2020 @WorldTeamTennis Final Preview, Prediction
After a noble experiment in a bubble and 62 matches played over the course of three weeks in the Allegheny Mountains, we are left with the #3 seed Chicago Smash and the #4 seed New York Empire to battle it out on a gorgeous sunny day at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. There were probably a few naysayers who thought the WTT season wouldn’t last with so many players at the same site during a Coronavirus resurgence in North America.
Here we are, though: Zero positive COVID-19 test results and one match to go. The first year expansion franchise, the Smash, have surprised a lot of long-time followers of the league, but their success shouldn’t come as huge shock to anyone. With Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard, Rajeev Ram, Brandon Nakashima and Evan King, the Smash would have been competitive in 2020. The extra sauce on this squad comes from Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was named the league’s female player of the campaign. She’s been off the charts in doubles, and doubles are every bit as important as singles in the world of World Team Tennis.
The New York Empire are riding high on emotion after knocking out the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms in the semifinals on Saturday. The immovable object may be Mattek-Sands, but the unstoppable force would be Coco Vandeweghe of the New York Empire. Like Mattek-Sands, she’s playing some of her best tennis in a long while and her leadership in doubles has given her confidence in singles as New York’s Kim Clijsters has been sidelined for the last week.
The Smash took out the Empire 21-16 a week ago, when Sloane Stephens was a 5-1 singles winner. When the Smash edged the Empire, 22-21, two weeks ago, it was Kim Clijsters dominating Stephens, 5-2 and Mattek-Sands/Bouchard defeating Clijsters/Lisicki 5-2. With Clijsters participation unlikely today, it’s hard to see a different result than the two previous meetings.
I give Sock a slight edge against Nakashima in men’s singles, and Sloane Stephens with the nod over Vandeweghe in singles. As usual, that means it’s all coming down to the dubs. I give the advantage to Mattek-Sands and Rajeev Ram against Vandeweghe and Sock in the mixed, which should just be enough for the Smash to win it all in the first year of the existence of the franchise.
Prediction: Chicago Smash 22-20
In terms of the restarting of pro sports in the United States, the World Team Tennis bubble has been a resounding success. The Greenbrier Resort was chosen by the Feds to house the legislative branch of government in a post-nuclear apocalypse at one time because of its remote location. Queens, or Disney World, for that matter, are hardly a White Sulphur Springs. With only a few thousand people, a few restaurants outside the resort and neither a strip club nor a nightclub for 60 miles, other pro sporting events should consider such a locale.
—S. Fogleman in Lewisburg, WV
Former US Open Doubles Champion CoCo Vandeweghe Awarded Wild Card Into
Third Annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open
2015 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard is top-seeded player heading into USTA Pro Circuit Women’s $60,000 event at Templeton Tennis Ranch Sept. 23-29
TEMPLETON, Calif. – Sept. 20, 2019 — The player entry list heading into next week’s Central Coast Pro Tennis Open is jam-packed with recognizable current WTA players, and some you will be no doubt be hearing about in the years to come.
The 2018 US Open doubles champion and former US Open Junior Girls’ winner CoCo Vandeweghe has received a USTA wild card into the third annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open, a USTA Pro Circuit Women’s $60,000 event taking place Sept. 23-29 at the Templeton Tennis Ranch.
The tournament is part of the USTA Pro Circuit and designated as a high-level event just below the WTA Tour. Qualifying matches begin on Monday, Sept. 23, with main-draw matches beginning the following day and concluding with the singles final on Sept. 29. Tickets for all the exciting tennis action are on sale now at http://www.my805tix.com.
The 27-year-old Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is a former Top 15-ranked player in the world and has played in three Grand Slam doubles finals during her career. Out for most of the year because of a nagging right ankle injury that ultimately led to surgery, Vandeweghe returned for the recent US Open where she played singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
On the comeback trail, Vandeweghe lost in the first round at the US Open to CCPTO alum Sonya Kenin, who is now ranked in the world’s top 20 in singles.
Twenty-five-year-old Miami Beach resident Genie Bouchard of Canada will be the top-seeded player once the draws are released this weekend. Bouchard burst onto the tennis scene in 2014 when she made the semifinals at both the Australian and French Open. At Wimbledon, Bouchard defeated world No. 3 Simona Halep in straight sets to become the first Canadian-born player representing Canada to make it into a Grand Slam singles final, ultimately falling to Wimbledon 2011 champion Petra Kvitová in straight sets.
“Just like our first two years, we once again have a first-class field of top American and international up-and-coming WTA players in our field,” said Ralph Goehring, CCPTO tournament director Templeton Tennis Ranch owner. “It always amazes me how the Central Coast Pro Tennis Open has been able to attract some of the biggest names ready to break through on tour. With the addition of CoCo and Genie, we have two of the biggest names currently on the WTA Tour.”
Also receiving a USTA wild card into the tournament is former world top 20 player Varvara Lepchenko and former University of Michigan star Emina Bektas.
Others notables in the main draw include: former French open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, as well as fellow former collegiate stars Irina Falconi (Georgia Tech) and Danielle Lao (USC). Santa Barbara’s Kayla Day has also made the main draw as the former US Open Girls’ Junior champion has a current WTA ranking just inside the world No. 350.
Former Arroyo Grande High star Sophie Whittle has concluded her college career at Gonzaga University where she was the Western State Conference Player of the Year and will play in qualifying on Monday, as will 2018 USTA Girls’ Nationals 18s singles champion Ashley Kratzer and 2019 Girls’ Nationals winner Katie Volynets. Both players are past wild-card entrants into the main draw at the US Open.
<str@NAOMI_OSAKA, @DIESCHWARTZMAN EARN 2019 @USOPEN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARDS
FLUSHING, N.Y., September 5, 2019 – World No. 1 and 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2019 US Open quarterfinalist Diego Schwartzman were awarded the women’s and men’s 2019 US Open Sportsmanship Award, respectively, on Thursday. The award is presented to the professional tennis players who best demonstrate excellence in sportsmanship throughout the US Open Series and the US Open.
“Naomi and Diego are both tremendous competitors and athletes, but at this year’s US Open, and throughout the entire summer, they have demonstrated a level of sportsmanship that is even more impressive than their play on the court,” said Todd Martin, co-chair of the US Open Sportsmanship Award Selection Committee. “We are incredibly pleased to present them with this year’s US Open Sportsmanship Awards, and thank them for being true role models and inspirations for all those that play the game.”
Eligibility requirements for winners include participating in at least two Series tournaments, as well as the 2019 US Open. Each US Open Sportsmanship Award winner receives a trophy and a $5,000 donation to the charity of his or her choice.
The USTA started a Sportsmanship Committee in 2011. Its charge is to “educate and inspire youngsters and their parents to develop and exhibit a high degree of sportsmanship and an attitude of fair play and mutual respect on and off the tennis court. Underlying the charge is the ethical imperative that fairness is more important than winning.”
The USTA Sportsmanship Award Selection Committee is comprised of USTA representatives, former players and journalists, including Co-Chairs Todd Martin and Lars Rosene, Jon Vegosen, Mary Carillo, Mary Joe Fernandez, Chanda Rubin, Joel Drucker, Steve Flink and Matt Cronin.
Dangerous @DenisKudla Advances to First @USOpen R3, Set to Face @DjokerNole Tomorrow
Steve Fogleman in Flushing Meadows
American Denis Kudla took a giant step forward in his tennis career on Thursday at the US Open in New York, advancing to the 3rd round of America’s Open in four sets against the red hot Dusan Lajovic, 7-5, 7-5, 0-6, 6-3. The win earns Kudla a date with Novak Djokovic on a stadium court tomorrow and questions have arisen about the Serb’s shoulder after last night’s match.
This match was all Kudla in the first and second sets, but Lajovic dug deep and won the third set at love. Kudla did a hard reset and erased memories of the third set to win an extremely competitive fourth set and final game at 5-3 as Kudla needed five match points to close it out.
“I mean the first two sets, I played really solid and had a lot of opportunities maybe to win those at 3 and 3,” Kudla said. “It was there I knew he was still trying to find his game. He’s beaten me three times before so I know his level wasn’t it’s highest and I needed to take advantage, but out of 3 out of 5 sets you have a chance to find your game.”
Kudla admitted he played “a little sloppy” in the third and Lajovic ran away with the set.
“I was like, O.K., I’ve got to dig in,” Kudla said of the fourth set. “It was 5-3, 40-love and then I just got super tight” before winning the match on his fifth match point.
Kudla said he watched the Djokovic match yesterday, and he’s not too worried about any weakness on the part of the world #1. “Even if he’s on one leg, he’s still tough.”
Kudla also spoke of the desire to play the best players early. “You want to play the top guys early,” he said. “That’s when they’re the most vulnerable. You play them in the quarters and semis, that’s when these guys are five matches deep playing some unreal tennis and it almost feels like it’s impossible.”
Impossible is not the word I’m thinking when assessing Kudla’s chances tomorrow.
It’s a First @USOpen Round 3 for @Ons_Jabeur After Comeback Win Against Sasnovich
Steve Fogleman in Flushing Meadows
Ons Jabeur said that today is her birthday, even though yesterday was the official date. Jabeur was all smiles as she told press that she didn’t like yesterday, so she “changed” her birthday to today and promptly presented herself with a 25th birthday gift in the form of a Round 3 US Open appearance after a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich in New York.
“It’s amazing, I mean, I love it in here. I love a city that is busy, noisy, I love the City that doesn’t sleep. I love playing on these courts.”
I’m glad that I stayed focused and got the energy to move better in the second and third set and I’m happy to be in the third round.”
Though she appeared in the third round at Roland Garros in 2017, Jabeur said she’s a more mature player now. “I couldn’t realize how I made it to the third round with less experience than now. Now I feel like I know what I’m doing on the courts. I have a great team behind me now.”
Part of that team includes Karim Kammoun, her fitness coach and husband. He planted a very romantic courtside kiss on Jabeur after the win.
“It was a long day yesterday, so it was kind of tough to wake up this morning to get in good shape on the court,” she said. Sasnovich “has a tricky game, she doesn’t give you the same, so I had to adjust my movements,” she continued. “I tried to not play her game, hit, hit, like she likes. Of course, mixing is my specialty so I try to put more pressure on her, and not giving up any points. That helped me when I was down 15-40. It helped me win more games, especially in the second set.”
The Tunisian took up tennis at 3, and she reflected on her beginnings. “My mother (Samira) wanted to play tennis from a long time ago, and when she became a mom, I was the youngest one, and she took me with her to the club. I started to play a little bit with the small racket.”
“Her love for tennis gave me the opportunity to be here today,” she reflected. Mom’s not in NYC, but could be there on a moment’s notice but there’s one problem: she’s worried about being a jinx for her daughter since Ons has already won twice this week without her.
A more mature Jabeur faces #3 seed Karolina Pliskova in Round 3. The two have never met. An upset could be in the making.
First on @USOpen, @KeiNishikori Punches Ticket to Third Round
Steve Fogleman in Queens
Morning rain delayed outdoor courts to a late start at the US Open in New York today, so Kei Nishikori and Bradley Klahn found themselves the center of all attention for an hour on Louis Armstrong Stadium at 11:00 a.m. It was a first meeting for both players, both 29 years old. Nishikori’s US Open main draw record improved to 25-9. Coming into the match, Klahn’s US Open record resembled the record of a rebuilding NFL franchise at 4-12.
Nishikori made the quarterfinals of every grand slam in 2019 and he’s halfway to that mark after the win today.
Kei cruised in the first set but his play was marred with errors in the second, giving up a pair of breaks to the American. He found comfortable form in the third but gave up two breaks of serve in the fourth to give a little false hope to Klahn. In the end, Klahn’s 18 aces could only keep him in the match for so long as Nishikori prevailed, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Kei will play either Alex de Minaur or Cristian Garin on Friday.
First @USOpen Win in 6 Years for @Riske4Rewards; DiLorenzo, @JuliaGoerges Advance to Second Round Clash
Steve Fogleman in Queens
Pittsburgh’s Alison Riske has seen a lot over the course of her eleven year pro career: marriage, a WTA title, Wimbledon quarterfinals, competition on six continents, Fed Cup glory. But wins at her home grand slam haven’t come easy. Today, for just the first time since 2013, Riske prevailed in a three set comeback win over Garbine Muguruza of Spain by a final of 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 in two hours and three minutes.
Muguruza looked comfortable in the first set and you sensed it would be another first round letdown for the American. Riske battled back with a sizzling net game, winning 83% of net points in the match. Muguruza hit only 24 winners in the match. Riske, who is through to the second round for the second time in her career, faces Latvian Jelena Ostapenko on Thursday.
American Francesca DiLorenzo won her second straight first round US Open match, this year upending Veronika Kudermetova, 7-6, 6-2. She gets Julia Goerges for her trouble: The German had a nasty three set battle against Natalia Vikhlyantseva which was decided by a final tiebreak.
Other winners included Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova and Andrea Petkovic in early women’s action on Tuesday.
It’s a Day of Dreams at Friday’s US Open
Steve Fogleman in New York
Friday qualifying has always been my favorite day of the year, and it’s finally upon us. When some people think about dreams coming true, they think of someone like Naomi Osaka winning a grand slam final in her first attempt. I don’t completely agree. Osaka’s run to the 2019 US Open title was indeed an incredible feat, but it’s likely to happen to less than 1% of pro players in their entire careers. For the rest of them, the dream isn’t winning the US Open, it’s playing in it. These athletes spend enormous amounts of cash to come to New York with their team and it’s a gamble unless you make it to the third round. A win in the third round, though, and it’s all gravy and glory: a $90,000 check awaits today’s main draw qualifiers.
These athletes won’t be talking about the money today, though. They’ll be talking about how they’ve watched the US Open since they were kids and always wanted to play here. They’ll be talking about their success stories in the past in juniors here and how they always wanted to compete with the grown-ups in the main draw.
Today’s qualifiers, by and large, harbor no delusions of grandeur. They’d love to win majors, but they know you’ve got to play in the main draw to reach the next career goal. Yes, dreaming of winning the US Open final may tantalize them, but in the end they can achieve a manageable goal of playing in the US Open main draw and come in here next week with house money looking to knock out a top seed. Today could also be a pinnacle career highlight for some qualifiers, the greatest memory they ever have when they finally put the racquet down for the last time.
Either way, it’s a day of dreams come true for the best 32 players on an uncharacteristically cool August day in New York. You must be dreaming if you think I’d miss it for anything.