In the All-American final at the 2019 Eastbourne International, Taylor Fritz beat his compatriot Sam Querrey straight sets 6-3 6-4 to claim his first ATP title in his career.
Speaking after his press conference, Fritz said: “It’s, like, it’s unbelievable. The feeling still hasn’t fully set in. I have wanted to win a title for so long, ever since making the final in Memphis when I was so young. So it’s been — you know, I have been thinking about it for a long time. I’m so happy I finally got it.”
Fritz was in control throughout the whole match and Querrey could not find any rhythm to play the match on his own terms. Whenever there was a opportunity for Querrey to break back and even the match, Fritz looked focus and seemed to always come up with a first serve to extend his lead.
I asked Fritz in the press conference whether he agreed with this idea and he commented: “Yeah, like I just said, I feel like I can always come up with my best in the big moments, or if I’m not playing my best, I can just kind of find a way to tough it out and come through in those moments. It’s one of the biggest strengths that I have. Yeah, it’s just coming up with what I need when I need it.”
He also credited his coaching team composed of Paul Annacone and David Nainkin that helped him reach this point of his career.
“One thing we have all worked on as a team so much is working on my net game and coming into net more, because with the big groundstrokes, you get a lot of, you know, balls that you can finish the point at the net. So it’s been a long process trying to work on that.
“We are still working on it. We have worked a lot on my serve consistency, because one thing that’s been a problem about me winning a title or going deep is I’ll serve good, serve good, serve good, and then just have one day where I can’t put a serve in the court. We have worked a lot on that. My serve’s improved so much.”
“That’s one thing I stress to them as a player, telling the coach, is I want to improve, you know, where I’m not that good but I also want to strengthen my best shots so they become even more dominant, and so that’s something we have all worked on. And also tons of work in the gym, getting stronger, getting faster. Yeah, it’s all showing.”
Fritz will have little time to celebrate, as he will have to face former Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych, in the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, the second seed Karolina Pliskova defeated the defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber comfortably in straight sets 6-1 6-4 to claim her second Eastbourne International title.
Interview with Bethanie Mattek-Sands from Eastbourne 2019 Eric Han for Tennis Atlantic
I had the pleasure of talking to former world no.1 in doubles, five time Grand Slam doubles champion, and Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, after her semifinals doubles victory with her partner Kirsten Flipkens. The video and the transcript of the interview is below.
Q: First tournament back since the Australian Open, and now you’re in final. Congratulations. How do you feel?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It feels really good. I mean, for me I’ve been enjoying each match. Having a surgery, going through the rehab. I think you learn to appreciate the moment a little bit. And I’ve been having a blast with Flipkens, it was a last minute partnership. And she’s a good a friend off the court. I mean, she won last week on grass, so I felt I picked up a partner that was on good momentum. The things she comes up with that net is super impressive, so I really enjoyed playing with Kirsten out there.
Q: What did you think of the match? When you were down 5-8 in the super tiebreak, what did you say to Kirsten or what did Kirsten say to you to keep motivating each other?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: In all honesty, I’m going to be honest. On the 10 point tiebreakers, I lose track of score a lot. I’m relying on someone to tell me to I need to switch sides. It’s one thing to play the tiebreak to seven, but to play it to ten, I feel like it keeps going. So I’m like next point, alright next point, you’re serving, I’m serving, we’re returning, here’s the play.
So, I feel like, even though I wasn’t quite aware of the score, we had a good game plan. Flippers (Flipkens) is a positive person anyway, so I feel like we both have good energy out there and that’s kind of the key whether you’re up or down and its what win matches and we were able to close it out.
Q: You’ve played both singles and doubles in your career what would you say are the differences? What do you have to adjust when you have to play singles and doubles?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You definitely adjust your targets. I just think they are two different game plans. I mean, you do have some players that play singles and very good doubles players. Then you have some singles players, that don’t play a lot of doubles. I think there’s a big aspect of communication, a big aspect of a different strategy, and I don’t even like to kind of compare them. I feel when I’m getting ready for a doubles match, it’s a different strategy when I’m getting ready for singles. It’s still a little bit different, I think it’s fun to have your partner out there, someone to talk to. Singles, you’re out there by yourself and it’s a different game. And for right now, I’m playing doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon, double here. So I get to have someone to talk to, have my partner. So I’m just really enjoying it,
Q: Ash Barty, who you’ve played against in singles and doubles a few times. She won her maiden Grand Slam in Paris last month. Were you surprised that her first singles Grand Slam was on clay, rather than on Wimbledon as people thought that’s her preferred surface?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: No, I don’t think so. I feel like she has actually won Rome doubles last year. And I think she won it again it this year. She’s an all court player, and I think right now if you have an all-court game, you can play on any surface. You can transition from clay, to hard, to grass. She mixes in that slice really well and comes to the net. And I feel like you can come to the net on all surfaces. And that’s going to be a good game plan. I don’t see her changing it up for grass. She’s an exciting player to watch, and I’ll be rooting for her.
Q: Speaking about Ash, she took time away from tennis to play cricket because she felt too much pressure, tension. Considering how long a tennis season is, nearly 11 months, do you think it is more beneficial for players to take mental health breaks?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what, I gotta give her a lot of credit for doing that. Because she came out of juniors, and she was a highly touted junior. I played her actually, one of her first tournaments, in Hobart I think a long time ago. And she was a great junior player. And for her to say, its too much pressure, I’m not enjoying it. Because Ash is one of these players, she really enjoys going out there, she plays smooth, she plays her game, she talks about playing her brand of tennis. And I really give her a lot of credit for taking that break. And I don’t think its the worst thing. For me, my breaks have come from injuries. I’ve been out for some months at times and it wasn’t necessarily my choice. I think it’s not only good for the body, but also for the mind, tennis is a game and it is a long season, so I think it’s important to kind of to take your breaks when you can and enjoy it. I pick and choose the tournaments I want to play, but I give myself weeks off and days off. After a long swing of tournaments, I’ll take a couple of days to enjoy somewhere around the world. Otherwise, it’s just playing, trains, automobiles, courts, practice, and it’s just kind of this vicious cycle till November. So I think that’s helped me a lot, but again, I’ve taken some time off for my injuries and enjoyed my life off the court, so I think balance is important- really really important.
Q: Do you have any examples in your own career that you should’ve felt I could’ve taken a mental health break? Because it was too much for me, the media attention or whatever. Do you have any examples?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: For me, like I said, I took some time off around my injuries. And you know, it’s easy to say I was forced to take some time off. But I think I decided to rather than feel pressured to come back quick, I really enjoyed my time at home. I enjoyed my time with friends, and I think that’s the biggest shift of my career. If you would’ve talked to me when I was younger, I would’ve said I maybe burned out myself a little and didn’t enjoy tennis. And thinking back, it makes me a little sad, because tennis is a fun game, and even though there is pressure, and that’s why you have a team around you. And that’s why you have a normal life outside of tennis. And when I see that players that kind of have some good balance, they are generally the ones that play longer, they play the season, they can deal with losing early, and then those wins because week to week, you could be at a high, and next week you lose first round four days later! So I think it’s important to have a good balance and I feel like I’ve been able to do that, within my schedule.
Q: Yesterday, it was announced the Fed Cup would change its format to the Davis Cup. I spoke with Simona Halep yesterday about it in the press conference, she said she would possibly boycott it. Because she won’t be able to feel the atmosphere at home. What do you think?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what? It’s a topic we’ve talked about a lot over the last few years. We needed to find a way that the Fed Cup could fit in our schedule as well. The final was played in November, then we had two other weeks. It was tough to add more weeks onto the player’s schedules. So we’re gonna continue the talks right now. I’m actually on the player’s council, so we’re gonna talk to the ITF, the Fed Cup, and kind of come up with a win-win scenario and see what we can do about it. I think it’s very important for everyone to represent their country. I will say that, we come to tournaments like Eastbourne, it says Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and it says USA. We’re all really proud of our countries, whether we’re playing Fed Cup or Olympics or just week to week in the tournaments. But I think, it’s important to get behind some of these countries and get them excited about tennis, and their players, and that’s really my goal with Fed Cup. It’s how we can create that excitement with all these different countries and getting behind these local girls!
Q: Since we are on the topic of playing for your own country. Next year is the Olympics. Do you have any goals or have any given any thought to it?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Of course! Rio was my first Olympics, and I got a gold with Jack Sock in mixed doubles. So one of the big goals right now is to make the 2020 team. There’s a lot of time between now and then, a lot of tournaments. So it’s definitely in the horizon, but I would love to be in Tokyo. It was such a great experience in Rio, that I want to do it again.
Q: On the men’s side there is the Laver Cup. It has become a huge success, mainly due to the players showing a lot of passion for the event. Would you like to see the women’s being incorporated? Or perhaps creating a women’s only event similar to the Laver Cup. Would this be something you are interested in to take part?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Definitely! I would definitely take part. I think it’s one of the fun things to watch the Laver Cup for is how excited the players are getting out of it They have a short scoring short format, and makes the games and points exciting. They really did a great job on social media, everyone’s posting about it. They did a great job on fan engagement and interaction, and I think that’s what fans want, they want to get close and get in the action with the players, and they want to see the emotions, and I think it was a great competition. The women’s will definitely have something, whether that’s with the men with Laver cup or our own thing. We’ll definitely do something like that in the future
Q: Who would your dreams mixed doubles and doubles partner be from Team World?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: I mean, Team World is stacked! I won with Jack (Sock), he’s unreal in doubles. When he gets those forehands, he punishes the ball, so I’m gonna throw Jack out there again. Women’s doubles from Team World… I’m going to have to go with…. so, Australia, I’m going to ask Ash Barty.
Q: Last question, Olympic singles gold medal, or a Grand Slam singles runners up?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Or a runners up?! You gotta go with the win. I think they’re both important. I mean, Olympics comes every four years so its a little bit more unique. But I want it all! Who doesn’t want it all? I want all the trophies!
Reilly Opelka Wins Maiden ATP Title at New York Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
American Reilly Opelka triumphed in the New York Open final, defeating first time ATP finalist Brayden Schnur, a young Canadian, 6-1 6-7 7-6 in 2 hours of tennis. The final two sets were decided by 9-7 tiebreaks, with Schnur taking the second set breaker but losing the third. Opelka’s 43 aces were the difference maker as he won 88% of his first serve points (with Schnur winning almost 7 in 10 of his service points). Schnur generated no break point chances in a tight match after the runaway first set for Opelka. Schnur saved break points in two different second set service games and saved a match point to force a third set.
In the third set Schnur faced three more break points at 1-2, and despite holding on and forcing a tiebreak he couldn’t hold his nerve. Opelka squandered three more match point chances but finally went up a minibreak 8-7 and served it out 9-7 to win his first ATP title.
The result moves Opelka into the top 60 for the first time in his career, while Schnur moves to world #107, just outside the top 100 after he made the final as a qualifier.
The German pairing of Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies combined to take the doubles title against Santiago Gonzalez and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.
Americans D. Young, DiLorenzo Headed For @USOpen Qualifying Finals Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Nothing ever comes seems to come easy to Donald Young and today was no exception. Today at US Open qualifying in New York, he sleep-walked through the first set against Simone Bolelli and was bageled in front of a roaring American crowd. Yet, as the Donald does, he persevered in three to fight another day, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“I don’t know I did it,” he told me after the match and in between being hounded for autographs and selfies. “I kept fighting and got the W somehow. I don’t know, really. I’m happy to just be moving on.”
He appreciated the fan support from Court 11, the same court where American Ernesto Escobedo won a tough three-setter yesterday afternoon.
“It’s great,” he said. “US Open, the crowd is always good here. It’s always special to be here and play well.”
Young needs to beat Canadian Peter Polansky on Friday to advance.
Francesca DiLorenzo, 2018 US Open (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
Another American into the final round of qualifying before lunch was over was Francesca DiLorenzo in a straight sets win against Germany’s Antonia Lottner, 6-4, 7-5. Lottner has qualified before here in New York, but DiLorenzo shut the door on her today in a close one.
“I think there was a little bit of nerves for both sides in the beginning,” DiLorenzo said. “Neither of us were really able to break each other. But once I got into the match a bit and got more comfortable, I started getting in the zone and being a little more aggressive. So it was good.”
The US Open experience is special to her, too.
Francesca DiLorenzo, 2018 US Open (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
“I mean, it’s the US Open and it’s New York,” she said. “It’s incredible. I always love playing here. You get all the US fans supporting you on big courts. It’s just amazing. There’s no other place like it.”
DiLo plays former world top 10 Mona Barthel tomorrow for a main draw berth.
The first matches on Armstrong didn’t go particularly well for American players today. Sebastian Korda made history by winning the first game on the newly-constructed stadium, but dropped both sets making Facundo Bagnis the first winner there ever. He did it by a count of 6-4, 6-4. American Kristie Ahn was knocked off the court and out of qualifying in 45 minutes by Ons Jabeur by a score of 6-2, 6-2. Evan King took the first set from Stefano Travaglia on Armstrong this afternoon before Travaglia ‘prevaglied’ by a score of 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. That leaves Ernesto Escobedo as the last American of the day to say he won on New Armstrong the first day.
Tomorrow is Media Day at the US Open and this year, for the first time ever, it’s open to the public in Armstrong. Some in the pressroom are not excited about it, some because it gives them less exclusive access, and others because they think it will turn into a cheapened “Super Bowl” media experience. For the fans, it sounds like a welcome improvement and I look forward to it becoming a tradition at the US Open.
It is fair to say that a straight-set defeat to a player ranked outside the top 150 does not exactly bode well for a player’s fortunes at the upcoming US Open. John Isner was defeated by his compatriot Noah Rubin in the second round at Washington, with 6-4 7-6 a competitive scoreline on paper but not necessarily indicative of how lethargic Isner looked. This win propels Rubin into the top 140 for the first time in his career, but should not diminish the expectations of Isner at the US Open. The big-serving American is otherwise in stellar form, and will view this year’s US Open as his best chance to deliver an unlikely Grand Slam title.
It is not surprising that Isner looked fatigued and unable to power down his serves in usual emphatic fashion. Isner’s run to the semi-final at Wimbledon culminated in an epic battle against Kevin Anderson, which finished an incredible 7-6 6-7 6-7 6-4 26-24 in Anderson’s favour. Isner has more experience than most in dealing with exhausting matches, and his run to the Atlanta title two weeks later demonstrates how this season has seen the American finding new levels of consistency.
What will be even more encouraging for Isner is that his Atlanta title came with only one tie-break across his four matches. Tie-breaks have become synonymous with Isner because of his status as one of, if not the, leading server on the ATP tour, with his relative weakness in returning and moving around the court causing the 6ft 10in player to rarely break opponents’ serve. Therefore the ease with which he dispatched promising talent Alex De Minaur and the wily serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev without requiring a tie-break marks the development in Isner’s return game this year.
Isner may never return with the speed and guile of the world’s leading players, but perhaps he doesn’t need to. If his serve is on form then there is little an opponent can do, so it is a case of Isner being ruthless on return to maximise break opportunities. Despite Isner’s strong form this year, he is still often underappreciated when it comes to discussing potential Slam winners; Isner has odds of 40/1 in tennis betting with bet365 to win the US Open title, placing him behind the likes of Denis Shapovalov, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Isner is in far better form than many of those considered more likely to triumph at Flushing Meadows, and will know that this year’s US Open could represent the best chance he’ll get to win a Grand Slam.
While the ability to rely on his serving game will ensure that the 33 year-old will remain a dangerous foe on the ATP tour for a few more years, this could be the defining tournament of Isner’s career. This year has seen him soar to a career-best ranking of 8, and his run at Wimbledon was his first Grand Slam semi-finals. Therein lies the biggest concern with Isner’s prospects; the American has never gone beyond the quarter-final in his home Grand Slam.
The last two US Open tournaments have seen Isner fall in early rounds as a heavy pre-match favourite, but his defeat to Roger Federer in the round-of-sixteen in 2015 will give him more encouragement. The scoreline of 7-6 7-6 7-5 epitomises how Isner has the ability to keep matches close against the sport’s elite. The margins are always narrow in a tie-break; Isner could feasibly dominate on serve for forty minutes before bringing some clutch playing to nick the tie-break. He won’t always be able to do that against returners of the calibre of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but he may not need to. The US Open draw last year blew wide open and saw Anderson make a shock run to the final. If the stars align for Isner this year, he could defy the odds to become the first American to win the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2003.
Kokkinakis, Bolt, Rubin, and Gunneswaran Secure BB&T Atlanta Open Main Draw Spots Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
BB&T Atlanta Open Qualifying for 2018 concluded on Sunday with the four qualifiers set. Two of them are Australian as Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-2 7-6 in just over an hour and a half, and Alex Bolt defeated Denis Kudla in the last match of the day 6-7 6-3 6-3 in 2 hours.
Kokkinakis got off to a great start with an immediate break, and for his part wasn’t broken in the match despite a few spare chances for Hurkacz of Poland. The second set was much closer but from 6-6 Kokkinakis won two consecutive points to secure his qualification. Hurkacz would go on to make the main draw as a lucky loser.
Bolt dropped the opening set despite breaking back after going down a break. He played a poor tiebreak to hand Kudla a one set lead. Kudla couldn’t maintain his advantage though, he was broken in the opening game of set 2 and then once more in the final game of the second set, all while failing to pressure Bolt in the Australian’s service game. That theme continued in the third set, Kudla offered little on return and despite saving an early break point on his serve, he was broken to go 4-2 down in the third, and eventually lost the match.
The remaining qualifiers were American Noah Rubin and India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran. Gunneswaran made his ATP main draw debut in Stuttgart just a few weeks back, and now he’s into his second ATP main draw at the age of 28. He also won his first challenger title this year, and perhaps next will make his main draw debut in a Grand Slam. Gunneswaran eased past Tommy Paul 6-3 6-3 in just over an hour, he wasn’t broken in the match.
Rubin eased past a previously in-form Jason Jung 6-4 6-2 in a match that was also just past an hour. Rubin did not face a break point and had relatively smooth sailing to reach his third ATP main draw this year.
Davis Cup Heroes Isner, Querrey, Sock, and Harrison Feature at ATP Houston 2018 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, a 250 stop on the ATP tour, feature all the members of the USA Davis Cup Team and a host of others battling it out on North America’s only ATP clay court event.
Wins at the Davis Cup and in Miami set John Isner up to beat Dustin Brown/Henri Laaksonen, then Frances Tiafoe or Steve Johnson to reach the semis. Johnson faces fellow American Ernesto Escobedo, while Tiafoe takes on fellow American Mackenzie McDonald. Tiafoe should beat Johnson in round 2.
Jack Sock has had a rough season and I’ll back Yoshihito Nishioka, a qualifier, to test him in round 2 after upsetting Horacio Zeballos. I’ll go with Sock to advance to the quarters opposite Taylor Fritz or Ryan Harrison. Fritz opens with Tim Smyczek, while Harrison takes on qualifier Miomir Kecmanovic. Everyone in this section needs form, but I’ll hack Sock over Harrison to advance.
Sam Querrey will face Guido Pella or Stefan Kozlov. Pella is struggling badly and thus Querrey is a heavy favorite to reach the quarters. Tennys Sandgren takes on Blaz Kavcic, then Nicolas Kicker or Donald Young for a spot in the quarters. Both Young and Sandgren are in awful form, and I’ll go with Kicker to advance from the section with wins over Young and Sandgren before falling to Querrey.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Fernando Verdasco is looking like a fantastic quarterfinal matchup. Verdasco opens with Denis Kudla, then Taro Daniel or Ivo Karlovic. Kyrgios should be tested by Bjorn Fratangelo or countryman Jordan Thompson before the quarterfinals. I’ll go with Verdasco on clay to advance past Kyrgios and into the semis, but either player could win the whole tournament.
Juan Martin Del Potro and Milos Raonic Join Top Americans at ATP Delray Beach Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 250 stop in Delray Beach is event #2 on the USA’s ATP World Tour Schedule for 2018. Here is your full preview and predictions for this outdoor hard court tournament.
Top seed Jack Sock faces journeyman J.P. Smith in the opening round. Sock badly needs some wins but should have a tough customer in Ryan Harrison awaiting in round 2. Harrison needs to defeat American wild card Reilly Opelka in the opening round. Caught up in accusations of racism last week in New York, Harrison’s head may be somewhere else and I’ll go with Sock to find form and continue to demonstrate why he’s the American #1.
John Isner is struggling and faces an opponent he just lost to in New York, Radu Albot. As unlikely as it may be, I’ll go with Albot to defeat Isner again before falling to Peter Gojowczyk/Lukas Lacko in round 2. Isner is way out of sorts. Sock over Gojowczyk is my pick in the quarters.
New York Open champion Kevin Anderson faces Evgeny Donskoy in the opening round. Donald Young/Ramkumar Ramanathan will follow. Anderson should be the favorite until he reaches the quarters. Milos Raonic should await at that stage. The Canadian is hoping to make a solid showing after struggling to start the season. Raonic faces Taro Daniel, Nikoloz Basilashvili/Steve Johnson will follow. I’ll back Raonic to reach the quarters and upset a tired Anderson at that stage.
Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Hyeon Chung is a potential quarterfinal matchup that fans will be eager to watch. Del Potro opens with Jeremy Chardy, Matt Ebden/Frances Tiafoe will follow. Chung opens with Cam Norrie, Franko Skugor/Alexander Bublik will follow. I’ll go with Del Potro to power past Chung. Both players are solid, but Del Potro is tough on a hard court.
I’ll back Canadian Denis Shapovalov to have a solid tournament. Shapovalov will have to get past Ivo Karlovic, but presuming he wins that match he’ll get Jared Donaldson or a tired Adrian Mannarino in round 2. New York finalist Sam Querrey faces Taylor Fritz, Dudi Sela/Mikhail Youzhny will follow. Shapovalov over a tired Querrey is my quarterfinal pick.
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of conducting a short phone interview with former Grand Slam champion Michael Chang. Chang, now 43, won the 1989 French Open title as a 17 year old and also reached three other Grand Slam finals (French Open 1995, Australian and US Open’s 1996). Chang earned 34 titles over the course of his career and reached as high as #2 in the ATP rankings.
Now at a new stage in his life in tennis, the now retired Chang is coaching Kei Nishikori, and was working with him when Kei reached the US Open final last year, as he continues to set the benchmark for Asian men’s tennis. The interview is below, and thank you to the BB&T Atlanta Open, and the Emirates Airlines US Open Series for helping to arrange the interview. Also thanks of course to Michael for taking the time out to conduct it, given his busy schedule.
Q: What are your thoughts on Kei Nishikori’s play this year and what are your expectations for his upcoming Wimbledon?
Chang:“Kei has been doing well, he’s off to a good start this year, what’s been encouraging is he hasn’t had any injuries compared to last year. Physically he’s doing much better, has two titles under his belt, and has been playing solid tennis. (At the French) I was hoping hoping he would do better than quarters, had a good opportunity against Tsonga but got off to a poor start in tough, windy conditions, clawed his way back, came up short. He’s on the grass now, getting ready for Wimbledon in Halle, I’m excited for him”
Q: You were one of the rare teenage Grand Slam Champions, do you think we’ll see another male teen win a slam in the near future?
Chang:“Teenage slam champion is always a possibility. It’s getting more and more difficult for teenage boys to break through and win at this level, the guys now are so physical, it’s just a lot harder these days, take a look at how many teens are in the top 100 when I was playing compared to now, big difference. (This) goes to show how physical tennis has gotten, how hard the guys are hitting with spin, and generating speeds on the racquet that they didn’t have before. (It’s) difficult for younger players to keep up and win, in a situation needing 7 matches and 3 out of 5 sets”
Q: You famously utilized the underarm serve (link) to success in that French Open final against Ivan Lendl, do you feel more ATP players should add that to their game?
Chang: “I wouldn’t encourage it, when I threw in that serve with Ivan it was such a unique situation in the spur of the moment, it’s the only time I’ve ever done it in my career. I had never done at any other stage on the ATP tour and I wouldn’t encourage it, except in specific circumstances”
Q: Talk about the difference between being a traveling top player on the ATP Tour, and now one of the ATP supercoaches with Kei, how are the roles different?
Chang: ” (It’s) not something I was expecting. (I was) not seeking a coaching position at the time, for me it was a unique situation, there have been very few Asian men that have done very well on tour.. Kei at the time was #17 in the world and having a hard time breaking into the top 10, only been a couple of Asian men who have done that. Asian women have done well though, including Li Na, while the men have struggled. This was a unique opportunity to have some influence, and to help a young talented Kei Nishikori break in to the next level. It’s been rewarding, and fun to see him improve and have success. It’s been tough on family, my wife and girls who I take everywhere, it’s nice to be together with my family. Travel can be difficult at times with two kids and one on the way, not sure how dynamic will change with new baby. Its been a great experience and I’ve enjoyed it. Want to help Kei improve and win a Grand Slam”
Q: You referenced Asian men’s tennis in the previous question, on that note, what are your thoughts on South Korean young gun Hyeon Chung and his rise up the rankings?
Chang: “He’s scheduled to play in Atlanta (at the BB&T Atlanta Open), (I) haven’t been able to see him play yet. ATP Atlanta, is a great opportunity for him to start off the US Open Series and get used to the hard courts, I’ve been following his results, and tennis is so popular in Atlanta. Hopefully he’ll continue to head in the right direction and make a splash in the US Open Series. It’s a tough field in Atlanta with top Americans. It’s nice to see the Americans doing well, some of the young Americans breaking through”
Q: What are your thoughts on the current crop of young American men, and American men’s tennis, can any of them win a Grand Slam?
Chang: “I’m not sure we can talk about slam titles at this stage, there are about 5 or 6 young American teens including Jared Donaldson, Stefan Kozlov and Frances Tiafoe who have been doing well. Even some of the older guys, Isner, Sock, Johnson, and Young have been doing well and improving. American men’s tennis is bright and encouraging now, hopefully they will do well in the US Open Series, it’s looking better now than it was a few years ago”.
Life on Tour with Jean-Yves Aubone (@JYNole): February 2015 Update #2
Jean-Yves Aubone, Tennis Atlantic
February 2015 Update #2-Atlanta,Georgia, USA
For two full years I’ve been training and staying in shape. I take two months off of tennis because of an injury and the first few days are as if I’ve never trained at any point in my life. I’ve always been astonished at how easy it is for someone to lose their fitness and how difficult it is to get it back. It really isn’t fair. During the last few weeks of recovery from my achilles bursitis I went through some swim and weight lifting programs to get my fitness back. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for a normal training program that is tailored for professional athletes. On the first day back at Ginepri Performance Tennis Academy in Atlanta I found myself getting my tail kicked by a few of the 14 and 15 year olds in the gym. Not only was I slower than them but they were using heavier weights than me! I felt so pathetic that sometimes I just had to laugh. It was a very humbling experience, but I knew it was just part of the process of getting back to professional shape.
JY doing single leg box jumps
As tough as it’s been to get my fitness levels up, it’s been even tougher getting my movement back. When I first started to practice I realized that I still had some discomfort in my achilles. After roughly 7 weeks off this should not have been the case. Both my strength/conditioning coach (Paul Fortunato from Ozone Fitness) and my physical therapist (Barbara Vaughn from SET Physical Therapy) watched me play and noticed that I needed to change the biomechanics of how I run. I was using my calf/achilles/foot area as my main source of energy when going to hit the next shot. This was causing a continuous aggravation of my achilles bursitis. I should have been using my glutes as my main source of energy. In order to achieve this I needed to make sure I was maintaining the athletic position while I moved. Once I’m in the athletic position the hips are loaded correctly and my glutes become my main source of energy. This relieves pressure from the lower leg area and allows me to be lighter and quicker.
To make this adjustment on court I’ve had to go through some practices just doing basic beginner basket feeding drills at a very slow place. If I tried to go too fast then I would move incorrectly and start to feel some discomfort in the achilles area. I spent a lot of time practicing with Robby Ginepri and at first there were many times when I struggled to continue long rallies. My feet couldn’t keep up. If I did keep up it was because I was moving incorrectly causing more discomfort. In the gym we focused a lot on strengthening the glutes through exercises such as single leg dead lifts and lunges.
There were definitely some moments of frustration during this training block. We are always making technical or strategical adjustments in my game but relearning how to move is a rare one. Throw in the fear of re-injuring myself and my patience was definitely tested. I’ll never forget how happy I was when I first started to really feel a big improvement with my movement. It was about two weeks in to my training and I was in the middle of my first full on practice set at Georgia Tech against one of their players. In between one of the points I turned to my coach Joseph O’Dwyer and said, “man, I’m losing but I’m so happy to be playing.”