Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thoughts on Nick Kyrgios' latest debacle and his below-the-belt comment directed towards Stan Wawrinka

Here are some thoughts and takeaways from what happened between Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday night during their second round match in Montreal. These are some scattered thoughts and are in no particular order…

* Let’s just preface any comment on Nick’s actions by saying: yes, I find Wawrinka allegedly dating a teenager was/is wildly creepy (it's also none of my business). That doesn’t excuse any of Nick’s behavior on court and is far from being the issue right now.

*The fact that women continue to be used in such derogatory manner just for the sake of taking a jab or making a quip at an opponent is both completely unacceptable and sad. We may be in the 21st century but men are still fighting like they were in the dark ages.

*The ATP trying to take down every video and vine of the incident is disappointing, laughable and futile. The fact that they think they can outsmart the internet makes me realize they don’t get it and never will. Instead of pooling their efforts into attempting to hide what is already all over the globe, how about putting out a statement or announcing a suitable fine for the offence? It’s been 11 hours (and counting) since the incident happened yet no word has emerged from their side yet. Such ridiculous use of the time and resources! (UPDATE: The ATP said Kyrgios has been fined $12,500 and is under investigation which could result in further sanctions)
*Many people have been going on and on about how Kyrgios behaves inappropriately on court. The shocking part is he barely gets any code violations or fines. Just the random code for dropping an F-bomb (he dropped MANY while talking to Carlos Bernardes on Wednesday by the way) or smashing a racquet. If umpires and tournament referees were doing their job properly from day one, this kid would have spent half his prize money on fines, maybe gotten defaulted once or twice, and he probably would be keeping his outbursts in check by now. Instead, his behavior is just getting worse which makes you wonder if the ATP is actually happy with his conduct and are even happier to be enabling it.

*Kyrgios’s mother, Nill, and brother, Christos, coming to his defense every time he does something indefensible has just GOT TO STOP. They are not helping him in any way whether from a life-lessons-learned standpoint or from a PR perspective. Nill’s Twitter account was shut down, probably at the behest of his PR time. Christos’ account should be next.

His brother Christos posted this tweet but later deleted it after Kyrgios had said in his on-court interview that Wawrinka had got "lippy" which is why he said those things:

*There is no point in comparing the ATP’s reaction – or lack thereof – to this issue with respect to others in the past, such as Sergiy Stakhovsky’s comments for example, because the lack of reaction to previous incidents doesn’t mean they should continue to do so. This is about Kyrgios’ behavior on Wednesday night and not about anything else.

*History has shown that you can be racist or misogynistic or just plain rude but a few years later people can call you a hero for fighting hard on a tennis court or whatever. Case in point: how many people remember Lleyton Hewitt’s racist innuendos in a conversation with an umpire during his match with James Blake and still hold it against him till this day? Not many. He tried to apologize after that and in simple terms: life goes on. This incident might not define Kyrgios’ future in the sport but what he learns from it certainly could.

*Kyrgios will definitely regret not coming up with a better answer in his on-court interview with Arash Madani. Granted he had just won the match and didn’t have time to think but not thinking before speaking was what got him into this mess to begin with. What he told Wawrinka needlessly dragged two more people into the conversation and that is something Kyrgios will come to deeply regret.

*The one thing Kyrgios had on his side was the fact that many top players – including Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet - have repeatedly said that he is very respectful towards others on tour which implied there is a side to him that many don’t see. This incident shatters that theory.

Here's a quick recap of what happened and some reaction to the incident:

After dropping the first set, Kyrgios told Wawrinka: "Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend, sorry to tell you that, mate."

Wawrinka did not appear to have heard him on court but found out soon after and said this to the press:

And this on Twitter:

Wawrinka's coach, Magnus Norman also tweeted this:

And here are other tweets from his brother, Christos, Victoria Azarenka and more:

10:00pm Dubai time update:
Kyrgios apologizes on Facebook:

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the comments I made during the match last night vs Stan...
Posted by Nick Kyrgios on Thursday, August 13, 2015

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.