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Roddick, Blake, Courier Optimistic About American Prospects

ATP news - Tue, 23/08/2016 - 5:03am

American tennis fans should be “optimistic” about the group of young Americans rising through the Emirates ATP Rankings and winning ATP World Tour matches as teenagers, former American champions Jim Courier, Andy Roddick and James Blake said on Sunday at the Winston-Salem Open.

But fans should resist setting any lofty expectations for the group just yet. Instead, they'd be wise to enjoy the group's attempted climb to the top.

“I think they should be optimistic,” Roddick said of fans. “I prefer that term over expecting anything.”

The U.S. currently has four players close to the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings: No. 21 Steve Johnson, No. 22 John Isner, No. 27 Jack Sock and No. 28 Sam Querrey.

But it's been six years since an American won an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title (Roddick, Miami 2010). He and James Blake also were the last Americans to claim spots in the Top 5 – Roddick, August 2009; Blake, January 2007.

The former champions are hopeful for a turnaround, though. They see a hungry group of young Americans eager to bring their country back to the top of the ATP World Tour.

Leading the way is #NextGen star Taylor Fritz, who will make his Winston-Salem singles debut on Monday. In the past 12 months, Fritz, a strong candidate for this year's ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, has climbed 624 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings to No. 54.


In Winston-Salem, he'll look for revenge against another up-and-coming American: 18 year old Frances Tiafoe, who has hiked 151 spots in the past 12 months to No. 124. The two have played four times, including three times in juniors and at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells earlier this season. Tiafoe has won every time.

“I've never won so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow,” Fritz said.

The list of young Americans continues: 18-year-old Reilly Opelka reached the semi-finals of the BB&T Atlanta Open earlier this month; 19-year-old Tommy Paul won his first tour-level match earlier this season in Houston; 18-year-old Stefan Kozlov knocked off Johnson in 's-Hertogenbosch in June; 20-year-old Noah Rubin is ranked No. 193; and 18-year-old Michael Mmoh won the USTA Boys' 18s National Championships a week ago.

“We've had some very good players pop through [but] this is the first time we've had this amount of depth at that level. I'm very hopeful, very optimistic,” said Courier, who was in Winston-Salem with Roddick and Blake for an exhibition on Sunday evening. “I think they can play off of each other, share some of the pressure, share some of the expectations and also push each other.”

The American tennis generation Courier grew up in included himself, former World No. 1, former World No. 2 Michael Chang and former World No. 1's Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. They all benefited from developing as a group, Courier said.

“We were able to push each other and really propel each other to greater heights,” he said.

Roddick, Blake and Mardy Fish also pushed each other and shared a “healthy jealousy”, Roddick said. He's talked with most of the up-and-comers and is optimistic because he hasn't noticed a sense of entitlement that has accompanied past American tennis prospects.

“They know that they have to earn their place and I think that's a great thing,” he said.

It's far too early, though, to set specific expectations for them, Blake said. Their bodies have yet to go through a full season on the ATP World Tour. They also lack significant match experience against some of the game's best players.

“I want to see who's going to progress because right now they're all still pretty raw,” Blake said.

Fritz said he believes he and others will produce results that all American tennis fans will enjoy. It just might take a little bit.

“The one thing to say to the fans is it's probably going to take time. And just let it happen. Just let it happen,” Fritz said. “This group is going to be really good. As long as not too many expectations and not too much pressure is put on this whole group, I think we're going to have a lot of Top 50 players and a lot of Top 20 players.”

Rabbitohs win 12-6 to hand Sharks another NRL loss

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 8:58pm

Once the form side of the NRL, Cronulla is suddenly on a losing streak, falling to a third-straight defeat, against South Sydney.

Rio 2016: Time to rethink Australia's obsession with gold

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 6:46pm

The Olympics is over and no doubt there will be calls for more funding as a nation that prides itself on sporting success licks its wounds. But why do we put so much value on coming first, asks David Mark.

Ten of the happiest storylines for Australia from Rio 2016

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 6:45pm

Success for Mack Horton, Chloe Esposito and Kim Brennan were among Australia's Rio highlights, but the team's happiest moments weren't always confined to the winners.

Ten of the happiest storylines for Australia from Rio 2016

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 6:45pm

Success for Mack Horton, Chloe Esposito and Kim Brennan were among Australia's Rio highlights, but the team's happiest moments weren't always confined to the winners.

Tour Veteran Butorac Experiences First At Winston-Salem

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 6:36pm

Eric Butorac has been playing tennis for the past 30 years. He's played more than 500 doubles matches during his 14-year ATP World Tour career. He's also won 18 ATP World Tour doubles titles.

But on Sunday at the Winston-Salem Open, the 35 year old experienced a first for his tennis career: Butorac plopped himself in a wheelchair and tried to play wheelchair tennis.

“Challenging” was how Butorac, No. 45 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, described playing the sport. Hitting the ball was no problem, he said. But he often forgot he was in a wheelchair and that he first had to move to the ball, and then hit it.

“We don't ever have to think about moving towards the ball, so that was another step,” he said.

The doubles champion also learned that his usual tactics don't work as well in wheelchair tennis.

“I tried to approach the net one time and that's completely the wrong strategy,” he said. “But it was fun to try and have a new respect for the game.”


Butorac and his Winston-Salem doubles partner, fellow American Scott Lipsky, participated in the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation (OPAF) wheelchair tennis clinic, which was made possible with grant funding from USTA Wheelchair Tennis. The clinic was held at the Wake Forest Indoor Tennis Center, next door to the outdoor courts of the Winston-Salem Open.

“[I] definitely respect these guys for doing what they do,” said Lipsky, who helped shag balls while Butorac played. “It's amazing to see how good they actually are.”

Chris Gallal, a 17 year old from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been playing wheelchair tennis for the past three months and participated in the clinic. He was impressed that Butorac hopped in the wheelchair. “It was a very nice experience and I really enjoyed it,” he said.

Robin Burton, executive director of OPAF, said the participation from the ATP World Tour players helped bridge the gap between able-bodied tennis and wheelchair tennis, which are usually two entirely separate sports, she said.

The longtime coach who helped run the clinic also appreciated the support from the ATP World Tour veterans. Frank Adams, who's been coaching wheelchair tennis for the past 20 years, said Butorac and Lipsky's participation will inspire wheelchair athletes for months to come.

“I think it's outstanding to have [ATP World Tour] players participate in something so significant... Being willing to go out there and play wheelchair tennis before they start their tournament, not a lot of players would do that,” Adams said. “I think it inspires everyone who got a chance to see them to take that risk.”


Betts banana-thrower regrets 'momentary lapse of judgement'

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 6:22pm

The woman who threw a banana at Indigenous Adelaide Crows footballer Eddie Betts during Saturday's showdown game apologises for her behaviour.

Murray: ‘I'm Very Proud Of This Week’

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 5:20pm

A top seed at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the first time, Andy Murray did well to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open before falling to Marin Cilic. The Brit saw his career-best 22-match win streak snapped by the inspired Croatian, but took positives from his deep run in Cincinnati.

“I'm very proud of this week. Obviously today didn't go the way I would've wanted, but I certainly didn't expect to get to the final,” said Murray, who arrived in Cincinnati after winning his second consecutive Olympic gold medal. “It was a very positive week. Now I’m looking forward to a few days' rest.”

The short turnaround after Rio caused Murray some physical discomfort and nearly derailed his Cincinnati run.

“After the first match I played, I was having problems with my shoulder,” Murray said. “I did speak about it with my team, but my physio was pretty confident that it was just fatigue, and that I didn't have any sort of structural damage in my shoulder.

“When it was said that I wasn't going to make it worse by playing, I thought: ‘Let's go for it this week. Let's try and get through as many matches as we can.’”


Murray’s superior form carried him to a seventh consecutive final and nearly allowed him to win his fifth title of the year. In 2016, Murray won the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Rome and the Aegon Championships before securing his second Wimbledon title. Against Cilic, he was aiming for his 40th tour-level crown.

“I think I’m playing my best tennis just now. It's not even close to anything else I had done before. Seven finals in a row, winning Wimbledon again, and the Olympics. It's been really good,” said Murray, whose next event will be the US Open, a tournament he won in 2012. “I really didn't expect to be here. It’s obviously disappointing when you get to the final and don't win, but it was a very, very positive week considering everything. Mentally I'm in a good place just now. So I'm looking forward to New York for sure.”

Boomers question late foul calls in painful loss to Spain

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 4:06pm

Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis labels two late fouls in the loss to Spain "soft calls", suggesting they could have cost the Boomers the Olympic bronze medal in Rio.

Top quotes from the Rio Olympic Games

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 3:48pm

From a Refugee Team athlete revealing her quiet determination to Briton Charlotte Dujardin referring to her fiance as a "banana", some gold medal quotes came out of Rio 2016.

'I see my future here': Fyfe seeks to extend Dockers deal

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 3:38pm

Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe moves to quash doubts about his future at the Fremantle Dockers, dismissing trade reports and saying a contract extension will be "sorted" next year.

Hurricanes believe Broad makes them contenders to win Big Bash title

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 3:20pm

The Hobart Hurricanes talk up their chances of winning the T20 Big Bash series after signing English star bowler Stuart Broad.

Mountain biking plans for Alice Springs causing tension

ABC Sport - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 2:45pm

Australia's Red Centre is gaining a reputation as one of the country's best mountain biking destinations but the sport's popularity is creating issues between riders, landholders and traditional owners.

Brain Game: Cilic Serve On Song In Winning Cincy Title

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 2:43pm

Marin knew. Andy knew. The crowd even knew, but there was nothing anybody could do to stop Marin Cilic’s wide sliding serve in the deuce court from carving up Andy Murray in the final of the Western and Southern Open on Sunday.

Cilic won 6-4, 7-5, overwhelming Murray with precision serves, power forehands, and a tenacity to keep points short and sweet against the most in-form player on the planet.

Tennis is a game of primary and secondary patterns that are mixed based on the scoreboard and the guessing game of shot location constantly going on inside players’ minds. Primary patterns are the prime movers, run seven or eight times out of ten, while secondary patterns are surprise guerrilla tactics used to confuse the opponent when they get a scent of what’s really happening to them.

Cilic Deuce Court Wide Slider
There was no pattern of play more important for Cilic against Murray than his wide sliding serve in the deuce court. It stretched Murray way off the court to begin the point, creating a huge positioning hole for Cilic to immediately exploit with his forehand.

Murray regularly made contact with his forehand return 6.6 metres (22 feet) from the center of the court, creating an instant hole for Cilic to attack Murray in the vacant ad court, and also behind Murray in the deuce court as the Brit sprinted back hard after the defensive return to stay alive in the point.

Overall, Cilic directed 80 per cent (24/30) of first serves in the deuce court out wide, dining there again and again whenever he needed a point. Of the 24 first serves he hit out wide, he made 15 and won 12.

Of the 12 he won, he served and volleyed four times, highlighting the confidence he had in this specific serve to immediately follow it to the net. Of the other eight points, Murray committed three return errors and Cilic was 5/5 in hitting a forehand as the all-important “Serve +1” groundstroke immediately following the serve. Of those 12, Cilic only played one rally that lasted more than seven shots, showing how much he was able to immediately dictate behind the fearsome delivery. Of the three points Cilic lost behind his wide deuce slider, Murray was on full defence, slicing six of eight shots to barely stay afloat in the point.

At 6-4, 3-3, Murray’s average return speed against Cilic’s first serve was a lowly 48mph. The wide slider in the deuce court had a lot to do with that. Cilic, by comparison, was averaging 64mph with his first serve returns.

Cilic Serve +1 Forehands
Hitting a forehand as the first shot after the serve was also a key tactic for Cilic, completing it 61 per cent (22/36) of the time to stay on top of Murray as the point unfolded. Cilic won 73 per cent (16/22) of his points beginning with a Serve +1 forehand and only 43 per cent (6/14) beginning with a Serve +1 backhand strategy.   

With Cilic leading 6-4, 3-4 on serve, his forehand had done a masterful job of pushing Murray further back behind the baseline than the Brit was comfortable with. When Murray defeated Milos Raonic in the semi-finals, Murray made contact with only 16 per cent of his groundstrokes more than two metres behind the baseline, but that more than doubled that to 35 per cent against Cilic after a set and a half of play.

First Four Shots
Cilic imposed his will all over the court, especially when it came to the key metric of rally length. Sixty percent of points in the match were a maximum of four shots. Cilic won this vital battleground 39-34, won the 5-8 shot rallies 22-19 and lost the long rallies of 10 shots or more 5-4.

Dominating the shorter rallies is proven to be a much better indicator of who will win the match than winning the longer rallies. At the 2015 US Open, the match winner won 90 per cent of the 0-4 shot rallies, 66 per cent of the 5-8 shot rallies, and just 56 per cent of the longer rallies that reached double digits.

Cilic looks in ominous form heading into this year’s US Open - a title he won in 2014. When the 6’6” Croatian is in this vein of form, his game is so big and so powerful that he can blow right through opponents with his massive serve and forehand combination.

Winston-Salem 2016

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 2:35pm

Fratangelo Advances In Winston-Salem

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 2:25pm
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American Bjorn Fratangelo beat Evgeny Donskoy 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round at the Winston-Salem Open on Sunday. The 23-year-old wild card fired eight aces and capitalised on five of his 11 break point chances in the one-hour, 51-minute victory.

“I felt more and more comfortable as the match went on,” said Fratangelo, who will next face No. 11 seed Paolo Lorenzi. “I prepared correctly, it was just tough.” 

Top seed Richard Gasquet will begin his campaign on Monday against Daniel Evans, who advanced with a 6-3, 7-6(3) win over Gastao Elias. Jan-Lennard Struff topped Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-3 in 64 minutes to set a second-round meeting with No. 16 seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

Yen-Hsun Lu topped Illya Marchenko 7-6(5), 6-3, while Stephane Robert beat fellow Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Yoshihito Nishioka, Radu Albot, James McGee and James Duckworth advanced to the main draw after winning their final round matches in qualifying over Liam Broady, Tim Van Rijthoven, Michael Berrer and Petros Chrysochos, respectively.


Winston-Salem is the final ATP World Tour event of the U.S. summer, welcoming 48 players to the Wake Forest campus in North Carolina. Top seed Gasquet is making is tournament debut. Kevin Anderson, the fifth seed, returns to defend his title.

Cincinnati 2016 Hot Shot Countdown

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 1:30pm
Who hit the best Hot Shot at the Western & Southern Open? Watch and find out. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images

Cilic Earns First Masters 1000 Title In Cincinnati 2016

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 1:29pm
Marin Cilic reflects on his final win over Andy Murray. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Cincinnati 2016 Final Highlights

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 1:28pm
Watch highlights as Marin Cilic downs Andy Murray in Cincinnati. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo: Getty Images

Cilic Claims First Masters 1000 Crown In Cincy

ATP news - Mon, 22/08/2016 - 1:14pm

Marin Cilic turned in a powerful performance in Sunday's final at the Western & Southern Open, defying fatigue for his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.

Cilic stunned top seed and two-time Cincinnati champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 34 minutes, pestering the Scot with a relentless barrage of formidable first serves and forehands. The Croatian has found immediate success with new coach Jonas Bjorkman, notching his 15th tour-level title in total.

It was just the fifth title by a player outside of the Big Four of Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal since 2010 (54 of 59). In addition, Cilic joins the foursome and Stan Wawrinka as the only active players to win both a Grand Slam and a Masters 1000 title, having lifted the trophy at the US Open two years ago.

"I thought I was going to have a good chance if I played well," said Cilic, who finished his semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov at 1:35am. "I didn't feel too tired yesterday in the evening. It was obviously very difficult mentally. It was very humid on the court. We were sweating a lot, so a lot of up and downs, especially in the third set. I had to work out the positive and negative emotions and that took a bit of energy.

"But I went to sleep around 4:00 and woke up a little bit before 11:00. That was enough to recover. I felt that I played really good tennis today. The serve was a big factor in my game. I was hitting a lot of big serves in important points, and I was definitely very mentally strong in that second set. Andy was starting to play a bit better, but it's definitely a huge win against him. He's been on a great run the past couple of months." 


Non-Big Four Masters 1000 Titlists (since April 2010)

Player Year
Marin Cilic 2016
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2014 Toronto
Stan Wawrinka
David Ferrer
2012 Paris
Robin Soderling


Cilic executed his gameplan brilliantly in relentlessly attacking off the ground and continuing the trend of first serve dominance. He leaves the tournament with a staggering 85 per cent first serve points won. The 27 year old raced to a two-break lead in the first set and would eventually close out the opener after 41 minutes. Neither player flinched through the first 10 games of the second set, but it was Cilic who capitalised on a fifth break point for the decisive 6-5 lead. He closed out the title on his first match point.

Less than 15 hours removed from the 1:35am finish against Dimitrov, Cilic showed little signs of fatigue. Murray, meanwhile, was contesting his 11th match in 15 days after capturing the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. He was bidding for a 40th tour-level crown and 13th at the Masters 1000 level.

Previously the Cincinnati champion in 2008 & '11, having defeated Novak Djokovic in both finals, Murray was looking to join Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Mats Wilander as the only players to lift the trophy at least three times in the Open Era. The Dunblane native saw his 22-match win streak snapped, also suffering his first final defeat to an opponent not named Novak Djokovic since 2012.

Cilic, who takes home $834,700 in prize money, soars back into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings to a projected World No. 9. He claimed multiple Top 10 wins in a tournament for the first time since his major title run in New York, having also downed Tomas Berdych. Cilic's run to the title is even more impressive considering he was 0-8 in Masters 1000 quarter-finals entering the week.

Murray saw his lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series trimmed to 11-3. The Scot rallied to claim their lone previous final encounter at the 2013 Aegon Championships at Queen's Club. He earns 600 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $409,270 in prize money.

"I'm very proud of this week," said Murray. "Obviously today it didn't go how I would've wanted. But I certainly didn't expect to get to the final when I arrived here. I had some pretty good wins along the way. Today there were tough, tricky conditions with the wind.

"I think if I got off to a better start maybe could have done a bit better. I had a break point in his first service game and Love-30 in his next service game. I was pretty much behind from that point on and it was tough. But it's a very, very positive week. I'm looking forward to a few days' rest now."