April 15th, 2016
Friday Tennis Blog: 69-Year-Old Pro Living Dream; Fed Cup Weekend
FLORIDA’S FALKENBERG LIVING HER PRO TENNIS DREAM
The tennis love story of Gail Falkenberg and the pro game came to the fore of the media this week when the 69-year-old former University of Central Florida tennis coach played the qualifying of a USTA Pro Circuit event in Alabama, beating a 22-year-old before losing to former world No. 1 junior and 19-year-old Taylor Townsend (watch the video). Falkenberg, a self-taught player who walked on at UCLA, has been playing at the lowest levels of pro tennis off and on since she was 38. At the 1988 Australian Open she won a match in the qualifying tournament. In the 1990s she ran out of money and coached at UCF, also coaching basketball. Prior to this week it had been 18 years since she won a USTA Pro Circuit-level match, going 0-32 in matches over the last four years, and getting double-bageled more than 15 times in that span. Her entry into the USTA Pro Circuit qualifying events is via 12 USTA rankings points she earned playing the annual US Open National Playoffs tournament. Her big dream? To win a match after she turns 70. “I enjoy being around the younger generation,” she told ESPN. “And my game gives the kids more trouble than the older players, believe it or not…I know I can keep getting better. There’s always something to work on with tennis.”
BRYAN BROS. WIN TITLE 110 BUT FIGHTING DROUGHT
When you talk about tennis records that will never be broken, you’re unlikely talking about a record that’s still being set — but the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, may never stop playing tennis. Last weekend the 37-year-olds won their first title of the year at Houston, their 110th career title as a team. The brothers have struggled a bit of late, last weekend ending their longest title drought to start a season since 2003. This year the Bryans were previously 0-1 in finals in seven events played, with one of their biggest wins a Davis Cup victory against Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt and John Peers in five sets. Last year the twins won six titles, their lowest championship haul in seven years, and came up short of winning a Grand Slam for the first time in 11 years. It’s a high bar to meet each year when you’re the Bryan brothers staring down 40 years old. “We’re looking forward to building momentum through the clay court season,” Bob said. Mike added, “It feels great to get over the hump and win number 110 after a bit of title drought.” This week in Monte Carlo the No. 5-seeded Bryans were upset in the second round, but the twins are gearing-up for a French Open run and the Davis Cup quarterfinals in July when the U.S. hosts Croatia.
Sloane Stephens was excited to win the Volvo Car Open final in Charleston last weekend — then got even more excited when she realized first prize came with a car…Aussie Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik took a dig at the Williams sisters for not playing Fed Cup this weekend…The Orlando Sentinel provided a video update on progress at the USTA National Campus in Orlando…Four teams are already signed-up for the Florida ‘Road to Vegas’ one-weekend USTA League event, see who is in the field…John Isner and coach Justin Gimelstob announced their amicable split last week…The WTA tour has operated at a financial loss over the last two years…Maria Sharapova’s doping bust may just be the tip of the iceberg after the testing that took place at the Aussie Open…Former world No. 7 Patty Schnyder returned to the WTA tour for the first time since 2011 in Charleston at age 37…Also returning? The tennis sweater is back…The pay for men and women may be equal at the Grand Slams, but the NYT points out it is otherwise quite unequal…38-year-old former world No. 2 Tommy Haas went under the knife again, but he will make another comeback.
Keys to Open for U.S. Fed Cup Saturday at Australia
It’s Fed Cup weekend, which for the U.S. means a playoffs-round match at Australia to move into the World Group for 2017. The Saturday-Sunday line-up will be:
Madison Keys (USA) vs. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
Christina McHale (USA) vs. Sam Stosur (AUS)
Keys vs. Stosur
McHale vs. Gavrilova
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Stosur/Casey Dellacqua (AUS)
Other World Group Playoffs matches will be Belarus at Russia, Italy at Spain, and Germany at Romania.
In World Group semifinals play, Switzerland hosts the Czech Republic, and France hosts the Netherlands to see who will advance to the 2016 Fed Cup final round.
They Said It
“Then I just went home and then told my mom and she was pretty upset. She said, ‘You’re just not a smart kid.'”
— Frances Tiafoe on missing a flight to a tournament because he was playing with his phone and didn’t realize the flight had boarded, via the ATP website
“I can beat basically most of the top players. Actually any player.”
— Svetlana Kuznetsova after reaching the Miami Open final, beating world No. 1 Serena Williams en route
“Tennis is an individual sport, but I loved my years at Stanford and in the Davis Cup for the camaraderie I had enjoyed playing soccer and baseball when I was young. When tennis is a team sport, it’s the best of both worlds.”
— Patrick McEnroe speaking to ESPN
Tennis on TV This Weekend
(EST, times subject to change)
5am-1pm — ATP Monte Carlo (live), Tennis Channel
9pm-1am — Fed Cup USA vs. AUS (live), Tennis Channel
7am-12:30pm — ATP Monte Carlo (live), Tennis Channel
9pm-1am — Fed Cup USA vs. AUS (live), Tennis Channel
6am-1pm — ATP Monte Carlo and Fed Cup (live), Tennis Channel