Archives for July 2013

Back on beloved hard courts, Sori is hoping to soar

Cristea Stanford 13 TR MALT0968

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD, DAY 3 – Sorana Cirstea went to Las Vegas again prior to another big swing, this one the Emirate Airlines US Open Series hard court segment. The Romanian and fifth seed has not had a great year and in fact she hasn’t won three matches in a row since February in Pattaya City.

She will have a chance to do so on Friday at Stanford and seems refreshed and ready to go after her stint in Sin City, where she once again got to hit the greatest women’s singles player ever, Steffi Graf. The German was her idol growing up, so even though she has been visiting Las Vegas for adidas Player Development camps for the past seven years, she still gets nervous when they take the court together to hit.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today,” Cirstea said. “She’s amazing, so modest, so humble, so down to earth. Every time she comes it’s such a big thing for me and in the first 10 minutes while we are hitting it’s such a struggle because of the rhythm she is playing. Forty-five minutes with her is like two hours with someone else. She’s most the incredible athlete I have ever seen.”

Cirstea just fell out of the top 30 to No. 32 but she has faced plenty of elite players before and believes that the 44-year-old Graf could still contend with many of them.

“If she were healthy, she could play on tour easily,” Cirstea said. “She’s so fast. He forehead is amazing, the slice is skips and it’s tough to play against her. I’m top 30 and not that bad, but when I play against her, I don’t feel so good in the rankings.”

Fortunately for Cirstea, she does not have to go up against the 22-time Grand Slam champ week in and week out. But there are plenty of other great players around the WTA these days and if she wants to realize her goal of eventually reaching the top 10, she is going to have to improve a good deal.

The Romanian is already substantially better than she was say five years ago. She’s more patient, her big forehand is more accurate and she appears to be better balanced. She can stay strong off the backhand side and returns second serves aggressively. In her 6-3 6-3 win over CoCo Vandeweghe, she defended her own service games quite well (occasionally popping in first serves at 110 MPH), got enough of the American’s big serves back in play to get into the rallies, many of which she won as Vandeweghe was dealing with an aching back and was a bit slow to the ball and often wild.

Cirstea worked hard in Vegas in 115 degree heat with trainer Gil Reyes (he of Andre Agassi fame) so she feels her legs are stronger and consequently she can set up easier and if she uses her lower body she can add a little more power. She also worked with the savvy coach Darren Cahill and adidas hitter (and former touring pro) Sargis Sargsian, both of whom were surely working with her on point construction.

There are moments in matches when it does look like Cirstea can be a top 10 player and others where it looks like she could fall out of the top 50 again. She does have talent, but she can be erratic and at times loses confidence too quickly. She loves hard courts, but struggles on clay and on grass.

“With the way I think, I always feel I can improve and I have so many ways to get better, but I had some good periods and I was actually playing well in Miami (where she upset Angie Kerber and lost to Jelena Jankovic) and I was sad because it was my last tournament on hard court.”

She only won five matches during the clay court season and Serena Williams crushed her at Roland Garros. At Wimbledon, she let go of two tiebreakers in a second round loss to Camilla Giorgi.

“I had lots of chances in that match,” she said. “ And I was also a little bit sad about that and that’s why I had to take the 10 days off to get my mind off of it.”

She says she fresh and hungry again and excited to be back on hard courts, where she had the most success. Se reached the Stanford semis last year, falling to Serena. She has a god chance to do it again as she will face the unseeded Olga Govortsova in the semifinals. If she can combine her skill set with a Graf’s mental toughness, she has an outside at her first big title.

“I’m already starting to find my game again,” she said.



Hewitt catching fire in Atlanta



Lleyton Hewitt’s resurgent summer continued at the BB&T Atlanta Open with a straight-set dismissal of Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Australian was in solid control over the Frenchman with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Playing in the opening match on Stadium Court, Hewitt used a well-worn and comfortable strategy: look for opportunities to put pressure on the server. The Frenchman only won  37 percent of his second serve points.


Hampton still a bit understated as Keys grabs attention


Keyes Stanford 13 TR MALT9561

Madison’s huge potential is clear, but Hampton is developing into a big time player.

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD – The Emirates Airline US Open Series kicked off on the WTA side when Jamie Hampton strode into her first all access hour as she is seeded for the first time at an event, and is No. 4  seed at at Stanford. At WTA 700 level tournaments, all four top seeds must do pre-event press. On the same Monday, last year’s finalist CoCo Vandeweghe had to qualify for the tournament, even though she’s American and performed wonderfully last year before being stopped by Serena Williams, but tennis tends to have short memory and IMG, which owns the tournament, has its own set of priorities when it comes to handing out wild cards.

Two ex Stanford players – Mallory Burdette (who lost) and Nicole Gibbs (who won) – got WCs and that’s understandable given that the Stanford community has always supported the tournament and you have to take care of your committed (and paying) fan base. Daniela Hantuchova got another, as she’s a proven decent draw, and the fourth was given to IMG client Ajla Tomljanovic, a promising up and comer from Croatia who was promptly wiped out by Stefanie Voegele.

The Bank of the West suffered two big pullouts this year and a significant no-entry: Maria Sharapova decided not to try and test her hip injury too early and also wanted to spend time with her new coach Jimmy Connors and sent her regrets; Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli decided at the last minute that she needed some rest and she withdrew from Stanford and Carlsbad; and Serena  decided not to defend her title and instead compete last week on clay in Sweden, where she easily won the title against a weak field.

So Stanford is left with a very decent, but not great field headed by the creative No. 4 Aga Radwanska, whom almost everyone loves to watch play but not as many show up see in person as they would for a Sharapova or Williams; the up and down veteran Sam Stosur, who is trying to put together her first good two-month stretch this season; the fun yet volatile Dominika Cibulkova, who has been injured way too much this year; and Hampton, whom few are talking about as a Bank of the West title contender even though she’s cracked the top 30 and her US Open doubles partner, Madison Keys, has not yet. But because of Keys’ enormous potential she is the one who is being tagged as the young American who could actually win the Stanford title. Keys, who crushed eight seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2 6-2 on Monday,  surely does have a chance to reach the quarters and possibly face, believe it or not, Hampton, her friend whom she practices with constantly and whom she will play doubles with at the US Open.

But make no mistake – Hampton is very, very good. She may not have Keys’ outright power but she has a lot of pop and she moves more fluidly. As she is becoming more comfortable in her own skin and has become a more self-aware player, her shot selection has become more intelligent and she can also rip the ball off both wings, especially with her forehand. Plus she is a real jock who loves her sport and spends many waking hours thinking about it, and she likely dreams about it, too. She has no points to defend until the US Open, so it’s entirely possible that she could grab a top 16 seed in New York if she stays healthy.

After playing eight matches at Eastbourne and reaching the final, she fell in tired fashion to Sloane Stephens in the first round of Wimbledon. Like Stephens, at this point, she is ahead of Keys’ on the learning curve. But she is 23, while Stephens is 20 and Keys only 18. Everyone knows that Madison is coming hard, but at least for this year, its possible that Hampton and Stephens—who have done better at the Slams – may be the players outside of Serena Williams to watch at the US Open.

Here’s Hampton on being seeded for the first time at Stanford – or anywhere for that matter.

“It’s nice to go into a tournament fresh and it’s really excited for me and shows how far I come,” she said.

Radwanska on the ESPN the Body Issue

In a piece I did for Reuters here,  Radwanska says she  was upset about the reaction from some of Poland’s large Catholic population over her decision to pose nude for ESPN the Body Issue. I didn’t read every comment leveled at her, but did read a few which contained the word ‘immoral.’ Anyone who saw the ‘semi-nude’ issue – which celebrates athletic bodies and is not gratuitous in the least — and thinks that it was immoral is not thinking clearly. As someone who grew up in a large Catholic family that contains priests and was an altar boy until I could get a real job (uh, that’s a joke), I can attest to a diversity of opinion amongst the Catholic community as to the what is moral and what is not. However, at the end of my interview with Radwanska, I mentioned how crazy it is for any Catholic to object to those photos given that anyone who  has  looked at the works of the great Catholic painters (does Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel ring any bells?) and not seen nudity celebrated amongst the saints and she agreed: it’s absolutely nuts to suggest that she was doing anything but showing that a healthy physical lifestyle can be beneficial to everyone. People who live a lifestyle that includes constant exercise and a pursuit of excellence are not only worth looking at, but are great examples for kids.  I am pretty sure that the man who inspired the writing of the New Testament would agree with that.

This is the first of 21 straight reports/bogs/columns that I will be doing from Stanford, Carlsbad and Toronto, so stay tuned.

Sharapova’s Jimmy Connors hire: the possible hows and why



Connors loyalty to Roddick was questioned.

By Matt Cronin

So far, it’s unclear as to how all of this came down: a few days after Maria Sharapova announced that Thomas Hogstedt had told her he no longer wanted to travel as much as she wanted him too and the two agreed to part, she hired Jimmy Connors, whom she has worked briefly with before, but whom had shown little indication that at the age of 60 he wanted to get out there and coach again.

Connors had one serious stint as coach, with Andy Roddick from July of 2006 until just after the 2008 Aussie Open, which was coincidentally won by Sharapova just weeks after she had spent time with Connors in California during the off season honing her groundstrokes.

Connors did a terrific job with Roddick at the start, somehow how clapping hard enough to encourage his steed to win 2006 Cincinnati and then reach the US Open final, a tournament in which he screamed and yelled to everyone that he was back as primetime player after an awful season at the majors, that he was never really out of contention and could still win Slams. He looked that part against many players, except against Roger Federer, who schooled him in that US Open final.

A year and half later, Connors came down to the Aussie Open and saw Roddick take an emotionally draining five set loss to Philip Kohlschreiber in the third round  where he completely lost his head (Roddick meltdown’s can be seen here ). Connors walked out of the stadium looking shell shocked at his student’s  performance and they were never seen together again.  Connors told Roddick that he just didn’t want to travel as much (like what Hogstedt told Sharapova) but truth be told it appeared as if he lost in his ability to push Roddick to any further heights, or perhaps he didn’t believe that Roddick actually had enough game to challenge Federer, or by 2008 Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. He appeared to some to have quit on Roddick

Sharapova has yet to state how much the 60-year-old Connors will travel with her, but it won’t be to every tournament. Perhaps he will do so this summer, but he won’t in the fall when she heads to Asia. So it’s also possible that an assistant coach will be hired, unless she feels she is at the age where she can coach herself away from the majors with the aid of a hitting partner. That’s entirely possible.

Almost every time that the reason “he/she doesn’t want to travel as much anymore” or wants to :spend more time with his/her family” is mentioned in relation to a coaching split, the presumption is that something else occurred. In the case of Hogstedt and Sharapova, the student is claiming that is exactly what he told her. He is at the age where the travel could have been wearing on him, but did he just say that because he wanted out of his contract? It’s possible, because as well as the Swede did with her in 2012 and for much of this season, (he did lead her to her sole post-shoulder surgery Grand Slam title at the 2012 French Open) he may have been stung by criticism that the strategy he encouraged her to take against Serena Williams was often ill thought out, either that or it was that she was not absorbing what he was saying anyway, neither of which are positive scenarios.

She did play Serena close in the Roland Garros final, but her second round loss to Sharapova at the hands of  Michelle Larcher de Brito in the second round of Wimbledon couldn’t have thrilled either of them. But to the point of quitting? Likely not. It appears that both of them have been considering the split for a few months.

Now Hogstedt is welcome to field other offers and apparently there is a lot of interest from Caroline Wozniacki’s camp and given that he was reasonably successful with both Li Na and Sharapova, he might be good fit, although the Dane is a different type of personality and player than those two and not nearly as mature – yet.

Almost without question, Sharapova is paying Connors huge money, as he always demands a of lot cash for his work and when she did train with him for a few weeks during the 2007 off-season, she was said to have paid the eight-time Slam champ a barrel-full of cash. In fact sources say that the reason why they didn’t continue some kind of relationship after that was largely because of money.

But Sharapova likes Connors resume, how he communicates and he motivates her and since she is not paying another full time coach and a half like she was back then with her father Yuri and Michael Joyce, Connors must be more affordable this time around. Plus Yuri is taken with him and although her dad is out of the traveling picture, he is very much still a part of her life and don’t think that his opinion doesn’t matter at all.

But exactly what can Connors do with the veteran player  at this stage in her career? Improve her net game? Doubtful given that she is almost allergic to the net and he was mediocre volleyer to start with. Make sure she stays aggressive? That’s never been her problem. Improve her second serve? Given that his was fairly weak that also seems improbable. Make her believe that she really does has the weapons to consistently beat the talented younger players like Victoria Azarenka and has the tools to upend Serena? Yes, that is where his talent lies in convincing great players that they still have big titles in them and they have nothing to fear from any other player.

At least for now, Sharapova is being pretty close-lipped about the hire and the split with Hogstedt and until she speaks to the issue in eight days or so at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford,  nothing definitive can be written about her exact reasons.

But when she meets Williams again – whom she hasn’t beaten since 2004—we will discover just how much he’s been able to boost her confidence. Serena is Connors’ and Maria’s litmus test. And if Sharapova can’t pass Connors’ test of being a real contender for No. 1, will he fly the coop like he did after a year and half with Roddick? You can bet that Maria asked him that.


Guess what Britain? You have a male Wimbledon champion again


77 years after Fred Perry raised the Wimbledon trophy Murray proved more than worthy of the honor.

WIMBLEDON — As good as he is, there was never any guarantee that Britain’s Andy Murray was going to win Wimbledon. Sure he had the game to do it, but he was close to grabbing the title in 2012 before Roger Federer ran away from him. Rafael Nadal had  throttled him a couple of times. Andy Roddick had faced him down.

But this year the ultra-serious Scot came into the tournament is his best position ever. Not only had his all around game firmed up, but also he had actually proved to himself that he could win a huge event at home when he won the Olympic gold at Wimbledon last summer. Had he not managed to turn the tables on Roger Federer in London during the gold medal match after his sorrowful loss to him in the 2012 Wimbledon final, would Murray have been able to hold his nerve in the final game of his 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic to become the first British male in 77 years to win the Wimbledon title? Perhaps not.

Some weeks after the UK celebrated his gold medal run, he showed himself that he could hold up a major trophy when he took down Djokovic in  five sets and won his first major at the US Open. Throw in his first victory over Roger Federer at a Grand Slam in the semis of the 2013 Aussie Open, and he came into Wimbledon within enough inner belief to be able to survive what were sure to be some emotional ups and down.

There was no reason to completely put aside his three losses to Djokovic post New York, especially the Aussie Open final, but given how similar their games are, how close their matches tend to be and the fact that they have known each other since they were 11, there was no intimidation factor. Add in a raucous crowd — and I mean an unusually loud crowd for a final on Centre Court – and there were a lot of positive elements going into the match for Murray.

While Murray has a large team he praises up and down and he clearly he appreciates all their contributions, it has to be noted that since he brought in Ivan Lendl to coach him in December 2011 that his results at the majors have vastly improved. Lendl is the first former super elite  tennis player to become a standout coach. He talks and Murray listens. Lendl’s ego is also in check to the point where he doesn’t need to seize the spotlight. He actually left before any media could speak to him on Sunday. He told Murray to go for more speed with his first serve and strike his forehand with more force. He also convinced him he was as good as anyone else out there. And now he is and on some surfaces, perhaps better.

“He’s made me learn more from the losses that I’ve had than maybe I did in the past,” Murray said. “I think he’s always been very honest with me. He’s always told me exactly what he thought.  And in tennis, it’s not always that easy to do in a player/coach relationship. The player is sometimes the one in charge. I think sometimes coaches are not always that comfortable doing that.  But he’s been extremely honest with me.  If I work hard, he’s happy.  If I don’t, he’s disappointed, and he’ll tell me.  And when I’ve lost matches, last year after the [Wimbledon] final he told me he was proud of the way I played because I went for it when I had chances.  It was the first time I played a match in a Grand Slam final like that.  He’s got my mentality slightly different going into those sort of matches.”

Murray played a very good match, but he did not have to be at his best to win it. Six-time Slam champ Djokovic put in his worst performance in major final ever, littering the court with unforced errors, blowing some key points at the net and perhaps having his worst serving day of the fortnight. He didn’t attack second serves and he didn’t go for the lines.

Most disappointingly, when he did play well in patches he could not sustain his level. Up 4-2 in the third set it looked like he would take it to a fourth set and from there — on a court that was said to have temperatures over 100 degrees — he might have been able to wear the Scot down.

But he was outplayed and outs of sorts. Perhaps it was because his confidence was shaken after he couldn’t sustain a break lead against Nadal in the fifth set of Roland Garros. Maybe it was because Juan Martin Del Potro put a dent in him in their classic Wimbledon semifinal. Whatever the case, this is no longer the dominant Novak of 2011.

The biggest test for Murray came in the final game of the match, when he got off to a 40-0 lead and then he became super nervous.

He lost a long point on a Djokovic forehand volley winner. Then he hit a very weak second serve and the Serbian nailed a leaping backhand return winner. Murray then wished a first serve in that was well long and made a desperation challenge. He followed that up with a shaky backhand long. Three match points were gone and then Murray pushed a forehand into net.

But that’s when the Scot began to rally again. On break point for Djokovic, a Murray serve at the body forced an error.  At deuce, Djokovic hit a gorgeous touch drop volley winner off a low passing shot attempt. Murray then fought off another break point with a forehand crosscourt winner, but then the Serb flipped  an angled forehand winner off a fine Murray drop shot.

On Djokovic’s third break point, Murray crushed a huge forehand down the line and then put away  a volley. Then Djokovic finally faltered. He misplayed an overhead that ended on a Murray forehand pass. Match point No. 4 and Fred Perry ‘s ghost was finally exorcised when Djokovic put a backhand into the net. Murray dropped to his knees, and put his face into the grass.

Great Britain finally has a male Wimbledon champion again and a guy that should eventually seize the No. 1 ranking and clearly become the world’s best player. A player of the same level as well—Fred Perry.

“The end mentally, that last game will be the toughest game I’ll play in my career, ever….I didn’t always feel it was going to happen,” Murray said. “ It’s incredibly difficult to win these events.  I don’t think that’s that well understood sometimes.  It takes so much hard work, mental toughness to win these sort of tournaments.  I didn’t doubt myself so much after last year’s final.  It was the best I’d recovered from a Grand Slam loss.  I mean, maybe a couple years ago when I lost in the semis to Rafa.  I was up a set, maybe a break as well, or had breakpoints, and didn’t get that.  That was a tough, tough one for me.”

The wheel has turned: Marion Bartoli wins Wimbledon

Marion Bartoli hugs her Fed Cup team mate Kiki Mladenovic after winning her first Slam at Wimbledon

Marion Bartoli hugs her Fed Cup team mate Kiki Mladenovic after winning her first Slam at Wimbledon

By Kamakshi Tandon

Special to

WIMBLEDON – No WTA player has played more Grand Slams before winning her first, but when the moment finally arrived for Marion Bartoli, it turned out to be worth waiting for.

She stepped up to the court, went into her famously strange serve motion and served an ace on the line to complete a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon final.

“I could have seen it in slow motion,” said Bartoli. “I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it’s an ace, and I just win Wimbledon.”

Bartoli was playing her 47th major, the new record for first-time Grand Slam champions — Jana Novotna had played 43 when she won Wimbledon in 1998 to end her winless streak at the majors, and Francesca Schiavone 39 when she won the 2010 French Open.

After exchanging a hug at the net with Lisicki, Bartoli made the now familiar climb players take up to the Friends Box to greet their teams — and in this case, the big news was that there was a team there to greet her back. Her father, Walter, for so long her lone courtside support, was present, but had only flown in for the final and was just one of a whole phalanx cheering her on during Saturday.

Until this year, Bartoli had been coached since childhood by her father, a doctor who helped develop her unorthodox, two-fisted game and devised the unconventional training techniques and contraptions that raised a lot of eyebrows within the game. But the two decided to end the professional aspect of their relationship this season, with Bartoli saying her father felt her had taken her as far as he could.

The most immediate effect of the change was her return to the Fed Cup team in February, ending a long standoff over the French federation’s refusal to allow private coaches — including Walter — at Fed Cup ties. The connections made during that week would prove significant later, but Bartoli then bounced from coach to coach over the next couple of months before returning temporarily to her father. Over the past few weeks, however, she put together a group of people that kept her relaxed and laughing all the way to an unexpected, improbable Wimbledon title.

Hitting partner Thomas Drouet acquired his position through a rather unusual route. The Frenchman left a position with Bernard Tomic in May after accusing Tomic’s father, John, of headbutting him and breaking his nose, and arrived at the French Open later that month without a job. Reading in the paper that longtime acquaintance Bartoli was looking for someone to work with, he made a phone call and was invited to a tryout.

Everything went well from the first moment and we decide to work together,” he  said after the final on Saturday. “And now — perfect.”

Unlike many coaches whose first instinct might be to ‘fix’ Bartoli’s unusual methods, Drouet has no desire to meddle, which may explain his successful integration into her circle. “This is very unique but you can see that it works,’ he said. “She worked very hard with her father for 20 years — I don’t want to change. I just want to add my experience, what I see — and make a good mix of this.”

Having known Bartoli for 18 years also helps. “We are the same age so we have fun together,” he said. “We work hard and then when it’s finished we have fun.”

With little momentum coming in, Bartoli reached the third round of the French Open, but then fell ill during the grass season. Days before Wimbledon, she began taking the assistance of physio Antonin Mouchet and physical trainer Nicolas Perrotte, both of the French federation. During the tournament, she also had Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo in her corner, and had meals with teammates like Kristina Mladenovic, who was also in her box for the final.

Mauresmo has played a big role in bringing Bartoli closer to her compatriots. “Hard work, intensity, fun and easy going, these things can go together,” said the two-time former Grand Slam champion. “That’s what I’m trying to put in in Fed Cup and also around her.”

She sees the team that coalesced around Bartoli as playing a big part in her run to the title. “How things got together, with everyone being a specialist in their areas made a big difference,” said Mauresmo.

Bartoli was relaxed before the final, drinking coffee in Wimbledon village in the morning and then blaring loud music in the locker room before going on court. She danced  to Bob Sinclar’s ‘Summer Moonlight.”

“That was not supposed to be the perfect routine before going to play the Wimbledon final,” said Bartoli, but added, “I was so happy, why not showing it?

Her mood was a strong contrast with earlier in the year.  “I was with the physio before the match, and they saw me when I was really hitting rock bottom,” she said. “They tell me, I remember you in Miami, how you felt after the match when you got injured with Andrea Petkovic. It’s so nice to see you like that no matter what happens in the final. But going through those hard moments makes this one even better.”

It also helped her get off to a good start in the final, as she went up 6-1, 5-1 against a visibly nervous Lisicki.  She cracked the ball of both wings, attacked the German’s huge serve and even surprised herself with her shotmaking.

“I played shots I thought I wouldn’t be able to play — a one-handed, left-handed backhand almost  winner around the net post. I did an underspin forehand with two hands that I never even tried in practice. Hearing Billie Jean King’s [who was sitting in the Royal Box behind her] comments when I hit a great shot. She said ‘Did you see that shot, Did you see that shot?’ Yes,  I can play great tennis.”

But the German then began to play better, closing the gap to 5-4.  Though a clear opportunity to choke, Bartoli kept calm, ignored a bleeding blister on her toe and served out the match with that chalk-raising ace.

Despite the throng of faces as Bartoli made her way to the box, a special hug was still reserved for her father — the culmination of a 22-year journey.

“For a tennis player, you start to play like at five or six years old. When you decide to turn pro, your dream is to win a Grand Slam,” she said. “You dream about it every single day.  You think about it every single day. You went through pain, you went through tears, you went through low moments, and actually it happened, once it happened.”

The very low moments came off court during March and April due to what she says is a “very private problem.”  Her results were horrific and after she lost to CoCo Vandeweghe in Monterey loss – which she called her worst performance ever – she went back home and asked her father for help, albeit temporarily.

“It  was extremely tough for me,” Bartoli said. “I went back to my  dad just a bit because I was feeling so lost I felt like I couldn’t  focus on court. That’s unusual for me, but the whole situation outside of court was too hard to deal with and I couldn’t enjoy waking up every day and being on court. I had so many things going on, but I felt somehow the wheel had to turn and look at me today – I will have cramps from smiling so much. That’s the beauty of life.”

And it happened at a particularly unexpected moment, with Bartoli  struggling for most of the season and barely noticed among a Wimbledon field packed with strong favorites like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. But they all tumbled and she, without facing anyone in the top 10, was standing as the Wimbledon champion.  Could she have scripted it better? “That was the perfect day,” she said. “It was sunny. It was beautiful. Centre Court, Wimbledon — it was packed. I won in two sets.  I didn’t drop a set for the whole championship. Even in my perfect dream I couldn’t have dreamed a perfect moment like that.”


Bryans wins Golden Slam at Wimbledon


TR Retro Video: Marion Bartoli talks 2011 Wimbledon loss to Lisicki, why she asked parents to leave

Mutua Madrid Open 2013

Djokovic takes out Del Potro in classic, to face Murray in Wimbledon final


Novak never says die ART SEITZ PHOTO


The quality that a player has to employ to take out Novak Djokovic in a five-set match keeps rising. Juan Martin Del Potro played one of the best matches ever and certainly found his highest level ever of grass and still couldn’t stop the Serbian in a 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3 defeat in the Wimbledon semis on Friday.

He will face Andy Murray in the final, who outfought  Jerzy Janowicz 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3 in match that was filled with controversy after the roof was closed at the end of the third set, but ended rather quietly when Murray put on a clinic in the fourth set. The Scot  has reached the final of the last four majors he’s contested, and he has already faced Djokovic in two of them, a win the in the 2012 US Open final and a loss in the 2013 Australian Open final.

Djokovic versus Del Potro was the longest semifinal ever played at Wimbledon — four hours and 43 minutes — and it was one of the most exciting matches ever played on the lawns, with the tall Argentine trying to plaster big serves and forehands past the speedy backboard of a Serbian. Del Potro, stretched, he dove, he nailed winners on the run. He returned very well for  man who usually has trouble doing so and struck his backhand flat and deep enough so that Djokovic couldn’t pick on that side.

He fought off match points in the fourth set and he had a couple of looks in the fifth set, but in the end it was the superior player who came through again. Djokovic is not much better than Del Potro when the Argentine is on, but he’s still a little better. He has an ocean of a mental and physical reserve, he’s incredibly solid off both wings, he can serve well in the clutch and is the most competent return of server on the planet.

Most importantly in this contest, when the crowd was roaring in support and praising  Del Potro’s durability, Djokovic knew how to ride the wave of the epic five setter, while Del Potro doesn’t quite know how.

“I was so close to be at the finals here in Wimbledon,” said Del Potro, who has lost his last four five-setters. “But I knew my opponent.  I think I play really good tennis during four hours and a half, and he plays better because he won the match.  But was a really high-level match during four hours.  He hit so hard the ball.  I think was unbelievable to watch, but, of course, I’m sad because I lost and I was close to beat him.  And in the end, I think he play unbelievable. I know is the way to beat this kind of player, but is not enough. You can see I play my best tennis ever on grass court from a long time, but was not enough to beat the No. 1 in the world. I was so close… I need to hit harder my forehands the next time.”

In his past eight Grand Slams Djokovic has contested seven epics, all of which are worth watching on replay. He’s lost three of them, but it’s ingrained in him what he has to do respond. He just lost a 9-7 in the fifth set classic to Rafa Nadal in the Roland Garros semis. He won a 12-10 in the fifth classic over Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round of the 2013 Aussie Open, lost 6-2 in the fifth to Andy Murray in the 2012 US Open final, beat Jo Tsonga 6-1 in the fifth in the 2012 Roland Garros quarters, took down Federer and Nadal 7-5 in the fifth set in the semis and final of the 2012 Aussie Open (with the Nadal win being a record 5 hours and 53 minutes); and beat Roger Federer 7-5 in the fifth set of the 2011 US Open. His matches have been front and center of the men’s Grand Slam highlight reel.

“I know that when we get to the fifth set, when I play a top player at the later stages of a major event especially, this is where your physical strength but also mental ability to stay tough can, decide the winner of that match,” Djokovic said. “I was disappointed that I didn’t finish the match before in fourth set.  But knowing that I have a chance, more chance of staying longer in the rally with him, and just as the match goes on I felt like physically I’m fit and, I can go a long way.  So that’s something that gave me that mental advantage.  In the end I managed to prevail.”

Djokovic’s epic 5 setters, 2011-2013

2013 Wimbledon: Defeats Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3

QUOTE: “There are moments in the match when you have doubts, when you think, you know, maybe you’re hesitating a little bit.  Then you have moments when you’re full of confidence.  That’s what goes through a human mind.  It’s normal.  You have ups and downs.  That’s the way the lifecycle goes.”

2013 Roland Garros semis: Loses to Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7.

QUOTE: “It’s been an unbelievable match to be a part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment; that’s it. I congratulate my opponent because he showed the courage in the right moments and went for his shots and, you know, when he was a break down in the fifth, he made some incredible shots from the baseline.”

2013 Aussie Open, 4th round: Defeats Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10

QUOTE: “He never gave me the same ball.  He was aggressive from both sides.  I didn’t know what’s coming up next.  So I’m just really full of joy after this match.”

2012 US Open final: Loses to Andy Murray 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2

QUOTE: “I’m disappointed to lose the match, but in the back of my mind I knew that I gave it all.  I really, really tried to fight my way back through. I had a great opponent today.  He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody, because over the years he’s been a top player.  He’s been so close; lost four finals.  Now he has won it, so I would like to congratulate him. Definitely happy that he won it.”

2012 Roland Garros quarters: Beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-1 (fights off four match points)

QUOTE: “Tennis is very mental. Lots of emotions If you’re playing a top player, a home favorite, and you have a crowd that’s supporting him, you have to face these things. Physically, we’re all fit, all hitting the ball well. But mentally, it’s just a matter of a point here, a point there. That’s sport. The one that mentally pushes more in some moments – and gets a bit lucky – gets the win.”

2012 Ausralian Open semis: beat Andy Murray  6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5

“I think we both went through a physical crisis.  Him at the fourth set, me all the way through the second and midway through the third.  Had some chances in those sets.  But it was a very even match throughout.  But I held my composure.  I was happy to react the way I did and win in the end.


2012 Australian Open final: Beats Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5

QUOTE: “This one I think comes out on the top because just the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible, incredible.  I think it’s probably the longest finals in the history of all Grand Slams, and just to hear that fact is making me cry, really.  I’m very proud just to be part of this history, part of the elite of the players that have won this tournament for several times, and I was very flattered to be playing in front of Rod Laver, in front of the all‑time greats, and in front of 15,000 people that stayed until 1:30 a.m. It’s incredible, really.”

 2011 US Open Semis: Beats Roger Federer 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 [fights off two match points]

QUOTE: “It is under the circumstances, the greatest victory I had in 2011. Because I was two sets down, and I haven’t won many matches in my life when I was two sets down. Especially against Roger, who we all are aware of his quality. When he’s a set or two sets up, he doesn’t let you win. When he’s in control of the match he’s confident, and it’s really hard to get back into the match.  But I managed to play better, to switch gears, and I managed to play two incredible sets: third and fourth. Then I felt it’s the moment when I should step in and show what I got, and it paid off.”


Golden Slam in Sight for the Bryans

bryans olympics 2012