May 2nd, 2014
Friday Tennis Blog: Big Military Tennis Week; Tallahassee Tussle
WIMBLEDON MAKES IT RAIN — In the last of their epic Wimbledon final meetings in 1981, John McEnroe defeated Bjorn Borg for the championship, earning a little over $35,000 U.S. Following last week’s Wimbledon announcement, first round losers in 2014 will earn more than $45,000, a 14.9 percent increase over the previous year’s first-round prize money. According to a Wimbledon press release, “At the heart of the increase is a wish by the Club to continue to build on the work of the last two years targeting the increases to the side of the draw which it was felt needed it most — those players who lose in the early rounds or in qualifying.” It was a welcome announcement by those players outside the Top 100 who scrape by on the tours, and those with even lower rankings who get by on the Challenger and ITF circuits, but squeak into the Slam draws. “The costs and expenses involved in being a Top 100 player are huge, and while they are not pleading poverty they are not making huge sums of money either for world class athletes,” said All England Club Chief Executive Richard Lewis.
MILITARY TAKE TO THE COURT — It was a big week for the military and tennis in Florida, with two events honoring U.S. servicemen and women — both current, retired and fallen. The renowned Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in Ft. Lauderdale held a tennis event that included Marines, Coast Guard and Navy servicemen and women during Fleet Week Port Everglades. U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships come to the port this time each year, and the community honors the military onboard with a series of events. One of the ships in port this week was the USS New York, which carried significant sentiment as pieces of the Twin Towers post-9/11 were melted to create part of its hull. Another event on the Florida Panhandle saw former Top 10-ranked Dick Stockton, former world No. 2 Andrea Jaeger, and former Wimbledon doubles champion JoAnne Russell among those participating in the “T-3 — Thanking Our Troops Through Tennis” event at Eglin Air Force Base. “This was one of my most memorable experiences to be able to give back and say thank you to our troops and family members for all that they have done and sacrificed for our country,” said TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort Director of Tennis and USPTA-Florida Vice President Joe D’Aleo.
FUNDING THE FUTURE OF U.S. TENNIS — If getting racquets in kids’ hands is the future of the U.S. recreational tennis base, then school tennis is where that future is at. The USTA Florida Section Foundation is laying the “foundation” (get it!) for youth tennis with grants to schools and school programs such as the School of Arts and Sciences Charter School in Tallahassee, which received $1,250 for 10 and Under Tennis and standard tennis equipment. “I gave [tennis] up as a child because I had hurt my arm and elbow in PE class,” said Extended Day Director Kate Taluga. “I am looking forward to the low-impact activity the 10 and Under Tennis program offers. I realized as I read the coaching website and the Play Day materials that USTA had done their homework in establishing resources that fit all the different flavors of after-school programming there are. The coaching online modules align so well with current thinking about out-of-school programs and developmental stages of students. The support of [USTA Florida and national staff] personally coming to our school and doing walk-abouts with me as we accessed our facilities for Play Day activities and regular classes is completely amazing. Personal attention by large organizations like USTA is difficult to manage. I feel that USTA has been stellar in their support of after school programming.” The school is also planning “Early Release Play Days” in concert with other area schools that received tennis equipment grants, and will host its first Play Day in May. If you’re a school or school program, apply for a foundation grant today.
Tallahassee Tussle for USTA Men’s French Open Wild Card
U.S. players are largely absent or out of the running this week at ATP and WTA claycourt events in Portugal and Munich, but some intrigue remains here is Florida at the Tallahassee Challenger, where up-and-coming American men are battling the veterans for a French Open main draw wildcard spot, courtesy of the USTA.
Tallahassee is the last stop on the men’s three-tournament Har Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge swing, with last year’s wild card winner Alex Kuznetsov and former Top 15-ranked Robby Ginepri chasing current standings leader Daniel Kosakowski for a ticket into the main draw of the French Open.
“I’m not even thinking about the wild card. I just know who I play,” said the No. 5 seed Kuznetsov, who on Friday faces top seed and fellow American Donald Young.
Ginepri will next meet No. 7 seed James Ward, who was last seen helping Andy Murray and Great Britain knock the U.S. Davis Cup team into the Playoffs round.
The claycourt tournament has been moved indoors to hardcourts to the facility at Florida State University over the last couple days due to torrential rains and flooding in the Florida Panhandle region.
“It’s been tough with the rain, but I don’t mind playing indoors,” Kuznetsov said. “Obviously I would have preferred clay but I’ve had good results indoors, so I don’t have a problem with it. You just adjust.”
They Said It
“I would never go back. [But Serena] was taught to make terrific decisions. Any decision she makes, I would be behind, 1,000 percent.”
— Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, speaking to the AP about returning to the Indian Wells tournament
“I’ve been working really hard both on and off the court, so these are the moments that I’ve been training for. It’s good to see that my hard work is paying off.”
— American Taylor Townsend after the 18-year-old former world No. 1 junior won her first USTA Pro Circuit title at Charlottesville last week.
“A lot of players by this point might have folded up and said, ‘I’m not doing this.’ But she feels like her game is at a peak and she still has four, five good years left.”
— Justin Sands, husband of American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands, speaking to Tennis.com’s Peter Bodo this week after Mattek-Sands’ second career hip surgery at age 29, following a severe shoulder injury, a broken foot, and knee surgery earlier in her career
Tennis on TV This Weekend
1pm — ATP/WTA Oeiras (delay), Tennis Channel
9pm — ATP Munich (delay), Tennis Channel
3pm — WTA Oeiras (delay), Tennis Channel
5pm — ATP Oeiras (delay), Tennis Channel
7pm — ATP Munich (delay), Tennis Channel