June 13th, 2014

Friday Tennis Blog: Rafa Upset; Florida Star Emerging; More

Friday Blog
Mauresmo, in addition to needing a great many beverages during press conferences, is also the current French Fed Cup captain

Amelie Mauresmo, in addition to needing a great many beverages during press conferences, is also the current French Fed Cup captain

MURRAY HIRES MAURESMO — The “Andy Murray Glare” at his coaches box is legendary, and is usually accompanied by some choice bleeped-out words, scowls or other gestures. Following the likes of legendary coaches such as Brad Gilbert and Ivan Lendl, now Amelie Mauresmo has become the recipient of Murray’s gaze during matches after the former WTA world No. 1 was announced in a surprise as the Scot’s latest coach. “Amelie is someone I have always looked up to and admired,” Murray said. “She’s faced adversity plenty of times in her career, but was an amazing player and won major titles, including Wimbledon.” Mauresmo won two Slams, and perhaps more importantly coached fellow Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli to the Wimbledon championship. Could success see more women coaching men pros, just as Lendl’s success coaching Murray spawned a succession of high-profile coaches? The partnership, which is reportedly only through the grasscourt season, after which the two will undertake long-term discussions, got off on a miss-step when Murray was upset Thursday prior to the quarterfinals in London.

Katrina Stewart (right) with legendary Florida junior tennis organizer Bobby Curtis

Katrina Stewart (right) with legendary Florida junior tennis organizer Bobby Curtis

STEWART INTO EVERT RARIFIED AIR — Coral Gables’ 16-year-old Katerina Stewart is not on the U.S. “next American champ” radar — yet — but that is likely to change soon. This week Stewart became the first player to win a USTA Pro Circuit event and then come back and win a title at the Florida state junior championships. The 16-year-old won her second Girls’ 18s title on Wednesday in Daytona Beach at the 66th annual USTA Florida ‘Bobby Curtis’ Junior State Championships. Her fourth age division title overall, it put her in the rare “Four Title Club” with the likes of Chris and Jeanne Evert. She because the first player in 27 years to win four Florida junior state titles, since Vince Spadea’s sister Luanne in the 1980s. “Maybe I will come back,” she said with a smile. Stewart says that while she has had pro-level success, she likes to use major junior tournaments to try things out and refine skills. “This tournament really helps me focus on my development, that’s the reason I’m playing these tournaments,” said Stewart, who will compete at USTA Pro Circuit events this summer, then play the US Open junior tournament.

Cuba's Ernesto Alfonso (right)

Cuba’s Ernesto Alfonso (right); photo: ITF

CUBA’S TOP PLAYERS SEEK U.S. ASYLUM IN MIAMI — It’s no secret the Communist-ruled island of Cuba is a difficult place for artists and athletes, among others. Over the last four years, reportedly at least 35 Cuban ballet dancers have sought asylum in the U.S. or other countries. Now the tennis players are jumping ship. This week Cuba lost two Davis Cup players when Randy Blanco, 21, and Ernesto Alfonso, 24, ducked out for Miami after a regional Davis Cup zonal event in Puerto Rico. Blanco had won in singles, while Alfonso had lost in doubles for Cuba as the squad fell to Puerto Rico. Cuban men’s tennis reached its zenith in 1993 when the Cuban Davis Cup team reached the World Group for the first and only time, led by current Miami resident Mario Tabares. Cuban tennis has struggled during the current regime, with a four-year absence from Davis Cup competition altogether from 2009-12, and currently no men listed in singles or doubles on the ATP Rankings.

Americans Stephens, Johnson Navigate Grasslands Into the Weekend; Rafa Upset

????????One American woman and one American man have survived the first week of the grasscourt season thus far headed into the weekend, and will compete in quarterfinal play today on the WTA and ATP circuits.

U.S. women went 1-3 on Thursday at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham on grass as No. 3 seed Sloane Stephens advanced into the quarterfinals, defeating No. 15-seeded countrywoman Alison Riske 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-1.

“It hasn’t been bad,” Stephens told the media regarding her first year staying in Europe following the French Open for the full two-week grasscourt season ahead of Wimbledon. “It’s not that brutal. It’s okay. And obviously being somewhere where they speak English fully everywhere, that’s a great thing.”

Coco Vandeweghe came to the verge of an upset in a 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 loss to No. 6 seed Klara Koukalova, and fellow American Lauren Davis lost to top-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-1.

Stephens on Friday will play No. 9 seed Shuai Zhang of China.

Unseeded Steve Johnson is the last American man flying the flag this week on the ATP side after receiving a walkover Thursday against Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. The knee injury to the Russian put Johnson, the former two-time NCAA men’s champion for the USC Trojans, into Friday’s quarterfinals where he will meet No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori.

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal was shocked in second-round play yesterday in Halle by wildcard German Dustin Brown, who played some inspired tennis in front of the home crowd, winning 6-4, 6-1. No. 2 seed Roger Federer avoided a similar fate, rebounding from a first-set loss to defeat Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-2.

Unseeded Sam Querrey was the last American man exiting the Aegon Championships in London on Thursday, but the grasscourts also took their toll in overall upsets as No. 3 seed Andy Murray and No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were upended. Querrey lost to top-seeded Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2, while Murray was defeated by No. 15 seed Radek Stepanek, and Tsonga lost to Aussie Marinko Matosevic, all in straight sets.

They Said It

“I don’t know. If I had the answer, I would definitely let you guys in on something.”
— American Sloane Stephens on why she plays her best tennis at the Grand Slams


Ernests Gulbis

“My guy has no chance against Djokovic. I told him this. I am honest. I think he’s not happy with it, but he probably agrees to a certain extent with me.”
Ernests Gulbis’ coach Gunther Bresnik before his pupil faced Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals

“I don’t know what happened to me. I was just overwhelmed by emotion. I had no boy to kiss, so I kissed my racquet, right?”
Andrea Petkovic after defeating former finalist Sara Errani at the French Open


Tennis on TV This Weekend

TV multi colorFriday
1-5pm — WTA Birmingham (delay), Tennis Channel
5-9pm — ATP Halle (delay), Tennis Channel
9pm-1am — ATP London/Queen’s (delay), Tennis Channel

7am-12pm — Varied tournament coverage (live), Tennis Channel
12-4pm — WTA Birmingham (delay), Tennis Channel
4-8pm — ATP Halle (delay), Tennis Channel
8pm-12am — ATP London/Queen’s (delay), Tennis Channel

8-11am — Varied tournament coverage (live), Tennis Channel
12-2pm — WTA Birmingham (delay), Tennis Channel
2-4pm — ATP Halle (delay), Tennis Channel
4-6pm — ATP London/Queen’s (delay), Tennis Channel