Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Martina Hingis talks Mutua Madrid Open

The Swiss player has returned to the courts to play doubles with a Sabien Lisicki, who she is currently training, and after receiving a wild card from the organisers, will take part in the Mutua Madrid Open for the first time in her career. Before making her way to Madrid, she took a few minutes to give us an exclusive interview.

Martina Hingis spent last year’s Mutua Madrid Open celebrating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s – the player she was training at the time – doubles victory alongside Lucie Safarova, and this time round she’ll be in the thick of the action herself. Having returned to the courts partnering her current protégé, Sabine Lisicki, the Swiss player will now take part in the 2014 Mutua Madrid Open as a wild card. Before making her way to the Spanish capital she took the time to speak to us about her return to the courts and the Madrid competition, which she has already experienced at close hand.

Martina, you’re back to playing tennis professionally on the doubles circuit after several years’ retirement, first in 2013 with Daniela Hantuchova and now with Sabine Lisicki. What was the main reason or motivation that made you come back?

The main reason was that I felt that I still had some games to play against the top girls. When I was watching the doubles in Madrid last year and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the title with Lucie Safarova, I thought that was interesting because in doubles I felt that I maybe still had the game and that’s what I did last year with Daniela and now in Miami winning the title with Sabine. I was very happy and I still felt like I could play doubles. It’s not the same for the singles but for the doubles I still feel like I have the game.

You have now received a wild card to play in the Mutua Madrid Open. What objectives have you set for the tournament?

First of all I’m very happy that we received a wild card, I’m very grateful to Manolo Santana and Ion Tiriac for giving us a wild card. Hopefully soon we won’t need it anymore, but for this tournament it’s still necessary. It also helps winning the tournament… momentum. Hopefully that will attract the Madrid public and they’ll come and watch us and support us, that would be nice.

You already know the Mutua Madrid Open; last year we saw you here coaching Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was crowned doubles champion. What do you think about this tournament?

It’s a beautiful tournament, I wish they had this tournament when I was playing, it’s so nice! Everything, the service, the staff, the grounds, the facilities are amazing so, I really loved the tournament when I was there so I wished I was playing and now that it’s become a reality. I was always, not jealous, because she played a great match on the Saturday against Victoria Azarenka on the stadium court and when they won the doubles I was so happy for them. So this time playing in the doubles with Sabine, hopefully we’ll be just as successful.

This is an extract from the full interview with the Swiss player which can be found in the Mutua Madrid Open Magazine. You can read the full interview in the Magazine which will be available in the Caja Mágica during the tournament.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Martina Hingis following in her mother's footsteps?

(CNN) -- Swiss tennis star Martina Hingis is still finding mother knows best at the age of 33.

Coached for much of her career by her mom Melanie Molitor -- said to have named her daughter after another tennis icon, Martina Navratilova -- the five-time grand slam champion is using her mother's advice both on and off the court.

Hingis conjured some of her old tennis nous to surprisingly win the Sony Open doubles title alongside German Sabine Lisicki in Miami last month.

But the doubles victory was just a diversion for Hingis, who is also borrowing some inspiration from her mom with a blossoming career as a tennis coach.

"I think a lot more about my mum now," Hingis tells CNN's Open Court with a flash of her trademark smile.

"It's never easy to coach anybody. She's the best. She really helps to coach and to mentor. She has so much more experience."

Hingis is presiding over a brood of young players on the clay courts of her new tennis center at Barcelona's Real Club de Polo.

As the juniors run drills round the red clay, her mom drops in to lend a hand and is soon on court with a pile of tennis balls heaped onto her racquet, ready for business.

"The goal is to grow slowly," says Hingis of the new project, which she started in collaboration with former top-10 player Felix Mantilla and Karim Perona, who coaches Tommy Robredo and Flavia Pennetta.

"It's a small, elite group of pros but in the future we want to work with kids, amateurs, veterans all the players. Anyone who wants to come here and learn is welcome."

Hingis' caliber as a coach is growing. She has worked with Russian world No.25 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and is now coaching the 2013 Wimbledon finalist Lisicki.

In fact it was Lisicki's idea to get Hingis to double up her role as coach and playing partner.

"I was practicing with Sabine and coaching her when she asked about playing doubles," Hingis explained.

"I was like 'wow, that's a bit unexpected' but we talked about it last year at Wimbledon when she did so well. It's nice that I can be the coach and playing partner of Sabine, it's kind of killing two flies with the same thing!

"To win an event like this after a seven-year absence I didn't expect it! Standing there as a champion again was a really nice feeling. You feel invincible again when you win.

"I really enjoy the competition but I definitely wouldn't do it if I got knocked out in the first or second round again."

Young champ

Hingis is understandably wary about making a habit of a comeback on the court.

A glittering early career saw a 16-year-old Hingis set records as the youngest world No.1 and, when she won the 1997 Australian Open, as the youngest player to win a grand slam in the 20th Century.

After two more wins in Australia and the Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns -- as well as nine grand slam doubles titles -- the "Swiss Miss" retired from tennis in 2002, plagued with injuries at the age of 22.

Four years later, Hingis returned to win a first mixed doubles title at the Australian Open and six more singles titles, only to retire again at the end of 2007.

"Playing and winning was normal and natural," reflected Hingis, who returned to play doubles with Daniela Hantuchova for a brief spell last season.

"You didn't have time to enjoy the moment because there was always the next tournament, the next challenge, the next opponent.

"I have more time now to enjoy it and look back at the memories. When they talk through my career I think 'oh yeah I wasn't so bad!'

"Everything I achieved as a 16, 17, and 18-year-old teenager, I was going through all these difficult times, rebellion and I still have all these unbelievable victories, so I don't have any regrets."

Even in the twilight of her career, Hingis' deft, tactical game may still be capable of winning trophies but she is also learning that there is success to savor with a seat in the players' box too.

"When a player improves, does the right thing that I'm asking for, it's like a small victory," Hingis said.

"It's a challenge to make the players better. Everything that I do now it's a lot more thought through.

"Now I try and learn as teacher, as a coach, it's like learning again."

Horse play

Tennis has not only brought Hingis full circle, and closer to her mother through coaching, it has also helped fuel her passion away from game.

"I got my first horse when I was 14 and I bought her with my first prize money," explained Hingis, an accomplished equestrian.

"It was something that I had for myself and didn't have to be perfect at! With tennis you have to put it in the white lines and you want to win matches but with horses I didn't have the same pressure.

"Tennis was my job, horses were my passion and I wanted to keep it that way."

Her current steed is now stabled at Barcelona's polo club alongside the 40 courts of her new tennis center.

Under Barcelona's brilliant blue skies, it seems Hingis has found the perfect balance between work and pleasure.

Nice of CNN to include a great little video interview within the article as well :).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Song of the Moment: Ingird Michaelson-You Got Me

I highly recommend the entire album "Lights Out". Still on repeat after 2 weeks, such a feel good album.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hingis' mom backs Belinda Bencic as 'new Hingis' with great future

The mother of Swiss tennis great Martina Hingis has hailed teenaged Swiss prodigy Belinda Bencic, who has been dubbed the 'new Hingis', and said that the 17-year-old has a great potential for the future.

Bencic, who exploded onto the WTA Tour in 2014, is the youngest women's player in the world's top 100 and stunned two top-10 seeds at this month's Family Circle Cup.

According to CNN, Hingis' mother Melanie Molitor, who has been working with Bencic for over a decade, said that the teenager is the best junior player in the world and is showing great potential, which augurs well for her future.

Stating that Bencic has good basics and is very versatile, Molitor, who coached her from the age of four, said that Bencic improvises and comes up with touch shots when she needs them, and concurred that Bencic's technique is somewhat similar to her daughter.

However, Molitor added that the style of tennis has not changed since Hingis first started playing so there are not many similarities between her and Bencic.

Molitor also cites the relentless preparation that modern sport now demands and Bencic's willingness to accept the sacrifices that need to be made in the pursuit of greatness.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Martina Hingis & Sabine Lisicki get wild cards for Madrid Open doubles

Tennis - Organizers of the Mutua Madrid Open event have announced the wild cards for the tournament which gets underway on May 2nd.

Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta have got wildcards into the men's singles draw along with Marius Copil while Spanish women Anabel Medina Garrigues, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Lara Arruabarrena and Tita Torro get wildcards into the women's singles draw along with Irina-Camelia Begu.

Copil and Begu are from Romania and tournament promoter Ion Tiriac, also from Romania, is doing his bit to promote Romanian tennis.

Former world no. 1 Martina Hingis has received a wild card for the women's doubles event - along with German Sabine Lisicki.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stan the man Wawrinka wins the all Swiss affair against Roger Federer at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Stanislas Wawrinka won the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time after rallying to beat Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a rare all-Swiss final on Sunday.

The Australian Open champion had lost his previous two Masters finals and looked like losing a third until Federer's level dropped suddenly late in the second set, and Wawrinka began troubling the 17-time Grand Slam champion with his aggressive backhand.

The fourth-seeded Federer, who accepted a wild card invitation to play in the tournament, was also looking to win it for the first time after losing his three previous finals here to eight-time champion Rafael Nadal from 2006-08.

Wawrinka has beaten Federer only twice in 15 matches but both victories have come here. He also beat him in the third round in 2009.

"It's exceptional to be able to win my first Masters title here," Wawrinka said.

With the third-seeded Wawrinka serving for the match, Federer shouted in frustration as he missed an easy forehand on second serve at 15-15. On the next point, Federer's backhand went wide and Wawrinka clinched victory with a crisp forehand winner that landed on the line.

The players, who are good friends, shared a warm hug at the net.

"I had a great week here," Federer said. "Congratulations to Stan."

It is the seventh title of the 29-year-old Wawrinka's career, and his third this year. He lost his previous Masters finals at Madrid last year and Rome in 2008.

Federer was seeking the 79th title of an illustrious career, and his 22nd Masters title. The 32-year-old Swiss has lost three of his four finals this year, with the other defeats against Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells and to Lleyton Hewitt at Brisbane.

The next two Masters events on clay are at Madrid and Rome leading up to the French Open, which starts on May 25.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Roger Federer & Stan Wawrinka make it an all-Swiss final at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

The serene setting of the Monte-Carlo Country Club will be swathed in the red and white colors of the Swiss flag on Sunday, as Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka each passed their semifinal tests on Saturday to set up the first all-Swiss final on the ATP tour in over fourteen years (Marseille, 2000, Rosset d. Federer).

By the Numbers: Federer and Djokovic Continue Storied Rivalry Wawrinka was first to reach the final, and he did so with gusto. The World No. 3 turned in a blistering first set against David Ferrer, then edged the Spaniard in the second-set tiebreaker to book a place in his third career Masters 1000 final. The victory was the reigning Australian Open champion's 19th on the season against only three losses, and it also marks Wawrinka's 100th Masters 1000 victory, making the 29-year-old one of only ten active players to have achieved that mark.

The more heavily anticipated semifinal on Saturday turned out to have an anticlimactic finish, as Roger Federer took down an obviously injured Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-2, in the 34th career meeting between the two legendary rivals.

Djokovic took the court with heavy strapping that covered his right wrist and forearm, and while he was able to compete quite well in the first set, he appeared to be suffering down the stretch as Federer waltzed to the finish line in 75 minutes.

But the match had its moments, particularly in a tense first set when neither player could earn a break point in the first nine games. Federer was put to the test by the Serb in the tenth game, but he coolly swept away two set point opportunities with decisive play to level at 5-all. In the next game the tides began to turn as Federer rallied from 40-0 down to earn his second break point of the set.

He would convert that opportunity, with some help from a limp, netted forehand by Djokovic, and serve out the set comfortably. During the changeover, a disappointed Djokovic sat slumped, a towel draped over his head, possibly contemplating the chances he'd missed in the opener but more likely coming to the grips with the realization that a comeback from a set down wasn't going to be in the cards in his physical conditions.

The Serb was hardly the same player in the second set, and he quickly found himself down a double-break at 5-1, with his body language plummeting as rapidly as his play. Federer, hungry for an opportunity to win his first ever Monte-Carlo title, showed no mercy down the stretch, and he served out the match with ease for his 18th career victory in 34 career matches against Djokovic.

With back-to-back victories over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Djokovic, the resurgent 17-time Grand Slam champion improves to 6-2 against top ten competition in 2014. He went 4-1 against the ATP's top ten in 2013.

Wawrinka, who crushed 16 winners in the first set of his semifinal against Ferrer today (against only one for the Spaniard), has only beaten Federer once in 14 tries in his career, but that win did come in Monte-Carlo in 2009. But one could easily make the argument that Wawrinka in 2014 is leaps and bounds ahead of the Wawrinka of the past.

Though the man affectionately dubbed “the Stanimal” slipped a bit after winning his first career Grand Slam in Australia this January, he's returned to resplendent form on the clay this week. Wawrinka has not been broken all week, and the extra time to think and react on the slower clay has seemed to bring his world-class, bash-and-crash groundstrokes back into focus. Sunday's final will not only be for the title in Monte-Carlo, it will also decide temporary bragging rights in Swiss tennis and the ATP's No. 3 ranking.

Federer will certainly have his hands full with Wawrinka, but with such a dominant history against his friend and compatriot, he'll go in as the heavy favorite on paper, and, of course, the fan favorite around the grounds.

No matter the eventual outcome, their will be legions of happy Swiss tennis fans in Monte-Carlo and around the world on Sunday.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Roger Federer comes back from defeat to reach Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters semis

Roger Federer’s patience was tested to the limit as he battled to a 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-1 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Friday.

It took Federer 16 break points before he finally breached Tsonga’s defences on serve. The decisive move gave him a 2-0 lead in the third set and he went on to break Tsonga once more before claiming victory in two hours and 26 minutes.

The Swiss had been two points from defeat, trailing 5-6, 0/30 at the end of the second set, but four points later had forced a tie-break. He let slip a 6-3 lead, but was given a fourth set point chance courtesy of a Tsonga error and took his chance.
"I was down 6-5, 0/30," said Federer. "It was a tough point at 15-30 as far as I remember with a half volley backhand defense kind of thing. It wasn't looking good there. Clearly was quite frustrating for a long period of time, missing all those break points. Now, looking back, I can take also some positives out of the match. It was just many things went wrong at the wrong time for me: Jo playing well, me playing wrong at certain times, wrong shot selections. It was a tough day at the office. I'm happy I found the way to tough it out.

"The confidence is there. I played well from the baseline. My serve was consistent. I'm very happy that I have this foundation for my game. Sometimes you feel you have no foundation. But having it helped me to remain very calm during the whole match. I really believed that eventually I was going to come through. It's not possible to go through that many break points. I was playing good enough to make the break and then serve my way home. That's exactly kind of what happened."
"The conditions were changing a lot during the match," reflected Tsonga. "It was becoming colder and the balls were not bouncing that much anymore and it was difficult for me to give them some height. So he had more and more of those balls at the height of his hips, and that's where he feels most comfortable. So it was then more difficult for me to put the ball away from him. I forced myself a bit and I got into trouble."

For a place in the final of this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament, Federer will face either defending champion Novak Djokovic or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The 32-year-old Federer is looking to reach the final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the fourth time, having finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal from 2006-'08.

Federer is this week looking to win his 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and first since Cincinnati 2012 (d. Djokovic). He was beaten by Djokovic last month in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Roger Federer fights into the quarters at Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Roger Federer is yet to spend more than an hour on court at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Following a 52-minute win over Radek Stepanek on 
Wednesday, the Swiss advanced to the quarter-finals Thursday in 57 minutes, dismissing Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-1. 

The 32-year-old Federer won 91 per cent of his first serve points and hit 24 winners to 18 unforced errors, breaking Rosol four times to record his second win this season over the Czech.
"I think it was a bit rocky in the beginning," said Federer, who initially trailed 1-3. "I was able to find my way into the match. After four games you usually kind of know what's going to work, what's not going to work. At the end I think I had good variation. I also came to the net some. I was effective on break points. My first serve started to work better. So I just think it was a more difficult start to the match."
The fourth-seeded Federer earned a quarter-final clash with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who earlier fought from a set down to beat Fabio Fognini
Federer leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 10-4, beating Tsonga in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January in their most recent meeting. However, Tsonga won their last clay-court contest, beating Federer in the Roland Garros quarter-finals last year.
"I didn't play a very good match against him at the French last year," said Federer. "That was a bit of a disaster for me. On the other side, I played a really good match against him in the Australian this year. So I'm kind of excited to see what's going to happen this time around. I think Jo played the semis here last year, so he's played here well in the past. I have to make sure I play aggressive myself and not become too passive just because we're on clay."

Federer is making his first appearance since 2011 at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. After three runner-up finishes in 2006-'08, the Basel native is looking to win the title for the first time and claim his 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.  

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 him. A 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 Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael 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 Williams, Li 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.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Roger Federer's hair debate

With all of the other questions he is asked on almost a daily basis during tournaments, perhaps the most amusing – or ludicrous – are the ones pertaining to Roger Federer’s notable head of lush dark-brown hair.

The styling adventures of the Swiss look have been the subject of years of speculation and observation, with last year’s unfortunate – and inadvertent – short cut grown back as quickly as possible to headband length.

All of the hoopla leaves Federer mildly amused. “I don’t know what they say about my hair, people are crazy in general about hair (smiling).

“It keeps on changing. Weather makes your hair go crazy with the humidity – everybody hates it. So it goes curly. Some then love the curls; some don’t. It’s a bit too much sometimes.”

Federer says that he catches his haircuts when and if as necessary depending on where he is in the world. “I’ve actually got in the habit of just going to hairdressers just like that, because sometimes in Switzerland it’s not so simple because I’m busy so I do it on the road.

“But on the road where do you go? I remember I have gone down the street at some hotel in a country and my hair was super short. I’m like, Oh, my God. That was last year. And then in hindsight I was happy I did it. It was fresh, it was new, and you let it grow then a little bit.

“But with my hairstyle I feel like I need to go a lot, which is a bit annoying. So sometimes I just I don’t have the time and energy to go. But it’s about almost time again, in my opinion, “he said in Miami before returning to Switzerland for Davis Cup this week in Geneva. “We will see what happens.”

I've always wondered about that myself, questions answered. Thanks Internets!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Roger Federer wild card for Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

Roger Federer has taken a wild card into next week’s Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, and will join eight-time titlist Rafael Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic at the first of three clay-court Masters 1000 tournaments.

The 32-year-old Swiss will be making his first Monte-Carlo appearance since a quarter-final exit in 2011 (l. to Melzer), and his 11th overall. He has a 23-10 tournament record.

Federer, a winner of seven different Masters 1000 tournaments, will be looking to win the Monte-Carlo title for the first time. He finished runner-up to Nadal in three straight visits, from 2006-08.

He claimed his last clay-court title in 2012, when he defeated Czech Tomas Berdych in the Mutua Madrid Open final.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Roger Federer helps move Switzerland ahead and into Davis Cup semis

Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland (Hard, Indoor)

Roger Federer won his first live fifth Davis Cup rubber on Sunday to power Switzerland into the World Group semi-finals for the first time since 2003.

Federer defeated Andrey Golubev 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-3, denying Kazakhstan its first semi-final berth. Golubev was unable to conjure the magic that saw him upset Stanislas Wawrinka to open the tie on Friday, succumbing in two hours and 13 minutes.

It was the World No. 5's tour-leading 24th match victory of the year, remaining two wins ahead of Marin Cilic.

Earlier in the day, Wawrinka kept Swiss hopes afloat after rallying past Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Wawrinka hammered 25 aces and won a staggering 94 per cent of first serve points (59/63) to defeat Kukushkin in three hours and nine minutes. The Swiss fired 65 winners, including 12 from his backhand wing.

The Kazakhs had previously completed a whitewash of the 1992 finalists Switzerland in their only prior meeting, in 2010.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Swiss team loses doubles match to Kazakhstan at Davis Cup

Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov combined to put Switzerland's backs against the wall on Saturday, shocking Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in front of a packed house in Geneva, 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6), in two hours and 56 minutes.

The loss puts the heavily favored Swiss in a bind as they'll have to sweep Sunday's reverse singles rubbers to reach the World Group semifinals for the first time since 2004.

“I'm not overly worried or concerned about what happened the last couple of days,” Federer said. “But, we have no more margin for error, and we're aware of that.”

While much of the talk leading up to this tie has been about Switzerland's title hopes, the upset-minded Kazakhs have stolen the show on both days, taking advantage of an out-of-form Wawrinka to pounce on the Swiss from the opening bell.

After the match, Kazakhstan's captain, Dias Doskarayev revealed that the plan was to attack Wawrinka from the onset. “It's kind of logical... Of course the plan was to keep attacking him. Stan maybe was a little nervous, pressure maybe got to him,” Doskarayev said.

“But this is Davis Cup, these are the emotions.” It's the fourth consecutive loss by the Federer-Wawrinka pairing in Davis Cup, and Wawrinka is now 3-11 all-time as a tandem in Davis Cup.

The Swiss rallied back from two sets to love down, but their comeback attempt was halted when Golubev sent a match point return right into the chest of a flat-footed Wawrinka that he could only deflect out of play.

“It feels special,” Nedovyesov said. “Especially we beat the Olympic champions, Federer and Wawrinka—it makes it special.” Golubev, who has been on fire on both days of this competition, is having trouble believing that he's not living in a dream right now.

“Well, when I check the score I believe,” he said. “Against those guys you have to play an almost perfect match, and I'm happy that we did that today.” “It's like a dream,”

Doskarayev said. “I told the guys before the match: Miracles may happen, but you have to believe in miracles.” He added: “Against Switzerland 2-1 is nothing. So it has to be a reality check always for us in the back of our minds. We still have two singles to go, anything may happen.”

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Roger Federer's singles victory helps tie things up at Davis Cup reviews Friday's Davis Cup quarter-final action.

Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland (Hard, Indoor)

Following Stanislas Wawrinka's loss in the first rubber, Roger Federer came back strong to level Switzerland's tie with Kazakhstan on Friday in Geneva. The World No. 4 defeated 56th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 52 minutes, capitalising on four of his nine break points.

"We've just got to start it all over again. That’s what I told Stan," Federer told "The weekend has only just started and that’s how I saw it going into my singles match.

"I'm confident for the weekend," he added. "Doubles, it's up in the air. You don't quite know what's going to happen, especially on this kind of a court. I think it's an open doubles, with maybe a slight advantage for us, but that doesn't mean much in tomorrow's match."

Andrey Golubev recorded the biggest win of his career as he upset the World No. 3 and Australian Open champion 7-6(5), 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5). Golubev was denied on two match points in the 12th game of the fourth set, and saw three more go begging as he let slip a 6-2 lead in the ensuing tie-break. He converted his sixth opportunity, though, to claim victory in three hours and 14 minutes.

Wawrinka lost for just the third time this year, after beginning the season with a 13-0 mark. "He was playing really aggressive, and I didn't find a way to turn the match," he said. "I didn't find a way to put my game in place, to play my aggressive game from the baseline, and I did a lot of mistakes. In general it was not the best match and he deserved to win because he went for it."

In their only previous meeting, Kazakhstan routed Switzerland 5-0 in the 2010 World Group play-offs. The Kazakh team is bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time on its third appearance in the quarter-finals.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Martina Hingis: 5 things I can't live without

Former world number one and the winner of five Grand Slam tennis titles, 33-year-old Martina Hingis lives in Switzerland


I started riding when I was 11 and from the moment I got in the saddle I was spellbound. Horses are such graceful creatures but they are also wild and powerful which I love.

When I was playing professional tennis I would always go for a ride after a big match. Escaping into the countryside on horseback was an antidote to all the noise and stress of competing.

I have three horses which I adore. I still ride whenever I can and I have become passionate about racing too.

I recently went to Ascot which was very glamorous and great fun.


When I was a teenager my mother Melanie and I loved watching detective series together.

Our very favourite character was Columbo, the rather shambolic homicide detective with the Los Angeles police.

He was so unconventional that you couldn’t help liking him. What was different about the show was you always knew who the murderer was, you just had to figure out how or why they did it.

To this day I still love detective series.

No matter where you are in the world and how basic your grasp of the language, the format is always the same: a dead body, a motive and a murderer.


The game has always been a huge part of my life.

Both my parents were professionals and I was on the court hitting balls from the age of three. My mother was very ambitious for me and named me after Martina Navratilova.

From an early age it was obvious I had talent but when I look back I can’t quite believe what I managed to achieve during my career.

I still play in exhibition matches so I think tennis will always be a central part of my life.


There is nothing I like better than a night out to see a film with a group of friends.

I have a holiday home in Tampa, Florida, where the cinemas are amazing. Sometimes there are 20 or so screens and you can see just about anything you want.

Recently I have seen some absolutely incredible films.

Philomena with Judi Dench was great and moving. I also loved the Jennifer Aniston comedy We’re The Millers, which was hysterical.

Normally I am pretty strict about my diet but when I am at the cinema I always indulge in a bucket of popcorn and a giant soft drink. As far as I’m concerned it’s all part of the experience.


I own a ski chalet in St Moritz and in the winter I will often decamp there for weeks.

I have never been a reckless skier and I don’t try to be the fastest either. I love being in the open air surrounded by all the beautiful scenery.

I am a very active person so I can struggle with a beach holiday.

Last year I went to Mauritius with some friends and by the end of the week I was so bored that I organised a huge beach football match between the staff and the guests at the hotel.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Family first for Roger Federer

Often in sport, serious romantic relationships are considered a hindrance to peak performance. In professional tennis, a solitary endeavor, the notion is far stronger.

An inherently selfish athlete can’t possibly put the necessary effort into both a relationship and a career, right? Recently Tennis Tuesday ran a story on the number of Grand Slams won by notable players after marriage.

We’ll sum it up for you -- not many. Players who appear distracted by their private lives are easy targets for fans and media. Admittedly, it’s easy to wonder if Caroline Wozniacki’s recent woes (the former No. 1 is now ranked outside of the top 15) are due in part to her recent engagement to pro golfer Rory McIlroy.

Grigor Dimitrov’s decision to trade his European home base for Los Angeles to be near his superstar paramour Maria Sharapova was equally analyzed. The list goes on… Roger Federer, on the other hand, has avoided the same scrutiny, not to mention the issues of infidelity and domestic drama, that have befallen many of his sports star brethren.

He dated fellow player Mirka Vavrinec for several years before they tied the knot in 2009. She even served as Federer’s agent during his early career, an arrangement almost guaranteed to end badly. Instead, the two seem stronger than ever. “She's been very important in my life,”

Federer said at Indian Wells this year, “not just as a tennis player but overall. I'm happy that she always thought in the best interest for me and my career and never pulled me away. It would have been easy for her to say, ‘Look, can we not change it up or do different?’”

Federer seems to be well aware of how good he has it. “I hear stories, you know, some guys aren’t allowed to travel maybe three, four weeks in a row sometimes,” he continued. “The only request she had is that we can spend as much as time as possible together, which is what I wanted anyway.”

Perhaps proximity is the key to success. Based solely on anecdotal evidence, it seems the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” trope is less accurate when one party is traipsing the world with unlimited funds, and fans, at his disposal.

Money may not buy happiness, but for the Federers, it buys togetherness. Even with 4-year-old twin daughters and another baby on the way, the Federer clan travels as a unit, stopping off at Disney World last week between Indian Wells and Miami.

"We are just really enjoying our time together," Federer told the Herald Sun. "Overall, it's solid and good, and we are having a blast on the tour. I'm happy I can do that and be a tennis player at the same time.”

The Federer twins, Myla and Charlene, will turn 5 years old this summer, and with school age quickly approaching, the family will need to reevaluate in the near future. Federer says he’s considering the possibility of schooling the girls on the road. “We have thought about it, and I have discussed it with my wife,” he said.

“You know, it all depends a little bit how my career looks, how much more I'm going to play. So we said we will just go along as it is. If we have to homeschool them, we have to do that, I guess. If not, I'm happy to put them through school.” The birth of his third child has the potential to affect Federer on a much more immediate basis.

Though the baby’s due date has not been made public, it’s clear by looking at the mother-to-be that the newest Federer will debut sometime relatively soon. Federer will adjust his schedule to be present for the birth.

“It's clearly a top priority for me,” he explained in Miami. “[It was] one of the most incredible experiences of my life to be at the birth of Myla and Charlene. That's why I wouldn't want to miss it for the world.”

History tells us that no matter how happy a celebrity couple may seem on the surface, only two people truly know the status of a relationship.

But, as of this moment, Roger and Mirka Federer certainly set the standard for successful relationships in the pitfall-laden world of pro sports.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

ATP rankings update: Roger Federer back in the top 4

Roger Federer is back up to No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings this week after reaching the quarter-finals of the Sony Open Tennis in Miami (l. to Nishikori).

The Swiss, who had fallen to No. 8 after the Australian Open – his lowest position for nearly 12 years - leads the ATP World Tour with a 22-4 match record this season and now trails third-placed countryman Stanislas Wawrinka by just 515 points.

Tomas Berdych returns to the Top 5 for the first time since September after a semi-final showing in Miami. The Czech usurps David Ferrer, who falls out of the Top 5 for the first time since June 2012.

View Emirates ATP Rankings

American John Isner returns to his career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 9, while Canadian Milos Raonic vaults back into the Top 10 after successive quarter-final showings in Indian Wells and Miami, displacing France’s Richard Gasquet, who had held Top 10 status for all but one week since October 2012.

Completing the Indian Wells-Miami for the second time has put Novak Djokovic hot on Rafael Nadal’s heels in the pursuit for the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking.

The Serb has closed the gap to just under 2000 points as he bids to reclaim the top spot that he surrendered to Nadal in September.

Coming up in the European clay-court swing, Djokovic will look to make up more ground on Nadal, who is defending winner’s points in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.

Alexandr Dolgopolov’s strong start to the season has seen him make the biggest rankings jump inside the Top 100 this season, rising 35 places to World No. 22.

The Ukrainian has compiled an 18-9 mark, highlighted by reaching the final in Rio de Janeiro (l. to Nadal) and the semi-finals in Indian Wells (l. to Federer).

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Return of the King: Roger Federer's resurgence demands respect

It is the most magnificent forehand you have ever seen. There is a certain sense of lyrical splendour to it, an action that compels you to watch, inspires awe in your hesitant heart and haunts you till you submit into the belief that it’s truly the most enchanting thing on a tennis court.

There is no awkwardness that accompanies the motion, no hesitation – just one smooth swing, the easiest thing on your eyes, and yet when it reaches across the court, the poetry of the racquet has somehow transformed into the lethality of an unconquerable winner.

The opponent is torn between admiration and contempt. He wants to give it back, send back a scathing forehand himself, but deep down there is a quiet awareness that it isn’t something you pick up with hours of turmoil on the tennis court, it’s something you are born with – either you have it or you don’t.

You could hate the man; I did, for years; now the feeling is closer to the reluctant indifference of an envious opponent. But the one thing you could never deny was the fact that it was an absolute delight to watch Roger Federer. For all the disdain, you couldn’t help but accept that you were watching a man who was born to play tennis.

He was a compelling competitor, but that wasn’t it. It wasn’t the grit or the courage that had you hooked, though both were abundantly on display. His tactic was impeccable yet you barely noticed its brilliance when you saw him play. The details, wonderful as they were, were all lost in the empowering beauty of his elegance.

Every time Nadal stares down his opponent with the steely resolve of a cornered warrior, or when Djokovic lets himself into the roar of an ensnared beast, your heart pounds in anticipation.

There is a charge in the atmosphere that only precedes events that belong in the extraordinary. In those moments of eagerness, Nadal and Djokovic hold the power to enchant you into a different world, one without the physical limitations of the everyday tennis court, one which convinces you beyond doubt that the possibilities are endless.

That isn’t quite the case with Federer. You don’t watch him for the flashes of unearthly genius, you don’t watch him in anticipation of brilliance; you watch him for the mundane and the regular. While the rallying shots of ordinary players were build-ups to what you hoped would be spectacular endings, the ordinary of Roger Federer was spectacular. I suspect the man could gather an audience eating his breakfast.

Every sport has a few like him. Sachin Tendulkar’s walk back to the pavilion held more poise than the classiest square cut of most other players. There was something majestic about the simplest of dribbles of Michael Jordan, and it was because of all the understated charm of Tiger Woods that we were so deeply shaken when we discovered that he was only human.

Grace would mean little, of course, if it wasn’t accompanied by numbers and shining trophies. For all our hunger and passion for art, as sports fans we are hopelessly obsessed with silverware. Style isn’t always successful, elegance doesn’t ensure victory and the greatest champions aren’t those who look the best, but those who win the most.

In 2013, for Federer, the silverware came far too seldom and with far too much struggle. It was because of this that we began to get disillusioned with the idea of an indomitable Roger Federer. He was beaten by men whose tennis, when compared to his, seemed like the thoughtless doodles of an indifferent teenager against the timeless work of a weathered artist.

So we questioned the very things that we loved. We wondered if he should abandon the elegant and embrace the pragmatic. We questioned if he should attempt winners at all on the backhand side; we thought maybe he should just defend. Nadal and Djokovic did it well and they had trophies to show for it, we reasoned.

Perhaps that’s always the case with the imaginative. As long as it brings the results, we are mesmerized; but the minute it doesn’t, we start questioning its necessity. No amount of style can replace the simple gratification of a victory, however ugly.

“You don’t just forget how to play tennis”, said Federer after his defeat to Djokovic in the Indian Wells finals. He was responding to the critics of course, who after a less than glamorous 2013 had claimed otherwise.

To be fair, they were only addressing rationality, and rationality pointed to slower reflexes and aged limbs, to a man who had a single title in the whole year and lost in the second round of Wimbledon. A sudden loss in memory of the sport was a reasonable conclusion. You couldn’t have blamed Federer if he believed it himself.

The fact that, at 32, he didn’t believe that in the slightest, is what sets him apart.

Over the winter I came across many kinds of Federer fans. There were the pessimists, those who believed their idol’s time was done, and were already testing the waters to jump ship on to more promising prospects.

There were the hopefuls, who agreed that he was past his prime but were still sticking around for a big win to say his final goodbyes. And there were the optimists, the truer and the more passionate amongst the fans, who still believed with conviction that Federer was not even close to done, that he was still capable of his very best; theirs was a noble stance, although not very realistic.

But I haven’t met a single fan who was more optimistic than Federer himself. After his loss to Nadal in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Federer said, “I still feel my best tennis is only ahead of me right now – hopefully by April I’m going to be 100% again.”

I remember chuckling at that sentence. With April almost here, it doesn’t seem that funny any more.

In the last few weeks we witnessed from Federer what we hadn’t in a long time. The shots that we classified he was no longer capable of were back in all their glory. The forehands kissed the lines, the drop shots crossed the net, the serve rediscovered its sting and even the erratic backhand was reasonably reliable.

This was a Federer who could beat most players on his day, the Federer who brought thousands of fans to the game, the Federer who won 17 Grand Slams. From the distaste of 2013, this was well and truly a comeback.

As I punched in the title of this piece, I grappled with the words. A mention of regalness, even metaphorical, is only deserved in situations of certain stature, merited only on men who have stood far out from the crowds, whose legacies will far outlive that of others.

In our tiny little world of tennis, we can perhaps agree with little argument that the title sits rather nicely on Roger Federer… more so now than two years ago. Not because the numbers have swelled – they haven’t – and not because he has found a new dimension to his play – he hasn’t. But because he has proven beyond doubt that he is a thorough champion.

Abandoned by luck and form, he backed himself to stay in the game for the sheer love of it and for that whisper of hope that caressed him into believing the irrational. While most men with nothing to prove would have happily taken to retirement, enjoying the spoils of a rich career, he chose diligence over luxury, commitment over legacy.

His efforts at Indian Wells and the few weeks before are testimony to the very best of human qualities – to grit, to work and to never giving up. In the last 12 months, with almost no titles, I have had more reverence for Roger Federer than I did for all the years before, with all their trophies and trinkets.

I have written his obituary before, have taken delight in skewed statistics and have argued endlessly on why he is not the greatest player of all time. I have wondered occasionally during those times why Roger Federer, the champion of millions, hadn’t won me over, why I was reluctant to give him credit when he so obviously deserved it. The answer of course lay not with him, but with me.

Federer is just an athlete on the tennis court trying to win tennis matches, like all the others; he is not an entertainer eager to gather fans. All the times I looked at the numbers they failed to impress me, as they still hopelessly do, but when you look at the man behind the numbers, beyond the glitter of silver and gold, there is a champion like few others, a champion who demands respect, and that I can gladly give.

Here’s wishing him as long a career as he desires and to never, ever rooting for his retirement again.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Martina Hingis & Sabine Lisicki Sony Open post finals Q & A

Q.  Well, I guess how exciting is it for both of you, but I guess especially Martina‑ she's been away longer than Lisicki‑ to be in a final of a big tournament?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Yeah, it's been a while, seven years, right?  No, but Sabine, having a great partner, I knew we had ‑‑ the first time we played last week in Indian Wells we got close.  I mean, the draw wasn't like as easy, but I thought, Okay, now again, we have to just overcome the first match, first round, and then the draw kind of opened up and we played really good.

I think we just‑‑ the chemistry works out well.  You know, what she doesn't have I have and vice versa.  So I think it's really a great match that we played together.

SABINE LISICKI:  And I also think saving the seven match points gave us a lot of confidence and a lot of belief, as well.  So it definitely helped today.

Q.  Do you need wildcards to get into these tournaments?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Yeah, because I don't have a ranking really.

Q.  So are you thinking about that for the slams, as well?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Hopefully we don't need them anymore.  Two, three more tournaments, hopefully if we continue like we did here‑‑ I mean, you can't always expect everything like coming together like it did here, but obviously Sabine, like I mentioned today, the few tournaments that she plays in doubles, she always does very well and goes far in the draw.

I think right now we both going to make the big jump. 

Q.  Just full out, right?  Semis of Wimbledon? 

PLAYERS:  Yeah.  (Laughter.)

Q.  Is that your plan to play almost full‑time doubles, or are you going to pick and choose?

MARTINA HINGIS:  I think it's definitely up to Sabine.  I mean, her priority is her singles.  When she wants to play doubles and play ‑‑it started off with playing some matches before the singles. 

Now I think it also helps for the singles definitely now to overcome like this time like, Oh, I want to win at least two, three matches and we don't just have to train all the time but get some matches in.  I think this week was really important to win some doubles matches and now, since she's going to go to Charleston next week, so, yeah.  We're not just like practicing, practice champions, right (smiling). 

Q.  Cara Black was across the net from you.  She used to be a No. 1 player in doubles.  Did she bring out some of the things that you had planned to play her? 

MARTINA HINGIS:  I played her last year in one of the tournaments, New Haven.  That didn't come out that great.

SABINE LISICKI:  I played her last year and beat her here.

MARTINA HINGIS:  I think I played her, like I mentioned ‑‑I didn't mention before the match, I think 12 years ago I played in the semifinals against her and we lost with Daniela Hantuchova.  I had a few matches open against her, but I think we played a few times in the past.

Q.  So it hasn't been a long time since you played her?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Only last year, but before was like 12 years. 

Q.  I know you have tried to come back a while ago with singles.  Do you ever get that itch again when you see the other players and say, Hey, let me try the singles thing again?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Not the singles itch, no, I don't have that one.  The doubles I had for seven years but not the singles (laughter).

Q.  What did you miss most about the game?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Matches like the other day, you know, coming back from seven match points, it's like by a hair.  You know, the ball was en route and the challenge, and, I mean, happiness and sadness are so close to each other, the adrenaline, and, you know, winning these matches.

It's like, wow, being in another finals.  I mean, nothing compares to this when you're out there and winning matches. 

Q.  Do you feel like in your prime that you could have been competing with these girls of today, top 10?  I know they are bigger and stronger, but you played strong women. 

MARTINA HINGIS:  Obviously the same names are out there.  It's not like they have gone anywhere.  Serena still No. 1, Na Li No. 2.  I played Sharapova, I played Azarenka.  The only one that I didn't play was probably Kvitova or Sabine.
But, no, I mean, I think at that time the Williams sisters were already the best, you know.  When I played, they were coming.  No, it's no different. 

Q.  Are you shocked that Serena is still the best at 32?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Well, she's playing smart. You know, she uses her experience.  And also, in the last two years, she's done pretty well, I think, with Patrick Mouratoglou.  He's helped her with a couple of things to play smarter.
Obviously before she was already winning Grand Slams, and now he helps her to get back to the top again. 

Q.  Is this catching you by surprise?  Did you expect this much success at a tournament?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Yes and no.  It's like...

SABINE LISICKI:  I think two weeks ago before Indian Wells, no; and then after Indian Wells, yes. 

Well, because we played against Casey Dellacqua and Barty, and it was such a close game.  We could have won it, but we just hadn't played together yet.

So we practiced and we played a few more doubles matches in practice, and then we started here being more a team on the court, knowing what who does, so I think that helps.  With each match it made us better. That's good (smiling). 

Q.  So last year Lisa Raymond and Laura Robson, they lost in the final, another wildcard team in the final. 

SABINE LISICKI:  I think I haven't lost a doubles final.

MARTINA HINGIS:  Good.  (Laughter.) 

SABINE LISICKI:  I hope so.  I hope I'm not mistaken now.

Q.  We are going to check that out. 

SABINE LISICKI:  No, no, no, Wimbledon.  Wimbledon finals.  Yes.  (Indiscernible.)

Q.  Would you say of all the players today, someone has a similar game to you in the Big 10?  Would it be maybe Radwanska?  Do you see a similarity there?

MARTINA HINGIS:  Well, she's a great counterpuncher and has definitely great skills, but I'd still like to see her winning a Grand Slam.  You know, that's like probably ‑‑ what I did maybe a little bit better is maybe from like being defense/offense, that game.  I probably cut the cord a little bit more.

If she does that, if she could add that to her game, that would definitely help and maybe make her win a Grand Slam.

But it's easier said than done, right?  Many of them out there who try to do the same. 

Q.  And the net game too, you're pretty proficient. 

MARTINA HINGIS:  Thank you.  I will take that as a compliment.

Q.  As far as I know, Fed Cup is going to be in Australia; is that correct?


Q.  Are you going to leave here to go there or will you stay over in Europe?

SABINE LISICKI:  I'm available for the team, so Barbara Rittner is making the choice.  So we will see, yes. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports