Thursday, April 17, 2014

Roger Federer may be skipping the French Open in favour of wife's impending birth

MONACO — Roger Federer is prepared to skip tournaments — including possibly the French Open — to be with his wife when she gives birth again.

Federer, who has twin daughters with wife Mirka, announced on Dec. 24 they are expecting their third child, although they have not said when.

The 32-year-old Federer still does not know the exact date.

“So we’re just waiting. It’s a priority for me trying to be there, trying to support my wife,” Federer said Wednesday at the Monte Carlo Masters. “I’ve played enough tennis matches. Missing a tournament or missing a match wouldn’t change anything for me.”

Asked if that means he would be prepared to miss the French Open, which runs from May 25-June 8, the 17-time Grand Slam champion hinted that he would.

“Yeah, let’s talk about it when it would happen. At the moment we hope it’s not going to be that way,” he said after beating Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-2 in the second round. “If it is, that’s what it is, you know.”

Federer has played in every Grand Slam since 2000.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Roger Federer makes winning return at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Roger Federer made a welcome return to the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Wednesday and opened his campaign in emphatic style, dismissing Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round.

The Swiss took a wild card to make his first appearance since 2011 at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament. He notched his 24th win at the Monte-Carlo Country Club as he hit 14 winners to nine unforced errors and converted all four of his break points. Federer moved to a 14-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Stepanek.
"I'm a bit surprised how well it went," said Federer. "Then again, it's hard to serve through the opponent. I was able to get a lot of returns back into play. On clay, when you have the upper hand from the baseline, it's kind of hard to get out of it. 
Watch Federer Interview

"I think that's kind of how it was for Radek today. I had a good start to both sets, then I was solid on my own service games. The next thing you know, you're in the lead and you can hit freely. It was clearly a good match to start my clay-court campaign."

The 32-year-old Federer, who was part of the ATP’s 25-year celebrations in Monte-Carlo on Tuesday evening, is a three-time runner-up at this tournament. The Basel native, who lost out to Rafael Nadal in the 2006-08 finals, is chasing his 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and first since 2012 Cincinnati (d. Djokovic).
"I'm very happy now that I'm doing well," said Federer, reflecting on his strong start to the season. "But, of course, I also expect this from myself. So I'm just trying to keep up that rhythm. I feel free physically and in my mind. I'm eager to play, I'm eager to practise. I want to play good points. I'm no longer afraid that the rally will last too long. This was getting in the way of my game last year, whereas now I can really enjoy myself."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Roger Federer talks disappointments, triumphs and family

After winning the 5th and deciding rubber in Davis Cup to ensure his Switzerland with a spot in the World Group semifinals, Roger Federer has now made it official that he will accept a Wild Card to play at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

The World No.4 has found a new equilibrium in his life. "I don"t need to win in order to be happy. I managed to find a perfect balance, both on court and in my personal life. I feel complete, with or without tennis.

It's been like this since I am 23. I always look for the victory, because it"s what gives me strength. It is great to come to the press room, in the locker room or just around the streets, hearing people saying: "keep going". I play because I want to entertain the fans and to give something back to the people who are close to me and who work together with me. When you reach success, life becomes more exciting" said Roger today.

2013 sure hasn"t been an easy season for Federer. Many disappointments, "of which the bigger was Wimbledon" revealed the Swiss. 

"In London I played okay, but Stakhovsky played better. The lowest moment was in Hamburg. I started ask myself many questions. Should I train in a different way? What should I do? After the tournament of Basel I started feeling better, and I understood my body was back in shape as I could handle three tournaments in a row. I gained confidence and I started to understand that I could play like I did before if I managed not to think too much. I remember that time as one of the hardest.  Every night I would go to bed, hoping that the following morning things would get better. I would wake up and see that things were not different. I didn't feel I was making any progress, and that was really frustrating. I saw that I couldn't hit the ball the way I wanted because I wasn"t confident enough in my body. Everything just fell apart: forehand, backhand, movement. Obviously many critics arrived. I had to justify myself, especially in Gstaad, when I said I had problems at my back. It wasn"t an excuse. I had to tell the truth, even though I don"t like to talk about injuries. During the entire second part of the season last year, suddenly everybody would just talk about my injury, and I didn't like that. I tried not to care too much about what people said and I focused on the work I had to do with my doctor and physiotherapist and with my team. Luckily everything worked well in the end. I could build on the good work that was done" revealed the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

The goal it"s to win another Grand Slam. "My chances for the French Open are not too slim, but I feel better for Wimbledon and the US Open. This season I already managed to beat many top 10 players, including Djokovic in Dubai. 

With Rafael it"s different, because I always found it hard to play against himA new success in a Slam is possible" said the Swiss, who also revealed clearly how Davis Cup is one of major goals for the year, saying: "it"s the perfect year to win it. We always played and will always play in Europe, and that"s very important. When after the US Open you have to fly to Kazakhstan or Australia is not easy. If you had asked me two years ago if Stanislas Wawrinka would have won the Australian Open I would have probably said no, because I thought he had the better chances at the French Open, on the red clay. His turning point was the loss he faced with Djokovic in 2013. After that, he understood that he had all it was needed to play against the top players".

A very important part of Federer"s life is occupied with his family, with the twins Myla and Charlene and his wife Mirka, who is pregnant with their third child. 

"Myla and Charlene have already started playing tennis, but only when the weather is good like in Dubai or Indian Wells. They also do other things. They ski during winter. All kids like to do some sport. When they come to see me playing I feel very proud. This year they will turn 5, but me and Mirka decided not to send them to school yet, as we want them with us in the circuit. Obviously the'll go to school in Switzerland, but it'll depend also on the level I'll be playing at. Regarding Mirka's pregnancy, I used to be very nervous at the beginning, now I am much more relaxed". 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Martina Hingis talks best Wimbledon memories

Former world No.1 Martina Hingis, the five-time Grand Slam singles champion, who won her first title since 2007 in Miami with her pupil Sabine Lisicki, talks to about cucumber sandwiches, coaching and her love for SW19.

What’s so special about Wimbledon?

As a tennis fan, Wimbledon is my favourite tournament to go back and visit. I love the prestige, tradition, the atmosphere when you walk into the grounds, the smell of the flowers, the perfection of the stadium; it’s jaw dropping every time. Being a past champion I get tickets to watch, and now I participate in the Legends event. It’s still pretty cool to go out there and play on the grass courts of Wimbledon. I get goose pimples and butterflies. When you don’t play for a while you get nervous about performing well, the adrenalin is going but it’s good.
Favourite court?

I always enjoyed playing on Centre but my other favourite was the old No 2 ‘Graveyard’ court, which is now Court 3. It was small and cosy; in the real time I played, I always performed well on that court.

Best Wimbledon moments?

In 1996 I was playing in the Ladies Doubles final [with Helena Sukova]. We were up 4-1 in the third having been down a break in the second [set] before turning it around but we had to finish on the Monday due to bad light. It was hard to sleep Sunday night and nerve-racking to go out there the next day but we won and the next year I won the Ladies Singles.

Maiden Centre Court memory?

The first year I played Steffi Graf was in 1995. She was a Wimbledon legend. It was nice to go on Centre Court but on the other hand I wished it was not against someone who [at that point] had won the tournament five times. I was nervous about playing her but tried to give it my best and make it a good competition.
Preferred pews?

The locker room sofas, and the seats in the players terrace restaurant, from which there’s an awesome view of the new Court Three and the grounds. I don’t mind sitting in the Royal Box either. It was nice to get the invitation to watch the women’s finals [last year], I felt very honoured to sit there.

Earliest tennis playing memory?

When I was about three we used to count how many times I could hit the ball over the net. By the time I hit it two or three hundred times we decided it was OK not to count anymore.

Growing up the generation ahead of me was Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati. I was watching their matches hoping one day I’d be out there playing them. Chris Evert had grace.
Dream doubles partner?

I really enjoyed playing Hopman Cup with Roger Federer. He was a great partner; had all the skills. I wouldn’t say no to partnering with him at Wimbledon.
How do you recover after a match?

I have a good massage, stretch, and love reflexology. I rub Nelsons Arnicare Arnica Cooling Gel into my feet and legs, which cools them down and helps with blood flow and recovery – as an athlete you’re always looking for that one extra per cent so you can demand more from your body when you’re on court.

You’re currently coaching 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki. What do you like about being a coach?

I really enjoy working with her because she’s someone who has a lot of potential, has a great serve and attitude. I’ve known her since she was ten years old, and we’re going in the same direction. Her father helps, the team chemistry is very important. I look forward every day to getting her game better. She’s got all the shots, it’s now more important to choose the right one at the right time.

What's the hardest part about being a coach/helping a player?

I feel responsible for her results and what happens on court.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? 

Stay positive. Even if you fail try harder tomorrow.

Most treasured possession?  

Family followed by my Wimbledon trophy, which is in the Hall of Fame now.

Who would play you in the film of your life? 

Maybe Natalie Portman or Jennifer Garner.
What’s the most unusual tennis prize you’ve won? 

A car for winning a tournament in Stuttgart, Germany. It was a Porsche Boxter. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve won. I was 16 and couldn’t even drive it.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? 

Winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open at the age of 16.

How would you like to be remembered? 

My tennis - my strategic, chess-making game.

Strawberries and cream or cucumber sandwiches?

Strawberries and cream a million times. I like cucumber with salt but not in sandwiches. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cliff Drysdale on criticism, career highlights and Roger Federer

The voice of ESPN’s tennis telecasts since they first aired in 1979, Cliff Drysdale’s smooth, distinguished voice is as much a part of the fan experience as the tennis itself. 

A former world No. 4 and founding member of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), his broadcasting style is cobbled together from over 50 years of involvement in the sport, giving viewers a front row seat even if they are sitting thousands of miles away.    

A native of South Africa, Drysdale has been a US citizen for over 20 years. Though he says he’s “as American as apple pie,” his accent has helped set him apart as a trusted voice in the game. 

His 2013 induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame cemented his legacy, but the 72-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down, growing his tennis management company when he’s not traveling to the most prestigious events on the tennis calendar.

Looking dapper clad in a Miami-appropriate tan linen suit, Drysdale sat down with Tennis Now for an insightful Q & A.
Vice President of Event Production Jamie Reynolds has described you as the “godfather” of the ESPN broadcast team. That’s a lot of pressure! 

I’m not sure what he means, actually (laughing). I’m still trying to figure that out. I do have a very nice relationship with the team. We talk about being a family, and in this business of egomaniacs, we are surprisingly compatible. We’re like a traveling family.
I’m sure you’ve refined your broadcasting style over time. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given your rookie self years ago?

I would say that the lesson that I should have learned a long time ago is to be a little more sparing with the number of words. Maybe make the words count a little more.
Some might look at your career and wonder why you aren’t enjoying retirement on the beaches of South Florida. What keeps you going at this point? 

I think about that. And then I think that means not going to Australia and enjoying the sun in January; not going to Wimbledon during the best time to be in England; being in frantic New York City, weather-wise probably the best time of the year there, too. It’s a hard to thing to walk away from. Those are nice places to be.
How honest can you be on the air? Do you ever feel like you’re holding back because you have a TV audience? 

I think in this era of political correctness, I might phrase things differently than if there was no political correctness. Fundamentally, I don’t think that there’s a bad person out there that I wouldn’t say is a bad person if they were. I think you can pretty much get across who the nice guys or gals are.

How do you know how far to go as far as criticism is concerned? 

I think we’re pretty critical from time to time. I don’t think we’re really shy about saying what we’re thinking. If you don’t, you sound like an idiot. If you see somebody dogging a match and you don’t say it, then you look like a dog.
In this era of Twitter and instant feedback, do you pay attention to what viewers are saying? People generally have strong feelings about commentators.

Honestly, if I followed it, I probably would be upset. But I don’t. I feel like I’d be affected too much if I read stuff that people were saying.
You’ve seen a lot of amazing tennis moments in your career. Do any stand out as highlights? 

There was the Davis Cup tie that we played against Paraguay. There were stones being thrown around. I really felt for the personal safety of Fred Stolle. It was Jim Simpson, myself, and Fred was at the court. I was afraid they might lynch him. I don’t think I should have feared that, but I was really worried about his safety.
The other one was the Pete Sampras/Jim Courier match in Australia when Pete’s coach had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He was in tears in the middle of that match. That was one of the most dramatic moments. Honestly, there have been hundreds of dramatic moments that have captured my imagination.
You’ve watched the Roger Federer narrative closely. Are you surprised by his ability to bounce back this year? 

I’m definitely not surprised. We’ve been here before. This is the song that we sung three or four years ago when he was supposed to be in decline. It was nonsense to write him off so soon. I think if you put the same four players in [the draw] week in and week out, he would not be at the top of the batch. But with a little bit of good fortune, he’s a threat. I said he’d win two Grand Slams, and he’s won one. I think he’s got another one in him.
Which player do you find most exciting right now?

Dolgopolov. I just love watching someone who is so unpredictable. He’s got so many unorthodox shots. I’m also a huge fan of the Djokovic. He has an extraordinary talent. He combined this physical stamina with the mentality that’s very tough to beat.

I truly miss this man, no one is better at emotional commentary.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Song of the Moment: Ingrid Michaelson-Girls Chase Boys

Can't get this song out of my head at the moment. And I CANNOT wait to buy her album next week.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tennis drug testing long way from perfect

The ITF released the figures of its 2013 anti-doping program earlier this week, and while there is a rise in the amount of overall testing--and blood testing in particular--holes still remain.

Frequency of tests administered rose as a whole, the program conducted 2752 total tests in 2013 compared to 2185 in 2012, but only 132 of the 730 players listed by the ITF were tested out of competition during the year. 

Out-of-competition blood tests are considered by experts to be the best way to catch performance-enhancing drug users, but the program failed to test more than 75 percent of its listed players out-of-competition, including top ten players Jelena Jankovic and Juan Martin del Potro.

Of the 730 participants listing, only 19 players were tested more than seven times both in-competition and out-of-competition.

The ATP's big four were all given special attention, as Novak DjokovicRoger FedererRafael Nadal and Andy Murray were all tested out-of-competition at least four times (the document quantifies testing amount as either zero, between 1-3, between 4-6, or more than seven). Serena WilliamsLi Na and Maria Sharapova were each tested out-of-competition at least four times as well.

All players are subject to out-of-competition testing, but top 50 singles players and top 10 doubles players are required to participate in the ITF's whereabouts program, where they must make themselves available for testing one hour per day when out of competition.

But according to an article by Doug Robson of USA Today, there are factors that tend to make testing less likely for certain players. There is also lenience, as players are allowed to miss a certain amount of tests with no ramifications.

“Although 60 or so highly ranked players are required to provide their whereabouts at least one hour 365 days per year so drug testers can find them, a player is not charged with a violation until he or she misses three out-of-competition attempts,” Robson wrote. “They can miss up to two with no consequences.”

Robson spoke with Jelena Jankovic, one of the top ten players who was not given any out-of-competition testing, and she said she believed that her decision to spend her off-season in Dubai may have deterred the testers from incurring the travel costs that would be required to test her.

After the whole Martina Hingis ban debacle I am honestly mistrustful of the whole system.