February 23rd, 2018

Friday Tennis Blog: Serena Surprises Kids; American Breakthroughs at ATP Delray; More

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PEACEBUILDING, CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN NEW USTA INITIATIVE

Kids from the Gainesville Aces in Motion after-school program

Children in after-school tennis programs in Gainesville will receive conflict-resolution skills, work on building positive relationships and communications, and more through a new USTA initiative, the Serve & Connect Community Engagement pilot program.

Community partners include the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association Aces in Motion tennis and education program, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Department, the USTA Foundation, and other local partners such as the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.

The center is named after River Phoenix, the Gainesville-based actor who died of an overdose in 1993, and was the older brother of siblings Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix, and Summer Phoenix. His mother Heart Phoenix runs the Gainesville center. The program’s launch will be this weekend, Feb. 24 from noon to 2 p.m. at T.B. McPherson Park in Southeast Gainesville. For more Gainesville Serve & Connect event info click here. 

 


OPELKA, ‘NEXT GEN’ AMERICANS ON THE MOVE

American rising starts Taylor Fritz, Jared Donaldson, Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka made statement wins in the opening round of the Delray Beach Open earlier this week. The 6-foot-11 Opelka followed his opening salvo with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 second-round victory over top-seeded defending champion, world No. 8 and fellow American Jack Sock.

“It’s definitely a great win for me. I don’t get too caught up in that, whatnot,” said the laid-back Opelka of Orlando, who trains at the USTA National Campus. “Jack’s a guy that I’ve always looked up to.”

The 20-year-old Opelka needed a wild card to get into the draw at No. 228 on the ATP rankings, and is entering his fourth year as a pro. Like many of the big men on tour, Opelka looks to use his serve-forehand combination to full effect, striking 17 aces, or an average of more than one ace per service game against Sock. This year is all upside for Opelka, who has already surpassed his best tour effort from 2017, and has no major ATP points to defend until May.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Serena on social media shares her ‘You don’t think I can get back to No. 1?’ stare

What’s better than a kid being part of Black Girls Code, an organization that provides technology education and opportunities for African American girls, AND getting a private screening of the movie Black Panther? How about Serena Williams showing up to watch it with you?…Roger Federer is ranked No. 1 again, a record 14 years and 17 days after he first became No. 1 in 2004. At 36 he is the oldest men’s player to rank No. 1, eclipsing Andre Agassi who held the top spot at 33. Federer is guaranteed to remain at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings through March 18, but the battle for top spot between the Swiss and Rafael Nadal will resume at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Federer also likes the Olympics — A LOT — and texts fellow Swiss athletes when they win. Federer says he would beat the Roger Federer who first became No. 1 at the age of 22 if they played today…Serena Williams wrote an op-ed for CNN provided a first-person account of her pregnancy complications in an appeal to aid pregnancy and infant healthcare around the world: “I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”…Venus Williams new clothing line has her teaming with her dogUSTA Florida League teams had their best year in 2017 since the inception of the league in 1980 — and the best in the country.



Americans in Every Quarterfinal Match at ATP Delray Beach

Frances Tiafoe

An American will feature in all four quarterfinal matches today at the Delray Beach Open after a string of upsets put two of the young Americans in career-best spots.

Twenty-year-old Frances Tiafoe is staring down a potential first career ATP semifinals berth after last night stunning former US Open winner and No. 2 seed Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-5. He was joined in the quarters Thursday by 20-year-old Taylor Fritz when the unseeded American defeated Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Americans into the quarters on Wednesday were wild card Reilly Opelka after the 20-year-old stunned No. 1 seed Jack Sock 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, and Steve Johnson who ousted No. 9 seed Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-4. Opelka is also looking for a first ATP semifinal berth.

“I think it’s good because we’re all doing well,” Fritz said of the run of the young Americans. “We’re matching up in a lot of ATP events now. It’s obviously showing that we are coming up and that we are hopefully going to be seen more often.”

On Friday’s quarterfinal slate will be Opelka vs. unseeded German Peter Gojowczyk, Johnson vs. unseeded Russian Evgeny Donskoy, Fritz vs. unseeded 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, and Tiafoe vs. No. 8 seed and Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung.

 

They Said It

“He should come over just like to hang out. I’m pretty lonely. My family isn’t here.”
Roger Federer last week in Rotterdam speaking to the media after learning his pal Rafael Nadal was in the country promoting his foundation

“Sloane was super sweet and funny she actually called us cute, little students. She was shocked to hear that we knew a lot about her already. Today we learned that Sloane loves mac and cheese and is a cheese lover.”
— Newsday “kidsday reporters” interviewing and reporting on Sloane Stephens this week

“I’ve been calling for this for 20 years now…the problem is that it takes [Novak] Djokovic [speaking out] to do that. And who’s going to do that for us?”
— WTA player Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on women players lacking a voice for unionizing, speaking to the New York Times

 

Tennis on TV This Weekend

(EST, times subject to change)

Friday
12:30pm — ATP Delray Beach/Rio de Janeiro (live), Tennis Channel
8:30pm — ATP Delray Beach/Rio de Janeiro (live), Tennis Channel

Saturday
10:30am — College Tennis: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M (live), Tennis Channel
1pm — ATP Delray Beach/Rio de Janeiro (live), Tennis Channel
9pm — ATP Delray Beach/Rio de Janeiro (live), Tennis Channel
10:30pm — ATP Marseille (delay), Tennis Channel

Sunday
12:30pm — ATP Delray Beach/Rio de Janeiro (live), Tennis Channel
5:30pm — ATP Marseille (delay), Tennis Channel

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