Saturday, March 30, 2013

Martina Hingis reflects on career

The women’s game these days is heavily populated by gifted athletes and potent shotmakers. The premium is—and has been for a long while—on power, and these players in the upper regions are knocking the cover off the ball. The pace of their shots can be overwhelming. 

And yet, the three women who reside at the top today—Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka—all bring a certain amount of variety and flair with them on the court. They are all great players who are highly enjoyable to watch because they have more versatility and court craft than many observers realize.

But no one on the horizon now has an imagination nearly as large as a former world No. 1 from Switzerland. None of the current leading players has anything like her tactical acuity and masterful strategic prowess. 

Not a single woman in today’s sport plays the game of tennis with the acute intelligence, clarity of vision, and the uncanny court sense of Martina Hingis, who will be inducted at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island on July 13th. In the middle of last week, I spoke with Hingis by telephone about her sterling career, and she came across during the 28 minute interview with the same distinctive sense of self and well measured confidence that was once her hallmark on the court.

Hingis had a first rate career in every respect. She established herself unequivocally as the best 16-year-old ever to play the game, winning three of the four Grand Slam events in 1997, capturing 12 of 17 tournaments and 75 of 80 matches in that banner year. She took five career majors in singles, and twice reached the final of the French Open. 

She concluded three different years—1997, 1999, and 2000—as the top ranked woman in tennis, which was no mean feat. And, on top of all that, Hingis was an outstanding doubles player. While she secured 43 titles in singles on the WTA Tour, she added 37 more in doubles—including nine majors. She became only the fourth woman ever to win a Grand Slam in doubles, taking the 1998 Australian Open with Mirjana Lucic, sweeping the other three Grand Slam events with Jana Novotna.

As our conversation commenced, I wondered how much confidence Hingis gained from being such an extraordinary prodigy. She won two French Open junior singles titles—the first at age 12 in 1993—and also was victorious in the Wimbledon juniors in 1994. She turned professional in October of 1994, shortly after her 14th birthday. What was she expecting of herself as she came out of the juniors and joined the more diversified world of women’s tennis?

Hingis laughs before responding, “Well, it just became very natural winning. It becomes a habit, which is a really nice feeling. At that time I felt I had plenty of years left even if I had a bad year or some bad results. The most difficult part is always the transition from juniors to the senior level but that was pretty smooth as well. I had great matches with the top players early in my pro career but I wasn’t able to break through and stay at that level for a whole match. I always played well for a set or a set-and-a-half until I kind of burned through at 16 and was able to win those matches. I was a lot younger than the girls are today so you really feel you have so much time ahead of you and you are excited. I didn’t really like to practice that much but I loved going out and playing tournaments.”

In the spring of 1996, when she was 15, Hingis had a big victory over Steffi Graf at the Italian Open. Later that year, she played Graf in the semifinals of the U.S. Open and lost 7-5, 6-3, but the evidence was beyond dispute: Hingis was on the verge of performing at the very highest levels of the game. The match was much closer than the score, and the Swiss stylist could well have taken the opening set. 

She had five set points. Hingis recalls, “I had beaten some really good players along the way like Sanchez Vicario and Novotna. I had nothing to lose against Steffi and that was true against Sanchez and Novotna as well. I went into those matches without nerves. Yes, that was definitely important because I felt like I could play against the top players. I was very happy. I had a chance to win a set from Steffi which was really surprising. She was the top player in the world then. But I was a little tired because I was in the semifinals of all three events—singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I stopped playing mixed doubles after that.”

The strong showing against Graf and the feeling of belonging up there with the elite players led Hingis right where she wanted to be in 1997--- to the pinnacle of the sport. Was that kind of success beyond her wildest dreams, or was it a burden to live up to being the dominant force in the game at 16? Hingis responds, 

“At that point, you feel really unbeatable, like with Azarenka last year when she had a winning streak similar to mine in 1997 [Hingis won 37 matches in a row to start the season before losing to Iva Majoli in the French Open final, Azarenka won 26 in a row to start the 2012 season]. I was like, ‘Oh, hopefully somebody is going to beat her so she doesn’t beat my streak.’ Anyway, you feel like you are the only one who can beat yourself. I was my only opponent at that time because you have so much confidence. You go on court and you think that nothing can happen to you. You think you cannot lose these matches. That is what happened until I fell off the horse, and I became my own opponent.”

In April of that 1997 campaign, Hingis did indeed fall of her horse named Montana, and had a slight tear in a ligament in her left knee. But it required surgery and kept Hingis out of Hamburg, Berlin and Rome en route to Roland Garros. She won an exhilarating three set semifinal over three time former champion Monica Seles, but was clearly not herself in the shocking loss to Majoli. Did the horse riding accident cost Hingis the French Open and a possible Grand Slam? “I don’t know,” she answers. 

“Horses and skiing and those kinds of dangerous sports helped me in my life in general and it made me the person I was because I was very flexible with things. I was able to adjust to different situations and different moments. To me, riding the horse was part of training, part of being awake and aware of things. I feel like today people are very one symmetric and they don’t do enough off the tennis court. They just do fitness but they are not very flexible. They usually do one thing well and if there is something else it just gets them out of balance. I felt like there were not many things that got me out of balance because I was multi-tasked in a way. Doing so many sports helped me overall with my tennis.”

After that stellar 1997 season, she performed well again in 1998 and won a second Australian Open crown, but she finished the year No. 2 behind Lindsay Davenport, who upended Hingis in the U.S. Open final. Was it a letdown to be ranked second in the world after being so far ahead of the pack the previous season? Hingis replies, “The other players weren’t sleeping. The Williams sisters became more consistent and Lindsay Davenport lost like 20 pounds and became a better mover and a better player. You had Jennifer Capriati starting to play well again so there were a lot of factors. I was always pushing to improve but, of course, I had more to lose. The others got better, too. It was not like I got worse.”

That was clearly the case. Other players were elevating their games, providing sterner opposition for Hingis, making it that much harder to collect the prizes of consequence. And yet, she garnered a third Australian Open championship in a row to open the 1999 season, demonstrating that the hard courts “Down Under” suited her to the hilt, much like Andre Agassi in the men’s game.

Hingis went to the final of the French Open for the second time and took on Graf for the title. She won the first set and, after disputing a line call by walking over to the other side of the net to check the mark early in the second, she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, reaching 15-0, standing three points away from completing a career Grand Slam. But, in the end, a buoyant Graf—propelled by a Roland Garros audience that was almost entirely on her side—came through to win her sixth and final crown on the red clay, and her 22nd and last major as well.

Asked to recollect that match, Hingis says, “That was probably the only match in my life that I wish I could replay. I got very emotional for whatever the reasons—the pressure, the crowd, whatever. And I had a great opponent on the other side of the net. It is not like you are playing a nobody. It is still Steffi Graf who won the tournament so many times. So I was fighting a few factors. I wish they would have had the Challenge system that they have today. But they still don’t use it on clay.”

I asked if she believed the Hawkeye Challenge System should be used on clay. “Yes,” she replied.  “Sometimes even the balls on [or near] the line you can’t see the mark. I say they should have the challenges on clay.”

In any event, before leaving the subject of the loss to Graf that could, Hingis said, “I feel like the French crowd is the toughest for anybody. I mean, if Federer plays Nadal in the finals they always go for the underdog, especially as you get older. They loved me when I made my comeback. I wish they had liked me as much when I was playing that final in 1999 as they did after my comeback. I wish I spoke French the way I can today. That probably would have helped.”

To many of us who were there that day and saw her move so close to winning before suffering such a difficult loss in the end, there was a consensus that Hingis was unlucky to lose—even if Graf was a resolute and admirable champion, and perhaps the best woman tennis player of all time. Hingis impressed me enormously when I asked if she had indeed been unlucky. She said unhesitatingly, “No, I don’t believe in luck in sports. You have to earn your luck.”

Despite that defeat, Hingis had an excellent 1999 season altogether, and finished the year back at No. 1 in the world. She won 71 matches that season—the most of any woman player—and was victorious in no less than seven tournaments. Hingis was then surrounded by an explosive brand of big hitters including a swiftly emerging Serena Williams, who beat her in the U.S. Open final. Venus Williams was peaking, and Davenport was in the summertime of her career. Of the seven final round losses Hingis experienced at the majors across her career, two were at the hands of Jennifer Capriati, two were against Davenport, and Serena Williams, Graf and Majoli all stopped her once. Only the Majoli loss was a fluke or hard to understand; the rest were justifiable considering the big games and large reputations of her adversaries.

“It was tough,” recollects Hingis. “You beat one of the big hitters with those top players and then you have to face another one. I could beat Venus one day and have to play the Serena the next so, or the other way around. That was hard. They were going for the revenge for the family. There was the one time I beat them back to back [at the 2001 Australian Open]. But then you have a Davenport so it was always tough to beat all those players two or three in a row for someone like me because I have to work and fight for the points while they just hit an ace or a big shot for a winner. Sometimes it was a little mental.”

Having said that, Hingis believes they all helped each other to progress. “We made each other better, I think. Everybody got better. Those matches I had against the Williams sisters, Davenport and Capriati were definitely some of the best matches of my life. Win or lose, I think we had great matches.”

That accurate analysis from Hingis led to an inevitable question. In 2002, she confronted Capriati for the second straight year in the Australian Open final. The Swiss stylist—who had been ousted by the American in a straight set final the year before—won the first set in the most oppressive of conditions in Melbourne, and moved ahead 4-0 in the second set. She had four match points later on. But a ferociously determined Capriati would not surrender, and Hingis was beaten 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 in a gripping contest.

Asked to travel back in her mind to that match, Hingis jovially says, “Don’t make me remember that! I was up 4-0 in the second set and then I had 4-2, 40-15. That is when I lost the match. For some reason I still had those match points but that was when I had lost the momentum. You can always have luck, but like I say I don’t believe in luck. Champions like Capriati won’t give it to you. You have to earn it. I believe I lost that match much earlier than at the match points. If I was up 5-2, probably I win it. Sometimes I watch some of my matches on YouTube like the French Open finals or when I beat Mary Pierce to win my first Grand Slam [title]. Those I watched but I didn’t look at the one with Capriati. I probably should.”

Near the end of the 2001 season in October, Hingis had undergone surgery on her ankle, returning with resolve at the start of 2002. She needed another surgery on her ankle in May of 2002, missing Roland Garros and Wimbledon that season. She was gone from the game for all of 2003 and 2004 and did not play another tournament until the end of November in 2005. She then made a remarkable comeback in 2006, rising as high as No. 6 in the world, finishing the season at No. 7, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian and French Opens. Her form declined in 2007, and her career ended that year, making her eligible this year for the first as a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Unsurprisingly and appropriately, Hingis was a first ballot choice for inclusion at Newport.

Of her comeback, Hingis says, “I didn’t think I could come back as quickly as I did, but things like that happen all the time. You see Rafa Nadal come back after seven months being absent this year. Once you are a champion you have it in your blood, you know what to do and you have your game. Once you are a champion you can always come back.”

How much had the game evolved after Hingis missed nearly three years? What did she notice most? “Obviously it got more physical,” she attests, “but it didn’t get more intelligent. The Williams sisters, Davenport, Capriati, Seles and myself: we knew everything about the game. We had the basics and we understood the game. We had a different view. Today the juniors don’t have enough education about the general stuff, the basics. 

I am helping girls now at the [Mouratoglou Tennis] Academy and I feel like what I am telling them today they should know when they are 10 or 12 years old. We all had a tennis education back then which I feel is a little bit gone today because they are drilling and hitting the ball as hard as they can. We had great respect for each other because you knew if you made one mistake you were going to be killed: you were gone. You could not get away with anything. The girls now are more physical, stronger and faster, but not faster than the Williams sisters. They are different. The technology has gotten better.”

Did anyone before or has anybody since made Hingis think of herself? She replies, “Before you had Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. They have a different game than mine and are more aggressive and go to the net more. I never played with Billie Jean but with Martina I have played some exhibition matches and she knows the game. She has great instincts. It is fun when we practice together because we both have knowledge of the game, and the same with Lindsay Davenport when we play Legends tournaments. Although we are completely different players, she is a great ball striker. Chris Evert and Tracy Austin also knew the game.”

Having said that, does Hingis believe her tactical acuity was something that came naturally to her, or did her mother and coach Melanie Molitor play a significant role in the shaping of Hingis as a perhaps the premier thinking woman’s player of the modern era? She says, “I played a lot of matches when I was little, but of course my Mom was a great teacher and she taught me a lot of new things. You learn at a very young age and the patterns are there automatically. Because I played a lot of tournaments it did become automatic for me, but my Mom definitely had a big, big part in it.”

The interview was reaching the closing stages, so I asked Hingis about what playing doubles did for her game? She answered, “I preferred playing doubles to having to go out and practice again so definitely it helped me to be more aggressive and helped with my return game. Maybe toward the end of a Grand Slam it was wearing me out. It is tiring to have to sit around and wait to play doubles, but it was definitely for me a good solution.”

Hingis had phenomenal hands that made her a top of the line doubles player. Her reactions at the net were excellent and she had terrific feel on the volley. But if she could go back to revisit her prime, would she develop a bigger first serve? “More or less no, because I was pretty happy with my game. But the only thing is that today the serve is more important so I would probably spend more time today on my serve than I used to. But my Mom was scared that I would hurt my back in those days.”

Speaking of the serve, no one has surpassed Serena Williams in that department. Yet no one had a better forehand among the women than Graf. Which player would Hingis pick as the best she ever met? “With Steffi,” she says thoughtfully, “I felt like I had a chance when I played her. We had rallies. Sometimes with Serena with her big first serve and big first shot it was very tough. She was my least favorite opponent, and Lindsay, too. They were very similar.”

Time is short. Hingis has a crowded day with other commitments. But before she leaves, I ask her if she could select her most gratifying moment as a tennis player. Is there one major that stands out most prominently in her mind? She responds swiftly, “It was more the satisfaction of winning my first tournament in Filderstadt [in 1996] when I won my car. That was not a Grand Slam but it was pretty cool to win not only the tournament but the car.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

Justine Henin welcomes baby girl, Kim Clijsters expecting boy for baby #2!

Do we have the makings of a Belgium’s mixed doubles entry for the 2032 Olympics?

Justine Henin and husband Benoit announced the birth of their daughter, Lalie, last Wednesday. The seven-time Grand Slam champion posted the first public photos of the happy family on Facebook.
“We were anticipating this so much, and now it has happened,” Henin wrote in French. “This afternoon a little fairy arrived to illuminate our lives… She is called Lalie, she is in top form and we are really delighted!”
While Henin welcomed a girl, longtime rival Kim Clijsters is expecting a boy. Clijsters announced she was expecting a second child in February and her husband, Brian Lynch, tweeted Monday that a trip to the doctor’s office revealed they’re anticipating a little brother for Jada.
So will little baby Lailie have a one-handed backhand? Will baby boy Clijsters be blessed with the flexibility of his mom and the height of his basketball-playing dad? Will Jada overshadow them both and offer drama-free dominance of the WTA for a prolonged period of time? Probably not. But it’s all awfully fun to think about.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Changes abound for the U.S. Open

US Open prize money will reach $50 million by 2017 and men’s semi-finals will move to Fridays from 2015 to give players a day of rest before the final following a long-term agreement between the ATP and USTA.

In an immediate move, the USTA will boost prize money for this year’s US Open by an additional $4.1 million above the previously announced increase of $4 million, taking the 2013 combined men’s and women’s purse to $33.6 million. That marks an $8.1 million increase over the $25.5 million paid to players in 2012.

Beginning in 2015 the US Open will conclude on the second Sunday of the two-week event with the men’s singles championship. To allow for a day of rest for the finalists, the men’s singles semi-finals will be played on Friday. The women’s singles championship will be played on Saturday. In 2013 and ’14 the men’s final will be played on a Monday.
“We welcome the commitment the USTA has made concerning player prize money at the US Open through 2017,” said Brad Drewett, ATP Executive Chairman & President.  
“These increases are the largest in the history of the sport, representing a significant step forward in truly recognizing the input the players have in the success of the US Open. We also welcome the decision from the USTA to adopt a schedule with the men’s semi-finals completed by Friday and the final on Sunday, from 2015 onwards.”

“The ATP and its players, led by ATP Player Council President Roger Federer, have been encouraged by the recent co-operative approach taken by the USTA in listening to player concerns on these matters, and are pleased to have reached this long term understanding through 2017. 
We appreciate the productive manner in which the USTA, as well as Tennis Australia relating to the Australian Open, have engaged with the ATP and its players over the past 12 months. We remain committed to ongoing discussions with other Grand Slam tournaments in this regard.
"This excellent outcome for the sport of tennis wouldn't have been possible without the open-mindedness and fairness of USTA President Dave Haggerty and the USTA staff,” said Roger Federer, 17-time Grand Slam champion and President of the ATP Player Council.  
“They approached our concerns with a true spirit of partnership, and as President of the ATP Player Council I am personally grateful for their support. Everyone I have spoken with is excited about the increases in prize money, as well as the agreement to change the schedule for 2015 and beyond. The US Open is very special, and we all look forward to great competition at Flushing Meadows later this year, and in the years yet to come."
Presently, the USTA is in the midst of several strategic initiatives, all with a common goal of growing tennis at every level in the United States, from youth to seniors, and from those just starting out in the sport to professionals at the highest level of the game. 
For the US Open and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center the goal is twofold: to transform the National Tennis Center over the next several years into the most modern and fan- and player-friendly tennis center in the world and to continue to attract the world’s best tennis players. 

“The USTA has a long-term vision in place to ensure that tennis continues to thrive in the United States.  This vision encompasses every level of the sport, from energizing existing fans, to attracting new players, to ensuring the US Open remains one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events,” said David Haggerty, USTA Chairman, CEO and President.  
“With this unprecedented commitment to long-term prize money and recognition of the value that players bring to the sport, we will gain stability for the sport so that we can focus our energy on growing the game and ensuring tennis’ vitality in the U.S. for years to come.”

The USTA will announce the exact round-by-round distribution of the total prize money increase for the 2013 US Open this summer.  Further year-by-year prize money increases are expected to be announced annually prior to that year’s US Open.  This year’s US Open is scheduled for August 26 through September 9, with the US Open Qualifying Tournament beginning on August 20.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The next big thing in tech: A levitating mouse?

If you think your computer mouse needs a major upgrade, you might be in luck. Famed Russian designer Vadim Kibardin, 2012 winner of the DESIGN AND DESIGN International Award, has recently announced that he is developing a levitating computer mouse. 
And continuing the theme of naming our point-and-click devices after small mammals, it's appropriately called "The Bat."
The Bat looks like a magician's trick, but the technology behind it is simple: magnetic rings keep it afloat, and it hovers 10 millimeters beneath the weight of a user's hand, with a 40 millimeter maximum height when not in use.
The mouse is meant to reduce pressure on the wrist and theoretically lead to a lower incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome
Ergonomics expert Dr. David Rempel told The New York Times in 2008 that "in the last few years, strong evidence has emerged that if you use a computer mouse for more than 20 hours a week, your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome is increased."
However, according to WebMD, a mouse use may not be a leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is "actually three times more common among assembly line workers than it is among data-entry personnel -- and frequent use of vibrating hand tools increases the risk," the site says. So perhaps Kibardin, for all his noble intentions, isn't actually fixing the real problem.
Some tech writers remain skeptical that the mouse -- which so far has been seen only in computer-generated mockups -- is even real. 
Hazel Chua of Technabob calls it "impractical" and "probably impossible," while David Ponce at OhGizmo! says he doubts such a niche product, even if made, would ever hit the market.
When asked for a release date by The Huffington Post, Julia Kibardina, the managing director of Kibardin's design studio, KIBARDINDESIGN, replied by email: "The BAT mouse project is in the first stage of pre-production. 
We're researching the market, customers' interest and improving the engineering part. We're also preparing a presentation for media. As soon as we are ready, we will give you all the information about this project."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Martina Hingis will join Washington Kastles in World Team Tennis

Tennis - Former world no. 1 and five time grand slam singles champion Martina Hingis will play for the Washington Kastles in the 2013 edition of the World Team Tennis league.

Hingis wil join the team which currently includes Venus Williams and Leander Paes. The Kastles have won the league last two years in a row, without losing a tie.

Hingis will join the Kastles on July 15, two days after her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

Hingis has played for the New York Sportimes the last two years. She is currently the most valuable female player in the league,

Hingis became world no. 1 in 1997 - the youngest to do so - and broke a number of youngest ever records on the women's circuit.

HIngis is also involved in coaching currently and has been working at the Patrick Mouroatglou Academy in paris where she coaches Yulia Putintseva and Naomi Brady amongst others.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Roger Federer loses to Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Lured by the anticipation of another duel between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, fans packed the main stadium at the BNP Paribas Open on a sultry evening in the desert.

After all, it was the first time in ATP Tour history that two players with 28 Grand Slam titles between them were meeting up.
What resulted, however, wasn’t vintage Nadal vs. Federer.
With Nadal recovering from a left knee injury that knocked him out for seven months and Federer nursing a delicate back, they produced something less than classic Thursday night.
Capitalizing on Federer’s errors, Nadal won their quarter-final 6-4, 6-2 in the earliest meeting between the rivals since they first played each other in 2004.
“I played a fantastic first set,” Nadal said. “The second set was strange. Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.”
Nadal needed barely 1 1/2 hours to close out the defending champion in their 29th career meeting and the first in a quarter-final. Nadal faced just two break points on his serve in the match.
“Two weeks ago I didn’t know if I can be here, and tomorrow I will be in semi-finals here,” Nadal said. “But is a big surprise for me to have these results. I was able to practice just a little before the comeback. Important thing is be healthy. And if that happens and I’m able to practice as much as I can, as much as I want, probably that the comeback will be a little bit less difficult, no?”
Nadal and Federer usually don’t play each other until the semi-finals and finals of tournaments, but the Indian Wells draw pitted them against each other in their earliest meeting since a third-round match at Miami nine years ago.
The second set was strange. Roger didn’t fight as usual. Probably he had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting
“You miss these moments this whole time, but play against Roger in any moment in any situation is special,” Nadal said.
Nadal returned to the tour a month ago, winning two of three tournaments on clay after missing seven months because of a left knee injury. He had his knee wrapped and at times appeared to have a slight limp.
“No question, he’s a bit careful at times, his movement. That’s totally normal,” Federer said. “Hasn’t played for some time on hard court. I don’t know if it’s careful or if it’s just getting used to it again.”
Federer, at 31 the oldest player left in the draw, tweaked his back earlier in the tournament.
“I’m happy to be out there and able to compete, but it’s obviously a small issue,” he said. “That doesn’t work against guys like Rafa, obviously.”
Nadal served a love game to even the first set 3-all, then earned the only break in the next game, taking a 4-3 lead on a backhand passing shot. He went on to win two of the final three games as Federer pulled shots wide or dumped them into the net.
“The longer the match went on, I realized I had to change up my game. I played differently than I was hoping to be able to,” said Federer, who started attacking more with mixed results in the second set. “He got more comfortable as the match went on. Obviously, once I was down a set I knew it was going to be difficult.”
Federer faced a slew of break points in the second set, with Nadal converting in two of the first three games to take a 3-0 lead.
Federer briefly rallied, gaining one break back at 3-1, then losing just one point on his serve in the next game to get to 3-2. But Nadal won the final three games to claim the match in front of Andre Agassi.
“You could see at least I could serve full basically, and that always gives you a direction,” said Federer, adding that he didn’t want to talk about his back too much “because I don’t like to undermine his performance, either.”
A year ago, Federer beat Nadal in the semi-finals on his way to a fourth Indian Wells title. Nadal leads their career series 19-10, and evened their head-to-head mark on hard courts at 6-6.
Still, Nadal wasn’t feeling boastful.
“If I think that I am better than him because I beat him 19 against 10, I will be very stupid and very arrogant,” he said. “This is not the case.”
Nadal improved to 11-0 against top-10 opponents, with his last such loss coming here a year ago against Federer.
Nadal advanced to a semi-final against No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4.
He got more comfortable as the match went on. Obviously, once I was down a set I knew it was going to be difficult

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Roger Federer wins battles of the Swiss to reach quarters at Indian Wells

Rafael Nadal will face Roger Federer in the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals after coming back to beat Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the fourth round Wednesday. 
Federer earlier survived a three-set marathon of his own to defeat 18th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5.
Gulbis was on a 13-match winning streak, having made his way through the qualifying rounds at Delray Beach, Florida, where he won the title, and at Indian Wells, where he won three main-draw matches, including two over seeded players. 
He was playing his 14th match in 19 days, and has yet to beat Nadal in five attempts. 
Nadal earned the only break of the third set to go up 6-5, then closed out the win on his third match point. He leapt in the air, tore off his headband and pumped his left arm, yelling, ''Yeah!'' 
''With all the problems, I was able to keep being focused and keep winning,'' he said. 
''I really appreciate every moment and every victory.'' 
The fifth-seeded Spaniard returned to the ATP Tour a month ago, winning two of three tournaments on clay after missing seven months with a left knee injury. Nadal, shaken by an earthquake that rattled Indian Wells on Monday, had a walkover in his third-round match when Leonardo Mayer withdrew with a bad back. 
''I said before the tournament my knee, some days good, some days not that good. Today so-so,'' he said. 
''But I fought. I fought every ball.''
Wawrinka's consecutive forehand errors in the gathering dusk of an unusually hot day in the California desert closed out his 10th consecutive loss to Federer on hard courts. 
Federer, a four-time champion at Indian Wells, is looking for his first ATP Tour title since last August. 
He'll have to get by Nadal in the earliest meeting between the two stars since the first time they played each other in 2004. 
''In the past, this match used to be a final. Now it's a quarterfinal, so obviously it's a bit of bad luck of the draw for both of us,'' Federer said, noting that between his bothersome back and Nadal's left knee ''we are both a bit suspect''. 
Nadal said he doesn't think his level of play is yet up to what he's normally capable of against Federer. 
''This match arrives too early for me to go to the match with the feeling that I can play equal conditions,'' he said. 
''Two weeks ago, I didn't know if I would be able to be here. Being in quarterfinals is a fantastic result for me, and we'll see.'' 
Second-ranked Federer improved to 13-1 against the 18th-seeded Wawrinka, who was broken twice in the final set played in front of tennis great Rod Laver. 
''I don't know what gets me through. Maybe it's the experience or maybe a bit more calm in those moments,'' Federer said. 
''Today I think I was a little lucky to come through it.'' 
Federer was broken once in the third set after telling the chair umpire he didn't have enough time to challenge the call on his first serve. He lost that argument and the game, but broke Wawrinka back to tie it 3-3. 
From there, both players held until Federer broke Wawrinka at love in the last game. Federer tweaked his back in his fourth-round match and was glad to have Tuesday off to recover. 
''I played three sets over two hours, so I'm happy at what level I can compete,'' he said. 
''I'm hopeful that it's going to feel a bit better again tomorrow, another step forward.'' 
Wawrinka's lone win against Federer came four years ago on clay in Monte Carlo. 
''I'm not the only guy who beat him only once. A lot of people never beat him. He's Roger. He's amazing player. He always find a way to win the match,'' Wawrinka said. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Roger Federer into fourth round at Indian Wells

Second seed Roger Federer was caused few problems by Ivan Dodig as he raced into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells - but there was a minor scare in the form of some back pain.

Dodig started out well, but once his illustrious opponent had broken there was little fight from the Croatian, ranked 60th in the world, and Federer sprinted to a 6-3 6-1 win in 61 minutes, with a back twinge in the penultimate game doing nothing to slow him down.

"I'm happy with the way im playing," Federer, who had never previously played Dodig, told Sky Sports 2. "I found my way at the end of the first. The beginning of the second I started to play better."

Dodig immediately brought up three break points in the first game of the match, but former world number one Federer won five points in a row to hold.

The set went with serve until game eight, when Dodig handed Federer a set point with a double fault, then threw in a second to surrender the game.

Dodig saved three set points, the first with an exquisite backhand drop shot, but it was fourth time lucky for Federer when his opponent sent a return wide.

That seemed to break the resistance of the Croatian, and Federer broke to open up the second set, then again in game three for a 3-0 lead.

Dodig finally held to get on the board at 4-1, but it was the tiniest flicker of resistance as, in the Croatian's next service game, Federer brought up two match points and another double fault proved decisive.

The only worry for Federer was a slight twinge in his back near the end of the match.

"I felt a little something in my back at the end," he said. "I'll just have to check it out and hopefully I'll be fine for the next match."

Next up for Federer is an all-Swiss clash with his friend and Davis Cup team-mate Stanislas Wawrinka, who overcame a battling Lleyton Hewitt 6-4 7-5.

Wawrinka broke through in game five when he showed good touch at the net, then kept control on his serve to leave Hewitt serving to stay in the set at 5-3.

The Australian held, then forced three break points in the next game, but Wawrinka won five points in a row - with the help of a HawkEye overrule which left Hewitt furious - and took the set 6-4.

The pair traded breaks in the second, but Hewitt could not match his opponent's big shots and the Swiss broke again to take the match.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Roger Federer moves into third round at Indian Wells

Switzerland's Roger Federer reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open Tennis Championship in Indian Wells as the world no. 2 defeated Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Federer is defending champion and 4-times winner of the Indian Wells Championships.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner needed just two minutes less than an hour as he broke his opponent 4 times, served 3 Aces and never faced a break point in the 58 minutes match.

This was world no. 43, Istomin's 4th meeting with the former world no. 1 and he was unable to take a set once again, like all three previous meeting. 

Federer was very happy with a good start and hopes that he will maintain the same level. His was satisfied that he never gave a chance to his opponent and dominated the play throughout.

"It felt good from the start and was able to maintain that level of play," said Federer. "I never thought he got into the match at all. That gives you obviously even more confidence."

21-times ATP World Tour Masters winner Roger Federer is currently tied with Spain's Rafael Nadal and needs one more title to become all-time leader. He will potentially face Rafael Nadal in the Quarterfinals. 

Federer would also be bidding to reach his first ATP tournament final of the year as he lost in the semifinals at Australian Open, semifinals in Dubai and Quarterfinals in Rotterdam. If he fails to reach finals here, he might lose his world no. 2 ranking to Britain's Andy Murray.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Roger Federer possibly to meet Nadal at Indian Wells

Indian Wells, California:  Roger Federer, with two unsuccessful title defences behind him already this year, is eager to reverse that trend at the Indian Wells Masters.

The Swiss great, seeded second in the first of the ATP's elite Masters events of 2013 behind world number one Novak Djokovic, missed out on retaining titles in Rotterdam and Dubai.

In Rotterdam he fell to France's Julien Benneteau in the quarter-finals, while in Dubai he failed to convert three match points in a semi-final loss to Tomas Berdych.

But Federer didn't seem to think it was time to panic as he assessed his season so far on Thursday.

"I think I played really well in Australia," he said of his semi-final run in the Australian Open. "Rotterdam, I was disappointed with. I felt I could have done better.

"Dubai was a bit unfortunate, losing with three match points and having to explain the loss when you feel you should be preparing for the final.

"What happened, happened. I’m playing fine. Obviously I hoped to have won a tournament by now, but I’m happy with my game."

The hard courts of the California desert have been fertile ground for Federer. His victory over American John Isner in last year's final made him the first to win the men's title at this combined WTA and ATP event four times.

In his second-round opener on Saturday, Federer will face Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who defeated Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 on Thursday.

But Federer could face a major hurdle in the quarter-finals, where he's projected to meet familiar foe Rafael Nadal.

Nadal is seeded fifth as he continues his return from a seven-month injury absence.

"I only just saw him yesterday after my practice. I was really excited to see him again," Federer said. "We hadn’t had much contact. I think he wanted to get away from it all, which I really understand."

Third-seeded US Open champion Andy Murray noted it would be odd to see Nadal and Federer squaring off in the quarters.

"Seeing him in the same quarter as Roger is probably something that hasn't happened in nine or 10 years," Murray said, as he, too, said he was glad to see Nadal back in action.

"I think whichever tournament he plays he adds a lot of value," Murray said.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Players speak on Martina Hingis Hall of Fame induction

NEW YORK -- Martina Hingis will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this June.
It seems just as premature as her retirement.
That’s not a slight; I just always wanted to see more of Hingis. She reigned over the WTA Tour for three brief years, in the dusk before the era of the power hitters dawned. When Venus and Serena Williams were just taming their tennis legs, Hingis was the cagey antidote. Her game was clever to the point of being humorous, and her precocious confidence was either charming or, depending on your point of view, irritating.
Hingis won five Grand Slam titles -- including three, all but the French Open, in 1997 -- with her crafty game. She could handle the power of that era, and was quick to mix in slice, placement and drop shots that left her opponents outplayed and outwitted.
“I’m happy for her, she obviously had a Hall of Fame career,” Serena Williams said after the announcement. “She had a great game and achieved so much at such an early age, did so much for the sport, inspired me a lot to play. We’ve had a lot of tough matches. It was definitely inevitable and I think she’s so young to be in Hall of Fame, it’s pretty awesome.”
Hingis never won the French Open despite reaching the final in 1997 and ’99. Her loss to Steffi Graf in ’99 was epic. Hingis was the villain for the crowd, and was three points away from the title before an epic meltdown.
Hingis had those moments. She offended gays and straight people alike when she accused Amelie Mauresmo, a lesbian, of being “half a man.” She could be insensitive and petulant. When the U.S. Open came to New York every year, reporters would offer her a chance to tee off on the Williams sisters, which occasionally she did.
How much of it was genuine and how much a show, it’s hard to say.
It must have been frustrating for her to see the game pass her by. Listed at a generous 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, Hingis’ small frame just couldn’t produce the massive serves needed to dislodge Serena and Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters and the power hitters who followed.
A foot injury made retooling her game even harder, although she kept winning doubles titles with partner Anna Kournikova. A positive test for trace amounts of cocaine -- which Hingis never admitted to using -- led to a two-year ban starting in 2008, which effectively caused her retirement at 27. It seemed a double standard was at work given Richard Gasquet’s positive test for the same drug around that time led to a 2½-month ban. He claimed he must have ingested the substance during a kiss at a nightclub.
However she ultimately left, the game missed Hingis.
“It was a loss for tennis,” former player and tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe told espnW. “And you see this happen a little more on the women’s side with her, Justine [Henin], [Jennifer] Capriati. They’re really almost professionals at 13, 14. It also lets you know how impressive what Venus and Serena have been able to do is.”
Had Hingis been able to play her error-free game against the power hitters for just a little longer, who's to say what might have happened? She might not have won any more majors, but what great matches could have been produced.
But it did not happen. So now at age 32, Hingis will take her place this June in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. It is where she belongs, though I can’t help but wish there had been a less abrupt ending to her career. It feels too soon to venerate a comet of a career that fell from the sky too soon.

Ugh, why do journalist always have this incessant need to illustrate all the bad stuff from Hingis's past. I don't see the point of it other then giving a more negative perspective on the player.

Also I thought the induction was in early July not June, hate it when some publications can't seem to agree on their facts.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Martina Hingis, Cliff Drysdale International Hall of Fame inductees

Five-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Hingis heads the 2013 class for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The other new members of the Hall announced Monday are Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, and Ion Tiriac. Australian player Thelma Coyne Long's election was announced earlier.
Hingis won a total of 15 major titles, including nine in women's doubles and one in mixed. The first came at Wimbledon in women's doubles in 1996, at the age of 15 years, 9 months, making her the youngest Grand Slam champion in tennis history.
The Swiss player also was the youngest woman to reach No. 1 in the WTA singles rankings, getting there in March 1997 at 16 1/2, and spent a total of 209 weeks in the top spot. Hingis spent 35 weeks at No. 1 in doubles.
In 1997, Hingis won singles titles at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open — and lost in the final of the French Open. She was honoured as the WTA Tour Player of the Year and the AP Female Athlete of the Year.
Hingis, often troubled by foot injuries, retired for the second time in 2007, when she was given a two-year suspension for testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. Hingis denied taking the drug but did not appeal the ruling.
She finished with 43 titles in singles and 37 in doubles. Her singles record was 548-133. Hingis also led Switzerland to its only Fed Cup final in 1998 before losing to Spain.
Hingis was elected in the recent player category, while Drysdale, Pasarell and Tiriac entered the Hall in the contributor category.
Two nominees who were not elected: 1991 Wimbledon champion Michael Stich and Helena Sukova. One of Sukova's nine Grand Slam titles in women's doubles came at Wimbledon in 1996 with Hingis.
Drysdale was a player in the 1960s and 1970s who reached a career-high ranking of No. 4, then helped start the ATP men's tour, serving as its first president from 1972-74. He has been an ESPN tennis announcer since its first telecast of the sport, a U.S.-Argentina Davis Cup meeting in 1979.
Pasarell also was a player, including a college champion at UCLA and a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, before helping grow the sport. Like Drysdale, he was a key figure at the start of the ATP. Passarell was long associated with the tournament at Indian Wells, California.
Following his own playing career, which included the 1970 French Open men's doubles title, Tiriac has held key roles as a coach, player manager and tournament promoter. His most noted client was Hall of Fame member Boris Becker.
The induction ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island, will be July 13.
I am so happy Cliff Drysdale is included in this list I still miss him as a commentator (he truly was one of the most informed, fun and enthusiastic commentators of the sport). 
And of course a respected player in his own right so congrats to them both! :)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Roger Federer out of Dubai Open courtesy of Berdych

Dubai:  Roger Federer's defence of the Dubai Open title came to a dramatic end in the semi-finals after he failed to convert three match points against Tomas Berdych, the man who also upset him in the US Open.

The world number six from the Czech Republic thrillingly turned the match around after a neck-and-neck second set tie-break, going on to win 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 against the five-time champion and set up a final against Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian world number one extended his unbeaten run to 17 matches and reached the 55th final of his career with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win over Juan Martin Del Potro, the former US Open champion from Argentina.

Federer was on the verge of success at 6-4 and 8-7 in the tie break, with the second of the three points coming on his serve, only for Berdych to somehow get into a rally and win it with some fierce ground strokes.

One break of serve halfway through the final set then proved decisive, as Federer gambled more and more on rushing the net instead of continuing the bruising baseline exchanges which characterised the first two sets.

"It's obviously unfortunate, you know," said Federer, for whom this is a tournament in his second home. "Pity to lose that one, but Tomas did well to hang in there.

"Obviously I leave this match with a lot of regrets I'm feeling: serving for the match, with the serve, having chances in the beginning of the second, you know, when he wasn't quite in the match yet, to go break up, you know, set and a break, you know, a few points where things just didn't happen for me."

Of his best chance, the second match point, Federer said: "That's just disappointing right there, because the match was in my racket.

"You do all the right things for so long, and then at the end you've got to explain why you didn't hit two shots decent, you know. So it's disappointing."

Berdych was pleased that he avoided the perils of tension in the later stages, as he closed the match out.

"Staying calm is definitely the big thing I have been working on," he said. "And I am still working on it, especially with the serve. When I serve well I can do a lot of damage."