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.”