Mariya Konovalova is the Editor-in-Chief of TalkAboutTennis.com content. When not watching, photographing, writing, and editing material about tennis, she enjoys buying books she won't have time to read and films she won't have time to watch, as well as not getting enough sleep. Mariya is a graduate of Columbia University and the London School of Economics. You can contact her by e-mail (mariya(at)TalkAboutTennis.com) and follow her on Twitter (@MariyaKTennis).
We are now getting closer to the first major of the year, and here are seven things we've learned in the first week of the 2013 tennis season.
1. What happens when 'burrowing through the match' is your tactic
For years, every knowledgeable tennis commentator and fan has been calling David Ferrer "underrated." The Spanish World No. 5 was able to shake the moniker a bit after winning his first Masters 1000 title at Bercy last fall, but perhaps we were too quick to let go of the epithet. On Tuesday of last week, at the Qatar ExxonMobil open in Doha, David Ferrer created a hole on the seemingly unbreakable hard court surface while moving back to return a shot. Perhaps we have been underestimating Ferrer's powers after all.
2. Don't play with fire
Argentina's Leonardo Mayer burned himself playing with fireworks during a New Year's celebration. Read the warning labels on those dynamite sticks, friends!
3. You never know when a new friendship will blossom
Perhaps it'll be a coach from romantic 'Pa-ree'; perhaps it'll be a younger cute boy (from a country) next door; maybe it'll be a quirky pop star who 'works out' and loves tennis; it might be a recently re-employed star athlete who's played in several Capitals; or another sportsman who carries a big golf stick. Whoever it might be, if you're a WTA star, there's probably a dude stalking you around the Tour.
Fabio Fognini is an expressive player. At any point in the match, you might see him screaming out into the ceiling or his team (often, his own name), striking out balls or throwing his racquet. But all his flare-ups are just part of the game. "I do nothing," Fognini says.
Meanwhile, his team does not seem to pay attention to the player's outbursts either. During Fognini's tough match with Tobias Kamke in the First Round, Fognini's player bench, along with fellow Italian player Simone Bolelli, when not chuckling at Fognini's screaming, were discussing... pasta. Bolelli, who lost in the First Round, was choosing between mushroom and carbonara sauce.
The 69th-ranked Slovenian, Grega Zemlja, made himself noticed in the second day of the tournament by defeating 5th-seeded Lukas Lacko in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. Zemlja is the highest-ranked Slovenian male, having won three Challengers in the summer and reached the Third Round at the U.S. Open. He scored the second upset of the day. Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut had earlier defeated the 6th seed, Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei, 6-4 6-2.
- Tuesday's Rough Spot
- The indoor hard surface at the St. Petersburg Open is getting mixed reviews from the players. Grega Zemlja, despite winning comfortably against Lacko, complained that the surface is a 'rough' one, and is 'hard on the legs,' limiting players' movement and preventing them from sliding. It is slow like clay, with high bounces, the Slovenian said.
Saturday's Roller Coaster
Saturday's Singles Final which featured third seed Petra Kvitova and seventh seed Maria Kirilenko, had an odd energy. The first set was slightly lethargic, although certainly competitive, as both players produced good shots. The match was on serve until 5-5, when Kirilenko had a problematic game on her serve and double-faulted on break point, seemingly handing Kvitova the set. However, the Czech was nervous in the next game and played loosely to let Kirilenko, who fought hard, back into the set.
For the first time since 2007, "Sweet Caroline" will not be blasting from the Stadium Court at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale during the Singles Final. The four-time New Haven Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki, was forced to retire down after losing the first set of Friday's Semifinal to 7th seed Maria Kirilenko. It was just the fourth set Wozniacki has lost in New Haven in five years, and her match record here is 20-1.
A knee injury that flared up during the Dane's quarterfinal encounter with Dominika Cibulkova caused too much pain for Wozniacki to continue. "I felt it from the start," she said. "But, you know, it just started to get a bit worse." She said she decided to play the Semifinal after doctors advised the injury would not get worse, in order to try to give it her best shot and to avoid disappointing the spectators. But it was too painful and pointless to continue.
TalkAboutTennis.com attended the 13th Annual BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis, a charity event to benefit New York youth tennis that brings top chefs and tennis stars together every year Thursday night before the US Open.
Players, chefs and attending celebrities were eager to dive in and enjoy the food, but stopped to chat with us on the green carpet at the W New York to share their love for New York, food and the event. Here are a few excerpts from TAT’s interviews with the attendees, to accompany the photos below!
Gail Simmons, of the Top Chef TV franchise confessed: “I love tennis and I love food.” Who is she rooting for at the US Open? “I have to, tonight, favor the Bryan brothers, because I’m cooking with them, they’re my co-hosts. I hate to predict anyone, because I’m about to meet all of them and I don’t want them to know who I root for… yet.”
ATP World No. 25 (and rising) Alexandr Dolgopolov talked to TalkAboutTennis.com about his penchant for risk, his second career as a computer game designer, his karaoke fame and his famous locks.
While in London Roger Federer and Andy Murray were preparing for their Gold Medal match, two players that have “been there, done that,” Tommy Haas, who lost the gold to Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 2000 in Sydney, and Mardy Fish, defeated by Chile’s Nicolas Massu in 2004 in Athens, were playing Olympics-quality tennis in their Citi Open Semifinal. Haas said he never expected still to play at 34, but he was inspired by Andre Agassi to stay in the game.
Haas, who will be back in the Top 30 by reaching the final, showed near-flawless form, beating the American 6-3, 7-5. Haas needed only one break point to take the set but only let Fish win two points on his serve and delivered no unforced errors. The second set was more closely contested, with Fish earning a set point at 5-4, but losing a long rally with an impatient attempt to change pace. What looked like a badly placed and timed drop-shot was “actually a failed attempt at a slice,” Fish said, lamenting the lost point and set. Haas went on to hold serve and break Fish in the top seed’s next game.
Even the crowds got into the Olympic spirit, shouting “USA” at some points. Mardy is the “true American,” said Haas, who has dual German and U.S. citizenship, unsurprised Fish had the upper hand in getting crowd support.
Tommy Haas, healthy and in form at 34, delivered a 6-1, 6-2 defeat to countryman Tobias Kamke in the first of Friday’s matches at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Both players struggled with serve in the heat and sun, with only 44 percent of Haas’ first serves landing in. However, Haas never faced a break point and was not in danger at any point of the match. The 34-year-old said he believes the tough conditions hurt his countryman, who has “a whole lot of firepower” more. “He threw me a lot of unforced errors,” Haas said.
Friday’s Oldies but Goodies
Haas next meets American Mardy Fish, against whom he has a losing record of 1-3 (with the sole win coming in a retirement). But Haas has never faced the “new Mardy,” having last played him in 2007.
Fish, who says he and the German are good friends and practice a lot together when not on Tour, believes Haas is “almost” at the level of play that took him to No. 2 in the world in the last decade. “This is why we play,” added Fish, “Two good players. Winner goes to the Final; loser goes to Toronto.”