April 13th, 2018
Friday Tennis Blog: U.S. to Host Davis Cup Final? Americans in Houston; More
U.S. DAVIS CUP 1ST IN 6 YEARS
The U.S. Davis Cup team is into the semifinals for the first time since 2012 after blanking Belgium 3-0 last weekend at at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
It is the first semifinal appearance since the U.S. beat Switzerland 5-0 then France 3-2 six years ago before Spain’s David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro blanked John Isner and Sam Querrey in singles on red clay in Spain. The Bryan brothers provided the only highlight during that tie, defeating Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in front of a capacity crowd at the Parque Hermanos Castro in Gijon, Spain.
Six years later, now-veteran versions of Isner and Querrey will likely travel to Croatia on Sept. 14-16 to face former US Open winner Marin Cilic and rising star Borna Coric. Croatia advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan. If the U.S. is victorious in September it will play host to either Spain or France in the final.
COST-CUTTING COLLEGES CLOSING TENNIS PROGRAMS WITH MAJORITY INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS
There has been a long-time call to limit the number of international students on tennis teams across the U.S. Many schools feature all-international player rosters, and more schools each year feel they need to adopt the strategy to stay competitive. NCAA college tennis has the fewest Americans participating percentage-wise of any NCAA sport.
One result is that when universities are faced with cutting sports programs, they more and more look to all-international-player tennis teams. Eastern Kentucky University, faced with a $25 million budget shortfall, cut academic programs, closed campuses, cut more than 150 jobs, and cancelled only one sport — men’s and women’s tennis. No reason was given for cutting only tennis among all sports, but EKU’s men’s and women’s teams only had one American player between them.
Tennis programs over the last few years have fallen at Southern Illinois University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Evansville, Stony Brook, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Clayton State, junior college national champion Vincennes University, Stephens College, Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne, University of Nebraska-Kearney, and University of Hartford, to name only a few.
Hartford cut their men’s and women’s tennis teams citing how costly it is to remain competitive (i.e. recruiting international players) while at the same time adding women’s lacrosse. College tennis is a great incubator to grow the sport, both recreationally and professionally. But unless international player limits are enacted, the U.S. college tennis landscape will continue to shrink, putting a target on its own back for the ever-increasing number of schools looking to cut costs.
The Orlando Business Journal reports the USTA National Campus will soon be joined in the Lake Nona Sports & Performance District by a $20 million Orlando City Soccer training facility, a new eight-story Lake Nona Resort catering to sports performance and well-being, a water-sports park, and is seeking to become the new home of USA Gymnastics…Yesterday the US Open announced it will employ a 25-second “shot clock” in main draw play this year…Tennis Channel execs say they expect ad revenue to increase to $62 million in 2018 with approximately 60 million subscribers. Last month the Tennis Channel app was the second-highest grossing sports app on Apple TV…Borg vs McEnroe gets it release today in the U.S…College tennis matches are great ways to get kids, or groups of kids, to aspire to college play. This Sunday at the USTA National Campus in Orlando features the “War on I-4” when the University of Central Florida men face the University of South Florida in the last College MatchDay battle of the season…Rafael Nadal is proposing building an extension of his Spanish tennis academy in Boca Raton, featuring 37 or more indoor courts…American Madison Brengle is suing the WTA tour for approximately $10 million for injuries caused during anti-doping tests where she disclosed she has a rare condition triggered by needles, and she subsequently had to drop out of tournaments…Serena and Venus Williams have joined the advisory board of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and its push for equal pay across all job types…On the 25th anniversary of becoming No. 1, Pete Sampras reflects on the feat and talks about his 12 and 15 year old kids’ relationships with tennis…The annual Team USA camp for boys begins today at the USTA National Campus to determine the eight positions on the USTA National Junior Team…Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys will headline the U.S. Fed Cup team in the semifinals in a week’s time…Madison Keys, a big anti-bullying advocate, is also fighting mean tweets by reading aloud positive tweets.
Houston, We Have 5 Americans in the Quarters
Three former Houston winners and an additional American rising star moved into the quarterfinals of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston on Thursday.
Top-seeded John Isner won his eighth match in a row after the Miami Open title and a Davis Cup win last weekend, defeating Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 6-4, 6-2. The 32-year-old in the Friday quarterfinals will face countryman and defending champion Steve Johnson, who beat fellow American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4.
“It was windy today,” Johnson said afterwards. “I just felt like things were going to go both ways, good and bad…You really can’t let the little things affect you.”
Another all-American quarterfinal Friday will be Taylor Fritz, who beat countryman Ryan Harrison 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, against former champion Jack Sock, who defeated Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 6-4. American Tennys Sandgren will also take on Argentine Guido Pella.
Sock is 2-0 career with two five-set wins against Fritz, triumphing in 2016 7-6(3), 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4 at the US Open, and 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the Australian Open that same year. No American women are into weekend play this week at WTA events in Bogota and Lugano (Switzerland). Next week is Fed Cup for the women, and the ATP moves to the Masters-level event at Monte Carlo.
They Said It
“I am in my 70s, so I am looking to younger people to take up the mill as I phase out over time. I’ve got energy right now, so we’re teeing everything up so we’re in great shape for the legacy of the BJKLI, because I want it to have a life after I’m out of here.”
— Billie Jean King on Serena and Venus Williams joining the board of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which strives for equal pay across all job types, speaking to the AP
“I hit the floor. I passed out from the pain.”
— American player Madison Brengle on her first needle-drawn anti-doping blood test, speaking to the New York Times. She has a medical condition that causes extreme pain when a needle is inserted into her arm.
“I thought I was the hardest-working person on the planet. I thought we were the hardest-working industry. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s all malarkey.”
— Serena Williams‘ husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian on his wife’s work ethic, speaking to the New York Times
Tennis on TV This Weekend
(EST, times subject to change)
6am — ATP Marrakech (live), Tennis Channel
11:30am — WTA Lugano/Bogota (live), Tennis Channel
1pm — ATP Houston (live), Tennis Channel
7am — ATP Marrakech (live), Tennis Channel
2pm — ATP Houston (live), Tennis Channel
7am — ATP Monte Carlo/Marrakech (live), Tennis Channel
3pm — ATP Houston (live), Tennis Channel
5:30pm — College Tennis: UCF vs. USF (live), Tennis Channel