Men's 2016 U.S. Open Preview

 By Mike McIntyre

The final Grand Slam of the year is upon us in New York and 127 players on the ATP World Tour will be trying to wrestle the U.S. Open title away from Novak Djokovic. For the first time in over a year, Djokovic is likely not being considered the favorite at this event as he has struggled since winning his maiden French Open title at the beginning of June. With his health uncertain - a wrist issue has been bothering him in recent weeks - Djokovic will have his work cut out for him in order to take home his third U.S. Open championship.

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First Quarter

First of all let me say that if Djokovic is playing 100% healthy, then he is still (along with Andy Murray) a very strong candidate for the title. It is the fact that we don't exactly know the full extent of his injury, coupled with an up-and-down summer that makes me feel he is going to be pushed really hard to repeat as the champ. Djokovic faces an underrated Jerzy Janowicz in the opening round. Janowicz is currently ranked 228th in the world but only recently returned to the court after an injury layoff (knee) that began after the Australian Open and ended but a month ago. Janowicz has not won a Grand Slam match since winning one round at the 2015 French Open. The 25 year old from Poland is best known for his 2013 run to the semi-finals of Wimbledon. He has never faced Djokovic before.

Djokovic could face Jiri Vessely in the second round, Mikhail Youzhny in the third and then American John Isner in the fourth round. These matches should give Novak some much needed confidence after his opening round loss to Juan Martin Del Potro at the Rio Olympics. An in-form Marin Cilic could be waiting in the quarter-finals.

Cilic just won the first Masters 1000 title of his career in Cincinnati a week ago and opens against Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil. Jack Sock is his likely third round match-up and a struggling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looms in the fourth round. Cilic, let's not forget, won the Open in 2014 and has already proved he has what it takes to win here.

Second Quarter

Canadian Milos Raonic is seeded fifth in New York but many consider the Wimbledon finalist as the third most likely to win the Open behind Djokovic and Murray. Since falling to Murray on grass, Raonic made the quarter-finals in Toronto and the semi-finals in Cincy. He has a 42-11 record on the year and has John McEnroe back in his squad as he gets ever closer to the first Grand Slam title of his career. Milos opens against Dustin Brown of Germany and then has a favorable draw until a Rogers Cup re-match against Gael Monfils that looms for the round of sixteen. Monfils beat Milos in TO and was on a real hot streak this summer. For his part, Raonic did beat him in a best-of-five hardcourt match at the Aussie Open at the start of the year as well as at Indian Wells a couple of months later.

Rafael Nadal is in this section of the draw but it is hard to know what he will be able to bring to the table if the matches go into a fourth or fifth set. He made an incredible return to tennis at the Olympics where he won gold in doubles and lost the bronze medal singles match to Kei Nishikori. He doesn't sound too optimistic when talking about his current health status and lost last week in Cincinnati in his third round match to Borna Coric by a quick score of 6-1, 6-3.

Third Quarter

The most entertaining quarter of the draw in my opinion is right here with third seed Stan Warinka leading the charge. This is Stan's last chance to win a Slam in three straight years but he'll have his hands full if he is to accomplish that. Wawrinka has gone 5-4 on Tour since his semi-final result at Roland Garros. He opens against veteran Fernando Verdasco who defeated him at Queen's Club in June. He could get youngster Alexander Zverev in the third round and then Nick Kyrgios in the fourth. I think Kyrgios is due for a breakthrough at the Slam level and after putting his you-know-what together in Atlanta earlier this month, he could very well have that moment here in New York.

An admittedly tired Dominic Thiem is in this section as the eighth seed and so is Olympic silver medalist Del Potro. Whoever makes it out of this section is either going to be incredibly tired or on one heck of a roll moving towards the semi-finals.

Fourth Quarter

Andy Murray is the favorite this year at the U.S. Open and I don't think that can really be disputed one bit. In 2016 he can boast of being the runner-up at the Aussie Open, the French Open and the Master events in Madrid and Cincinnati. He was champion in Rome, Queen's Club, Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics. He is looking as good as he could possibly hope in his bid for a second U.S. Open title. Murray opens against Lukas Rosol, could see Gilles Simon in the third round followed by a reinvigorated Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth. Kei Nishikori is in this section and would be the likely quarter-final opponent for Murray here. That would be a repeat of the Olympic semi-finals where Murray routinely won 6-1, 6-4.

Nishikori faces Benjamin Becker in the opening round. It was ten years ago (wow!) since Becker knocked Andre Agassi out of the last tournament of his career at Flushing Meadows. He could see David Goffin in the fourth round. Add Goffin to the next wave of potential Grand Slam champions who are trying to unseat the usual suspects.

Check back with us throughout the next two weeks as we focus on the Grand Slam action in New York. You can also follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

August 28, 2016 in U.S. Open | Permalink | Comments (0)

Olympic Tennis Highlights Day 2

By Mike McIntyre

If tennis fans thought that day one was exciting at the Olympic Tennis event on Saturday, they must have been absolutely blown away by the shocking results from day two on Sunday. Here are some of the key matches - including the stunning upset of a certain Serbian World No. 1.

Juan Martin Del Potro d Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)

When the singles draw was released everyone in the tennis world locked eyes on the match between the World No. 1 Djokovic and the often injured Del Potro. The pair faced-off in the 2012 London Olympic Games with the Argentinian denying Djokovic a bronze medal. While Djokovic enjoyed an 11-3 head-to-head advantage coming into the match, the pair had not faced each other since 2013. Now ranked a lowly 141st in the ATP World Tour rankings due to ongoing injury struggles, Del Potro should be top 20, likely even top 10 if healthy and playing consistently. This was an epic battle that unfortunately could not be saved for later in the draw. On Sunday, Del Potro's forehand was lethal and he played with the confidence of a champion. His win makes it very difficult to assess where Djokovic's game is at the moment. A third round loss at Wimbledon followed by a tournament victory at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and now an opening round loss at the Olympics provide Novak with a real up and down summer so far. He walked off the court Sunday night with tears flowing freely to indicate just how much the Olympics meant to him. It will be very interesting to see how he bounces back in Cincinnati and at the U.S. Open later this summer. As for Del Potro, it sure looks like a trip to the semi-finals is a realistic prospect with how he just broke the draw wide open.

Thomasz Bellucci and Andre Sa d Andy Murray and Jamie Murray 7-6(6), 7-6(14)

Djokovic's loss clearly makes Andy Murray the favorite to win Olympic Gold in singles and I'm sure the folks at Bet Bind would agree on that one. In doubles however the second seeded Murray brothers surprisingly went out in the first round to Brazilians Bellucci and Sa. While Andy is not a doubles player of the same calibre of Jamie, it is a surprise that he and his brother have struggled so much as partners in the Olympic Games. They lost in the first round in London in 2012 and in the second round in Beijing back in 2008. Andy had not played a doubles match since April and had only teamed up once with his brother in 2016, back in February in Davis Cup play against Japan. The lack of practice together and overall absence of any real doubles preparation made the Murray brothers an overrated second seed in the draw, but a first round exit is clearly a disappointment. Andy is still alive in singles of course and Jamie will undoubtedly get another crack in doubles where I expect he will be playing in the mixed draw.

Rafael Nadal d Federico Delbonis 6-2, 6-1

Back in action for the first time since the French Open in May, Rafael Nadal wasted little time with his thrashing of Federico Delbonis. Having won their two previous career encounters, it was not a surprise that Nadal won. That being said, I'm not sure I expected such a run-away scoreline after two and a half months away from competition. The scary thing is that Nadal admitted after the match that he was still not playing at full capacity. “If there is not Olympic Games I will not be here competing, because the wrist needs a little bit more time to be 100 per cent recovered.” Hopefully he is not doing further damage to it by playing in Rio. Nadal gets Andreas Seppi from Italy in his next match whom he leads 6-1 in previous matches played.

Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova d Serena Williams and Venus Williams 6-3, 6-4

In three previous Olympic Games together, the Williams sisters had three gold medals to show for it. They won't be adding to that total in Rio after a straight set loss at the hands of the Czech Republic. Venus had been dealing with a virus that hindered her during her singles loss on Saturday to Kirsten Flipkens and that was no-doubt still holding her back from playing at 100% in doubles with her sister. Only Serena commented to the press after the loss and said, “I wouldn't say it's devastating. We had a chance to compete for our country and we did the best that we can. We had a blast out there. It was a lot of fun and we'll always remember these moments and these matches, and I think that's what matters most. We've had so many Olympic doubles golds, so many grand slam championships. It's been unbelievable." Unbelievable is exactly the word I would use to describe their opening round flop.

Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil d Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6)

Gotta mention some Canadian content here and that falls on the doubles duo of Nestor and Pospisil who represent Canada's best chance at a medal in Olympic tennis in Rio. The Canucks were surprisingly tested by the duo of Daniell and Venus from New Zealand and pushed to a third set tiebreak to win the match. With the Murray brothers ousted, Nestor and Pospisil have a good draw and an excellent shot at a medal if they play up to their potential together. As we have seen thus far in the doubles draw however, anything can, and will happen here in Rio.

August 8, 2016 in Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

Olympic Tennis Highlights Day 1

By Mike McIntyre

It was a crazy day for tennis at the Olympic Games in Rio on Saturday. With the opening ceremonies still fresh in everyone's mind, 62 tennis players saw themselves ousted from competition in either singles or doubles. For some like 36 year old Venus Williams, it was likely her last time competing in singles at the Olympics. For others, like 19 year old Borna Coric, they will likely still have several opportunities to win at the Olympic level. Here are the five matches that for one reason or another, grabbed our attention in the tennis world on the first day of action in Rio.

John Millman d Ricardas Berankis 6-0. 6-0

A much tighter contest would have been expected between the 71st ranked Berankis and the 75th ranked Millman in the first round of play. Instead, the Australian crushed the Olympic dreams of his Lithuanian opponent in a mere 50 minutes. When you only win 11% of points on your second serve, you know you're likely getting beat bad, but a double bagel is a tennis player's worst nightmare. Apparently this was the first time in Olympic tennis competition that such a scoreline has been delivered. You've got to be heartless to not feel any compassion for Berankis and the end result of his first ever Olympic Games.

Saisai Zheng d Aga Radwanska 6-4, 7-5

The fourth seeded Radwanska suffers her second consecutive first round exit from the Olympic Games. In 2012 it was Julia Goerges who beat her 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 in London. This time Radwanska could not even take the match to a deciding set. Radwanska had never before played the 64th ranked Zheng, but the ranking differential was misleading considering some of the Chinese player's results on the WTA Tour this year. Wins over Angelique Kerber, Genie Bouchard and Alize Cornet reveal some serious potential from the 22 year old. Zheng's win really opens up the draw in that section and offers Madison Keys an easier path to the quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic d Marin Cilic and Marin Draganja 6-2, 6-2

Perhaps the lopsided loss was because Marin Cilic had already played his singles match earlier in the day, or perhaps it was because he's ranked 197th in the world in doubles and his partner, Draganja, is ranked 136th (unranked in singles). Still the win must have been a welcome relief for Djokovic and Zimonjic who had not won a doubles match together since March of 2015. Djokovic will now be heavily tested in his opening singles match on Sunday where he will face the man who denied him a bronze medal four years ago in London - Juan Martin Del Potro.

Misaki Doi and Eri Hozumi d Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 6-0, 0-6, 6-4

This match makes our top five not only because the second seeded doubles tandem from France was eliminated, but due to the Twitter rant that Mladenovic went on afterwards. In it, she blamed her loss on the French Tennis Federation for failing to advise her and Garcia that they needed to be dressed in matching attire. Garcia had to wear one of Mladenovic's outfits turned inside-out to hide the Adidas logo as she is sponsored by Nike. Citing the stress of the pre-match ordeal, Mladenovic refused to give her opponents any credit for the way they played. Sounds like a lot of sour grapes from the Frenchwoman and I'll be interested to see if the French Federation has any comment to make in the aftermath of this strange situation.

Kirsten Flipkens d Venus Williams 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)

With four gold medals in previous Olympic Games (one in singles and three in doubles) Venus Williams has had more than her share of success at the biggest international competition of them all. That success will not be continuing in singles this year as the fifth seeded American fell to the 62nd ranked Flipkens who used a variety of shots and tactics to throw Williams off her game. I watched Flipkens come back from a 0-6 deficit against Venus at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2013 to win that match 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 and knew that she had the ability to cause an upset today. Still, she was 1-2 in career head-to-head matches against the much higher ranked Williams and her reaction after the match proved the magnitude of this upset as she had tears of joy in her eyes and knelt down to kiss the Olympic logo on court.

With Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray all making their singles draw debut at the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday, there will be plenty of excitement coming up on Day 2 in Rio. Stick with us as we examine the action each day and discuss the moments that stand out on (and perhaps off) the tennis court.

August 6, 2016 in Agnieszka Radwanska, Ricardas Berankis, Rio Olympics, Saisai Zheng, Venus Williams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bryan Brothers the Latest in Tennis to Withdraw from Rio Olympics

By Mike McIntyre

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There will be new gold medalists in men's Olympic doubles tennis at the upcoming Rio Games. A day after being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Mike and Bob Bryan, the most illustrious doubles tandem of all time, have announced their withdrawal from the Olympic Games.

As several other tennis players have already done, the Bryan brothers have cited health concerns as their primary reason for pulling out of Rio.

In a story broken by The Washington Post on Saturday, Bob Bryan said, “After countless hours of deliberation, Mike and I have decided to forego the Rio Olympics." He added,  "Though we’d love to compete again, as husbands and fathers, our family’s health is now our top priority."

At the age of 38 years old, the Bryan Brothers are currently ranked No. 3 and 4 in the ATP World Tour. They have collected three tournament victories thus far in 2016 but are without a Grand Slam title up to this point of the season.

Already having won everything of consequence in the tennis world, the Bryan's can proudly say they already have an Olympic Bronze medal from Beijing in 2008 as well as the previously mentioned gold medal from the London Games in 2012.

July 30, 2016 in Bob Bryan, Bryan Bros, Bryan Brothers, Mike Bryan | Permalink | Comments (0)

Donaldson Stays Positive Despite Loss to Raonic at the Rogers Cup

By Mike McIntyre

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It was undeniably a week to remember at the Rogers Cup in Toronto for 19 year old Providence native Jared Donaldson. With many of the top players in the world skipping the event to prepare for the Rio Olympics, Donaldson was one of a handful of players who seized the opportunity to step-up and go deeper in a tournament of this magnitude than they normally might.

Making his way first through the qualifying draw, Donaldson then won two rounds at a Masters level event for the first time in his career. As the next generation of American tennis players attempt to make their mark on tour, it was Donaldson, the second youngest among them in the top 150, who served notice this week that he is ready to achieve more.   

Reality set in however during his Thursday night match on Center Court against heavy favorite and hometown hero Milos Raonic, the tournament’s fourth seed. A player like Raonic was clearly a notch above John Millman, who Donaldson beat in the first round, as well as clay court specialist and notorious headcase Fabio Fognini who he took down in round two.

Donaldson was in trouble from the onset against the Canadian and quickly found himself down 3-0. His first serve in particular failed him early and he was unable to put one into play until his fifteenth service attempt of the match. With a second serve speed averaging a mere 88 miles per hour, there was no way Donaldson would be able to trouble a player of Raonic’s caliber.

Raonic meanwhile was his usual lethal self from the service line and ended the match with fifteen aces to Donaldson’s three. Donaldson never got a look at a break point on the Canadian’s serve and later alluded to the fact that he was out of his element against such a top level opponent. “It was really just a different pace and a different level of tennis that I wasn’t used to,” Donaldson admitted. “His serve compared to mine was just in a different universe pretty much.”

The Canadian was on the offensive the entire match and managed to neutralize Donaldson’s weapons throughout the encounter. Raonic would go on to win the match in routine fashion by a score of 6-2, 6-3.

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Overall the week was a memorable one for Donaldson that he hopes will continue to help propel his young career in the right direction. Going three rounds in a Masters 1000 event gives him a nice bump of 90 points in the ATP World Tour rankings that should see him move closer to the top 130 in the world from his current spot at 147. That would represent a career-high for the young talent.

Donaldson now has plans for a heavy schedule to take him to the U.S. Open at the end of August including a stop in Atlanta next week followed by the inaugural tournament in Los Cabos and then the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati if his ranking will allow him into qualifying.

With a renewed confidence from his week here in Canada, Donaldson exuded positivity even after his one-sided loss to Raonic. When asked about his outlook on the remainder of the season he reflected, “I had the biggest win of my career till this point beating Fognini in the second round so I think there are a lot of positives to take away from this week even though tonight didn’t go my way. But you know I’m on to the next tournament and hopefully I can carry on my good performance.”

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July 29, 2016 in Jared Donaldson, Milos Raonic, Rogers Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Third Round Action Set for the Rogers Cup in Toronto

By Mike McIntyre

The Rogers Cup nears the halfway mark and despite some high profile withdrawals has enjoyed a successful debut thanks to homegrown Canadian talent making some early noise and from other star players who have performed to their abilities thus far.

On Wednesday the draw was narrowed down to the final 16 players who conquered their opponents under hot and sticky conditions in Toronto. Here's a look at some of the major matches from the day.

 Novak Djokovic played his first singles match since a shocking third round loss at Wimbledon and showed some rust in his return to hardcourts. Always favored in the LeoVegas Tennis odds, the world No. 1 defeated a tough Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6(3). Djokovic displayed no discomfort with his right arm as he had earlier in the week in practice at the Rogers Cup and is the favorite to come away with the title by the end of the week. He advances to face Radek Stepanek in the evening session Thursday.

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5th seeded Tomas Berdych fought off upstart 19 year old Borna Coric 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Berdych has yet to win a title in 2016 and will be on a collision course to meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Toronto. First however, Berdych must get past American Ryan Harrison who upset John Isner in three close sets.

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In the evening matches Canadian Milos Raonic advanced as expected with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Yen-Hsun Lu before his hometown crowd. Milos seems to be playing much more comfortably in front of his partisan fans and admits to working on his on-court demeanor in recent months with coaches Carlos Moya and John McEnroe. Raonic moves on to face American qualifier Jared Donaldson who defeated the ever-elusive Fabio Fognini in the second round.

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Canada's hopes for a second Canuck joining Milos in the third round fell-through in the final match of the night Wednesday as 17 year old Denis Shapovalov's Cinderella story ended at the hands of former top-ten player Grigor Dimitrov. Despite going up an early break to 3-1 in the opening set, Shapovalov didn't have enough answers for the adaptable game of Dimitrov. He stayed positive throughout the match however and fought hard until the end. Shapovalov certainly has a bright future ahead of him and will not soon be forgotten after his Wimbledon Junior title and upset round one victory over Nick Kyrgios here in Toronto.

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July 28, 2016 in Denis Shapovalov, Rogers Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gear Up For Upcoming Tennis-related Events In And Around Las Vegas

Las Vegas is known for high stakes games. Gambling is the most famous of all and this spirit is captured well by the Royal Vegas casino. There are also a lot of sporting events held here including the biggest boxing matches, mixed martial arts, and even tennis events. People are fascinated by head-to-head competition at all levels. It is always intriguing to see how athletes take the pressure and stare down their opponents. Close matches with long rallies are particularly exciting as anything can happen. If you are looking for an event to attend in the next few months, then here are a few suggestions:

2016 Las Vegas Tennis Open

This is part of the ATP Challenger Tour. The Frank and Vicki Fertitta Tennis Complex will serve as the venue. It is already home to the city's intercollegiate tennis programs. The LVTO is held every year around late October and features some of the biggest names in the sport. Players from all over the world will come to Sin City to test their skills against each other. Locals are sure to be in the mix as well. Last year, the men's finals match was contested by players from the Netherlands and Slovakia. The men's doubles winners were from Australia and Germany. They defeated a pair from South Africa.

Dessert Palm Jr. Summer Smash

If you like to see the up-and-coming players, then head over to the Summer Smash. This is set to run from July 21-24. This tournament welcomes all USTA members with every registered player set for outright selection. Perhaps you have children who might be interested to join in this event. The skill level should be either intermediate or advanced. It is a Level 7 Boys and Girls competition for 10 and under. There are singles and double categories. There are already a lot of applicants and approved competitors for this event which is sure to be a great experience for the players.

10th Annual Darling Tennis Center Santa Claus Classic

The Darling Memorial Tennis Center is the biggest public outdoor facility of this type in Las Vegas. It is part of the Kellogg-Zaher Sports Complex with 23 lighted hard courts and a center stadium with enough seats for 3,000 spectators. It offers programs that aim to develop players from the grassroots level. Every December, there is a Christmas-themed tournament held here on the hard surface. Don't be fooled by the name, though, because the level of competition is high and players take the games seriously. There are single and doubles categories for both genders, as well as a mixed doubles category.

WTT Smash Hits

Sometimes being involved with tennis can be about joining community projects for a great cause. The WTT Smash Hits, for example, is an all star charity event in October at Caesar's Palace. It will be co-hosted by iconic singer Sir Elton John and the legendary tennis star Billie Jean King. This is your chance to see superstars like Andy Roddick, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova play on a court. Ticket sales and donations will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

July 26, 2016 in Andy Roddick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rogers Cup Main Draw Announced in Toronto

By Mike McIntyre

The Rogers Cup draw was held Friday afternoon at - of all places - the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. World No. 5 Stan Wawrinka was on-hand to help with the ceremony and posed for a few pictures with the Toronto Blue Jays beforehand. While the draw is sparse due to the upcoming Rio Olympics, there are still many quality first round matches for fans to catch. With Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all missing in action, the opportunity presents itself for fans to expand their knowledge of the next wave of players who will one day dominate the ATP World Tour. Here is a quick look at how the draw looks.

First Quarter

Thanks goodness that World No. 1 Novak Djokovic showed up as the tournament would have been left without one of the "big four" and in serious danger of losing respectability as a Masters 1000 level event. You can't fault tournament director Karl Hale though, as the timing of the tournament always presents challenges in an Olympic year. Despite there being two weeks until the Olympic tennis event begins, many players are not looking for a grueling daily event like the Rogers Cup to drain them ahead of the biggest international sports competition of them all.

Djokovic will get a first round bye and fans will be looking to see how he bounces back from his strange third round Wimbledon loss at the hands of Sam Querrey. Novak will face either the powerful serve Gilles Muller or veteran Dmitry Tursunov in his first match which likely won't come until Tuesday evening or Wednesday daytime at the Aviva Centre. Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed, is also in this quarter of the draw and could face up-and-coming teenage sensation Borna Coric in his first match of the the event. Big serving John Isner is a potential third round match for Berdych and always performs well during the summer hardcourt swing.

Canadian Content: Peter Polansky has played superbly this summer in Futures events and draws a qualifier in his first match.

Second Quarter

Milos Raonic will be basking in the glow of his thrilling run to the finals of Wimbledon from two weeks ago and the hometown crowd will be happy to show their affection for the fourth seed. He, along with the top eight, gets an opening round bye and will see either Yen-Hsun Lu or Alexander Zverev in the second round. At 19, Zverev represents the next wave after the Milos generation and is already ranked 27th in the world. David Goffin is the seventh seed and it would be great for fans to witness a Wimbledon re-match against Milos in the quarter-finals. Their fourth round match at the All-England Club was the first time Raonic had ever come back from two sets down in a best-of-five set match. Gael Monfils also lurks in this section and is a must-see match (in every match) if you're at the event.

Canadian Content: Both Vasek Pospisil (vs Jeremy Chardy) and Frank Dancevic (vs Querrey) are also in this part of the draw. Tough matches for both but certainly not impossible, especially with a pro-Canadian crowd to back them both.

Third Quarter

2014 U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic is the eighth seed and should face Kei Nishikori the third seed if the draw holds true in this section. Cilic recently parted ways with coach and former pro Goran Ivanisevic while Nishikori had to retire at Wimbledon with a painful rib injury that had not properly healed. Big serving Ivo Karlovic and American teenager Taylor Fritz face each other in the opening round. At the Citi Open in Washington this week Karlovic was asked what it feels like at the age of 37 to play against so many teenagers. He replied, "I could be their daddy. And, who knows, maybe I am!" This guy's booming serve is matched only by his over-the-top sense of humour. Grigor Dimitrov is also in this section and unseeded after a fall from the top of the ATP rankings that started about a year ago. Maybe with a somewhat weaker field this will be the perfect event for him to get things going again. He has a 20-15 record so far in 2016.

Canadian Content: Junior Wimbledon winner Denis Shapovalov will make his main draw Rogers Cup debut at the age of 17 against Nick Kyrgios from Australia. The pair will take Centre Court Monday night to kick things off at 7pm ET. Welcome to the big leagues kid.

Fourth Quarter

Stan Wawrinka, the second seed, has yet to win a Grand Slam thus far in 2016 (he won the Aussie Open in 2014 and the French Open in 2015) and will be looking to ramp things up in advance of the U.S. Open later in August. He will face either veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny who is on the downward slide of his career or Stephan Robert of France in his opening match. Talented young American Jack Sock and the enigmatic Australian Bernard Tomic are also in the last section of the draw and either one is capable of causing problems here. Dominic Thiem who made the semis at Roland Garros is the sixth seed although he has struggled with consistency of late.

Canadian Content: Steven Diez is the third ranked Canadian in the world and plays Great Britain's Kyle Edmund in his opening match.

Check back with us later this weekend once the qualifiers have been placed in the draw. You can Follow Pro Tennis Fan on Twitter as well for pictures, analysis and more throughout the entire event.

July 22, 2016 in Rogers Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Murray withdraws from Rogers Cup ahead of Olympics

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has pulled out of the upcoming Rogers Cup in order to aid his preparations for the Rio Olympics. Having won his third Rogers Cup last year, Murray had been expected to take to the courts in Toronto once again. However, the Brit has instead decided to rest as he aims to successfully defend his singles title from London 2012. Murray’s absence in Canada will be his first since his inaugural appearance back in 2006, and having already missed Great Britain’s recent Davis Cup clash with Serbia, is clearly feeling the effects of a demanding season to date.

Murray was in Belgrade to cheer on his team mates as they successfully saw off the threat of a Serbian side without world number one Novak Djokovic, and with the Olympics and US Open just a matter of weeks away, he faces a rigorous schedule over the coming months. For all the latest on Andy Murray as he steps up preparations for upcoming tournaments, check out bookmakers Coral, who offer the three time Grand Slam champion as the 11/4 second favourite for the US Open in the tennis odds.

A resurgent Djokovic could well stand in Murray’s way in both tournaments, with the Serbian still reeling from his early exit at Wimbledon. In Djokovic’s absence, Murray claimed his second title in South-West London with a straight sets win over Milos Raonic, banishing the memories of two Grand Slam final defeats already in 2016. Despite his third round exit, Djokovic remains the 11/10 favourite with Coral to claim glory at Flushing Meadows in New York.

Despite losing a fifth Australian Open final at the start of 2016, a first appearance in the final at Rolland Garros, as well as a triumphant two weeks at Wimbledon will undoubtedly have Murray in confident mood heading into the latter stages of the tennis season. The fact that the Rio Olympic tennis will be played on a fast hard court will also be music to Murray’s ears, with the 29-year-old having already achieved vast amounts of success on such courts in the past.

July 21, 2016 in Andy Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Davis Cup: Can Britain Keep Keeping Up?

 Who could forget the last year’s triumphant Davis Cup? After 79 years of thirst, the Brits finally managed to win this competition in 2015 with Andy Murray leading them to this glorious achievement. Now it’s time to prove it was more than just luck – and more than just the Scotsman – as the team is facing Serbia in the quarter finals of the World group without their best man.

There‘s a whole lot on Murray‘s hands right now – winning Wimbledon was very physically and mentally demanding, and he‘s got the Olympics, the US Open, and other competitions to think of as well. Even though this is a first tie he‘s going to miss in three years, Andy will most probably come out to support his teammates, if only from the side-lines. However, his absence does leave a considerable hole – especially in the singles event.

Now according to the TonyBet bookies, the Brits are still going into this stage as the favourites, with their odds at a win being 11/20 vs the 13/10 that Serbia got. As it is rather apparent from these odds, Novak Djokovic is also sitting this one out, which is a big plus for the British team. Instead of Murray, we will see Kyle Edmund and James Ward playing singles, and the team will be also without Dan Evans who suffered an injury.

It‘s difficult to say whether the team will be able to carry through, as Murray was responsible for 11 out of the 12 total points they managed across the triumphant run a year ago. Meanwhile Serbia is a strong team on its own, and they won the Davis Cup in 2010 and were the runners-up in 2013 – so this will be a good test for the Brits.

If Britain does manage to advance to the semi-finals, it will have been a very strong claim that their team was not, in fact, solely relying on Andy Murray. Will that prove to be true? It’s not like Serbia is an easy opponent, so they will have their work cut out for them – which will make for some excellent tennis.    

July 15, 2016 in Andy Murray, Davis Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Round of Sixteen Lives up to the Hype at Wimbledon

By Mike McIntyre

With all men's and women's round of sixteen matches being played on Monday at Wimbledon, there was a whole lot of top-level tennis being played at the All-England Club. Here is a quick recap of what went down on the men's side of things.

Sam Querrey d. Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-4

Sam Querrey is proving that perseverance is key as a tennis professional as he reached his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at the age of 28. This is a guy who hadn't even reached the fourth round of a major since the U.S. Open back in 2010. Playing three grass court tune-up events coming into Wimbledon took up quite a bit of time and money for sure, but it has proven to be a grand decision for the veteran American. Knocking off Novak Djokovic has been literally impossible for the past year and yet Querrey did it and then followed that up by maintaining his composure against a much lesser (though talented on grass) opponent in Mahut. The fact that Mahut beat Querrey a couple of weeks ago in the Netherlands grass court event ended up meaning absolutely nothing as it is Querrey who lives to fight another day. Props to Mahut for making the fourth round in singles and still playing in the doubles where he partners with countryman Herbert as the No. 1 seed.

Milos Raonic d. David Goffin 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4

For a guy who has already had a pretty solid career at the age of 25, to call today's win the biggest of his career might be unfair. That being said, to get his first ever come-from-behind win from two sets down is epic for Canadian Milos Raonic. After the second set I thought to myself that this whole McEnroe-Raonic partnership might be a dud. Gotta eat my words on that one! Raonic did exactly what Nick Kyrgios admittedly is unable to do - dig deep and battle his way back into a match that appeared to be lost. Raonic now is the heavy favorite against Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals and looks to reach the semis at Wimbledon for the second time (2014). While Querrey took Milos out at the All-England Club back in 2012 (second round) the two are at very different points of their careers right now. Despite playing giant-killer against Djokovic, I don't see how Querrey is going to get this one if Milos plays his game.

Roger Federer d. Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-3, 7-5

Exactly what everyone expected in this match is what came to fruition. The greatest player to ever play on grass owned the match and is cruising thus far in his favourite tournament of the year. The only problem I see here is that Roger has yet to play a real threat and is going to have much less margin for error in his next match against Marin Cilic.

Marin Cilic d. Kei Nishikori 6-1, 5-1

Can't take much out of this victory unfortunately as Nishikori is a) normally out of his element on grass and b) not playing at 100%. Still dealing with a rib injury, his own box was adamant he withdraw from the match as they saw him struggling. The re-match of the U.S. Open final from 2014 could not live up to the hype. Even if both were healthy, I would have given Cilic a big edge in this one despite being the (slightly) lower ranked player. My darkhorse to win the tournament.

Lucas Pouille d. Bernard Tomic 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8

Tough day for Aussies at Wimbledon with Tomic, Kyrgios and wildcard doubles entry Lleyton Hewitt losing on Monday. Tomic had a good draw to begin with and in my opinion should have made the quarters. Up two sets to one, Tomic could not complete his mission and though he put up a valiant fight, let this one slip away. Nice work for the Frenchman Pouille who had a career record of 2-10 at the Slams coming into this event.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Richard Gasquet 4-2

Should have been a fantastic match but an injured Gasquet was forced to withdraw with a back injury before even completing the opening frame. Tsonga gets some extra rest, which he will need, to face the new tournament favorite Andy Murray.

Andy Murray d. Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 6-1, 6-4

Murray keeps his unbeaten streak alive against a very dangerous young player as he downs the always controversial Krygios in straight sets. I'm starting to come around with the Aussie as I find his brutal honesty quite refreshing. Yup, he played video games the morning of his fourth round match and he admits that he was too soft to compete like a professional after the opening set. The media asks questions and laments all the robotic answers they usually get - and then they complain when a player is honest. Poor guy can't win - on or off the court today.

To be completed Tuesday - Tomas Berdych v Jiri Vesely 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(8), 6-7(9)

The present and future of tennis in the Czech Republic will continue their clash on Tuesday as this match could not continue past the fourth set. Berdych should advance, but he also should have never found himself in this position. Vesely ranked 64th in the world has never been to the fourth round of a major. He has also never beaten Berdych, though the pair have only ever faced each other once before (2015 in Shenzhen). The 2010 finalist is not having the greatest of seasons. A fourth round loss at Wimbledon would seem to continue that trend.   

July 5, 2016 in Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wimbledon Preview 2016

By Mike McIntyre

Get ready for Breakfast at Wimbledon folks! The All-England Club is set to begin play Monday and in the men's draw there will be 125 players vying to win the title for the very first time. Only Roger Federer (7), Novak Djokovic (3) and Andy Murray (1) have emerged as Wimbledon champions in years past. While young players like Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic, David Goffin and Nick Kyrgios are making big strides on the ATP World Tour, it is still almost a virtual lock that a repeat winner will emerge once again here in 2016. With that being said, let's take a closer look at the draw and the Wimbledon Odds for this year.

First Quarter

If it ain't broken, don't fix it. Such is the mentality of switching from clay to grass for world No. 1 Novak Djokovic who has not played a Wimbledon warm-up event on grass since Queen's Club in 2010. Clearly it has been working for the recent Roland Garros winner who has won the past two Wimbledon's and made the finals in 2013 as well. How will Novak transition to grass this year? His draw is pretty favorable until a potential meet-up with Federer in the semi-finals. Although with Fed being injured for much of the year how can we realistically expect the seven-time champion to endure multiple best-of-five set matches here this year? Djokovic opens with local long-shot James Ward and then plays the winner between Kyle Edmund/Adrian Mannarino. Easy start, let's be honest. Then he could face either Lukas Rosol who took out Rafa Nadal here in 2012 or Sam Querrey the American veteran. Neither  of those players inspires any fear. His first true grass court opponent would be in the round of sixteen should he face the tricky Philipp Kohlscreiber. Still, Novak has beaten the 32 year old German seven times in-a-row including last year at this very event in the first round. A quarter-final encounter with Canadian Milos Raonic would be fun although likely still routine for Novak who has beaten John McEnroe's new charge all seven times they have played and only ever lost one set to the big-serving Raonic. Djokovic has proven to be shaky in at least one match each year at Wimbledon in recent memory. Last year he recovered from being two sets down to Kevin Anderson and in 2014 he needed five sets to defeat Marin Cilic. Will someone be able to offer him that type of resistance this year?

Look for David Goffin to potentially provide some sparks in this section of the draw, although his career record at Wimbledon is a meager 5-4. He's got two potential matches against big-servers with Anderson and Raonic looking likely in the third and fourth rounds but has shown steady improvement over the past year so he could be ready to go deep here on the grass.

Second Quarter

Any other year and it would be a foregone conclusion that we would pick Federer to emerge out of his section of the draw. This year is not like other years however as the world No. 3 has gone 16-6 up to this point of 2016. By his own admission he is looking to turn his season around but without a lot of match play it is tough to bank on him to find his form over the grueling best-of-five set format. He says his body is ready after playing in Halle and Stuttgart but those were best-of-three matches which is an entirely different story. Hopefully Federer is able to play as well as he possibly can given the time off. There can't be too many more Wimbledon's left in him regardless of how he fares this year but his fans are desperately hoping that he can add title No. 8 here before he calls it a career. Federer will have Alexandr Dolgopolov as a potential third round foe and the always tricky Gilles Simon as the highest seed he could face in the fourth. If Marin Cilic is in-form in the quarters I'm not sure if Roger will be able to come out with the victory. A match-up with Djokovic in the semis will be tough to attain.

Kei Nishikori is another face that one would think would be a factor in this section of the draw. The fifth seed however has never gone past the fourth round at the All England Club and after pulling out of Halle a week ago due to a rib injury I wouldn't be betting on him to cause much of a stir in this event.

Third Quarter

This quarter offers up the most intrigue to me as it could very well offer someone new the chance to make the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Number four seed Stan Wawrinka has twice made the quarters at SW19 including a heartbreaking loss 11-9 in the fifth set a year ago to Richard Gasquet. He lost in his opening match at the Aegon Championships to Fernando Verdasco which doesn't exactly give me a ton of confidence about Stan's preparation on grass right now.

While it is true that Tomas Berdych has made the finals of Wimbledon before, the number ten seed has seen his play fall off somewhat this year and I'm not feeling his chances right now. He has yet to make a final in 2016 and that certainly is not going to change here at Wimbledon. Youngster Dominic Thiem meanwhile has breathed new life into things on Tour with his play this season. The 22 year old is 47-12 and won Stuttgart on grass before falling in the semis in Halle. Thiem is my pick to make the semis from this section.

Other names to follow here include another young gun in Alexander Zverev. Anyone who beats Roger Federer on grass is deserving of our respect and a third round match against the Birdman should be a good one. Bernard Tomic is also lurking and has a nice route to the fourth round if he can try to avoid being too much like his usual eccentric self out there.

Fourth Quarter

Andy Murray is the great hope for tennis fans in the UK and will try to reverse his Grand Slam finals fortune now that he is reunited with former coach Ivan Lendl. Lendl, who was never capable of capture Wimbledon during his playing career, guided Murray to his only two Slam titles in 2012 at the U.S. Open and in 2013 at Wimbledon. I expect that the psychological impact of having Lendl back in his corner will be a positive one and that Wimbledon offers Murray the best chance of defeating Djokovic should they meet in the finals. Murray could see Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round and Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals, neither of whom will offer him an easy match. John Isner and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are also potential threats though to me if it's not Murray then it would have to be Gasquet advancing here.

I should add that there are some crazy-fun matches in this section of the draw including a first round gem between Kyrgios and the entertaining veteran Radek Stepanek. An Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis opener would also be fun to catch. Oh and Fabio Fognini, not exactly known as a grass court guru, is also thrown in there somewhere for good measure!

Semi-Finals:

Djokovic d. Cilic and Murray d. Thiem

Finals:

Murray d. Djokovic (yeah...I just wrote that!)

June 25, 2016 in Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Roger Federer Win Another Grand Slam?

Roger Federer's withdrawal from the French Open ended an incredible run of playing in 65 consecutive grand slams, with the future of the 34-year-old Swiss now firmly in doubt.

A back complaint has been troubling Federer for a number of years, but he has usually opted to play through the pain - after all most top tennis players are usually carrying some form of injury.

But Federer pulled out, explaining in a Facebook post that it would be an "unnecessary risk" for him to play at Roland Garros, where he has featured every year since 1998 and won in 2009.

After winning 17 Grand Slam singles titles there is no doubt that Federer's reputation as one of the finest players of all time - if not the best of the lot - is already secured.

However, the 27-time Grand Slam finalist turns 35 in August and has to face the fact he is coming towards the end of his career.

His choice now is plain: retire while he is still rightly considered one of the best players in the world; or play on for as long as possible and risk sullying his reputation with increasingly poor performances on the big stage.

Fed's glorious forehand remains a work of art, but his footwork and mobility is beginning to let him down. He was given the runaround in embarrassing fashion by talented compatriot Dominic Thiem in his last game, a round-of-16 defeat at the Rome Masters, although Federer insisted he was using the match to test his fitness.

The statement released by Federer had a bullish tone, but perhaps it was telling that he chose to speak directly to his fans on social media rather than face the media at a press conference.

"This decision was not easy to make but I took it to ensure I could play the remainder of the season and help to extend the rest of my career," Federer wrote.

"I remain as motivated and excited as ever and my plan is to achieve the highest level of fitness before returning to the ATP World Tour for the grass-court season."

Federer has made it clear that his aim is to play on and he will be determined to feature at Wimbledon in June, where he has usually produced the best tennis of his career. He intends to play in a warm-up event in Stuttgart to judge his level of preparation.

A 10-time finalist at SW19, Federer has won Wimbledon seven times, although the last of those titles came four years ago.

All the evidence now seems to suggest Federer's days as a Grand Slam champion are over. He has been beaten in three finals since that last triumph at Wimbledon, all to Novak Djokovic, who has raced past Federer to become the undisputed world number one.

While Djokovic's relentless nature and fearsome will to win marks him out as an all-time great, the artistry Federer possesses means many will be hoping he can roll back the years at Wimbledon.

Federer is best-priced at 7/1 to win Wimbledon this year, but perhaps he can take inspiration from Andy Murray.

The Scottish world number two pulled out of the French Open three years ago due to a back problem and went on to record a famous win at the All England Club.

If Federer were to match Murray's success, it would be one of the great comebacks in the history of the sport - and the Swiss will certainly have the backing of the London crowd behind him.

May 31, 2016 in French Open, Roger Federer | Permalink | Comments (0)

Would French Open Crown Confirm Serena’s Place As The Best Female Star Of The Open Era?

After the disappointment of losing in the final of the year’s first Grand Slam in Australia, US superstar Serena Williams got her French Open title defence off to the perfect start on Tuesday, dropping just two games as she dispatched Magadlena Rybarikova in quick time. And already, the 34-year-old starlet will have her eyes focused on picking up a third title in four years at Roland Garros.

As per Grandslamtournooi.nl, Serena has been considered firm favourite to defend her crown for months. Her positive start, combined with the suspension of nearest rival Maria Sharapova and the early exits of Angelique Kerber, Roberta Vinci and Victoria Azarenka, will only further enhance those feelings that the younger Williams sibling is destined for her fourth career victory in Paris.

A first Grand Slam this year would also see the Michigan-born starlet join Steffi Graf on 22 career titles. Even if she fails at Roland Garros, it seems inevitable that she will overtake the German’s record at some stage while many would back her to even surpass Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. However, if Serena does register her first Grand Slam of 2016 on June 3rd, it would be hard to argue against her credentials as the greatest woman to ever pick up a racket.

It’s not simply a case of winning titles; it’s the manner in which she has done it. After all, Serena hasn’t had it easy. The overall standard of women’s tennis in the past 15 years has arguably been higher than any other era, and the World No.1 has had to overcome a number of rivalries to reach, and stay at, the pinnacle.

Serena’s first major challenge, around the turn of the century, was to simply prove that she was the best tennis player in her family. Four consecutive Grand Slam final victories over Venus, starting at the French Open of 2002, cemented her place at the top of the family tree. Aside from her older sister, Williams has also faced competition from the likes of Sharapova, Azarenka, Justine Henin and many others. Whilst she has encountered low moments during her her career, it’s now been the best part of 15 years at the top. That would be an incredible feat in any sport, but in tennis, it’s almost unheard of.

Even Graf only enjoyed a decade of dominance, although she did win one more Grand Slam at Roland Garros almost three years after No.21. However, the German failed to reach a single semi-final in that interluding period. Conversely, Serena has reached at least one final in 15 of the last 16 seasons. For longevity alone, especially at a time where the physical and mental demands are greater than ever, the younger Williams sister stands out on her own.

Her success has worked wonders for the game, particularly due to her authoritative power play on the court. Quite simply, Serena has been the figurehead to lead women’s tennis to the highest place it’s ever been.

There is no doubt that Serena will be regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats. Not least because her 21 victories have been spread out over all four Grand Slam events. If she does pick up the trophy at Roland Garros, it will complete a career haul of at least four titles at each of the big tournaments, a feat that would see her match Graf.

However, given the her style and achievements for women’s tennis as a whole, it would be hard to argue that Serena doesn’t deserve to be placed on a pedestal of her own. Williams is already amongst tennis royalty. Win at Roland Garros, and she’ll have to be considered the queen.

May 25, 2016 in French Open, Serena Williams | Permalink | Comments (2)

Rafael Nadal Sues France’s Former Health & Sports Minister Over Doping Allegations

By Tia Ko

One day after Rafael Nadal claimed his record-tying 49th clay court title in Barcelona, news has come out that world no. 5 is suing former French government minister Roselyne Bachelot, who accused him of doping.

After Maria Sharapova’s high profile confession for testing positive meldonium, Bachelot was quoted saying on French television, “We know that Nadal’s famous seven-month injury was without a doubt due to a positive [drug test]. When you see a tennis player who stops playing for long months, it is because he has tested positive and because they are covering it up. It is not something that always happens, but, yes, it happens more than you think.”

Nadal was quick to respond to the allegation stating last month that, “This is going to be the last one, because I'm going to sue her. I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. Not any more.” 

“Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career.” Nadal said in a statement this afternoon, “I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished.”

If Nadal wins the case, any compensation that he’s rewarded will go to a nongovernmental organization or a foundation in France.

Rafael Nadal's full statement:

I hereby make public the defamation law suit against Mrs. Roselyne Bachelot, that I have filed today April 25th 2016 before the Paris law courts. This legal proceeding was instigated after Miss Bachelot made offensive remarks last March on Le Grand 8, program of French channel D8. The lawyer in charge of the case is Maître Patrick Maisonneuve, lawyer at the Paris bar.

Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career. I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished.

Should the tribunal consider there has been a wrong-doing and the sentence recognises the right to damages, any compensation will be paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France.

On the other hand, I ask for total respect regarding the legal procedure just started and would like to express my complete trust in the French justice system who will be judging the legal case. I will not be making any further statement about the case.

LeoVegas

April 25, 2016 in Rafael Nadal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can Andy Murray Win Wimbledon This Summer?

This summer, Andy Murray will look to join an elite group of tennis players as he hunts a second Wimbledon crown. The British number one has enjoyed plenty of success in recent times, none more so than during Great Britain’s Davis Cup triumph – which was their first victory for 79 years.

Murray will fancy his chances of Grand Slam success this summer, especially after pushing Novak Djokovic close in the Australian Open back in January. At the time of writing, Murray is 7/2 in Coral’s tennis betting markets and plenty of journalists and pundits will be providing their own Wimbledon tips on Murray’s chances nearer to the event.

After the birth of his first son shortly after the Australian Open, Murray took some time out to remain close with his family in the aftermath. But now, he’s back in business and on the hunt for a third Grand Slam crown. Murray is one of the best British players in recent memory and if there’s anyone who deserves another Grand Slam, it’s him.

Andy_Murray_2010_Forehand_(2)

He’s in good form too. Murray was part of the British side that beat Japan 3-1 in their opening round of the Davis Cup defence back in March and according to Coral’s tips, Andy Murray will be there or thereabouts in all three of the major tournaments in 2016. After all, he is one of the best players on the planet right now.

For Murray to achieve his ultimate goal of victory on home soil, he will have to get past arch enemy Novak Djokovic. On his day, the Serbian is more or less invincible and Murray will find it difficult to beat the world number one, particularly as Djokovic is attempting to surpass Roger Federer’s record of 17 Grand Slam titles.

As of April 15th, Djokovic has 11 but that tally could be 12 by the time Wimbledon comes around. The French Open gets underway next month and the Serbian, who has never won the event, will be desperate to enhance his legacy further with a clay-based Grand Slam title. But to be fair, it could be Murray who emerges victorious in both competitions.

Novak_Đoković_-_Roland-Garros_2013_-_028

Murray was in superb form on the clay court in 2015 and the British number one will look to exploit Djokovic’s weakness on this surface. While Wimbledon remains his number one priority, a French Open title would certainly do Murray no harm ahead of what could be a defining summer for his legacy in the sport.

Two Grand Slam titles in 2016 and Murray would be well on the way to the summit of British tennis. In a difficult era, the Scot has moved with the times and is now potentially the only man to challenge Djokovic on paper. And if Murray can maintain his current form throughout the next few months, he could well claim at least one major title this summer.

April 21, 2016 in Andy Murray, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Miami Rides in on the Coattails of Indian Wells

By Mike McIntyre

After a week of Masters level tennis and controversy in Indian Wells, the tennis world hopes that the focus returns to the court as the Miami Open begins first round play on Wednesday this week.

Seeded first is none other than Novak Djokovic. While Djokovic uncharacteristically made some careless comments about the prize money distribution between the men and the women his on-court performance was its usual flawless self. The only set that he lost was the opener against American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo and he only improved as the tournament went along. Beating Rafael Nadal 7-6(5), 6-2 in the semifinals and then destroying Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 in the finals was an emphatic way to capture his fifth title at the event. Djokovic will begin his Miami experience against the winner between Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic. A fourth round match against up and comer Dominic Thiem could test him followed by a possible encounter with seventh seed Tomas Berdych.

Also in the top half of the draw is a returning Roger Federer, the third seed, who has not played since losing the Aussie Open semifinal to Novak back in January. Sidelines with surgery on his knee, it will be interesting to see how a rusty Federer performs. Roger probably wasn't thrilled to see that he will likely open his tournament against Juan Martin Del Potro who plays the little known Guido Pella in the first round. While Del Potro has missed a ton of tennis these past few years, he has looked formidable acquiring a 4-2 record thus far in his comeback attempt. I'd put this one at 50/50 for Fed but he can't be too frustrated if it takes a little time to get back up to speed.

Also in Federer's section of the draw is Belgium's David Goffin who just made his first career Masters semifinal in Indian Wells. It is pretty cool to see the future of men's tennis starting to take shape with the successes of players like Goffin. The "big four" are not going to be at the top for an indefinite period of time and it will soon be time for the next generation to seize the moment.

Another David, Ferrer in this case, is the eight seed and also lurks in this section. Gilles Simon, who has come the closest to toppling Djokovic in 2016, (in a full match without retirement) and Marin Cilic are also among this grouping of talented players.

The bottom half is led by Andy Murray the second seed. Murray remarkably was taken out in Indian Wells by Federico Delbonis who is more known for his clay court prowess. Chalk it up to adjusting to the lack of sleep that parenthood brings with it perhaps? Murray made the finals of the Aussie Open and then took a month off to spend with his newest family member. He went undefeated in a Davis Cup tie against Japan and is now playing his next tourney after IW. Murray has a tricky draw where he will first face either the crafty Denis Istomin or the rising Borna Coric. In the third round he could face a struggling Grigor Dimitrov who you know is just waiting to turn his season around, followed potentially by the entertaining Gael Monfils in the fourth round. This is going to be a tough event for Murray and he will have to raise his game to it's highest level to make it deep in the draw here in Miami. The sixth seeded Kei Nishikori could be his quarter-final opponent and would certainly be looking to avenge his recent five set Davis Cup defeat.

The final quarter to examine has Rafael Nadal as the fifth seed and facing either Leonardo Mayer or Damir Dzumhur in his first match. An enticing third round match here has Jack Sock and Milos Raonic lined up to face one another. That is if Raonic is healthy after sustaining a leg injury in this final loss at Indian Wells against Djokovic. Raonic has been having a fantastic season so far and has been hailed by Sports Illustrated's respected Jon Wertheim as playing the "second best tennis of anyone in the world." A Raonic/Nadal fourth round match would be a juicy one for sure. Fireworks could also occur in this section of the draw if Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka make it to the fourth round where they would play one another.

Tough to imagine anyone going against Djokovic in any event he enters this year. The folks at William Hill would no doubt put the odds in his favour. The world No. 1 sits at 22-1 so far this season with only a retirement against Feliciano Lopez causing a minute blemish on his record. Look for David Goffin to continue his recent ascension with a strong tournament in Miami as well or potentially the vet David Ferrer advancing to the semis against Novak in the top half of the draw. In the bottom I would lean towards Wawrinka to make a splash and Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga as well who is in the same section as Murray.

William Hill

March 22, 2016 in Miami Open, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sharapova Shocks Tennis World With Positive Drug Test Result

By Tia Ko

Maria Sharapova, former world number one, revealed at press conference on Monday in LA that she failed a drug test after her run during the Australian Open back in January. She tested positive for meldonium (also known as mildronate), a drug that was newly banned beginning January 1, 2016 and one that she had been taking for the past ten years. The drug was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list “…[B]ecause of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance."

The drug was designed to treat ischemia, a condition where there is a reduction in blood supply to body tissue. Patients with diabetes and heart-related diseases also use it as it increases the flow of oxygen to muscles and organs. Meldonium is mainly produced and used in Eastern Europe and according to Latvian manufacturers, when prescribed for medical use, it’s only used for four to six weeks; a much shorter period than Maria’s ten year treatment.

Maria said that she took the drug for a decade because of her magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes. She was unaware that meldonium was newly banned despite receiving numerous notifications from the WTA and ITF and accepts “full responsibility” for taking the substance. Some of the performance enhancing effects of meldonium include: decreased levels of lactate in blood, increased levels of glycogen in cells during long-lasting exercise, improved heart activity, increased physical work capabilities, and increased rate of recovery.

As a result of her announcement, Nike ended her eight-year sponsorship contract that was renewed in 2010 stating, “"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation." It was her biggest endorsement deal equaling $8.75 million per year.

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer also ended ties on Tuesday saying, “Maria Sharapova was under contract with TAG Heuer until December 31, 2015. We had been in talks to extend our collaboration. In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations and has decided not to renew the contract.” The contract was worth approximately $2.8 million.

A third partner, Porsche, also stated that it would wait until further details are released so that it can analyze the situation; in the meantime, however, the luxury car company will not be pursuing future activities. Other sponsors including Head, Evian, Avon Products and American Express have yet to comment on their relationship with Maria.

On Wednesday, Maria said in a statement on Facebook, “In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans. Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession. I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face. I'd like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement.” Fans around the world expressed their support for the Russian player with the hashtags #IStandWithMaria and #LetMariaPlay.

Beginning March 12, 2016 Maria will be provisionally suspended from playing professional tennis. A two year suspension is the minimum ruling for unintentional drug use and four years is the maximum for intentional use.

March 13, 2016 in Maria Sharapova, Tia Ko | Permalink | Comments (0)

Australian Open Women's Quarterfinal Preview

By Tia Ko

Serena Williams (1) vs. Maria Sharapova (5)

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet for the 21st time Tuesday afternoon in Melbourne where they will compete for a semi-final spot in the Australian Open. It will be the first time the two have met prior to the semifinals at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2010. Statistically speaking, Sharapova doesn’t have a very good chance of winning this match considering she hasn’t beaten Williams since the WTA Championships back in 2004. Since then, Williams has gone 17-0 with her last victory over Sharapova occurring during the semifinals of Wimbledon last year 6-2 6-4. Serena’s road to the quarterfinals has been pretty smooth sailing despite not having played competitive tennis since her devastating defeat at the US Open in September. In her last four matches combined, her opponents have only managed to win 17 games to Serena’s 49 with her toughest match coming in the first round against Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5. After that, she was victorious over Su-Wei Hsieh, Daria Kasatkina, and Margarita Gasparyan.

Maria Sharapova’s route to the quarterfinals has also been straightforward except for her third round where it went to a deciding set against the American Lauren Davis 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0. She also beat Nao Hibino, Aliaksandra, and Belina Bencic. When asked about her upcoming match, “It’s not like I think about what I can do worse,” Sharapova said. “Always trying to improve. I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam. There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”

Agnieszka Radwanksa (4) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (10)

Agnieszka Radwanksa and Carla Suarez Navarro have only met three times but their past two encounters have gone the distance. The last time they met was last year at the Miami Masters where the Spaniard won 5-7 6-0 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Head-to-head, Radwanska leads 2-1. In Radwanska’s fourth round match, she was two points away from being defeated by Anna-Lena Friedsam 4-5 in the third set; however the German ended up getting leg cramps late in the match and failed to get into the rallies thereafter. Radwanska was able break and serve out her game winning 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-5. Radwanska also beat Christina McHale, Eugenie Bouchard, and Monica Puig on her way to the quarters.

Carla Suarez Navarro seeded no. 10 disappointed hopeful Australians when she beat the new hometown hero Daria Gavrilova in the fourth round. Gavrilova, who originally represented Russia but emigrated to Australia last year, took the first set easily 6-0 but was unable to stay focused and ended up losing to Suarez Navarro 0-6 6-3 6-2. The Spaniard defeated Viktorija Golubic, Maria Sakkari, and Elizaveta.

Angelique Kerber (7) vs. Victoria Azarenka (14)

Victoria Azarenka leads their head-to-head 6-0. Will the higher seeded Angelique Kerber be able to finally take a match from the Belarusian? These two met just a few weeks ago in the finals in Brisbane where Vika won easily 6-3 6-1. Azarenka is a two-time champion having won in both 2012 and 2013 and is currently a favorite to win a third title down under. The German Kerber is looking to reach her best result at a Grand Slam since her semifinal performance back at Wimbledon in 2012. Kerber beat Misaki Doi, Alexandra Dulgheru, Madison Bregle, and Annika Beck on her way to the quarters. Vika was victorious against Alison Van Uytvanck, Danka Kovinic, Naomi Osaka, and Barbora Strycova on her route to the last 8. 

Johanna Konta vs. Shuai Zhang

We’re witnessing the success story of Zhang Shuai, the first women’s qualifier to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals in 26 years. This has been the first time the 133rd ranked 27 year old Chinese player has made it past the first round of a Grand Slam much less the fourth! She will be playing against 47th ranked Johanna Konta. The two met only twice: once in the 2012 US Open qualifiers with Konta coming out on top 6-4 3-6 7-5 and once in 2013 during the Guangzhou, China tournament with the Chinese countrywoman winning 7-5 6-3. Both players created huge upsets as they made their way to the quarters most notable Zhang beating no. 2 seed Simona Halep, Alize Cornet, Varvara Lepchenko, and Madison Keys. Konta upset no. 8 seed Venus Williams in the first round then Saisai Zheng, Denisa Allertova, and Ekaterina Makarova. 

January 25, 2016 in Agnieszka Radwanska, Australian Open, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Tia Ko, Victoria Azarenka | Permalink | Comments (0)

Australian Open Men's Quaterfinal Preview

By Mike McIntyre

We are down to the final eight players at the Australian Open and unlike on the women's side there are very few surprises up to this point. This should make for some very entertaining and hotly contested quarterfinal matches. Here is a quick breakdown of the four contests ahead of action on Tuesay and Wednesday in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Kei Nishikori (7)

The undisputed favourite coming into the event and also the defending champion, Novak Djokovic suddenly seems like he may indeed be vulnerable after his five set win against Gilles Simon in the round of sixteen. Roger Federer was quick to defend Novak and his 100+ errors in that match saying that Simon has the tendency to make players go for broke on their shots, but none the less I don't think anyone quite expected it to get to a fifth set. Djokovic has defeated Chung, Halys, Seppi and Simon to get to the quarters and will face a stiff test from the 7th seeded Nishikori.

Nishikori has not yet gone the distance in any of his victories over Kohlschreiber, Krajicek, Garcia-Lopez or Tsonga and is perhaps a bit more rested than his adversary in this upcoming match. Beating a player of Tsonga's calibre by a score of 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 is quite impressive and bodes well for his confidence at this stage of the tournament. Djokovic leads the head to head by a margin of 5-2 including the last four in-a-row. Nishikori can draw strength from the fact that he has beaten Novak at a Grand Slam before, in the semifinals of the 2014 US Open.

I think anyone would be crazy to predict anything other than a victory for Djokovic in this one. That being said I also believe the possibility for an upset has increased somewhat due to the results in recent days. All in all I'm going with Novak in four.

 Roger Federer (3) vs Tomas Berdych (6)

This will be the seventh career meeting at the Slams between Federer and Berdych with Roger holding a 4-2 advantage, although Berdych has won their last two battles which came at the U.S. Open in 2012 and at Wimbledon in 2010. Overall Federer leads their career head to head 15-6 and has taken the last four in-a-row between them. A rejuvenated Federer won all three meetings in 2015 with ease, not dropping a set in any of those matches.

Federer has started 2016 fairly strongly with a loss to Milos Raonic in the finals of Brisbane and with four relatively convincing wins so far here at the Aussie Open. He has wins against Basilashvili, Dolgopolov, Dimitrov and Goffin to get to this stage. Even Roger knows that his window for winning an 18th major gets smaller and smaller with each passing Slam so that undoubtedly is providing him with a little extra incentive. Despite the fact that he still looks like he could play for another ten years, even Fed fans know realistically that is not going to happen. As he approaches the four year mark without a Slam victory, Federer needs to make something happen while the body is still co-operating.

Berdych has been most comfortable here at the Aussie Open where he has now made the quarter-finals or better the past six years straight. The Czech has beaten Bhambri, Basic, Krygios and Bautista-Agut to reach this point. If he's able to play his best and not get caught up in the fact that Roger has had his number of late, Berdych could move into the semifinals for a third straight year. I certainly give him a better shot of upsetting Federer than I give Nishikori versus Djokovic.

That being said, I'll take Roger in three sets given how he looks lately to set-up a final-like SF against Novak.

Milos Raonic (13) vs Gael Monfils (23)

You don't want to miss this one folks! Five sets written all over it and between two enormously different styles of tennis players. This match will have canon-like serves and circus-like acrobatics. An excellent opportunity for two players who have struggled with injuries to get some satisfaction with a semifinal appearance at a Slam. The pair have faced each other but twice before in their careers with Monfils coming up victorious both times. You can throw those results out the window however as both came before Raonic solidified himself as a top-level threat on the ATP World Tour. With a tournament win already under his belt this year and a new coach in Carlos Moya to provide a different perspective on things, I would say that the Canadian is the slight favourite coming into this quarterfinal match.

This is the fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal for Raonic who will be aiming to attain just the second major semifinal of his career. For Monfils meanwhile it is the seventh Slam quarterfinal, although most of those came on the clay of Roland Garros. Regardless of the result, I think this will be the most entertaining of the four matches to watch and I wouldn't want to miss it.

I'm giving the edge to Milos who will prevail in five sets.

Andy Murray (2) vs David Ferrer (8)

Not surprised one bit at the two who will be facing each other in this quarterfinal match. Soon to be father Andy Murray has always performed well at the first Slam of the year and this edition has been no exception. He has beaten Zverev, Groth, Sousa and Tomic to get to this stage and has only dropped one set along the way. It does not seem as though impending fatherhood has distracted him from his goal of winning the third Slam of his career.

Ferrer for his part has been even more workmanlike than Murray en route to his sixth Aussie Open QF. He has taken out Gojowczyk, Hewitt, Johnson and Isner to get here. He'll work his butt off against Murray but at age 33 I don't know if he truly has enough to take the No. 2 seed down.

Murray holds a 12-6 career edge against Ferrer, including the past five straight times they have played one another and eight of the past nine in total. In fact if you take the clay matches out of the equation, Ferrer has only defeated Murray twice. Expect that trend to continue and witness Murray advancing in four sets.

January 25, 2016 in Andy Murray, Australian Open, David Ferrer, Gael Monfils, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych | Permalink | Comments (0)

Australian Open Men's Preview

By Mike McIntyre

Novak Djokovic comes in with perhaps the best chance of repeating as Australian Open champion of anyone I can ever remember. While we can't say he is an absolute lock to hoist the trophy in two week's, it would be shocking to see anyone dethrone him the way he has been playing. He started 2016 by winning the title in Doha where he demolished Rafa Nadal in the finals 6-1, 6-2. The world No. 1 faces Hyeon Chung of Korea in the opening round. It will be their first career meeting and the 19 year old Chung will be up against it in this pressure situation. Ranked 51st in the world already, Chung is clearly someone to watch down the road. In the opening round however he will be watching a clinic put on by the 5 time Aussie Open champion. Djokovic could see 14th seed Gilles Simon in the fourth round and then Kei Nishikori or Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters. He is matched in the same half of the draw as Roger Federer which would make for the semi-final everyone is hoping for - well everyone except for the other 62 players in their section of the field.

Federer starts with Nikoloz Basilashvili in the opening round and then could see baby Fed - Grigor Dimitrov - in the third round. Federer defeated Dimitrov in his opening tournament of 2016 in Brisbane 6-4, 6-7, 6-4. Fed could then meet the winner between a potential third round match between two up and coming players on the ATP World Tour in Dominic Thiem and David Goffin.

While 6th seed Tomas Berdych is also in Federer's quarter, I see Australian Nick Kyrgios who is seeded 29th as the real dark horse in this section of the draw. Having the home crowd behind him will be a huge boost and he also has a nice draw with his first two rounds. The two have never faced each other before but I'm going with the 20 year old to have a breakthrough here. He made the quarterfinals a year ago and therefore has the experience here in Melbourne of going deep in the draw. Berdych has done well here with two semi-final appearances in 2014 and 2015 and three quarter-final appearances before that, but at the age of 30 he is running out of time of actually winning a Grand Slam in his career. If he does get through the young Kyrgios, I don't see him beating Federer in the quarters.

In the bottom half of the draw 5th seeded Rafael Nadal will be looking to make the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014. Last year was a difficult one for Nadal although he did still manage to finish top five in the rankings. Nadal has made the finals here three times, winning once in 2009. Nadal has a brutal draw having to face compatriot Fernando Verdasco right off the bat. Despite holding a 14-2 career H2H against Verdasco, Nadal has lost two of their last three meetings. Nadal could then face Jeremy Chardy in the 3rd round, Gael Monfils in the 4th and will have to likely see either Stan Wawrinka or Milos Raonic in the quarters. I'm sure Rafa will have more success at the majors this year if he can stay healthy, but I can't see him getting too deep in Melbourne early in the season.

A Raonic vs Wawrinka fourth round match is the one I'm most anticipating. While the Swiss world No. 4 leads their career meetings 4-0, Raonic when healthy is a player that nobody wants to face. Just ask Roger Federer who was beaten by the Canadian in the finals last week in Brisbane. Whoever wins this match is my pick to go to the semi-finals and I wouldn't even be surprised if they ended up meeting Djokovic at the end of it all.

In the final quarter of the draw one cannot overlook Andy Murray, the second seed. Murray did not add to his two Grand Slam titles in 2015 but he did manage to lead Great Britain to a Davis Cup championship. Murray will not be satisfied without winning a Slam in 2016, or will he be? I often fail to see the same hunger in Murray as we have all seen time and time again in Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. Murray's family life will also be changing sometime towards the end of the Aussie Open as his wife is due to deliver their first child. Murray has already admitted he will fly back to the UK for the birth of their child regardless of how far he has progressed in the tournament. All things being equal however, we should see Murray get to the semi-finals without too much trouble. He opens against the young Alexander Zverev but then has smooth sailing until a potential fourth round match versus 16th seed Bernard Tomic and a quarter-final meeting that could be against 8th seed David Ferrer. A pretty darn good draw for a Grand Slam if you ask me. Also of note in this section of the draw is Lletyon Hewitt who is playing in his 20th and final Australian Open. Hewitt plays against a fellow Aussie, James Duckworth, in what could be a fitting way to end his playing career. More than likely I would see Hewitt with a final victory followed by a tough five set loss against Ferrer who he would likely face in the second round.

Check back with us throughout the tournament for updates and analysis. There is always plenty to talk about at the first Grand Slam of the year and Australia has been known to produce some unlikely finalists and even champions throughout it's remarkable history. While Djokovic is going to be a tough one to upset, you just never know how things will play out as everybody starts the season on relatively equal footing after the off season.

January 17, 2016 in Australian Open | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bianca Andreescu Offers Canadian Tennis Fans a Glimpse of the Future

By Mike McIntyre

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Photo Credit: Peter Figura

With an unprecedented level of Canadian talent currently on display on the professional tennis circuit it can be easy for fans in this country to focus on the present without giving much thought to what lies ahead. Milos Raonic has just defeated Roger Federer to start the year with a title in Brisbane, Vasek Pospisil seems poised to build on making the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last summer and Genie Bouchard is starting to show signs of regaining her form from 2014 where she rose to No. 5 in the world rankings. While Canadian tennis fans have much to be excited about right now, there is also plenty of reason for optimism with the next wave of emerging tennis players that are quickly making a name for themselves as they come up the ranks.

Leading the charge among our rising female tennis players is fifteen year old Bianca Andreescu. Despite her young age, Andreescu has already proven that she can hang with older competition and her success in 2015 propelled her all the way to number four in the ITF junior world rankings. Just how far can the youngster go? I sat down with Andreescu just before Christmas to get her views on her potential as a professional tennis player and the events that have led her to this point.

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Photo Credit: Mike McIntyre

Born in Mississauga but beginning to develop her tennis skills as a child in Romania between the ages of six and eight, Andreescu was not raised as a total tennis fanatic. She does not recall having a favourite player growing up and revealed that tennis became more of a priority for her when she turned twelve. Since then the improvements in her game have come quickly and have attracted the attention of Tennis Canada who continue to help her progression as an elite young tennis player.

Andreescu now works heavily with retired pro Nathalie Tauziat, former Wimbledon finalist in 1998, who travels with her to all of her tournaments. Andreescu has seen her baseline game and attacking style flourish under the tutelage of Tauziat and fully realizes that she is lucky to have someone of that caliber coaching her at such a young age.

“I’m very fortunate to have her as my coach” Andreescu acknowledges, “she used to be top 3 in the world.”

The success that Andreescu has recently experienced goes a long way towards justifying the attention and emphasis that Tennis Canada has placed on her. Highlights in 2015 by Andreescu’s own admission include winning the Canadian Open Junior and reaching the finals of the $25,000 Pro event in Gatineau where she fell to American Alexa Glatch who was ranked 155th in the WTA rankings at the time and who is more than ten years Andreescu’s senior. She also enjoyed helping Canada to a third place finish in the Junior Fed Cup and made her debut in the qualifying draw at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in August. Andreescu’s biggest moment though was the way she finished her season by winning the Metropolia under 18 Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship in December. Andreescu had won the Under 16 version of the tournament a year ago and joins some pretty elite company who have won the two back-to-back including Chris Evert and Mary Joe Fernandez on the women’s side and Ivan Lendl and Jim Courier among the men.

Biancaaob2015

Photo Credit: Christopher Levy

“Winning this tournament gave me a lot of confidence especially against tough opponents but now I know that if I put my mind to it I can beat anyone. I actually dreamt of this moment, I visualized me holding that trophy and I believed it and it came true. I try to visualize every night basically how I want to play each match and what I want to accomplish.”

As I chatted with Andreescu I was struck by her incredible poise and maturity in articulating her grasp of where her game is at the moment and what remains for her to work on in order to attain her future goals. She feels that her serve and return of serve are areas that require increased focus as she begins to play more experienced and powerful opponents. There exists a big gap in ability between junior level players and the pros amongst whose ranks Andreescu aims to one day join.

“I feel like most junior player compared to the pros they don’t hit as hard and as deep and they don’t play with the passion that the pros play I guess,” Andreescu remarked.

The young Canadian did have the opportunity just prior to Christmas to hit a few balls with fellow Canadian Genie Bouchard while down south in Key Biscayne. She found the experience an enjoyable one and noted that, “I was holding my ground. But I thought she would hit harder though!”

Bianca&natalietauziat

While Canada is at present arguably enjoying its highest ever success levels on the international tennis scene, Tennis Canada is hard at work behind the scenes to ensure that the next wave of Canadian talent finds its way to the top of the sport in order to continue this newly established legacy. That being said, there is certainly no reason to rush youngsters like Andreescu into the professional ranks if they are not yet ready or could benefit from more time at the junior level. Gone it seems are the days of teenagers winning Grand Slams as they once did with Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova. Today’s female tennis players need a little more time to develop and find that added power that is required to hit with the likes of Serena Williams or Andreescu’s current idol, Romanian Simona Halep.

In between all the time spent on court and completing her high school degree online, Andreescu does try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in her life but finds it difficult to partake in regular teenage activities like going to the movies and seeing her friends back home in Vaughan.

Asked what she misses the most of maintaining a regular teenage schedule she stated , “Basically all the social stuff. I barely have time for that because I’m basically playing tennis all the time and doing homework. It’s really hard.”

Yet when I talked to her about specific goals for the coming season, Andreescu sounds like someone who is focused entirely on becoming the best tennis player she possibly can even if that means giving up a few things in her personal life. “My goal for next year is to reach the top two hundred in the WTA,” she said. “And for juniors, I mean, I’d like to win a Grand Slam and to finish number one next year.” Her ambitions are high but given what she has accomplished over the past twelve months, I don’t think anyone can argue that the potential is definitely there. The future of tennis in Canada looks promising with the likes of Bianca Andreescu leading the charge.

January 17, 2016 in Bianca Andreescu | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is Serena Williams Ready for the Australian Open?

By Mike McIntyre

Thirteen years after she won it for the first time, Serena Williams remains the favourite to capture the Australian Open again this year. Going for her seventh title down under, it is hard to bet against the World No. 1 player and yet perhaps she is at her most vulnerable as the first Grand Slam of 2016 is about to begin.

Everything seemed to be going Serena's way at the final major of 2015 at the U.S. Open until she ran into the upstart Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals. There she remarkably could not close out a match that she led by a set and ultimately fell 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to the Italian veteran who had never previously beat her in four attempts. Williams was emotionally drained by the time she left New York and was unwilling to talk about the effect the pressure of going for the calendar year Grand Slam had on her in her post-match press conference. She subsequently withdrew from the remaining two tournaments on her schedule, the China Open and the WTA Tour finals. Williams has now had four months to digest what happened and yet we don't know for sure if she has come to terms with the lingering effects of that disappointment.

Physically there are also some question marks about Serena's preparedness for the Open. An inflamed knee took her out of the Hopman Cup to start January. Was this a precautionary withdrawal or the sign of something more serious? Earlier this week Williams also seemed to be in discomfort at one point during a practice session in Melbourne.The Australian Open is tough enough for competitors even when healthy. Most have not played a competitive match in at least two months and it is difficult to predict how one's body will react to match play after such a lengthy layoff. The extreme heat of the Australian summer can also deter the resolve of even the most fit player and is yet another obstacle towards success at the Open. Despite winning the tournament multiple times, there have also been early exits for Williams - see Ivanovic 2014, Stephens 2013 and Makarova 2012 as examples. In short, Serena has not been invincible in Australia and is capable of being beaten if she is not playing or feeling at her best.

Serena's draw is no walk in the park either. She opens against Camila Giorgi and will be hoping to reverse the trend against crafty Italian players in this difficult first round match. They have only played twice before, with Serena winning both, but those were on clay whereas the Aussie Open is on hardcourt. Down the road Williams could face good friend and 16th seed Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round and then perhaps Maria Sharapova or youngster Belinda Bencic (who beat her in Toronto in August) in the quarter-finals. The semis could bring bigger obstacles like Aga Radwanska, Sloane Stephens or Petra Kvitova and in the finals 14th seed but perhaps the biggest challenge to Serena in Victoria Azarenka or World No. 2 Simona Halep who seems destined to win a Slam at some point.

Serena loves it when people count her out and while that certainly isn't the case here we must acknowledge some questions that swirl as she prepares to take to the court this coming week. Check back with us regularly throughout the two week tournament as we keep you posted on all developments related to Serena Williams and other big names who try to steal the spotlight from the American legend and achieve Grand Slam glory.

January 16, 2016 in Australian Open, Serena Williams | Permalink | Comments (0)

Djokovic Tips the Scale in Rivalry With Nadal

By Tia Ko

After finishing watching Rafael Nadal get absolutely demolished by the world number one, Novak Djokovic, in straight sets 6-1 6-2 at the finals in Doha, Qatar I realized that it was one of the most dominant performances that I can remember ever watching by Djokovic. He was able to hit 30 winners and was winning more than 70% of his first and second serves compared to Nadal’s 9 winners and serving percentages in the 40’s. This win makes it the first time Djokovic has a higher number of wins in the rivalry’s head-to-head match-up with 24 versus 23.

This win also marks the 5th win in a row for Djokovic over Nadal with the Spaniard’s last victory occurring during the French Open final in 2014 where he dropped the first set but was able to win in four, 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4. The two met four times in 2015:

The ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Monte Carlo semi-final was their first meeting of 2015. Novak Djokovic won 6-3 6-3.

Djokovic was also finally able to get a bit of revenge at Roland Garros, beating the King of Clay 7-5 6-3 6-1 in the quarterfinals in France. That win broke numerous records: he had the most sets won against Nadal at the French Open, he became the only player to beat Nadal at all four Grand Slam events, he became the first man to beat Nadal in straight sets in a best of five format match on clay, and also the only player to beat Nadal on clay six times. Despite making it to the final and getting a chance to take home his first French Open title, the world No. 1 was defeated by underdog Stan Wawrinka.

Their next meeting was in the finals of the China Open in Beijing. After creating somewhat of a comeback into better form, Nadal made it to the finals only to be beaten once again in a quick match 6-2 6-2 by the 6-time title holder and defending champion. This wasn’t the first time the two had met at the finals in Beijing, back in 2013 Novak had also won the tournament with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Nadal.

During the last tournament of the season, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Djokovic and Nadal met in the semi-finals.  Djokovic won convincingly 6-3 6-3 and it was the first time he was able to level the head-to-head match up with Nadal at 23 wins a piece.

Can Nadal sink his teeth back into this gripping rivalry? Can anyone for that matter defeat Djokovic the way he is playing? It certainly looks like a demanding task for even the best of the rest on the ATP World Tour.

January 10, 2016 in Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal | Permalink | Comments (0)

How To Keep Playing After an Injury

You know how it is. You've suffered an injury while playing tennis: you wince when you walk, it hurts when you swing your arm, or any sudden movement leaves you wishing you hadn't got out of bed. However, you still can't wait to get back in the game.

Of course, a period of rest is necessary after any injury, but eventually you feel ready to start playing again. It's true that exercise is as important a part of your recovery as the rest, but the crucial thing is to take it easy and not hurt yourself all over again. For many of us, tennis is an essential part of life, and maybe even our daily routine. Time out can see muscles get out of shape and skills and reaction times become dulled. As soon as you feel ready, therefore, you should start playing again, but with certain precautions.

Muscle strain

The action you should take depends on the type and severity of your injury. A sprained or twisted ankle can be caused by sudden sideways movements during a match, and should be treated with rest and a combination of compression and elevation. Ice can also be applied, though not directly onto the skin.

A calf strain can occur when you pull a muscle in your lower leg. Wearing appropriate compression gear on the leg can aid recovery and help prevent a recurrence of the injury when you start playing again following a period of rest. A wide variety of compression wear is available at sports retailer Tommie Copper, and you can also donate to their Tommie Cares Foundation.

Elbows and shoulders

Tennis elbow is due to overuse of the muscles that bend and extend the wrist. Exercise and a good warm-up routine can help to prevent this condition, which manifests as a painful inflammation of the tendons. Wearing a tennis elbow support band can help to prevent this recurring.

Stress to the shoulder when making repeated strokes could cause a variety of injuries. The most common is shoulder bursitis. This is an inflammation of the fluid sac known as the bursa, which can be impinged between the rotator cuff muscles and the shoulder bone, leading to a painful sensation whenever the arm is lifted up. This can be treated by rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, followed by gradual exercise.

Take it steady

In all cases, when returning to tennis after an injury, the best advice is to take it steady and take it slow. Keep your first session back brief, and volley rather than serve, as this is less stressful for the body. Start at about 30% of your usual capacity and gradually increase the intensity. The important thing is to listen to your body and not overdo it.

Stick to practice sessions until you feel ready. Even if you're determined to take it easy in a match, your competitive instincts can easily take over. If you were previously playing three to five days a week, cut down to just one day a week at first.

After a long lay-off, your muscles will be out of shape, so pay plenty of attention to stretches and warm-up exercises. Again, appropriate compression wear should help prevent further injury.

January 4, 2016 in Injury | Permalink | Comments (0)