today at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. As the only player to have already advanced to the third round, the world No. 1 player had the day off. There was still plenty of exciting action at the Aviva Centre on Wednesday and a few upsets as well that is not uncharacteristic at the first big hardcourt event of the summer. Here is a look at some of the big moments from around the grounds as we saw it here at ProTennisFan.
7th seeded Lucie Safarova was up a set and serving for the match at 5-4 when things quickly took a turn in the other direction. Perhaps the Canadian curse that has stuck our singles players this year affected her as well since she is coached by Canadian Rob Steckley.
Safarova was beaten by 40th ranked Daria Gavrilova seen here seemingly suspended in mid-air as she returns serve.
Sometimes it's just not your day. Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza loses in both singles and doubles in her first day of play at the tournament. Here she is sitting outside of the players locker room entrance with her coach deconstructing the day. She didn't look up once in ten minutes.
No. 2 seed Simona Halep got past a tricky opponent in Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-4. She'll have her hands full again tomorrow with Angelique Kerber the 13th seed.
A heavy Romanian contingent was on-hand to support Halep. The last time the WTA was in Toronto in 2013 another Romanian - Sorana Cirstea - made the finals. Don't ask what her ranking is now...it's not pretty.
Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic advanced in straight sets and looked pretty pleased about that fact.
Good signage at the Rogers Cup. For liability purposes no doubt.
20 year old Carina Witthoeft will see a rise in the rankings thanks to making her first ever 3rd round at a WTA Premier 5 event (aka the Rogers Cup).
I interviewed Witthoeft later in the day and she revealed that she felt she struggled with regards to her "mental strengths" as evidenced here by her attempt to demolish her racquet.
I am still trying to figure out what Elena Vesnina's Lacoste shirt is supposed to mean. Like she wants to win 6-3, 6-3? Cause 6-0, 6-0 would be even better.
Caroline Wozniacki's version of sorry, not sorry. When you hit your opponent by "accident."
Poor Muguruza, she couldn't even get her sunscreen right today.
Dominika Cibulkova is the Zoolander of tennis faces. Always a different look, like in this one with doubles partner Belinda Bencic.
She can also hammer a pretty mean tennis ball.
Francoise Abanda looking fierce in a doubles win on the Grandstand Court.
I don't usually weigh-in on fashion, but Aga Radwanska looked like she was ready to hit the town in her night match Wednesday.
And here's another one, just cause.
Thursday will see a return to action by Serena Williams who plays in the first match of the evening session at 7pm against Andrea Petkovic the 16th seed. Martina Hingis will also be playing at night as half of the No. 1 doubles team in the world alongside her partner Sania Mirza. Check back with us soon for more photos from Toronto and feel free to follow us on Twitter as well.
Tuesday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures
By Mike McIntyre
With play all but rained out on opening day of the main draw at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Monday, all of the courts at the Aviva Centre were packed on Tuesday as the tournament tried to get back on schedule. Tennis fans got to see some of the best talents on the WTA Tour including the return of 2013 Toronto champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams, Canadian content in the form of Francoise Abanda, Carol Zhao and of course Genie Bouchard, and a host of other players that we will share with you in some of our best photos below.
The newly named Aviva Centre and poster child Genie Bouchard greet fans as they arrive on site.
Serena Williams on the practice court ahead of her first match. It's all good.
Coach Patrick Mouratoglou having a laugh at the expense of Serena's backhand.
Always important to make sure your nails look good on court. Federer does this all the time too.
Serena's hitting partner was getting frustrated with his play. Dude it's ok - she's a legend.
Many feel that Victoria Azarenka could be Serena's biggest challenge. She tweeted this pic of mine to her fans. I'm sure she'll give me credit one day!
Azarenka is currently ranked 21st but most consider after injury issues she's still top 10 material
Today she took out Elina Svitolina in straight sets 6-1, 6-4
Waiving to the two Belarusians hanging out in the bleachers
Qualifier Yanina Wickmayer's intensity in this shot was absent for much of her loss today unfortunately
Carina Witthoeft delivered a mild upset over "You Go Glen" Coco Vandeweghe
Fresh off a tournament win in Standford Sunday, Angelique Kerber was ready to rock in Toronto
She defeated Misaki Doi easily 6-0, 6-1. Ouch!
Monica Puig practicing her Superwoman look here as she leapt into the second round.
Now back to Serena who took the court mid afternoon against an opponent she was 6-0 against
Rockin' the neon green like she's Andre Agassi. Serena somehow found herself down a set and a break.
But then this happened.
Followed quickly by this. Serena advances 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
When I asked her about being the only player left from 2001 still in this event she said she feels, "like a nice vintage wine...getting better with age."
When you try too hard to convince the umpire that it's raining.
Oh there's some rain...oh wait, I mean tears.
Zarina Diyas wins the coolest first name in the tourney IMO
But she doesn't win the match as that honour is taken by Julia Goerges who's slightly happy to move on.
A glimpse into the future of Canadian tennis. Francoise Abanda is only 18 but has loads of talent.
She pushed the 16th seed to three sets but could not close it out after leading 1-0.
Dominika Cibulkova warming up for her night match.
She's got the right mentality for sure.
The first match tonight saw Genie Bouchard make her first appearance on hard courts this summer.
The rust was evident as she lost the opening set 6-0.
She showed flashes of her 2014 self in the 2nd set which she came back to win 7-5.
Her opponent Belinda Bencic saw her grip on the match momentarily spin out of control.
But not for long as the Canadian was handed a 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 defeat.
Lots to ponder from this one as Bouchard tries desperately to salvage something of a difficult year on the WTA Tour.
Serena Williams Rogers Cup WTA All-Access Media Hour
It was a pretty bleak day Monday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto as only one daytime match was able to be completed on both Centre Court and the Grandstand before heavy rains dominated the skies. One bright spot was the WTA All-Access media hour that saw among others Serena Williams stop by to talk to the press. The interview was spontaneously kicked-off by Caroline Wozniacki who was still lingering after doing her own roundtable with the press. See below for a few pics and the entire Q&A with Serena.
Q (from Caroline Wozniacki): So Serena what were you up to last night?
A: I was with you last night! We were just at the Japanese restaurant, just gossiping and talking right?
Q (from Caroline Wozniacki): Yes. Obviously you know I am the coolest person you know, so why is that?
A: Because we’re just alike Caroline, we’re just alike.
Q (from Caroline Wozniacki): Ok I’ll stop with the silly questions.
Q: Is she allowed to tease you like that?
A: She always teases me.
Q: Can you just talk about the friendship that you guys obviously have and how great that is to have a friend on Tour? How important is that for you to kind of to get away from the tennis and relate with somebody that does the same thing as you and have that common bond?
A: It’s really great you know. We just get along excellent. It’s hard when you’re on tour and you get to know everyone and it’s just like you know you have friends and then you have competitors and you know everyone for the most part is just on tour for 12, 11 months out of the year so it’s really cool to have someone that can relate with you and understand everything that you go through.
Q: Is there a specific moment that you know kind of started the friendship between you two?
A: No, no, I mean maybe when she was just a baby, we played an exo in Barbados but that was I don’t know how many years ago, 8 or 9 years ago, and it we’ve been friends ever since.
Q: Serena with the wins piling up and as you go along have you reached a point yet where you start to think about what your legacy will be or what you want it to be?
A: Um yeah, I mean my legacy I always have hoped would be, you know, just someone that was the best that I could be on the court but also the things I’ve done off the court and the different charities that I’ve done and I’ve been involved in so I think for me an being an opportunity to be a good player has been able to help me, been able to help other people too and so I think for me that’s really, really important.
Q: Serena it’s your first tournament this time of year with three Grand Slams behind you, does it feel any different heading into the Open? More pressure, less? More confidence?
A: Yeah uh, it definitely feels different I guess cause I’ve never been in this position in my career. So, but, I just feel like winning the Serena Slam this year, I don’t know, for me it just felt like it took some pressure off because I was able to win four in-a-row and I wasn’t sure I was able to do that again so I feel like you know I can continue - hopefully I can continue - but it took a lot of that off.
Q: Can you give us an update on the right elbow that kept you out of Stanford? Are you know are you 100% going into the Rogers Cup this year?
A: It’s ok. I’m literally going day by day and hopefully it will continue to get better. Just taking it a step at a time.
Q: How long have you been practicing at full tilt coming into Toronto?
A: Um, full tilt, about just probably right when Stanford started. Just trying to get a little more stronger and I wasn’t able to be able to play that tournament - it just wouldn’t have been ready. So we’ll see, hopefully I’ll be able to do well here and hopefully everything will hold up.
Q: So Serena we hear a lot of talk about the Serena Slam but at this point in the season how much are you thinking ahead to the U.S. Open and how much is your attention focused on what’s right in front of you?
A: Well I’m not thinking ahead to the Open right now because I’m right here in Toronto and I haven’t really played on a hard court, match in a while. So I’m thinking - ok I want to get some of this under my belt. And you know, the Open will happen when the Open happens, and I think that’s in about three weeks so you know for me it’s really important to stay in the moment and stay focused and that’s what I’ve always done.
Q: I saw you practicing earlier this morning, how do you feel on the hard courts, just getting out there and feeling the surface and everything?
A: I feel good you know, I definitely feel good on it. This surface I think is slower than other hard courts maybe and the ball bounces higher.
Q: Slower than like, the U.S. Open?
A: Yes, so that actually gives me a better chance to adapt. So it works out well.
Q: And how are you liking coming back to Toronto? You’ve had success the last two times the tournament has been in Toronto. Is it nice to be back in this city?
A: Um yeah it’s great, I’ve had a lot of success here. I think mainly cause I don’t want to leave and I’m like - if I lose then I have to leave - so…I’m like ok, the only thing I know how to do is to win so that I can stay. But yeah, that kind of sums up how much I love this city. Like I never want to leave and I was here last year and this year so, I always have fun here. I seem to always come here.
Q: Is there anything in specific about Toronto or playing in Canada that you particularly enjoy and do you there’s a difference between Canadian tennis fans and fans elsewhere?
A: Well I think, playing in Toronto is…wait you asked me if there’s something I like in Toronto?
Q: Specifically, you say you love coming to Toronto - what is it about the city that you like?
A: Yeah I like the city, I like the restaurants, I like the style, I like the culture, I think it’s like a really cool city. The fans are, I don’t know if they’re different they’re very, very awesome and they’re also really intense which is a great thing, so I feel is the perfect mix.
Q: Serena it’s been a lot of years since very young players like yourself are winning Grand Slams. Is that because you’ve been so dominant or because the sport has changed so dramatically and gotten so much more physical that it takes so much longer for a player to grow into their body and also their maturity?
A: That’s a really good question, I never thought about that. Because if you think about it I’m playing and you know, it was Henin and Clijsters and other players who were winning Grand Slams and we all are a little older and so we maybe we had some more experience to take out the younger players? I don’t know that’s a really good – not just me though, cause I definitely didn’t win all the Grand Slams in the past ten years, Lord knows that – but I’m just saying that actually could be a really good analogy that the players are just stronger and more mentally tough and probably just want to keep winning.
Q: Just to follow that up in terms of longevity how do you account for the fact that you are playing at this very, very high level after all of these years? Is it partly because you’ve had so many diverse interests outside of the sport that you haven’t just had that sort of narrow focus? Do you think that has contributed too?
A: Yeah I feel that I’ve had a lot of different interests outside of the sport, I feel like, you know, I haven’t quite burned myself out. I feel like most of all that every year that goes by I start to love the game more than the previous year and that’s rare you know, so, sometimes when I step out onto that court, mainly especially for matches I just really feel this really incredible like joy and appreciation of being out there and like you know, wow I’m living my dream you know?
Q: I do know, because I think a lot of athletes I’ve covered, the second half of their careers they’ve enjoyed more than the first half because there’s so much pressure on them in the first half and they’ve got to win and there’s ups and downs and you learn from the downs and celebrate the ups but when you have the years behind you, yeah I get you completely. Does that apply to you?
A: Definitely, definitely how it feels. It feels like you know, yeah you have ups and downs and but you learn from that and in the future you just you are able not to make the same mistakes or not have the same pressures and then you almost feel a little more free because it’s like you don’t have to prove anything, so I think that plays a lot into it.
Q: Do you think to some degree you’ve also, and Venus as well, when people used to say you don’t play enough early in your career that you’ve set a new paradigm that you don’t have to play and play and play until you burn out and your career can last longer if you kind of pick your spots along the way.
A: Yeah I think that works for us and you know I really feel like if I had played a lot more tournaments I would be a little more tired but I’ve never been one to play twenty some-odd tournaments a year, you know I’m always in the teens and that actually is high for me and I just, you know, just focus on those and do the best I can in those tournaments. I kind of like pick my spots and then I go from there.
Q: Serena because you’ve been so dominant this year I’m just wondering when you’re on the court against certain opponents are you kind of noticing anything with their games or I guess more from a mental aspect because you’ve had the success that you’ve had, are you noticing anything from your opponents?
A: I feel like every opponent I’ve played has played me really, really hard. I’ve won a lot of matches this year but I’ve also gone a lot of three sets this year so I think these ladies are going as hard as they can and doing the best that they can and every time I go out there I have to really show up and play my A game.
Q: You said you’re getting to a lot of three sets, noticing that they are getting closer, do you have to be on your game to knock these people off?
A: Yeah I think every time I step on the court I really have to be on it or I have to be ready to leave not winning.
Q: Later this week, Justine Henin is being inducted into the Hall of Fame here. I’m just wondering, looking back at the time that you were playing her, like earlier on, has the women’s game changed a little bit since then because she had a different style because she was a little smaller, kind of was more versatile, she would run up to the net and she used her speed. Is the game more about power these days do you think?
A: No I think there’s a lot of versatile players out there. Some power players some really, really, really, really tall players and smaller players so I think it’s a really good mix of pretty much everything.
WTA Rogers Cup Preview 2015
By Mike McIntyre
The tennis world turns its attention towards Canada this week as the summer hardcourt swing kicks into high gear with stops for the men in Montreal and the women in Toronto at the Rogers Cup. Sure there have been tournaments on this surface already in Atlanta, Washington and Stanford on the ATP and WTA Tours, but this is where all of the best players in the world (minus a few injury/Federer withdrawals) are gathered to show who the front-runner will be for the final Grand Slam of the year. Yes, the U.S. Open is only a few weeks away and the winners in Canada's two largest cities will be the first to show they are ready for New York.
ProTennisFan is in Toronto for WTA action and therefore here is our preview for what lies ahead in the Big Smoke.
Serena Williams is the number one seed and also happens to be the last winner of the WTA event in Toronto when it was here in 2013. Serena currently holds all four Grand Slam titles and is clearly not in the sharing mood. If her elbow that kept her out of Stanford this past week is healed-up then she is going to be tough to beat in a city where she is already accustomed to being crowned champion. Serena opens with a first round bye and will then face the winner between Canadian Gabby Dabrowski (gold medalist in doubles at the recent Pan Am Games) and Italian Flavia Pennetta the 16th seed. The road for Serena to claim the title in Toronto is not an easy one. While she owns a 6-0 record against her likely second round opponent Pennetta, she could then face Andrea Petkovic in the 3rd round and either Lucie Safarova or Sam Stosur in the quarter-finals. While she is a combined 21-3 against those last three players, she hasn't played on hardcourts in a while and all of them are capable opponents.
Other players in the top half of the draw to look out for include 4th seeded Caroline Wozniacki who won in Canada in 2010 and 5th seeded Ana Ivanovic who in 2006. Big first round matches in this half of the draw involve the Monday night tilt between big servers Venus Williams and Sabine Lisicki as well as the Tuesday night marquee battle between Canadian No. 1 Genie Bouchard and 18 year old rising star Belinda Bencic. Can Genie turn her season around now that she has dumped coach Sam Sumyk? I wouldn't get my hopes up but it sure would be nice for Genie to get a couple of wins and perhaps a reprieve from the Canadian Press who have been pretty tough on the 21 year old this year.
Without Maria Sharapova (right leg) in the tournament it is up to Simona Halep to carry the number two seed. Her first opponent will be the winner between Caroline Garcia and former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic. Halep could get Stanford winner Angelique Kerber next followed by number 6 seed and 2014 champion from Montreal, Aga Radwanska. Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza is the 8th seed and is also in this half of the draw along with third seed and two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova. The best match in the opening round to check-out in this section is certainly Dominika Cibulkova (QF in 2013, F in 2008) vs Sloane Stephens who just claimed her first WTA title in D.C. at the Citi Open. Lookout for Victoria Azarenka who is unseeded and could face Kvitova in the 2nd round. She is due for a big breakthrough that will finally send her up into the rankings where she belongs.
Tough to predict who we might see standing on semi-final Saturday but I'm going with Serena vs Wozniacki and Azarenka vs Radwanska. I will go so far as to say that I think Azarenka will triumph over Serena for the first time since the summer of 2013 which will set the stage for some nice fodder for the press ahead of the U.S. Open. When you look at players that could potentially deny Serena from winning the calendar year Grand Slam, I think Azarenka leads the pack.
Check back with us daily here at ProTennisFan as we will be providing pictures and analysis for you to enjoy.
Genie Bouchard Ready to Start Fresh at the Rogers Cup
By Mike McIntyre
While Canada's Genie Bouchard may have slipped in the rankings and by her own admission hasn't been quite herself so far in 2015, you'd never know it based on the attention she received in Toronto Friday at the draw ceremony for the Rogers Cup. Bouchard was the face of the tournament presented to the media, corporate sponsors and other special guests at the Hilton Hotel to kick-off the premiere Canadian tennis event of the year. Yes her record has been an abysmal 4-13 on the WTA Tour this season but Canada's tennis hopes on the women's side still begin and end with the 21 year old from Westmount, Quebec.
There has been much for Bouchard to reflect upon so far in 2015
Dressed in a playful striped crop-top and black overalls, Bouchard was all business in addressing the press. She succinctly stated that she had no goals for the event other than, "to have a good performance whether I win or lose." This start from scratch mentality also involved jettisoning her coach Sam Sumyk with whom she had been working since just after the Australian Open in February. Bouchard says she is looking for someone who can help her address, "the technical side, the tactical side, the mental side (and) the physical side" of her game. She continued to say that she needed someone, "who has the experience at the top level and who can help me improve daily." While I'm not sure how many available coaches out there fit that bill, it was positive to hear Bouchard admit that there are many facets of her game that require improvement for her to get back to playing more confident and successful tennis.
Whether that will happen here in Toronto remains to be seen. Bouchard drew a tough first round opponent in Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. The 18 year old Bencic is currently ranked No. 22 in the world (compared with Bouchard who sits at No. 26) and is playing in the doubles finals of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. this weekend before arriving for the Rogers Cup. The match between her and Bouchard will take place Tuesday night at the Aviva Centre in front of a packed house no doubt. Then we will see if Bouchard's fresh start is able to yield the encouraging results that both she and her fans are looking forward to.
The Junior edition of the Genie Army was present Friday to say hello
Keep checking back with us at ProTennisFan for daily updates and analysis from all the action here in Toronto. You can also follow us on Twitter for more regular images and observations.
2015 Rogers Cup Draws
For all those who don't feel like going back and forth between the ATP and WTA websites and/or the two Rogers Cup websites for Montreal and Toronto. Here are the qualifying and main draws for singles competition.
Eugenie Bouchard Parts Ways With Coach Sam Sumyk
By Mike McIntyre
Struggling Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard has split with her coach Sam Sumyk after roughly six months of working together. 'Roughly' would be the appropriate word to describe their time together as the former world No. 5 struggled mightily since uniting with the Frenchman in February of this year. Her record has been an abysmal 4-13 during that short period of time that has witnessed a collapse of Bouchard's on-court game and usually strong mental resolve.
Sumyk was no slouch as a tennis coach, having helmed the ascent of former top ten players Vera Zvonareva and more recently Victoria Azarenka whom he parted ways with earlier this year following the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Sumyk (and Bouchard), he was unable to recreate that type of success with the 21 year old Canadian.
While the coaching change comes as a shock to nobody, the timing of the news is somewhat mystifying. Revealed on Twitter by tennis reporter Matt Cronin, the story surfaces just days before Bouchard is set to take to the court in her country's biggest tennis tournament - the Rogers Cup. While it is possible that Bouchard simply could not see herself continuing any longer with Sumyk, it seems odd to make such a decision while on the cusp of having your national media shine a spotlight on you for the week. Rather than coming in with lower expectations and perhaps reduced attention from the press - as she had a year ago following her runner-up result at Wimbledon - Bouchard will now certainly face a barrage of questions related to the coaching move. Did somebody say distraction?
While Bouchard arrived in Toronto late Thursday night, she will be front and centre Friday afternoon at the Hilton Hotel downtown where she will be the WTA player representative present for the selection of the Rogers Cup singles draw. Previously it had been announced that Maria Sharapova would fulfill that role, but that was suddenly changed without explanation a day ago to Bouchard. One would think that initially Bouchard would have been the logical choice to be at the draw ceremony. Despite her struggles she is still at the moment Canada's best and only viable hope of winning the tournament. Regardless of these logistics, as it stands now it will be Bouchard on the hot seat Friday and hopefully she will be able to shed more details on this breaking situation.
Ultimately our judgment on the dismissal of Sumyk will have to be made at the end of the current season. While Bouchard still has pretty much all of the hardcourt swing ahead of her, it will not be as simple as flicking a switch to rediscover her form from 2014. Many questions still linger and the most important of those perhaps is the state of her health following this past week's withdrawal from the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. due to a lingering abdominal injury.
Check back with us later in the day for full coverage of the Rogers Cup draw ceremony along with reaction from Bouchard herself on what has finally prompted her to move in another coaching direction and why she felt compelled to make that decision now.
Milos and Genie Let Fans Get Closer in Toronto
By Mike McIntyre
What better way to spend a sunny afternoon along the waterfront in Toronto than watching Canada's two tennis stars Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard conducting a clinic for kids on a makeshift barge sitting on Lake Ontario?
Both coming off disappointing results at Wimbledon where injuries limited their effectiveness, the twenty-something King and Queen of Canadian tennis were all smiles while they encouraged the next generation of tennis stars in their home country. Hitting with the kids was something both players seemed to genuinely enjoy and it sure makes one appreciate how fortunate we are in Canada to have these two players engaged in inspiring our youth. Up until just a few years ago there really were no big names for kids in Canada to look up to on the tennis court. With the relatively newfound success of Raonic and Bouchard you can pretty much guarantee that more kids are going to be picking up a racquet and trying their hand at tennis.
Here are some pictures we took today that truly capture the motto for the day - #getcloser
Perfect conditions for tennis on a barge!
The crowd gathers by Lake Ontario in anticipation of Milos and Genie's arrival around noon.
Shortly thereafter the two tennis stars arrived with a typically Canadian sized entourage around them.
Just in case you forgot what country Raonic represented. The players were mic'd up and looked like they were ready to run an aerobics class rather than a tennis clinic.
Hosts for the day were Evanka Osmak and Ken Reid from SportsNet.
Working on her overhead while some happy youngsters look on.
The next Genie?
After hitting with the kids Genie and Milos rallied a little for the crowd.
There were a few rare smiles from Milos today, a player more known for his reserved demeanor on court.
Talk about canoeing in the right place at the right time!
Genie's toss was right where it needed to be today.
And that's a wrap!
Canadian tennis fans will get the chance to see both players when they return to home soil for the Rogers Cup running August 7-16 in Montreal for the men and August 8-16 in Toronto for the women.
Belgium Takes Commanding Lead in Davis Cup Tie Against Canada
By Mike McIntyre
No disrespect to Frank Dancevic or Filip Peliwo, but they are no Milos and Vasek. Asking two players ranked 272nd and 491st respectively in the ATP rankings to win against much more talented and consistent opponents was likely never a realistic prospect. With Dancevic nearing the final years of his professional tennis career and Peliwo still just getting his started it was a tough position for both of them to be in today against Belgium.
Dancevic used to be Canada's go-to singles player. With a career high ranking of 65th in the world back in 2007, Dancevic's sharp serving and keen instincts at the net made Canadian tennis fans hopeful that perhaps he could crack into the top 40 in the world. Since then injuries and inconsistencies have plagued the now 30 year old and his 2015 season has not produced much to write home about. Dancevic is 0-2 in main draw ATP events, 7-5 in ATP qualifying and a mediocre 10-10 at the challenger level. While as recently as a couple of years ago I would have given Frank a good shot at Steve Darcis, there was very little chance of him winning that match as things currently stand. And that's a problem for Team Canada who really needed Frank the Tank to show up today and steal one as he did two years ago vs Marcel Granollers of Spain. Instead Darcis, ranked 76th in the world, would take the match 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.
Peliwo was brought along to Belgium I'm assuming because a) it would be a great experience for the former junior star and b) Belgium probably didn't know a whole lot about him. Three years removed from winning the Junior Wimbledon crown and Peliwo's rise in the professional ranks has so far been a slow one. It must be tough when he looks at the early career success of Eugenie Bouchard but hopefully Peliwo isn't putting too much pressure on himself to develop at the same rate. Look at the hiccup in Bouchard's career in 2015 and perhaps taking a slower development path isn't such a bad idea for Peliwo. So far this year has seen some success for the 21 year old in the depths of the minor league's of tennis - aka Futures Events. There he has amassed a 15-8 record along with one tournament victory. At the Challenger level Peliwo is 0-2 in main draw event's and 4-3 in qualifying. He has yet to play in any main draw ATP events in 2015 and therefore his match today against world number 14 David Goffin must have seemed like quite the daunting task. Yet Peliwo hung in there for two sets before the more experienced (by three years) Goffin prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Now Tennis Canada turns to its long standing stalwart in Daniel Nestor, who at the ripe old age of 42 will partner with Davis Cup rookie and comparative youngster at the age of 32, Adil Shamasdin. Ranked 65th in doubles makes Shamasdin a capable partner for Nestor who has seen his own ranking fall to 24th in the world. The two are currently supposed to face the duo of Ruben Bemelmans and Kimmer Coppejans. The match would essentially be a throw-away for the Belgians who would prefer to rest Goffin and Darcis for reverse singles on Sunday where they only require one win. Still, there is the outside chance that Goffin could be subbed-in for Coppejans at the last minute if the Belgians feel there is a legitimate chance they could close out the tie in three straight matches.
Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Canada will be hard pressed to take one, let alone two, singles matches on Sunday. While tennis fans in Canada love to say, "Anything is Pospisil" I don't think that line applies when you're missing Milos and Vasek. If things play out according to predictions there is certainly no shame for the severely depleted Canadian line-up who gave their best effort on Day 1. They will still remain a fixture in the World Group of Davis Cup and with a healthy roster in 2016 should be expected once more to compete for their first ever Davis Cup Championship.
Djokovic Relentless in Winning Wimbledon
By Mike McIntyre
Novak Djokovic looked every bit like the undisputed number one tennis player in the world on Sunday as he defeated his closest rival Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledon by a score of 7-6(1), 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-3. Unlike at the French Open last month, Djokovic never waivered in the final match and played at a superior level to Federer throughout the bulk of the encounter. He now owns three Wimbledon titles and has a total of 9 Grand Slam victories to his name.
In the first set things started well for Federer as he found himself with a 4-2 lead after breaking Djokovic in the fifth game. Fed fans surely got their hopes up that this would be a return to Grand Slam glory for their hero who had not won a major since this very event in 2012. Instead, Djokovic immediately broke back to signal his intent to repeat as champion. Federer would find himself with two set points later with Djokovic serving at 5-6, but both times Djokovic redeemed himself with strong serving. The set would eventually be determined in a lopsided tiebreak where Djokovic imposed his will on Federer and claimed the breaker by a score of 7 to 1. Federer double-faulted on set point and it did not leave viewers feeling too optimistic about what was to come.
By 2-2 in the second set the stats showed 16 unforced errors for Fededer compared to a mere 3 for Djokovic. It was clear that Federer would have to reduce those numbers in order to have success. Federer missed two break points at 2-2 and despite holding a first serve percentage over 90% compared with Djokovic who was at 58% midway through the second set, the Swiss ace could not convert on his opponent's second serve. The end of the second set became tense as both players faced break points but could not take advantage. The stress felt by Federer's supporters at this point was mirrored by the strained faces of his coaches Stefan Edberg and Severin Luthi as well as his wife Mirka as they all knew that going down by two sets to none would be an unreversable fate for Federer. In yet another tiebreak Djokovic raced out to a large lead and would have three set points while up 6-3. Federer saved two on his serve including a 27 shot rally at 4-6 that both players put every ounce of their strength into. Federer then miraculously returned a difficult Djokovic serve out wide before leveling the breaker at six apiece. Despite having to face six set points, Federer would ultimately prevail in the tiebreak and take it by a score of 12-10 thanks to a foray into the net that ended with a definitive volley winner. Note to Federer: do this more often!
Djokovic was fuming during the second set changeover as he knew how close he was to taking total control of the match and yet let it slip away. His resolve in the third set seemed even more determined now and there was little Federer could do to reverse the course of what was to unfold. Federer brutally shanked a smash while serving at 1-1 and 40-A to give Djokovic the only break he would need in the third. A 20 minute rain delay a short while later did not allow Federer and his team to come up with anything tangible that he could put into action on the court when the players returned. Both players won every point on serve after the rain delay and thus there was no way for Roger to even come close to breaking back before Novak took the set 6-4.
In the fourth and what turned out to be final set of the match Djokovic would break to go up 3-2 and was nailing shot after shot right on the lines. Federer now seemed to be missing more first serves and I actually believe he started to look a bit tired physically (and perhaps mentally as well) as he realized he was not going to be getting back into the match. Djokovic would break Federer one more time to take the set and the championships 6-3.
The ageless Federer that we watched defeated Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-finals was not able to show his full capabilities in the final partly due to Djokovic's near flawless tactics. As mentioned, Federer's first serve also did not hold up throughout the four sets, his legendary forehand hit the net more times than he could afford and his dangerous backhand only confounded his opponent on a few occasions.
One area that Roger could have exploited more often during the first two sets in particular was to come into the net which made Djokovic seemingly unsure. The Serb must have attempted a half dozen lobs throughout the match and never was able to even come close to getting it out of Federer's reach. In fact if I were Boris Becker, Novak's coach, the first thing I would be practicing when I returned to the court was the art of the lob. Federer could also have brought Djokovic in towards the middle of the court with some short balls or drop shots. Unfortunately for Roger, he seemed more content to try to keep the rallies going from the baseline which almost always seemed to favor Djokovic. It felt like any rally that went over six or seven shots was going to end up with Djokovic prevailing.
The win evened-up their head-to-head at 20 wins apiece. With Federer soon to be turning 34 and Djokovic still in the prime of his career at age 28 one wonder's how many more times we will be seeing Federer emerge victorious when they meet. Still, the final was entertaining and for the first two sets one that you could not take your eyes off. Djokovic proved that he is without a doubt the Number One player in the world and the toughest grass-court player to face as well at the moment. Roger can take solace perhaps in the fact that he is the biggest contender to Novak at this stage of the season and yet he still seems to be unable to truly push him to the brink. Three years without a Grand Slam for Federer must seem like an eternity but his desire and his ability to contend is still undeniably stronger than most on the ATP Tour. Federer and his fans must now wait until the U.S. Open to try again to recapture former glory, while Djokovic and his team can enjoy the firm grip they hold on the top spot in men's tennis.
Federer Into 10th Wimbledon Final With Vintage Performance Against Murray
By Tia Ko
Roger Federer is advancing to his 10th Wimbledon final after beating Britain’s hometown hero, Andy Murray, in straight sets 7-5, 7-5, 6-4.
Federer when asked about playing Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday said, “It’s great to play Novak anywhere these days. He’s a great player; he’s had great success. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s become very match-tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. Very injury-free. It’s been good for the game. So for me I don’t really think of the [Wimbledon final] we played last year. I just remember it was unbelievably thrilling. That it is Novak, the world number one, it adds something extra.”
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Roger Federer. I’ve been looking forward to this Wimbledon final rematch since exactly one year ago. From what I have seen this week, Roger is playing better than ever. His serve today was unstoppable and that’s what will be key for when he plays the number one seed.
“I served very well. I served a very good first-serve percentage and I served big. It was one of the best serving days of my career for sure,” said Federer about his serving stats. He landed 76% (69/91) of his first serves in, winning a staggering 84% (58/69) of them! Taking that into consideration makes you wonder how Andy Murray was still so close in each set.
In each of the three sets, Federer was able to break Murray at the perfect time: the last game needed to close the set. Murray won the coin toss but opted to receive instead of serving; that may have been a bad move looking back now because each set began with Roger serving, putting the pressure on Murray to hold.
The first set started with Roger under a bit of pressure facing a break point in the first game. He held with neither players facing another break point until Murray’s last service game to try to bring it to a tiebreak. That’s where Federer was able to force an error from Murray up at the net and win the set 7-5.
The second set saw Murray down 0-40 at 4-5 and Federer with 5 set points. The world number 3 was able hold after a 15-minute game but was ultimately broken in his following service game giving Federer a 2-0 set lead and one away from the Wimbledon final.
The third set was once again on serve until late in the match with Federer up 5-4. Murray was up to serve but Federer’s pressure and precise shot making at the right time caused another break point and Roger’s first match point. On match point, Murray sent a forehand shot long and off to the final Roger goes!
Djokovic defeats Gasquet to advance to 4th Wimbledon Final
By Tia Ko
In the first semi-final of the day Novak Djokovic took only two hours and twenty one minutes to beat the 21st seeded Richard Gasquet 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 after serving up a 40-love game and hitting a forehand cross court to finish off the Frenchman.
During the post-match interview, Djokovic was asked if he thinks he’s living the dream having made it to another Grand Slam final. He responded saying, “Yes, I’m living the dream; being here at Wimbledon, I’m playing on the best tennis court in the world. It’s a great honor and privilege to be out there and I have to keep going. The final of Wimbledon is the most watched tennis match in the world of course a lot is at stake but I’ll be ready for it.”
The opening set started off with an early break of serve giving Djokovic a 2-0 lead. Luckily, Gasquet was able to get the break back by firing a backhand winner. Both players held serve until 6-6 but eventually a sloppy tiebreak from Gasquet gave Djokovic the first set. The following two sets started the same with Djokovic easily breaking Gasquet; unfortunately, this time the Frenchman was unable to break back and the world number one ran off winning them 6-4, 6-4 including a love game to end it with triple match point.
Djokovic has improved his net play and movement tremendously with the help of his coach Boris Becker. He would often sneak up as a new part of his game and ended up winning 26 of his 39 trips to the net. The defending champ also broke down Gasquet’s forehand causing many errors from the right side of the court.
When asked who Djokovic thinks he’ll be playing in the final against on Sunday he dodged the question and said, “We will see, I cannot foresee the future but I’ll enjoy [Federer and Murray’s] match.”
In a poll of 216 people, Djokovic was predicted to win with 91% of the votes leaving only 19 people believing in the underdog. I, too, didn’t believe Gasquet had a shot at beating Djokovic; it just didn’t seem possible. Novak is at the top of his game and it will take a genius to beat him in Sunday’s final… Will Roger Federer be the one to do just that?
Pan Am Games Tennis Draws
The Pan Am Games begins today from the Canadian Tennis Centre - aka the Aviva Centre - (formerly Rexall Centre) on the York University Campus of Toronto. See below for the all of the draws:
Will Maria have what it takes to beat Serena at Wimbledon during their semi-final match?
By Tia Ko
Head-to-head, Serena Williams leads 17-2 with Maria Sharapova’s only wins coming in 2004 (Wimbledon final and the Tour Championships). Will today be her first victory in more than a decade against the 5-time Wimbledon champion? It’s obvious that Sharapova will have to play her best tennis if she wants a shot at the final and we’re here to give some key insights.
First, she will have to force Williams to play longer rallies; Williams takes a while to warm up and it will be important to get an early lead in the first set to set the momentum for the rest of the match.
Secondly, limit the amount of unforced errors. During Maria’s last four matches, her number of unforced errors has been almost equal (and sometimes more) than her number of winners. It will be hard to compete if Serena comes out hitting like she has been for her matches this week, hitting sometimes 3x more winners than unforced errors.
Finally, and most importantly, Sharapova has to make her serve work. Let’s give you some quick statistics from her quarterfinal match against Coco Vandeweghe: she got 60% of her 1st serves in, winning 73% of them; however, she only won 36% of her 2nd serves. Comparing this to Serena’s quarterfinal match versus Victoria Azarenka, Serena got 65% of her 1st serves in winning 80% of them while also winning 58% of her second serves. Maria will have to put more on her second serve if she wants to win those points because we’ve all witnessed how Williams can take advantage of a weak serve.
"There are definitely no secrets between each other's games, but it will be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again.” The world number four stated at an interview yesterday.
If she is able to stop Serena’s winning streak this afternoon she will play the winner of Garbine Muguuza (ESP)/Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) on Saturday afternoon.
A Shocker of a French Open Preview
Spoiler alert - this French Open preview ends with Novak Djokovic capturing his maiden and elusive title at Roland Garros. That's right, our shocker of a preview delivers what pretty much every tennis "expert" and fan alike is already expecting to happen in two week's time. So how can we claim that this is somehow a surprise? Here's why...
With a record in Paris of 66-1, any prediction that strongly supports the notion that Rafael Nadal is not going to win the French Open must fall into the category of a shock. This man has won Roland Garros 9 of the past 10 years and I don't care one bit about the struggles he has been experiencing since he won here a year ago, he is still the man when it comes to this tournament. That being said, his reign is about to come to an end due to his recent lapses in confidence along with a world number one who is playing like a man among boys. If you're looking to bet on the French Open, Djokovic is your safest pick (and ours too!)
Here is our full-on French Open preview for you to enjoy and/or dismiss!
Djokovic opens against veteran Jarkko Nieminen. As a former Andre Agassi fan when I was younger I always relish seeing Nieminen lose at the French Open after the way he beat an injured Agassi in his final match at Roland Garros back in 2005. I expect a pretty quick exit for Nieminen in this match and I won't be complaining if that is the case. Djokovic should have a good first few matches with no real clay court threats in his path. Richard Gasquet is seeded 20th and could face Novak in the 4th round but Gasquet has not beaten Djokovic since 2007 so let's be honest here. Then it gets serious for Djokovic. That's because his quarter-final opponent could very well be Rafael Nadal. The match that nearly everyone would want to see in the finals is scheduled to happen two rounds sooner due to Rafa's ranking slide of late. However with the way Nadal has struggled this year, even on clay, there is no guarantee he will even be still standing by the time the quarters roll around. He has potential foes of Dolgopolov or Almagro in round two and Robredo or Dimitrov in the fourth round. Still, Nadal is 15-4 on clay this year which almost anybody else would be happy with. A meeting with Djokovic in the quarters is likely with the winner being the clear favorite moving forward.
Andy Murray has had the best clay court season of his career and is 10-0 on red dirt so far this year. Murray was forced to withdraw in Rome due to exhaustion but has certainly overcome that and will be ready to improve on his semi-final result at Roland Garros a year ago. Murray will likely face a tough clay-court player in Joao Sousa in the second round and perhaps rising Australian star Nick Kyrgios in the third. Beyond that, American John Isner would be the highest seed to confront Murray in the fourth round and in the quarters the biggest potential threat for Murray would be the tough-as-nails David Ferrer. Ferrer already has titles on both clay and hard courts this year and while he is a step behind his usual self, he remains a player that nobody wants to face. Murray has never beaten Ferrer on clay in four previous attempts including a 2012 loss here at the French Open. This year however I would give the edge to Murray based on his streak coming in.
Kei Nishikori is the 5th seed and could have a fun match in the third round against Fernando Verdasco. Feliciano Lopez, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fabio Fognini and the always consistent Tomas Berdych are also in this quarter of the draw. With two wins over Nadal in 2015, Fognini must be feeling pretty confident. Too bad he's such a head case or he might actually have a shot at going deep here this year. Of course now that I write that he will almost certainly prove me wrong and advance to the semi-finals! Nishikori defended his Barcelona clay court title earlier this year but has never done much at Roland Garros where he has yet to advance past the fourth round. Two unseeded players who have a realistic shot of making the quarter-finals are Federico Delbonis and Juan Monaco who can both play real well on this surface. The two play one another in the first round which has 5 sets written all over it. Berdych warrants the best shot of advancing to the semi-finals here but don't expect much more from him. His last four losses this season have come to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray - aka the "Big Four."
For Roger Federer fans, the excitement of having Djokovic, Murray and Nadal in the other half of the draw must seem almost too good to be true. Roger himself must be pretty pumped-up at the prospect of advancing to the finals here for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately I feel like this draw IS too good to be true especially when I notice that Fed could play Gael Monfils in the fourth round. Neither Federer nor Monfils should be stopped prior to that stage - although with Monfils I suppose you never know. Still, the Frenchman has Roger's number of late in winning three of their last five matches including the past two in-a-row on clay. Stan Wawrinka is also in this quarter as the 8th seed but Stan has been a mess since February this year and I just don't see him putting it together at the moment.
In two weeks time I'm expecting a Djokovic vs. Insert unpredictable (perhaps shocking) opponent in the finals. Novak will join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as current players who have won all four Slams and the discussion will rev-up about whether or not the Serb can catch the two more accomplished players in the race for the all-time Grand Slam count.
French Open Coming Soon
With the Australian Open behind us and just a few weeks to go until the French Open, the tennis season is now well under way and we're beginning to get an idea as to how this year could go in both the men's and women's game. The Australian Open always gives tennis fans an indication of how the top players are looking after the short winter break, but the landscape is often a lot different by the time the French Open comes around. While it looks set to be another open tournament for the women at Roland Garros at the end of May, there is a genuine feeling that the men's draw might not be the same one-man show it has been in recent years. So, let's take a closer look at how the favourites are shaping up ahead of this year's French Open.
Serena Williams: The French Open might be her least successful grand slam but the two-time winner is still 11/4 with betfair and other bookmakers for the title. On the back of winning her sixth Australian Open crown and 19th grand slam title, Serena has started the season in the same form she ended 2014 and the world number one's triumph in Melbourne lay down a marker to the rest of the sport that she is still the best player in the world despite the fact she will turn 34 this year. There might be some very talented youngster coming through but it's no surprise to see Serena still dominating the sport and the American will not want to end her career without adding a third French Open title to her collection.
Simona Halep: She might not have won a grand slam title yet but the 23-year-old has certainly been knocking on the door labelled "major titles" over the past 12 months. Last year was a breakout season for the young Romanian, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, the final of the French Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon, and Halep is expected to win that maiden grand slam title in 2015. Her sensational and surprising run in last year's French Open was only ended by an inspired Maria Sharapova in the final, but that experience would have done wonders for Halep and world number three will be a serious contender in this year's tournament.
Maria Sharapova: The world number two has been the dominant force at Roland Garros in recent years. After winning her first French Open title in 2012, Sharapova lost in the 2013 final to Serena Williams. But 12 months later and the Russian was lifting the famous trophy for a second time after a gruelling three-set victory over Simona Halep in the final. The 27-year-old will be looking to reach a fourth straight final at Roland Garros when she returns to Paris at the end of May. Sharapova started this year in encouraging form by reaching the final of the Australian Open, falling at the final hurdle after losing to Serena Williams in straight sets. But Sharapova is certainly deserving of her place among the favourites for this year's tournament and many will be backing her to win a third French Open title.
Victoria Azarenka: It's been a tough year for the Belarusian but Victoria Azarenka is finally getting back to the level she was at when she reached the top of the world rankings in 2012. A foot injury plagued Azarenka throughout 2014, forcing her to miss last year's French Open and playing a big part in the 25-year-old's disappointing season coming to an end in September. The two-time Australian Open champion has looked back to something like her best since the start of the year, though, and Azarenka could be one-to-watch in Paris this summer despite currently residing way out of the top-10.
Novak Djokovic: Despite being the one grand slam he has never won, Novak Djokovic's sensational form over the past 12 months means it will be the world number one who starts this year's French Open as the slight betting favourite ahead of nine-time champion Rafael Nadal. On the back of winning his fifth Australian Open, Djokovic will now be looking to win the French Open for the first time. With Nadal struggling more and more with injuries and his confidence, Roger Federer nearing the end of his illustrious career and Andy Murray battling form and fitness issues, Djokovic has really established himself as the game's dominant force. But regardless of his position as world number one, the Serbian star will know that he needs to win a French Open crown to complete his grand slam set and really put himself among the greatest players to have ever graced a tennis court.
Rafael Nadal: It seems strange that after winning nine French Open titles in 10 years Rafael Nadal might not start this year's tournament as the firm betting favourite. But whether it's Nadal's continued injury problems or Novak Djokovic's sensational form over the past few years, the betting odds reflect just how close punters feel this year's tournament could be. After missing the 2014 US Open and being forced to end his season early due to injury, it's been a relatively slow start to the year for Nadal since returning to action. But while the world number three might not be heading into this year's French Open in the sort of winning form he would have liked, you'd have to be a brave soul to feel confident that Nadal won't destroy everything in his path on his way to a 10th French Open title.
Andy Murray: It might have been a tough couple of years for Andy Murray but the Scotsman has still reached at least the quarter-finals in every grand slam he has appeared in since the 2010 US Open. Despite struggling with fitness and form since winning the 2013 Wimbledon title, Murray has remained one of the most consistent players on the Tour and someone capable of beating the best in the world on his day. A promising start to the season saw Murray reach his fourth Australian Open final before losing to Novak Djokovic, and the two-time grand slam winner will be determined to prove he is getting back to his best.
Stan Wawrinka: While there had never been much doubt as to just how good Stan Wawrinka is, it took until the 2014 Australian Open for the Swiss star to win his first grand slam title. Since then, the 29-year-old has continued to climb the rankings and is now an established part of the world's top 10. On the back of a successful 2014, Wawrinka started 2015 in impressive form, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, beating Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals before losing out to Andy Murray for a place in the final. The French Open might not have been Wawrinka's happiest hunting ground in the past but the world number seven will be heading into the second grand slam of the season confident in the knowledge that he has the ability to beat any player in the draw. If he can produce his best form at Roland Garros, Wawrinka could be one of the surprise packages in Paris this summer.
ATP Miami Open Draw Analysis
By Mike McIntyre
Inspired by watching a fantastic week and a half of tennis in Indian Wells, I return to write my first tennis article since the U.S. Open in August. While my passion for tennis is as strong as ever, finding time to properly devote to the sport has been a challenge since becoming a Dad a year and a half ago. It is a challenge that I happily relinquish my writing skills to with every opportunity I have to spend with my wonderful son Emmett. That being said I think I am finally ready (and able) to spend the occasional late night returning to focus on the developments on the ATP World Tour that I have so enjoyed covering for the past eight years.
Here then is my take on the upcoming Miami Open, the final hard court tournament until after Wimbledon in roughly four months.
Well if anyone can complete the Indian Wells/Miami double then who better than world number on Novak Djokovic. Not only did he accomplish that feat last year, but he is also fresh off his 50th career ATP title (one more than his coach Boris Becker) and his 21st Masters 1000 event. Djokovic is certainly the man to beat so far in 2015. He has two tournament victories in the four events he has appeared in and those just happen to be the two biggest draws we have had so far this year (Aussie Open and BNP Paribas Open). Novak will open against either Paolo Lorenzi or Martin Klizan after receiving an opening round bye. Smooth sailing appears to be in his forecast until the quarter-finals where he could meet 7th seeded David Ferrer or perhaps the big serving Ivo Karlovic, seeded 22nd, who beat him earlier this year in Qatar.
Other interesting names in the top quarter include Lleyton Hewitt who appears ready to call it a career after this season, the enigmatic and controversial Alexandr Dolgopolov (who claimed last week that female players have a harder time dealing with injuries than the men) and Gilles Simon who at times looks like he is indeed a top-20 player. Ferrer and Karlovic however seem to be the two most likely to advance to a quarter-final match against the Djoker.
This section of the draw has "fireworks" written all over it with the likes of Milos Raonic, John Isner, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and the returning Juan Martin Del Potro appearing. Nishikori should be able to navigate his way to the quater-finals here, though lookout for veteran Mikhail Youzhny who he could face in the second round. Youzhny has been a shell of his former self over the past year but I would never count him out. Anyone who hits himself in the head with a racquet is a foe I'd hate to face!
In the bottom section of this quarter is where the real fun is set to unfold. Dimitrov draws the worst of the lot by having to potentially face Del Potro in the second round, Isner in the third and then Raonic in the fourth. Ouch! Del Potro is a face that tennis fans worldwide will be happy to welcome back to the sport after only playing a single tournament (Sydney in January 2015) since February 2014 due to ongoing issues with his left wrist. Del Po will have a strong test from Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the opening round. The 24 year old Canuck is on a role lately after playing hero for Canada in closing out their Davis Cup tie against Japan in the 5th and deciding rubber and then winning the Indian Wells doubles title along with Jack Sock. Pospisil is currently ranked 60th in the world but one that many would consider a top 30 talent.
Based on his play of late, another Canadian - Milos Raonic - will have to be considered the favourite to advance in this section of the draw. Raonic has been so consistent over the past year, making 8 of his last 10 Masters 1000 quarter-finals or better. A hard serving battle against Isner in the third round would be fun to watch (if you like that kind of stuff) and a re-match from Davis Cup against Nishikori in the fourth round would also capture our attention.
A showdown between 3rd seeded Andy Murray and 6th seeded Stan Wawrinka is what fans will be looking for in the third quarter-final. Murray seems in-form after a semi-final showing in Indian Wells, while Wawrinka has been underachieving lately. A second round defeat last week at the hands of Robin Haase highlights the up and down nature of the Swiss No. two's game lately. He has cooled since he opened the year with two tournament victories and a 5 set semi-final loss to Djokovic at the Aussie Open. Which Wawrinka will we see in Miami this week? Anyway you look at it the stats will tell you that he has never before advanced beyond the 4th round at this event, but who do you see in his draw (Lopez, Sock) that could realistically take him down?
Rafael Nadal takes Roger Federer's place as the 2nd seed in this event as the Swiss superstar is sitting this one out for some family time. Nadal is admittedly not yet back to his usual self and with the clay court season about to begin I can't imagine he is overly concerned with how he performs in his final hard court event for the next few months. Tomas Berdych is in this section and would be his likely quarter-final opponent. A fantastic third round match could transpire between Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga is making his first appearance in 2015 after being sidelined with an arm injury sustained in Davis Cup late last year. Too soon to get our hopes up with him, so I'd stick with a Berdych/Nadal quater-final in this section of the draw.
Enjoy this final hardcourt tourney before we switch to two months of red clay followed by a brief transition to grass court tennis. Djokovic appears the man to beat here as he is the defending champion and showed no signs of weakness in last week's tournament victory (minus three untimely double faults to Federer in the 2nd set breaker). I have to give Murray a shot here as well since he has won the event twice before and has a favorable draw to the semis. He might be better rested than Djokovic for this one in fact. Only time will tell.
Men's U.S. Open Preview 2014
By Mike McIntyre
I've always enjoyed the ups and downs that a year on the ATP Tour can bring us. When you have a season that lasts from January (or even the end of December) until November you are bound to have ebbs and flows and an ever changing wave of momentum that sees players rise and fall at different times in the schedule. Seemingly impervious to these ups and downs in recent years have been Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who currently sit at number one and two in the Emirates World Rankings. Yet as the final Grand Slam of 2014 is set to begin, both of these steady talents find themselves on the outside of the list of favorites in New York - and for very different reasons at that.
It has been almost a week now since Nadal has announced what everyone suspected earlier this summer when he revealed a right wrist injury he sustained after Wimbledon. While he initially pulled-out only from Toronto and Cincinnati leaving the door open to a return at the U.S. Open, many believed that the Spaniard would be unable to make it back to the form required to compete in gruelling best-of-five set matches. The tournament will be without it's defending champion and one of its biggest stars.
Djokovic on the other hand will be participating at Flushing Meadows and seeking his second title in New York however his play this summer has not indicated that he is the front-runner by any stretch. A 2-2 hardcourt record in August and straight set losses to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Robredo do not bode well for his chances over the next two weeks. While the loss in Toronto could be attributed to some rust after not playing since Wimbledon and getting married as well, the Cincy defeat had no excuse for a world number one. Djokovic's attention and tennis game seem to be elsewhere. Djokovic's faltering game coupled with the previously mentioned loss of Nadal in the draw and suddently there are 127 other players who are just chomping at the bit to make their mark in New York this year. That being said, let's take a look at the draw and who we might be watching play for the title in two week's time.
While Djokovic is the top seed and may very well surprise us all by suddenly returning to form, I feel that players like John Isner, Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could prove otherwise.
Isner has always been a threat on the hardcourts of North America and typically has success at the smaller lead-up events such as Atlanta and Washington. He did win in Atlanta this year and then was bounced early in D.C. as well as Toronto and Cincinnati. Still, Isner has the serve and the home crowd that could propell him to a round of sixteen match against the struggling Djokovic. If Tsonga and Robredo can beat the Serb, why not Isner? While Djokovic has a 5-2 career head-to-head against Isner, the two have always had close matches. Isner made the quarter-finals of the Open in 2011 and I feel he is a strong candidate to repeat that again this year.
Tsonga put together a week that most players can only dream of when he knocked off four top-ten players in Toronto (Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer) en route to the second Masters 1000 title of his career. Then, just after he appeared invincible, he fell in his opening round match in Cincy to Mikhail Youzhny. In all fairness, Youzhny is a top-level opponent and Tsonga did not have much time to recharge in-between events. A third round match with compatriot Julien Benneteau would be a tough one and could leave either vunerable to a round of sixteen encounter with Andy Murray who has justifiably (given his play) been flying under the radar. Before we discuss Murray, let's look at Benneteau. At 32 years old this veteran has been playing some fantastic tennis this year and is currently ranked 27th in the world. He reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati recently and is a guy I feel could have an unexpectedly deep run in New York. The one knock against Benneteau is that he has only made it past the third round of a Slam three times over the course of his career. He trails Tsonga 4-5 in their career meetings but has won their only encounter this year on hard court in Indian Wells.
Now we come to Murray who by his own admission has not had a strong season. He can only use the "returning from back surgery" excuse for so long and fans are growing impatient to see some results from his partnership with coach Amelia Mauresmo. Murray has failed to reach the finals of any event on tour so far in 2014. The last year that Murray did not win a tournament was in 2005 and the last year he failed to make a final was 2004. With most of the season behind us, Murray is running out of time to keep his streak going. Could he reverse his fortunes with a deep run here at the Open? It is not out of the question, but my prediction here is on Isner to rise to the occasion and surprise a lot of people.
My Pick: Isner d Murray
Could Canadian Milos Raonic make his third straight Grand Slam quarter-final at the Open? I'd put money on it if I were the betting type. Over the past four years this guy has done all the right things in terms of his learning curve as a professional tennis player. Deservingly ranked 6th in the world, this could be Raonic's best chance at his first major title. A third round match against either 10th seeded Kei Nishikori or a surging Jack Sock could test him but he has prevailed against both players in recent history. A quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka who is seeded 3rd would be fun to watch, but with Wawrinka's up and down play you just can't bank on him being there. I really think Raonic is the favorite in this part of the draw and perhaps even to make it to his first Slam final. Keep an eye out for fellow Canuck Vasek Pospisil who made the finals against Raonic in D.C. and pushed Roger Federer to three sets in Cincy recently. He could take out Wawrinka in the 3rd round.
My Pick: Raonic d. Wawrinka
Things get really interesting in this section of the draw and again we could see an unpredicatble name make it into the semi-finals. David Ferrer is the 4th seed and recently made the finals in Cincinnati and made Federer work for the title by taking him to a third set. Ferrer could see Marin Cilic in the round of sixteen and Cilic is my man to advance to the semis here. Lookout for Jerzy Janowicz who performed admirably in Cincy in defeating Grigor Dimitrov and then fell in the finals of Winston-Salem this past week to Lukas Rosol. He's full of confidence and if Cilic doesn't make it through it very well could be because of JJ. I wouldn't waste much hope on 6th seeded Tomas Berdych who has been absolutely miserable since the French Open. Take a look at American Steven Johnson who is quietly becoming a force for the struggling legion of American tennis players. Johnson is a true sleeper in this draw in my opinion and a guy who has worked his ranking up from the high 100s to 51st in the world over the course of the season.
My pick: Cilic d. Johnson
Many are calling this quarter the home of the future 2014 U.S. Open champion - Roger Federer. It's true that this is a golden opportunity for Fed to capture his 18th Slam title, but don't think it is going to be a walk in the park. Roger's forehand is not nearly as flawless as it used to be and although he is riding a huge wave of success from this summer, things almost seem too good to be true. He's looking good until the quarter-finals but lookout for a meeting there with either Gael Monfils or Grigor Dimitrov. Either has the capability of beating Roger and while Monfils spends too much time showboating, he could focus long enough to cause an upset. Dimitrov meanwhile has made the semis at Wimbledon and the semis at the Masters 1000 in Rome andToronto in 2014 and he is itching to prove he belongs in the top-ten. He is also one of but two players (Djokovic being the other) to have won an event on clay, hard and grass this year. I'm gonna go with Dimitrov over Federer in the quarters making this U.S. Open one to truly remember. The big four are in for some challenges and we are about to find out if those obstacles are going to present themselves here at the U.S. Open.
My Pick: Dimitrov d. Federer
Raonic d. Isner
Dimitrov d. Cilic
Raonic d. Dimitrov
Top 5 Things Not To Miss At The U.S. Open
The 2014 US Open begins on Monday, August 25th and lasts until Monday September 8th. There's plenty to look forward to between the exciting matches, amazing food, luxurious accommodations and gorgeous weather. Let's take a look at what tennis fans should look forward to the most at the 2014 U.S. Open.
1) An Unpredictable Women's Tournament
Only one woman, Eugenie Bouchard, has reached the semifinal round at each of 2014's three women's Grand Slam events. The world's number one female player, Serena Williams, has failed to advance beyond the fourth round of this year's majors. All of this adds up to what looks like a women's US Open tournament that can be won by anyone.
2) Sleepers To Watch On The Women's Side
There is a sense around the professional tennis circuit that an unheralded player will rise up and make some serious noise in this year's US Open. Some potential sleepers on the women's side to watch are Madison Keys, Alize Cornet and Garbine Muguruza. Cornet, 24, has had a nice season that includes two wins over Serena Williams. Keys, a native of England, is only 19 but she won her first WTA title heading into the All England Club. Muguruza typically plays her best tennis on clay but the 20 year old is thought to have the potential to be a Grand Slam champion.
3) The Men Could Surprise As Well
Last year's men's US Open featured a stunning upset in which Tommy Robredo defeated the five time US Open winner Roger Federer. This year could have a few similar upsets in store. Tennis experts point to potential sleeper picks like Ernests Gulbis, Julien Benneteau and David Goffin. Marin Cilic is poised to make some noise as well. He is 6'6” and has an overpowering serve that few will be able to handle on the US Open's incredibly fast courts.
4) Experience The US Open In Comfort And Style
Tennis fans should take advantage of the US Open's Luxury Suite package. It is ideal for a large group of friends, corporate partners or those who are looking to entertain special guests. This package provides a gorgeous lounge in Arthur Ashe Stadium along with the finest foods, a plasma TV and a private bathroom. There's also a Premium Seat package with a shared hospitality space in which small groups can dine, a choice of premium seats in the stadium and much more. Finally, there is a Private Hospitality package that offers entertainment for large groups in a private room within the Indoor Training Center's Hospitality Pavilion, a plasma television and premium seating in the stadium.
5) The US Open's Amazing Food Choices
The US Open has the perfect variety of food for tennis fans of all backgrounds and ages. There's a Cuban restaurant called Mojito, Grey Goose Bar, Champions Bar & Grill for steaks, the US Open Club for American cuisine, Moet & Chandon Terrace, Cuppa Spotta, South Plaza Café, Ben & Jerry's, Carnegie Deli, the Heineken Red Star Cafe and the Patio Cafe & Bar for sandwiches, salads and cocktails. There's also courtside and suite food service provided by Aces and Champions Bar & Grill.
After the US Open ends that puts a cap on the 2014 Grand Slam season. Get ready for the 2015 season by getting an Australian Open travel package lined up so you don’t miss the beginning to what could be a crazy year in tennis.
Western and Southern Open ATP Preview
By Mike McIntyre
A few days removed from a third round loss at the Rogers Cup should help world Number One Novak Djokovic work on a few things in practice and refocus on his U.S. Open preparations. Djokovic receives a first round bye once again and then opens against the winner between Gilles Simon and Bernard Tomic. The month off after Wimbledon is tough on all players and those in Toronto witnessed that first hand with the high number of upsets that happened there. Expect the top guys to shake off the rust and have a deeper run here in Cincinnati as they get closer to the final Grand Slam of the year.
In the top quarter Djokovic has a possible third round meeting with solid veteran Tommy Robredo who knocked-off Jack Sock in the opening round 7-6(5), 6-3. A good win for Tommy considering that Sock was ripping his forehand pretty well last week in Canada and has been enjoying success in both singles and doubles this summer.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a likely quarter-final opponent for Djokovic and would give him a chance to redeem himself from the 6-2, 6-2 beating that the Frenchman put on him at the Rogers Cup. Tsonga must first overcome the crafty Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round who has won three of the last four matches between the two. Fatigue may be a factor for Tsonga, although if he plays like he did last week in Toronto and carries that momentum forward he should be just fine. Can he beat Djokovic in back-to-back tournaments, I don't think so. Should Djokovic win the title in Cincinnati he will become the only player in the history of the ATP World Tour to have won all nine Masters 1000 titles in his career.
In the second quarter of the draw, Stan Wawrinka is the 3rd seed and will face Benjamin Becker who beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5), 6-4 in his first match of the tourney. "Stan the Man" could face Marin Cilic in the third round before a likely encounter with recent Masters 1000 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov who had a successful week in Toronto. Dimitrov made the second Masters semi-final of this career this past week and is one of only two players on Tour this year who have won titles on all three surfaces (along with Djokovic).
In the third quarter, Milos Raonic is the 5th seed and despite his loss to Feliciano Lopez at his home tournament last week, the Canadian is looking more and more like a bonafide member of the top-ten. After his bye, Raonic will face the winner between Dominic Thiem who represents the future of the ATP World Tour and Robby Ginepri who I think we can all agree represents the past. The enigmatic Ernests Gulbis could face Milos in round three and a potential quarter-final battle with 4th seed Tomas Berdych also looms. Berdych was practicing hard last week in Toronto with Andy Murray. We'll see if any of that work pays off as he looks to take his hardcourt season up a notch. Berdych is in a slump that has seen him win no more than two matches in-a-row since the French Open in May.
In the final quarter of the draw, Roger Federer is the second seed and is coming off a strong result in Toronto where he lost the final to an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer will see either 35 year old Radek Stepanek or 24 year old Vasek Pospisil in the second round. He could get Gael Monfils in the third round which would be fun to watch - heck Monfils against just about anyone is a fun match to watch. Andy Murray could see Fed in the quarter-finals which would give fans and tournament organizers plenty to cheer about. I feel that Murray is due for a breakthrough performance and Cincinnati could be the place this finally happens. I know he had to overcome back surgery in the off-season but the fact that the Scot has not been in a final all year on the ATP Tour is quite shocking. Murray has won this event twice before, in 2008 and 2011. He's no doubt hoping that this three year in-between titles trend continues.
Ultimately I am going with Djokovic, Dimitrov, Raonic and Murray to make it through their respective quarters and I'll take Murray over Djokovic in the finals. This will be the last apperance of most of the top players on Tour before the U.S. Open begins later this month. One interesting stat to note is that in the 44 year history of the Western & Southern Open, the winner has gone on to win the final Grand Slam of the year in Flushing Meadows 9 times. Most recently Rafael Nadal proved that winning Cincinnati is excellent preparation for the Open, we'll see if someone else can do the same in 2014.