by Bob Greene
Sony Open (First Week)
Key Biscayne, Florida, USA
Varvara Lepchenko beat seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-3 2-6 7-6 (2)
Ekaterina Makarova beat ninth-seeded Sara Errani 6-3 2-6 6-4
“No, I cannot feel that way (sorry) for him. I am here to try my best. I know how dangerous Lleyton is and I admire him so much. He’s a great example for me, he keeps playing with passion and love for the game, and that is a great example for the kids, too.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-1 6-3.
“I think it (the racquet) just gives me easier power, especially on the first serve. And I think as time now goes by, I’m getting a better feel for how is the ball going to react, you know, how much spin do I need to put on to stay really accurate and put it really close to the line. But then again, this wasn’t Andre Agassi on the other side, or (Novak) Djokovic. It’s just important for me to keep that up and remind myself it’s going well so far.” – Roger Federer, after beating Dutch qualifier Thiemo De Bakker 6-3 6-3.
“She’s number two in the world for a reason. She just won the Australian Open for a reason. She’s a great player. I played well at times, but she just played the bigger points really well.” – Madison Keys, after losing to second-ranked Li Na.
“She’s much, much better than I was at her age. Americans have a long history in tennis. They have high goals – Serena, Venus, Lindsay Davenport – they have so many tennis stars in America, and they’re looking forward for another number one in the world. For China, it has still been a short time. I was just learning tennis in my mind – to me Top 10 was huge. We had much different goals. But as for Madison, I think she will definitely be a very good player in the future.” – Li Na, after beating Madison Keys.
“Obviously I wasn’t at my best. I had 40 something errors. It’s not the way to play professional tennis. Maybe amateur.” – Serena Williams, after narrowly getting past Caroline Garcia 6-4 4-6 6-4 in a third-round match at Key Biscayne.
“I’m eternally grateful to Ivan for all his hard work over the past two years, the most successful of my career so far. As a team we’ve learned a lot, and it will definitely be of benefit in the future. I’ll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here.” – Andy Murray, after spitting with coach Ivan Lendl.
“The benefits and the effects of our incorporation, Boris and mine, hopefully we will see in the rest of the season.” – Novak Djokovic, talking about his new coach Boris Becker undergoing surgery and unable to be at the Sony Open.
“I changed to be more aggressive on the court. And I was more relaxed. That was the secret. I want to fight for every point, but also to enjoy the match.” – Simona Halep, explaining to ESPN.com her rapid rise in the WTA rankings.
“She was doing a little bit of everything. She was hitting hard; she was hitting soft; she was doing a little bit of everything.” – Serena Williams, explaining why she had problems in her second-round match against Yaroslava Shvedova.
“This time a good thing is I won’t lose so much time seeking a diagnosis. In 2010, it took me two to three months to find the right diagnosis and the right doctor. This time, luckily, I know.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who is having surgery on his left wrist done by Dr. Richard Berger, a wrist specialist who operated on the Argentine’s right wrist in 2010.
It took a long time for Australian Open champion Li Na to play her first match at the Sony Open Tennis. And when she did, she found herself in the fourth round at the Key Biscayne, Florida, USA, tournament. As the number two seed, Li had a first-round bye. Then the Chinese star advanced to the third round without stepping onto the court as her opponent, Russian Alisa Kleybanova, withdrew from the tournament because of illness. Li was a little rusty to start her third-round match against Madison Keys. The American won four straight games to take a 5-3 lead. But Li staved off three break points in the ninth game and finally won the opening set 7-6 (3). Her 6-3 win in the second set put her into the fourth round. “Madison was playing very well today – big serve, big forehand,” Li said. “I think if she won the first set she would have been more confident going into the second set and we would have had a different result in the end.”
Jarkko Nieminen of Finland blazed his way into the record book with a 28-minute, 20-second roasting of Australian Bernard Tomic. It was the quickest match in ATP Tour history, besting the mark set by Greg Rusedski when he defeated Carsten Arriens 6-0 6-0 in 29 minutes in 1996. The ATP Tour began keeping official records in 1991. It was Tomic’s first match since he retired with an injury while playing Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open in January. Against his Finnish foe, Tomic won just 13 points. “I felt like I did the best that I could and I’m happy with the way I’m coming back,” said the 21-year-old Tomic, who underwent hip surgery after the Australian Open. “Hopefully in a little bit of time I can get back to 100 percent. It’s not easy, but I’m trying, doing everything, doing my best to get there.” Tomic reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011. Once ranked as high as 27th in the world, he currently is ranked 74th.
For the second time in his career, Juan Martin del Potro has been sidelined and will undergo a wrist operation. Argentine media reports that the big right-hander will miss the rest of the season. Del Potro pulled out of the Sony Open before the tournament began this past week. Once ranked as high as fourth in the world, del Potro hasn’t played since Dubai nearly a month ago. He currently is ranked eighth. Four years ago, shortly after he won the US Open, del Potro underwent an operation on his right wrist. After he returned to the tour, he won the bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. This time del Potro is having his left wrist operated by American surgeon Richard Berger, who also did the earlier surgery. “I have the experience of how the rehabilitation is, the time it takes,” del Potro told the Buenos Aires, Argentina daily newspaper La Nacion.
Another Australian reached a longevity mark at the Sony Open. Lleyton Hewitt became the third ATP player still on the tour to win 600 matches when he beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands 3-6 6-3 6-3 in a first-round match at Key Biscayne. Once ranked as high as number one in the world, Hewitt joins Roger Federer (942 wins) and Rafael Nadal (675) in reaching the milestone. “Not many people get the opportunity to get close to that, so it means I have been around for an awfully long time,” the 33-year-old Hewitt said of the achievement. Hewitt has spent more than half his life playing tennis professionally. He won his first ATP World Tour title at Adelaide, Australia, in 1998 when he was 16 years old. He won the US Open in 2001, beating Pete Sampras, and Wimbledon the next year, when he bested David Nalbandian in the title match. He led Australia to the Davis Cup title in 1999 and was first ranked number one in the world on November 19, 2001.
Andy Murray will go it alone after he and coach Ivan Lendl decided to go their separate ways. Murray said the two abruptly ended their partnership in a Miami restaurant. “We went and had dinner,” Murray said. “We chatted for an hour about other stuff, and then we chatted about us moving forward. … It wasn’t going to happen. The best thing to do was just to move on.” With Lendl coaching, Murray reached his first Wimbledon final, won the 2012 Olympic gold medal, and then became Britain’s first male Grand Slam tournament champion in 76 years when he beat Novak Djokovic to win the US Open. Last year, Murray beat Djokovic again in the final to become the first Wimbledon men’s singles champion from Britain since Fred Perry in 1936. “It’s a tough one for me because he’s been a big part of my life,” Murray said of Lendl. “He’s been a big part of my team. He made a huge difference to my tennis.” Before Lendl became his coach, Murray had lost four times in Grand Slam tournament finals. Although he has not win a title since Wimbledon, Murray missed the final two months of last season after undergoing surgery on his back. He lost to Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January and in the fourth round in Indian Wells, California, USA in his most recent outing before the Sony Open. “The thing that he was brought in to do was to help me get over the line in the big events, and that’s what he did,” Murray said of Lendl. “My game was kind of there. It was the mental side in dealing with pressure situations that he was there to help with. That was the biggest influence he had on my game.”
This year CoCo Vandeweghe finally made it past the opening round at the Sony Open. After getting past Marina Erakovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the American found the 2011 US Open champion in her path. A qualifier ranked 104th in the world, Vandeweghe proceeded to knock off Samantha Stosur of Australia 5-7 7-5 7-5 in a match that ended at 2:29 in the morning. Only a handful of spectators remained in the stadium when Vandeweghe completed the upset. And what was her reward for the victory? Why, she face top-ranked Serena Williams in a fourth-round clash.
Remember John McEnroe’s outburst at Wimbledon: “You are the pits of the world”? Add Novak Djokovic’s choice words directed at the umpire in his Sony Open match. While playing Jeremy Chardy in a second-round match, Djokovic was handed a time violation by the umpire. “You have to understand the game,” Djokovic said. The Serb had fewer problems with Chardy, defeating the Frenchman 6-4 6-3 in an entertaining match that lasted one hour, 24 minutes.
The big surprises at the Sony Open Tennis came in the women’s doubles. The top-seeded pair of Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai and the third-seeded team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci first fell on the first day of doubles action. Kimiko Date-Krumm and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova rallied from a 5-1 second-set deficit to upset Hsieh and Peng 6-2 7-6 (7). It was just the second loss of the year for Hsieh and Peng. “When we were losing 5-1 in the second set, we calmed down and stopped making as many mistakes,” Date-Krumm said. Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro ousted four-time Grand Slam doubles champions Errani and Vinci 7-6 (7) 1-6 12-10 (match tiebreak). The losers actually won four more points than they lost and had two match points in the match tiebreak. It was the first time Muguruza and Suárez Navarro had played as a team.
Like Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic is playing the Sony Open without his coach. Unlike Murray, Djokovic has not split with his new coach, Boris Becker. It’s just that Becker is undergoing surgery on both hips. “In these particular situations you can’t do much about it,” Djokovic said. “If he has an operation on his hips, he cannot move, cannot walk, unfortunately. It has been something that has been an issue he has been carrying for many years.” Becker, a six-time Grand Slam tournament champion, began working with Djokovic at the beginning of this year. The Serb won his first title of 2014 a week ago at Indian Wells, California, USA. “The benefits and the effects of our incorporation, Boris and mine, hopefully we will see in the rest of the season,” Djokovic said. Becker hopes to resume traveling with Djokovic beginning with the Monte Carlo tournament, which starts April 13.
The WTA Tour’s Paris Open will no longer be in Paris – or at least not for the next five years. Organizers said the tournament will leave the French capital and relocate to Toulouse, France, for the next five years. Next year’s tournament will retain the same spot on the WTA calendar after the Australian Open, running from February 7-15. Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won this year’s Paris Open, defeating Italy’s Sara Errani in the final, 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Two Americans – John Isner and Justin Gimelstob – were presented USD $15,000 grants from their charity work. The two received their ATP ACES For Charity grants from Chris Kermode, ATP executive chairman and president, in support of their charitable causes, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund. One of the leading cancer centers in the United States, the UNC Lineberger successfully treated Isner’s mother, Karen, after she had been told that her cancer was incurable. Isner hosts an annual charity event in North Carolina in support of UNC Lineberger. The Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund provides financial support to a variety of children’s charities in northern New Jersey and the New York metropolitan region. It has raised more than USD one million dollars since its establishment in 1998. The main beneficiary of the JGCF is The Valerie Fund, which supports comprehensive health care of children with cancer and blood disorders. The Valerie Fund Children’s Centers treats more than 5,000 children annually.
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
International Tennis Federation: www.itftennis.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,720,390 Sony Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
$100,000 Zurich Jalisco Open, Guadalajara, Mexico, hard
$4,720,380 Sony Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$644,900 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay
$500,000 Abierto Monterrey presentado por Afirme, Monterrey, Mexico, hard
Japan vs. Czech Republic at Tokyo, Japan, hard
France vs. Germany at Nancy, France, hard
Italy vs. Great Britain at Naples, Italy, clay
Switzerland vs. Kazakhstan at Geneva, Switzerland, hard
Americas Zone: Ecuador vs. Brazil at Guayaquil, Ecuador, clay; Colombia vs. Dominican Republic at Cali, Columbia, clay
Asia/Oceania Zone: China vs. Uzbekistan at Tianjin, China, hard; South Korea vs. India at Busan, South Korea, hard
Europe/Africa Zone: Poland vs. Croatia at Warsaw, Poland, hard; Slovenia vs. Israel at Portoroz, Slovenia, clay; Sweden vs. Ukraine at Malmo, Sweden, hard; Slovak Republic vs. Austria at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard
Americas Zone: Barbados vs. El Salvador at St. Michael, Barbados, hard; Mexico vs. Peru at Puebla, Mexico, hard
Asia/Oceania Zone: Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines, clay; Thailand vs. Kuwait at Nonthaburi, Thailand, hard
Europe/Africa Zone: South Africa vs. Lithuania at Centurion, South Africa, hard; Finland vs. Bosnia/Herzegovina at Helsinki, Finland, hard; Moldova vs. Belarus at Chisinau, Moldova, clay; Denmark vs. Luxembourg at Hillerod, Denmark, hard