Saturday, July 11, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Day 11 Diary - Humor still alive at business end of the tournament

As the tournament enters its final days, the press conferences typically get more and more serious but you can always count on Novak Djokovic to send the interview room into a fit of laughter.

The world No1 was doing his post-match press conference while Roger Federer and Andy Murray were playing the other semi-final and they were stuck in an epic 15-minute game at the end of the second set as Djokovic was fielding questions from the press.

Since we didn’t know who his final opponent would be at the time, I had to ask him about each one separately and after giving a lengthy tribute to both Federer and Murray, he added laughing: “So if you asked me who I would like to play, I cannot tell you. I have no preference whatsoever. I would like them to play a little bit tomorrow, the fifth, and then let's see who comes out on Sunday.”

Sadly for Djokovic, Federer finished off Murray in just over two hours.

A somber Murray showed up to press a short while later and while his disappointment to lose was written all over his face, there was a brief moment where he cracked a smile when he was asked by French journalist Carole Bouchard if his defeat to Federer would have any bearing on his preparation for Davis Cup next weekend against France at Queen’s Club.

“You're French, so you're hoping that's the case,” Murray said with a smirk.

Nice to see the Scot able to find humor even in defeat.

Meanwhile, Federer was asked a hilarious question during his post-match conference.

“You've been widely acclaimed as one of the great players. This morning Rod Laver said you would win. A lot of people are almost in love with you, things like that. Do you have like Jose Mourinho, that you're the special one?” said the reporter.

Federer’s response: “I'm sure there's going to be many great players in the future. The game is bigger than any athletes we've ever had. It really is. I don't know Jose very well. To be quite honest, I've only met him once.

“No, definitely I feel very much liked by many people around the world. It's been amazing to have that support. It helps when you've been around the block for a long time. People sort of get to know you.

“Like I said, the tennis is bigger than anybody. We'll have future Wimbledon champions, future world No1's. It's going to be even greater in 50 years' time, 100 years' time. It's a great game to play, I tell you.”

Earlier in the day, Garbine Muguruza came to fulfil her pre-final press duties. The Spaniard kept insisting she wasn’t superstitious even though she is forbidding her parents - who have been in Barcelona following her progress from afar - from coming to London to watch her play Serena Williams in today’s final.

“My parents, they're going to be in Barcelona watching me from the TV. I don't want to change anything, but I'm not superstitious,” said Muguruza.

Someone should really explain to her what superstitious means.

WIMBLEDON: Mouratoglou says Serena is all in

Patrick Mouratoglou believes Serena Williams is the greatest player of all-time and sees himself coaching the world No1 until she decides to hang up her racquet.

Mouratoglou and Williams are back in the Wimbledon finals three years after they experienced their first grand slam triumph together at the All England Club.

Their record as a team includes seven major titles in the last 12 slams and a win for Williams on Saturday against Spanish No20 seed Garbine Muguruza would give the American her four consecutive grand slam trophy.

Asked to explain how they’ve accomplished so much together, the French coach says Williams is the most focused she’s ever been on tennis throughout her career.

“We’ve won seven of the last 12 majors together. It’s a very successful partnership. I think Serena is the greatest player of all-time and we get along well, there’s a lot of trust and the plan that we imagined for her to come back to the top is working really well,” Mouratoglou told me on Friday.

“She’s very focused, she’s very much into her tennis - maybe more than she’s ever been - that explains why she’s doing so well. She’s got so many qualities, that if the mentality is there, if she’s into her job 100 per cent then she’s very dangerous.”

Williams has had a rough draw this fortnight, having had to beat world No4 Maria Sharapova, ex-world No1 Victoria Azarenka, and her sister, Venus Williams in her last three rounds. You’d expect her to be calm when she takes on Muguruza, who is making her grand slam final debut, today.

“She was calm the whole tournament. The draw was very very difficult, she in a way played a few matches that could have been final, the last three for example… so she’s very much into the tournament because she already had to dig deep and raise her level a few times in order to win very difficult matches, so I see it as something positive,” said Mouratoglou.

“We have to keep focused because there is one more step to go and it’s not an easy step because a final is always a special match to win.”

Muguruza has given Williams trouble in the past, including a victory over the world No1 at the French Open last year. Asked how much weight that match in Paris can have on today’s final, Mouratoglou said: “It’s going to have maybe weight for Garbine because she will think she can do it, because she did it already, so definitely.

“On Serena, not really, because Serena knows that at the period she was far from her best level. They played again since then and Serena won. But definitely it will help Garbine, if she had never played her or never had beaten her this would be more difficult, especially because it’s her first grand slam final, so maybe she’ll feel better.”

While the Grand Slam subject has become a taboo topic for Williams in press conferences, Mouratoglou was happy to discuss it. Asked if his charge is able to not think about the prospect of winning all four slams in one calendar year, he said: “It’s probably somewhere (in her head) but she’s so focused on the next match every time, what she needs to do on the court, she’s so much in the present time, not in the future.

“If it happens one day it’s going to be great, but it’s definitely not the main focus.”

On whether he saw himself coaching Williams until the day she retires, he said: “Yes, why not?”

WIMBLEDON: Another Federer serving masterclass sends him into final at Murray's expense

There are times in life when all one could do in the face of perfection is stand up and applause. It would have definitely been the easier option for Andy Murray against Roger Federer on Friday.

But Murray opted to fight instead; and even though it was to no avail and he lost 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in just over two hours, the world No4 should find solace in the fact that he did everything he could against a vintage version of Federer – or perhaps one that is even better than we’ve ever seen in the past.

“It’s definitely one of the best matches I've played in my career,” said Federer, who is through to an all-time record-extending 26th grand slam final. “I don't know, the first set, I don't remember point by point, but it was definitely really, really solid.”

Entering yesterday’s semi-final against Murray, Federer had dropped serve just once throughout the tournament. That stat remains true ahead of his final tomorrow against Novak Djokovic with the Swiss holding serve in 89 of his 90 service games this fortnight and saving three of the four break points he has faced.

Murray’s one and only chance to break came at the very start of their semi-final after the Scot had unleashed a brilliant down-the-line backhand winner. But Federer gave an indication of how solid he was on serve early on as he swiftly saved the break chance and held for 1-0.

Murray wouldn’t get a look at a break point for the rest of the contest.

The 2013 Wimbledon champion was not doing much wrong. He was serving well, moving well, but despite being one of the best returners of the game, Murray was impotent on the Federer serve.

In the opening set, Federer had recorded 23 winners including 11 aces, committed just three unforced errors and landed an astounding 85 per cent of his first serves in.

“It’s a statistical anomaly what he’s doing right now,” was all ex-world No1 Andy Roddick could say as he commentated the match on the BBC.

Murray agreed. He said he looked up at the stats on the screen during the match and could see Federer was untouchable on his serve.

After breaking the Murray serve in the 12th game of the opening set, the pair had an epic battle in a 15-minute 10th game of the second. Murray heroically saved five break points to hold for 5-5 but it proved futile in the end as Federer, again, broke in game 12 to take a commanding two-set lead.

Federer flicked a ridiculous backhand passing shot for 0-30 in game 10 of the third set, to go within two points of victory. The seven-time Wimbledon champion got his first match point and Federer stepped into the final on a wide forehand from Murray, breaking the hearts of the home crowd, which included the Duke of York and Duchess of Kent, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Thierry Henry, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sienna Miller, Sachin Tendulka, Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma and Anna Wintour.

“At the end of the day, I enjoy it,” said the 33-year-old Federer, whose Wimbledon semi-final record stands at a perfect 10-0.

“I work hard in the practice so in a match like this, I can have a great performance. And clearly it's an amazing feeling when you come back from the match and everybody's so happy for you, even like on the inside of the Royal Box when I was walking back, there was applause all the way to the locker room. Something I don't remember really having.”

A disappointed Murray believes he did not play a poor match and concedes that he was simply facing a formidable opponent. Their head-to-head record now stands at a close 13-11 in Federer’s favour.

“He served fantastic, apart from the first game where I had the chance there. Didn't really have any opportunities. Then that puts pressure on you. The pressure builds throughout the set that way,” said Murray, who is now 1-5 against Federer in grand slam matches.

“Obviously got broken right at the end all of the sets. But didn't actually play a bad match. Played pretty well.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Djokovic ready for Cilic rematch in the quarters

After surviving what he describes as “one of the toughest matches in his Wimbledon career” against Kevin Anderson, Novak Djokovic had little time to regroup ahead of another face-off with a cannon-server, Marin Cilic, in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Djokovic will be playing for a third consecutive day having had to come back to Court 1 on Tuesday to play the fifth set of his suspended fourth round with Anderson, which was halted due to fading light on Monday night.

After trailing by two sets to love, Djokovic had levelled the match to force a deciding fifth.

Upon resumption on Tuesday, there were no signs of Anderson slowing down as the South African power-hitter was holding his games to love and piling the pressure on Djokovic throughout most of the set.

By 5-4, Anderson had blasted 40 aces and was landing 80 per cent of his first serves in.

But one nervy 11th game saw the No14 seed double fault twice – his first of the set – and it was all Djokovic needed to pounce. The top-seeded defending champion broke, held, and clawed his way into his 25th consecutive grand slam quarter-final.

“I was helpless on my return,” Djokovic said on TV as he walked off the court.

He added later in his press conference: “It was a very difficult match, one of the most difficult in my Wimbledon career, that's for sure,” said a relieved Djokovic on Tuesday.

“I thought Kevin played exceptionally well throughout the entire match. Maybe he dropped his level a little bit in the third set. But other than that, he was serving very efficiently, very powerful serve. Also high percentage of first serves. It was very difficult for me to read because he has a same toss for every direction.”

In the quarter-finals today, Djokovic will have a rematch with Cilic, who lost to the Serb in five sets at the same stage here at the All England Club last year then went on to make a stunning run to the US Open title.

Cilic, seeded No9 this fortnight, has lost all his 12 previous matches to Djokovic but unlike the world No1, he had a full day off yesterday having beaten Dennis Kudla in the last 16 on Monday.

Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic’s coach and 2001 Wimbledon champion, doesn’t think Djokovic will be any disadvantage though having to play for a third straight day.

“No difference, Novak is so fit that he can play every day 27 sets and still be focused. He’s so mentally strong that this doesn’t matter. It’s only one set (he played yesterday),” Ivanisevic told me on Tuesday.

Both Djokovic and his German coach, three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker, agree with Ivanisevic and are confident the world No1 will be ready for battle today.

Djokovic was in the same situation entering the French Open final last month having had to complete a five-set win over Andy Murray over two days before returning for a third day to face Stan Wawrinka. He lost to Wawrinka in four sets in the final.

“I don't think it's too much a matter of really experience. It's just how your body reacts and how it recovers,” said Djokovic.

“In that particular scenario, I played two sets with Andy the next day, and then I had to play finals the day after. Here I played a set today. I think I'm going to be fine for tomorrow. I think I haven't spent too much energy throughout this tournament. Of course, this match was by far the toughest I had so far. Let's see. I'm confident I can feel good.”

Becker, who yesterday celebrated the 30-year anniversary of his first Wimbledon title victory, also feels his charge is in better shape here compared to how he felt going into the French Open final.

“I think it affected him in Paris. I think those 10 per cent he needed to win the final were missing. But here on grass it’s different,” said Becker.

“I think the extra set or two helps him here, because he didn’t spend much time on court in the first three rounds. I think once you go through as a player you weather the storm. And I think if anyone thought he wasn’t ready before, he’s ready now.”

Djokovic’s record against Cilic is the 28-year-old’s best undefeated record against any opponent he’s ever faced.

While the top seed is looking to register his 50th Wimbledon match win (only six men have done so in the Open Era) and enter a 27th career grand slam semi-final, Cilic is hoping to reach just his third semi at a major.

Ivanisevic knows what his fellow Croat is up against but believes there’s a first time for everything.

“There’s always time for the first time. Hopefully it can happen here. There’s no better place to beat somebody you’ve lost to 12 times in a row,” said the 43-year-old.

“Marin is back (from shoulder injury) and he’s ready to compete pain-free which is the most important thing and this is a perfect surface for him. Before the tournament I said my favourite was Djokovic but there are five guys who can beat him – one is Marin, Milos Raonic, who lost, Wawrinka is second, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. So four guys are still there."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Wozniacki says scheduling is unfair to women at the All England Club

Caroline Wozniacki feels women are not scheduled fairly on the bigger courts at Wimbledon, the world No5 said on Monday after crashing out of the tournament to No20 seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4.

With no tennis played on Middle Sunday, all last 16 matches of both the men and women were played on Monday with the ladies all scheduled early on six different courts so they could have the maximum time possible to rest before returning for the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

That unique scheduling - which does not happen at the other three grand slams – meant that Wozniacki played her fourth round against Muguruza on Court No2. Only two ladies matches were scheduled on the big courts yesterday with Serena Williams taking on her sister Venus on Centre Court and Maria Sharapova facing Zarina Diyas on Court No1.

Wozniacki called out the organisers implying that the scheduling was preferential towards the men. She also said she preferred to play on a bigger court and later in the day – forgoing some hours of rest time – rather than be scheduled early on an outside court.

“I would love to play on a big court. I think that's what it's all about. You work hard and practice to play on the big courts,” said Wozniacki, a former world No1.

“The women really haven't gotten the opportunity here to play on the big courts. You only get one women's match on Court 1 and Centre Court. Most of last week it was only one women's match on Court 2 as well.

“It's definitely different. That's all I can say. I think a lot of us women feel like we deserve to play on the big courts in front of a big crowd, as well.”

Wozniacki, who has made it to the fourth round here on five occasions but has never reached the quarter-finals, admits Wimbledon feels differently due to Middle Sunday and the different scheduling scheme.

“It feels different for some reason. I think if you're in the fourth round in a grand slam, in any of the other slams you know you're going to play on a big court because there's very few matches left,” she added.

“Then all of a sudden here you come into the second week - I think it's great for the spectators, they get to see top players on outside courts - but you kind of feel like you have to start over.

It's like it's a new tournament. You get put out on the smaller courts again and then you have to build your way up. The difference is here you start with playing great players from the start of a new event.”

Meanwhile Muguruza, who spent the night before her Wozniacki match watching Silence of the Lambs, was beaming after she entered her first career quarter-final at Wimbledon, where she takes on Swiss No15 seed Timea Bacsinszky on Tuesday.

Bacsinszky has a fairytale story that saw her stop playing tennis for a while - after struggling psychologically due to abuse she has suffered in her childhood from her father – and working in the kitchen of a hotel restaurant, only to return to tennis and reach her current ranking of No15.

“She has a reason to play, when you have something like this inside. Every time you go to the court, you want to fight and win. It helps her, her motivation,” Muguruza said of Bacsinszky, who made the French Open semis last month.

Monday, July 6, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Kyrgios fields tanking accusations in loss to Gasquet

Nick Kyrgios ended his Wimbledon campaign on a sour note after losing 7-5, 6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(6) to Richard Gasquet in the last 16 on Monday before facing accusations of tanking in the press conference room later in the day.

After dropping the opening set, Kyrgios double-faulted to get broken in his opening service game of the second set to go down 0-2 and received a code violation warning for audible obscenity.

The following game, a frustrated Kyrgios appeared to have given up as he simply walked from one side of the baseline to the other, allowing Gasquet to hold to love without trying to run to the ball.

Some viewed that as a violation of ITF rules, as Kyrgios appeared to not be giving his best effort but the 20-year-old Aussie was not fined nor was he officially accused of tanking and he clearly fought hard after that set as he almost forced a fifth set against Gasquet.

Kyrgios has been fined a total of $9,500 during his time at Wimbledon this fortnight - $2,000 for audible obscenity in his fourth round with Gasquet, and $7,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct in his third round against Milos Raonic, but nothing regarding tanking.

“Today, there was a lot of ups and downs. Obviously it was a tough, tough time, especially when he's not missing any balls. I'm getting frustrated myself. I feel as if I'm playing not how I should be playing. I'm angry at myself,” explained Kyrgios, who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year.

“Obviously I wasn't really happy with the way I was performing out there. I obviously lacked a bit of energy. I thought I responded well, though, to even come back and won the third set.”

Prompted to elaborate on whether he tanked in the second set, Kyrgios added: “I'm not perfect out there. I'm going to have ups and downs. That's the way you respond from that. I think it takes some serious balls to respond the way I did.”

During the match, Kyrgios also randomly hugged a ball kid and later explained: "I just felt like a hug. Everyone now and then wants a hug."

Gasquet admits he had a serious case of déjà vu when Kyrgios saved two match points to take the third set and force a fourth. Last year at Wimbledon in the second round, Kyrgios had saved nine match points to go on and beat Gasquet coming back from two sets down.

Lucky for Gasquet there was no repeat this time around. Kyrgios on the other hand said it was a painful defeat.

“It hurts. You never want to go out of a grand slam. I feel like I definitely could have done better. But saying that, I think Richard's playing some really, really good tennis. So I mean, it's been an emotional couple of weeks as well, so...” said Kyrgios.

Gasquet, who obliterated his racquet after dropping the third and was fined for it, had to save two set points in the fourth to avoid going into another decider against Kyrgios which the Frenchman said would have been a “nightmare”.

Asked if his thoughts went back to 12 months ago when Kyrgios saved the two match points and won the third, Gasquet said smiling: “To be honest, a little bit, yes. Yeah, a little bit, it's true. I throw the racquet. It's true, I broke one.

“Because that one was on my serve. Last year I had nine on his serve. The first one was on my serve. Yeah, he did great shots in this tiebreak. I couldn't finish, 7‑6 for him. Then in the fourth set, he had two set points at 6‑4, and he did mistakes. He serve incredible in this tiebreak again. It could be 7‑6 again, could be a fifth set.

“Yeah, it could be a nightmare for me again. I'm happy to finish in four.”

Gasquet noticed Kyrgios'
level dipped due to frustration in the second set but said it was not a unique situation and that many players can react like that sometimes.

“He was a little bit angry, a little bit frustrated, I saw that. Yeah, but I knew in the third set, it could be a different game,” said Gasquet.

“Sometimes it happens. He's not the only one to did it. Even the best player in the world did it in the past.

“It's true, he give me a little bit this set. But I knew actually it wouldn't be the same in the third and fourth. But he played much better. He's a fighter. After that he fought a lot.”

Gasquet is back in the quarters here for the first time since 2007 and will take on No4 seed and French Open champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the last four.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Kyrgios beats his conqueror from last year Milos Raonic to make fourth round

Nick Kyrgios ruffles many feathers. He swears on court, bullies umpires, and is short with people in press conferences. He has also made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon for a second straight year, and a third time in the last five majors, by playing some superb tennis.

The 20-year-old Aussie triumphed in the ‘battle of the sleeves’ on Friday, out-acing No7 seed Milos Raonic on his way to 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory in the third round.

The pair, who also faced off at Wimbledon last year, both sport shooter sleeves on one of their arms and boast booming serves that are the envy of many on tour. Except Raonic’s is known to have the better serve.

But while the Canadian, who won their quarter-final here last year, had the better start, taking the opening set thanks to a double fault from his opponent, it was Kyrgios who stepped up and finished the match with an impressive 34 aces compared to just 18 from Raonic.

It was a symbolic outcome for Kyrgios, who has come back to Wimbledon as the No26 seed - after being ranked No144 in the world last year – and beaten the player who ended his campaign here 12 months ago. In the process he denied Raonic a chance to claim a 200th Tour-level match win.

“I feel as if physically, massive improvements (compared to last year). I wasn't struggling at all. If it was to go into a fifth, I would have still felt confident,” said Kyrgios, who next faces Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

“I didn't want to lose again, I lost to him (Raonic) twice at grand slams. I thought it was a good day. I played some really, really good tennis.”

Raonic, a semi-finalist here last year, was playing his second event back from foot surgery and admits he still feels pain in the aftermath.

“I'm just dealing with a lot of things. I still have some discomfort in my feet, so compensations and stuff like this just make any pain pretty much come up,” said the 24-year-old.

“The more I got through the match the more difficult it was. But all things said, that weren't going to stop me from trying.”

As always in Kyrgios’ matches, there was some drama. He showed up on court wearing the official white, green and purple Wimbledon headband, which ironically is too colorful for Wimbledon and is against the all-white dress code here. He was asked to turn it on the other side so it is just white.

During the match, he threw his racquet, face down, onto the ground in frustration and it bounced over the barriers into the crowd. Luckily no one was hurt and a lucky fan caught it. Kyrgios did receive a code violation though.

Kyrgios is used to making conversations with spectators and there one guy in the stands, donning a Batman t-shirt, who the Aussie says was particularly helpful to him throughout the encounter.

“I thought he was key in the match. He was actually saying some really good things at crucial moments. I think he helped,” said Kyrgios, who improved his win-loss record against top-10 opposition to 3-8.

“Before I was serving, he always said something like ‘send down a bullet’, or something like that. At that stage I'm thinking ‘let's try to make it a really good first serve here.’”

For the first time since 1999, five Australian have made it through to the third round at Wimbledon but of the three Aussies who were in action yesterday, it was only Kyrgios who survived with Sam Stosur losing in the women’s draw and Bernard Tomic losing 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to defending champion Novak Djokovic.

The world No1, who next faces South African huge-serve Kevin Anderson, did not drop serve throughout his contest with Tomic and fired 38 winners to a mere 12 unforced errors en route to his 91-minute victory on Centre Court.

“I think I executed tactically everything I intended before the match to move him around the court, mix up the pace, not really give him the same look,” said Djokovic, who has not lost to an Australian since 2006.

“I think overall I played a really, really good match.”

French Open champion Stan Wawrinka played a clinical match to dismiss Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a fourth round with Belgium’s David Goffin.

11th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov was the second 2014 semi-finalist to exit on Friday, falling to Gasquet 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

WIMBLEDON: Serena survives Watson storm to set up Venus fourth round

As Serena Williams found herself down a double-break in the final set against Heather Watson on Centre Court yesterday, the world No1 was not thinking about her bids for a ‘Serena Slam’ or the Grand Slam potentially coming to an end.

She was actually wondering about where she would find a dance class to take the next day as she planned to stick around at Wimbledon regardless, to watch her sister Venus play.

But that dance class would have to wait as Serena clawed her way back into the match to break the hearts of the home crowd, as well as Watson, by winning 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 to set up a fourth round clash with big sis Venus.

Watson had sent the All England Club into a frenzy when she broke Serena twice to go up 3-0 in the final set against the American.

Facing her idol for the first time, the British world No59, was trying to reach a maiden grand slam fourth round and when she got a game point to go up 4-0, it looked like she was about to achieve her goal, causing a huge upset in the process.

But that marathon fourth game of the final set saw Serena force break point after break point and the relentless top seed finally converted on her sixth chance to get one of the breaks back. Instead of having a 4-0 lead, Watson soon found herself tied with Serena at 3-all, with both service breaks gone.

Watson was tight but was still pulling off impressive winners, refusing to surrender. She broke in game nine to lead 5-4 and serve for the upset but Serena once again found her inner beast. The five-time Wimbledon champion needed four break point chances before she broke back to stay alive in the contest and held serve for a 6-5 lead.

In game 12, Watson saved two match points on her own serve but Williams kept crushing the ball, sending the Brit from side to side to get a third. Williams finally got the win with a ball that clipped the line. Watson made a desperate challenge but to no avail, the home favourite was done and dusted, but undoubtedly won many hearts on her way out.

“I just wish I could maybe go back and play one point different to see if it would have changed things. But it wasn't supposed to be today,” said a disappointed Watson.

“I was super, super close. I think that's what really hurts the most.”

Andy Murray tweeted after the match:

Asked if she was aware how proud she made Britain feel with her performance, Watson said: “I hope so. Yeah, it would have been a lot better if I would have won. But I hope I did. I hope I fought for them and showed that it's not going to be a walk in the park for anybody that plays me.

Serena has already made it further in the draw than she did last year when she lost to Alize Cornet in the third round. She admits she didn’t think she would make it yesterday though.

“I honestly didn't think I was going to win. How I pulled through, I really don't know. I just was like, ‘listen, if I'm going to go lose, I'm going to lose trying to do the right things’,” said the 33-year-old.

“I just felt like she was playing really well. She just did everything so well. I wasn't able to keep up. Sometimes you just don't have your day. I thought maybe today just wasn't my day.

“I think she played unbelievable. She really went out there with a mindset of winning this match. That was how she went out there,” added Serena, who hit 53 winners to 33 unforced errors compared to Watson’s 20-11 ratio.

“She did her best today. I thought she played unbelievable. I thought she served well. I think she did everything great. She kept her unforced errors really, really low. Yeah, it was pretty impressive.”

Venus is back in the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in 2011 (she didn’t play in 2013) thanks to a routine 6-3, 6-2 win over Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia.

Of her upcoming date with her sister, Serena said: “I'm playing the toughest player I've played in women's tennis. That's never fun.”

Ex-world No1 Victoria Azarenka came through a tricky encounter with Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-4 while last year’s semi-finalist and French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova fought back from a set down to beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Nadal ready for "unusual" Dustin Brown

As far as tennis opposites go, Rafael Nadal and Dustin Brown, who face off in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday, are right up there with the best of examples.

Brown, a German-Jamaican with long dreadlocks and an affinity to wearing mismatching shoes, is one of a handful of true serve-and-volleyers in today’s game, and his style is tailor-made for grass.

He comes to the net any chance he gets, can pull of ‘tweeners’ from the toughest positions and can throw in a diving volley every now and then.

If Nadal’s game is about discipline, Brown’s game thrives on chaos.

Brown has beaten Nadal in their only previous meeting, on the grass of Halle last year, in a performance the German described as “the match of his life”.

Nadal, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, will have to prepare himself for a player he calls “unusual”. Brown is one of only three active players – alongside Borna Coric and Nick Kyrgios - who have a positive head-to-head record against Nadal.

“It is difficult to think about how the match going to be. He's not a usual player. Anything can happen,” Nadal said of Brown.

“He beat me last year on Halle. It is little bit different, the surface and everything. It is a dangerous match. He's a tough player. He won today against good opponent like Yen-Hsun Lu. Probably he will come with good confidence. I going to try to be ready for it.”

Brown is not putting too much weight on his previous victory over the ex-world No1. The 30-year-old, ranked No102 in the world, is looking to match his best grand slam showing by making the third round.

“Obviously it’s going to be a great match. I’m very happy that I get to play him again. I don’t worry too much about last year’s match because I probably played the match of my life there,” Brown said.

“Grass is obviously the surface I want to play him on but on the other hand he’s a great champion and is the favourite to win. Right now I just want to recover and get ready, come out on Thursday and try to have fun against him. I have no pressure, I’ll try to play my best tennis and see what happens.”

Asked if he felt that Nadal’s invincible aura has diminished or disappeared following the Spaniard’s mixed results this season, Brown said: “I haven’t played against or been anywhere near him in a draw since last year. So I wasn’t worrying so much about him. A few weeks ago I was still playing a Challenger, so when I’m at a Challenger I don’t have to worry about Rafa’s aura. I try to look on the things I need to do and my own tennis.”

Also in action on Thursday is 2013 champion Andy Murray, who faces a familiar foe in the form of Dutch world No78 Robin Haase.

The pair faced off at the US Open last year in a first round that saw Murray overcome severe cramps to triumph in four sets.

“I don't know exactly what happened, but I had terrible cramps from very early on in the match. It was a very tough match for me to get through that one,” said Murray.

“But, yeah, he's a tough opponent. He likes grass. Enjoys playing on the big courts. So it will be tough.”

WIMBLEDON: Ana Ivanovic is third top-10 seed to crash out

Ana Ivanovic became the third women’s top-10 seed to crash out of Wimbledon courtesy an all-out attack performance from American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who beat the world No7 6-3, 6-4 in the second round on Wednesday.

Mattek-Sands, a former world No30 whose ranking has plummeted to 158 due to injury, recorded the sixth top-10 victory of her career, ousting Ivanovic in a mere 69 minutes in which she fired an impressive 32 winners.

“She was aggressive. She was coming in a lot. I thought she was hitting lot of winners. She made some errors, but there was not really a rhythm out there, for example like I had in my first match. I kind of expected that. She played well. She served well. Yeah, she definitely did a lot of good things today,” said Ivanovic, who hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon since making the semis in 2007.

Ivanovic is looking forward to having a training block before her next tournament in Toronto, which starts August 10, where she plans on rebuilding her fitness.

“I changed my team a little bit. My fitness wasn't at all at the level I wanted it to be. In the French Open (made semis) I really worked hard and tried to get level up. I played really well,” said Ivanovic.

“Since then I've been working really, really hard. I felt like I improved a lot. Also I was working a lot throughout the tournaments.

“Actually now I'm looking forward to have some time off and do proper preparation because that's what I've been lacking. I've been playing catch‑up in that area since a while. I have lots of changes within the team. Now I feel like I have solid base.”

Mattek-Sands, who hadn’t made it to the third round at Wimbledon since 2008, is yet to drop a set through five matches – three at Roehampton in qualifying and two at the All England Club.

“Ana likes to play aggressive and she likes that run-around forehand and she wants to be dictating the points. I really went out there trying to be the first one to do that,” said Mattek-Sands, who plays Belinda Bencic next.

“I was playing aggressive. I was going to throw in slices and throw in some serve and volleys, and really play aggressive and work my way to the net. That's grass court tennis, but that's how I play on all the surfaces.”

Meanwhile, world No1 Serena Williams faced little trouble in her dismissal of Hungarian Timea Babos. Williams had to wait all day to get on Centre Court after Marin Cilic’s match before hers lasted for five sets, but she only needed 58 minutes to get off court with a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

She and her sister Venus remain on collision course as they both are due to face off in the fourth round. Venus, seeded No16, took out Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (5), 6-4 to book a third round with Aleksandra Krunic.

Serena faces home favourite Heather Watson who is back in the last 32 here for the first time since 2012.

World No4 Maria Sharapova skipped past Dutchwoman Richel Hogenkamp 6-3, 6-1 in 64 minutes to set up a third round with No29 seed Irina-Camelia Begu.

Ex-world No1 Victoria Azarenka and Kristina Mladenovic both earned victories to book a last 32 meeting against each other.

WIMBLEDON: Pliskova still getting accustomed to high-ranking status

Karolina Pliskova admits she is feeling the pressure of her higher seeding at majors this year as she is still getting accustomed to her status as the 11th-ranked player in the world.

Pliskova became the fourth-highest seed in the women’s draw to stumble out of Wimbledon after losing to American world No47 Coco Vandeweghe 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the second round on Wednesday.

The Czech No11 seed, renowned for her huge serve, is yet to make it past the second round at the All England Club in four appearances here and hasn’t been able to mimic her results from the WTA tour at the majors this season (lost third round in Melbourne, second round in Paris and Wimbledon).

“For sure it feels a little bit different. This is my first year where I’m seeded at the grand slams. I have to say there is more pressure than before because before you could get anyone, you’re just hoping not to get Serena or those kind of seeds and I was just happy about every round I got through,” said the 23-year-old Pliskova.

“This year you feel the pressure, I’m trying not to think about it but there’s still the pressure because I’m seeded No11 and I know I had some good results this year in the other tournaments so I’m trying to put it in the grand slams as well but it’s just not going well this year. But there’s still the US Open so we’ll see.”

On paper, Pliskova’s game should be perfect for grass but the 1.85m Czech is yet to find her footing on the turf in terms of results.

“I feel okay this year on grass and I felt that I had a good week in Birmingham and was okay in Eastbourne as well. The first match at Wimbledon was quite okay but this match isn’t much about how I feel but more about her (Vandeweghe). I just didn’t have that many chances on her serve. I think my serve wasn’t that good today as well," said Pliskova.

“I think she was playing really solid today with her serve. Normally she can have a match where she’s making 100 mistakes and double faults and stuff but she was serving really well, really big serves and playing solid from the baseline as well. So I think she was a bit better than me. In the second set she was more aggressive from the baseline, so she deserved to win.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WIMBLEDON: Blink and you miss it! Kvitova blitzes Bertens in round one

Petra Kvitova will need to apologise to her parents who flew all the way from the Czech Republic only to watch her blitz Kiki Bertens 6-1, 6-0 in 35 minutes to make the second round.

The Kvitovas spent less than 48 hours in London, invited by the All England Club as the parents of the defending champion, and they ended up just seeing their daughter in action for half an hour.

Kvitova, a two-time champion at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, dropped just one single point on her own serve (out of 29) to book a spot in the second round against Japan’s Kurumi Nara.

“I will be quite happy if every nerves going to be like this. So I'm happy I won it,” said a laughing Kvitova.

“Unfortunately maybe for the people in the stands it was a little bit too quick. My parents came, 35 minutes and it was over, I have to say sorry to them. I think they are happy anyway.”

The Czech world No2 has a stellar record at Wimbledon. Making her eighth main draw appearance here, Kvitova is twice a quarter-finalist, once a semi-finalist and a two-time champion.

Still, she admits her openers here are always nervy.

“I think in the first round, every time you are like big, big favourite of the match. That's something probably when you don't play match or you played before, doesn't matter. You standing on the court. It's a lot of expectation, not only for yourself, but the people around, the media and everything,” said Kvitova.

“It's just something you have to really handle it well. Always struggling in the beginning of the tournaments. The opponents are more relaxed every time you're playing someone in the top 10, for example. It's kind of tricky.”

WIMBLEDON: It's all about family for Federer and Nadal

Roger Federer is looking forward to dropping off his kids at school when he retires, but the merciless form he showed in his 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Damir Dzumhur in his Wimbledon first round on Tuesday suggests he will not be assuming carpooling duties anytime soon.

The Swiss world No2 needed just 67 minutes to defeat the 23-year-old Dzumhur in a clash that saw Federer face zero break points and hit 26 winners to just 12 unforced errors.

Playing in an Open Era record 67th consecutive grand slam, Federer will next take on American Sam Querrey for a place in the last 32.

Federer had beaten Dzumhur in the third round at the French Open a few weeks ago, but on his favourite hunting ground, on the grass of the All England Club, the seven-time Wimbledon champion was all the more ruthless in his delivery on Tuesday.

Asked if he ever felt sympathy for his younger and inexperienced opponent, Federer said: “I think it's also his first time on Centre Court. I'm sure in some crazy way he's also enjoying himself, can look back and say I played on Centre. It's where you want to play. So I'm more focused on what I'm trying to do, trying to win the match.

“Back in the day maybe I would not be as ruthless as today. But now it's trying to focus on what I need to do.

“For me, it's about playing the tournament, the ball that's coming from my opponent. I can't mentally go there like that. Can't really play tennis like that, unless it's like your best friend or your brother, whatever it is. I've had that in some instances, but not against Dzumhur, who I barely know, to be honest.”

After capturing his last of 17 majors three years ago at Wimbledon, many have written Federer off believing his glory days are over, especially after a poor 2013 campaign that was hampered by a back problem.

But Federer has climbed back to No2 in the world and is playing some impeccable tennis. So how much satisfaction does he draw from proving all his doubters wrong?

“Not much really. Because I play for myself and my team, my fans, my country, you name it, rather than against the people who think and have come out and said things. It's part of the game really. But they don't drive me in any way whatsoever,” said the 33-year-old.

A father of four children – two sets of twins – Federer says spending time with them would be his top priority post-retirement. “I'd like to drive the kids to school. I'd like to spend time with them, my wife, live in Switzerland. Then there's many other things I'll be doing, like my foundation. Business, we'll see. Tennis, we'll see. But those two things I know for sure,” he said.

Rafael Nadal is also a man keen to be surrounded by family. The No10 seed, who commenced his assault on a third Wimbledon crown with a convincing 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Thomaz Bellucci, has been renting a larger house at Wimbledon each year in order to invite more family and friends to stay with him during the three weeks he spends in south west London for Queen’s and the Championships.

“Being in a house gives you extra peace of mind. When you’re in a house you’re not by yourself. In a hotel you’re alone. So here you are with people, I have my young cousins with me. I’m not a person who likes being alone, I like people around me so the fact that I have a house - I’ve been changing houses each year so I can invite more people to stay with me which is terrific,” explained Nadal, who next faces Dustin Brown in round two.

Nadal had lost four of his last seven matches against lefties entering yesterday’s match but he was in no trouble against the left-handed Bellucci on Court 1.

The Spaniard got the first break of the match with a signature backhand down the line passing shot to inch ahead 3-2. The world No10 broke again but he double-faulted to drop serve while serving for the opening set at 5-2. He did not falter the second time around though and was soon up a set.

Nadal broke in the first game of the second set and despite dropping serve once in the third, he managed to seal Bellucci’s fate with an inside out forehand.

“I played solid, very good with my backhand today,” said the 29-year-old Nadal. “With my forehand, always okay. But I think I can do it better. I can play more winners down the line than what I did today. But was a positive victory, without any doubt.”

WIMBLEDON: Murray survives Kukushkin threat on day two

There were no mouth ulcers or extreme nerves for Andy Murray heading into Wimbledon this time around but the Scot still had to deal with 30+ degree temperatures and a feisty Mikhail Kukushkin to secure passage into the second round.

Murray, the No3 seed, began his pursuit of a second Wimbledon crown with a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over the Russian-born Kazakh in the first round on Tuesdat.

Returning to Centre Court - the site of his greatest triumph so far, where he lifted the trophy in 2013 to end Great Britain’s 77-year men’s singles title drought at Wimbledon, Murray made a solid start before things got tricky for him in the second set.

“I didn't feel unbelievably nervous. Still goosebumps and stuff, butterflies in the stomach when you walk out there. But I didn't get myself too worked up before, last night or this morning. I slept very well and was fine,” said the 28-year-old Scot.

After breaking in the 10th game of the match to take a one-set lead, Murray opened up a 3-0 advantage in the second set before getting pegged back.

He broke Kukushkin again and led 5-2 but then lost four games in a row as the Kazakh went ahead to serve for the second set at 6-5 with some aggressive play that threw Murray off his game.

Murray retaliated to force a tiebreak and he recovered from his brief dip to take a commanding two-set lead.

One break in the fifth game of the third set was all he needed to complete his victory and book a second round against Dutchman Robin Haase, who has given him trouble at the US Open in the past. Murray is yet to lose a first round at Wimbledon as is now 10-0 in opening matches here.

“For me it's a bit frustrating because you obviously want to go out there and sort of perform as best you can, whereas today I didn't feel like I was able to do that because of the way that he was playing,” Murray said of his Kukushkin test.

“He was hitting the ball this high over the net and so flat and down the line. It's very difficult to dictate points when your opponent's playing like that.”

Meanwhile, No13 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a possible fourth round opponent for Murray, endured a difficult five-setter against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg before going through 7-6 (8), 6-7 (3), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in three hours and 51 minutes.

Tsonga had an abdominal injury heading into Wimbledon but said he felt "100 per cent" on court on Tuesday.

Sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych beat Jeremy Chardy well past sunset, posting a 6-2, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5). A few minutes more and the match would have had to get suspended for darkness.

WIMBLEDON: Bouchard and Halep crash out in first round

Two of last year’s four semi-finalists crashed out within an hour of one another as Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep both were sent packing at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

Bouchard, last year’s runner-up at SW19, revealed she had ignored doctors’ orders who advised her not to play at Wimbledon after discovering she had a grade 2 abdominal tear but that she insisted she compete.

The Canadian ex-world No5 will drop out of the top 20 after suffering her eighth opening round loss of the season – a shock 7-6 (3), 6-4 defeat to Wimbledon debutante Duan Ying-Ying of China.

After having an incredible 2014 where she made the semis at Roland Garros and final at Wimbledon, Bouchard is having a disaster of a season in 2014, where she hasn’t made back-to-back wins in her last 10 events.

She admits the pressure of defending too many points here had an impact on her but also explained her injury was a big factor.

“I definitely felt tight in the first set. But I also felt very unprepared for this match. That's unfortunate. But I wanted to play, no matter what,” said Bouchard, who hit 10 double faults during the match.

“After Eastbourne, we did testing and I have a grade 2 tear in my ab. Probably wouldn't have been smart to play here, but I couldn't pass on Wimbledon. So I did kind of minimal preparation to save myself for the match.”

The 21-year-old says she is trying to treat each of her losses as isolated incidents.

“I feel like each time I had a loss, there were different reasons for each one. And today there was a different reason for this one,” she says. “It's unfortunate that it happened at my favourite tournament of the year, that I won't get to play any more matches here this year. But I'm going to try to put it behind me and look forward.

“I'm going to take some time to heal and maybe not think about tennis for a little bit, then get right back to it.

“In a way I'm going to be kind of happy to put this period behind me, for sure. Very disappointed in my last couple months. It has kind of been a stressful time.”

Third-seeded Halep, who lost to Bouchard in the semi-finals here last year, made her second consecutive early exit at a slam, having lost in round two at the French Open last month, as she fell to world No106 Jana Cepelova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Halep has shown flashes of brilliance this season, picking up titles in Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells, but has lacked consistency over the past few months.

“I knew it would be a difficult tournament for me,” said the Romanian world No3, who won just 30 per cent of the points on her second serve.

“But, yeah, I didn't expect to lose in first round. But she played good tennis. She was fighting till the end. She was aggressive when she could. So, yeah, the life is not like every time nice and good with you. But I have enough power to go ahead and just to think what I have to do better to have the good feeling back on court during the matches, and just work.”