“Sharapova will play in the final,” says Zhukov. Myskina avoids the question.

Translation of Russian article by Dmitry Yegorov, 19 April 2015

http://www.sovsport.ru/gazeta/article-item/798062

There was a full house in Sochi. Vesnina and Pavlyuchenkova gave Lisicki and Kerber a roasting. Anastasia Myskina outsmarted Barbara Rittner, with the Russian team beating the Germans to reach the final of the Fed Cup. Accomplished, of course, without Maria Sharapova, who celebrated her birthday today in the States.

“SHARAPOVA WILL PLAY IN THE FINAL”

“The season’s very long. I don’t know. Anything could happen…” This was the most boring answer given at the post-victory press conference.

When she heard the question – “Will Maria play in the final?” – Anastasia Myskina got even more flustered than after the substitutions made in the German team for the doubles. Interestingly, the gentle, happy buzz that was coming from our five girls just stopped as they listened for the reply.

Intending to somehow stifle any disappointment caused by her reply, Myskina added: “Actually, Maria was sending text messages, saying that she was following the match and supporting us.”

“Following the match and supporting us” is obviously the right message for the hierarchy, but not at all what ordinary people wanted to hear. Those who are not Sharapova fans mentioned and continue to mention that Sharapova’s decision not to play was known a long time ago (if not always the case), but they kept that information from the packed stands.

In any case, all the tickets were sold, and those who bought them weren’t simply coming to watch tennis, but to give huge support.

Some VIPs attended the match on Sunday – Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko and President of the Olympic Committee Aleksandr Zhukov.

If you discount the words about tennis being unpredictable, but still being a great sport (the officials only saw Kuznetsova’s defeat and left along with IOC President Thomas Bach for the “SportAccord” conference where, for instance, they were finding out about orienteering), the only subject of conversation was also Sharapova.

“Of course, it’s a shame that Maria didn’t come. The fans were expecting her, but when you have a slight injury, what can you do?” Mutko began in a calm tone. But suddenly he gave a little bit more information. “You know yourselves, with the whole tour and ranking system, players aren’t in control of their own destiny, and need to make sacrifices.”

And we understood that Sharapova possibly could, but would hardly want to get any injuries.

In view of this, the next question was logical, this time addressed to Zhukov.
“The team has reached the final, but will Sharapova be going to the Olympics and will she play in the final of the Fed Cup?”

“First of all, the best players must feature in the squad. Secondly, Maria helped us a lot in Poland. Thirdly, we do actually have an agreement that Sharapova will definitely play in the final.”

Something which required proof.

The questions ended there on this important topic, even though not the most sport-related.

6-0 IN THE BATTLE OF THE CAPTAINS

Myskina was also asked other questions.

“Were you surprised that the German captain Barbara Rittner preferred Sabine Lisicki to Angelique Kerber in the doubles? The latter is a lefty and is currently in good form.”

“What are you talking about?” said Myskina provocatively. “You mean the doubles? Just today?”

In this instance, she wasn’t being rude answering a question with a question. It was just a sign of the sheer delight of someone who had just outwitted an expert in a game of bluff. Rittner has been in charge of the Germans for almost 10 years, compared with Myskina’s one year in the job. But, in the battle of the captains, the Russian won 6-0.

On paper, the German team was stronger than the Russians. In fact, the odds being offered by bookmakers were the same as if the men’s national football teams from both countries were playing each other in Sochi.

Rittner was in control. She confidently put players 3 and 4 in her team in the first matches – Lisicki and Görges. Just a slight hint as to how fresh Petkovic and Kerber would be on the second day.

Myskina didn’t respond to the bluff, although any loss on the first day would basically have meant the end of the tie. Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova were announced for all four singles matches.

The experienced Kuznetsova easily beat Görges. Pavlyuchenkova was actually match point down against Lisicki at 5-6 in the second set, but turned it around to win the third.

-Rittner, as expected, put out the fresh Kerber and Petkovic on the second day. The Russians won a total of four games between them, with Pavlyuchenkova going down 1-6, 0-6, and Kuznetsova 1-6, 2-6. This brought the score overall to 2-2, which is the best we could have hoped for.

Even before the doubles match Myskina was quite happy about all the mind games from Ritter. Pavlyuchenkova got the shout over the number one player Kuznetsova, and was paired with Vesnina for the doubles, even though she had lost badly 20 minutes before. The Kerber/Petkovic option made sense, but Kerber isn’t as good at doubles, and Petkovic wasn’t prepared to play two matches in one day. The Lisicki/Görges option was fresh, but too risky. In the end up, Rittner chose the simplest option, with an appearance by the established pair Petkovic and Lisicki, who went down 2-6, 3-6.

A SMART VICTORY

“You played great, especially with the interceptions,” Elena Vesnina was told at the press conference. After expressing her thanks, she was happy to continue.
“I’ve actually been following Petkovic and Lisicki playing doubles together. Katya Makarova and I just played against them in Indian Wells. I noticed two errors they made on that occasion, which I told Anastasia about today,” Elena said, letting the cat out of the bag. “That’s why the interceptions you mentioned worked. But overall, I need to say ‘thanks’ to Anastasia. She’s tired and has played in two very tough matches.”

“At last, I’ve remembered,” shouted Pavlyuchenkova from the other end of the table, who won the Universiad doubles with Vesnina two years previously.
The whole hall burst into laughter. And on this note, this victorious day came to an end.

Translated by Gerry.

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Interview with Dominic Thiem: “I’m a good guy and I like to show it, unlike Gulbis”

Translation of this Punto del Break piece by Juanma Muñoz

Dominic Thiem has granted an interview with Punto de Break in Barcelona, where he will compete in the Conde de Godó, starting on Tuesday.

At 21 years old, Dominic Thiem (No. 43 in the ATP rankings) is one of the players with the highest projection in world tennis. One day before his first match in the Conde de Godó against Victor Estrella Burgos, the young Austrian granted an interview with Punto de Break in the area reserved for players and coaches of the Royal Tennis Club of Barcelona.
A frequent user of social networks, he smiles when we ask him about the term “Bamos” which he frequently uses in his posts. “I know that’s not how it’s spelled,” he tells us while heading to the tables by around the pool.

What memories do you have of Spain in and away from the competition?

The majority are good memories. The first time that I came to Spain was to play junior tournaments. Last year, I came to Barcelona and Madrid where I had some very successful weeks. In Madrid, I beat Wawrinka, which was the first victory of my career against a top 10 player.

How long ago did you start doing your pre-season training in Tenerife?

Since four years ago. Tenerife is a great place, and it was a great time in December. It’s the perfect place to do pre-season training and it’s not too far from Europe (continental).

Why did you choose Tenerife?

Because Michal Novotny, the physiotherapist of Ernests Gulbis (with whom I shared a coach until a few months ago), had a centre there. It’s a good place.

I would like for you to explain to me what you military service in Austria consisted of. Have you already finished it?

Still no. I will finish it on April 31st. The first four weeks were very hard, because I had to be there all the time. Now, it’s fine because I can leave to play all the tournaments.

What did your military service consist of after the first four weeks?

If I’m in Vienna, I have to present myself at 7:30 in the morning.

Did you receive any special treatment for being an elite athlete?

No, I probably received worse treatment (laughing). I didn’t receive any special treatment.

You’ve changed your racquet this season (from Head Prestige to Babolat Pure Strike). Why?

I started to try out the new one in December, because I finished my contract with Head. I liked the new racquet a lot from the start. I started to play more with it and now I enjoy it a lot.

Your results in the first weeks of the year weren’t good. Have you completely adapted to the new racquet?

Yeah, it’s always difficult to change your racket and stringing, but now I’m completely adapted and I like it.

Have you noticed any change in your relationship with your coach Gunter Bresnik since the split with Gulbis and now he only coaches you?

I don’t think there is anything different, because I’ve been with him 11 or 12 years and in the first 9 or 10 I was also the only one with him.

He doesn’t dedicate more time to coach just one player?

Yes, of course, but we always practice all together, so it is the same.

You know Gulbis well. How would you describe his personality away from the court?

He is a good guy, but maybe he doesn’t want to show it. He has an interesting personality. I’ve learned a lot from him. It’s great sharing time with him.

And how is Thiem away from the court?

I think I’m a good guy and I like to show it, unlike Ernests (Gulbis). I have easy-going character. I don’t like complications.

When you were a kid, you used to play with a two-handed backhand. You changed it to a one-hander with Gunter. Was it a successful decision considering the way tennis has evolved?

Now I think it was a successful decision. It was difficult during the first years. I think that now I have a very good backhand. Maybe it made sense to change precisely because in modern tennis there is, mostly, two-handed backhands. That is an advantage for those of us that have one-handed backhands, because we have more variety, an easier effort, and can get to more balls… Each time there are less players with one-handed backhands and those of us that maintain it have an advantage.

It wasn’t long ago that you were playing junior tournaments. What are the most important differences that you noticed in the jump to professionalism?

It’s very hard, because as a junior, if you are good, you are already a star. You go to nice hotels… Then you got to play Futures and it’s completely different. You have to live by yourself. It’s not easy.

What is your main goal in tennis?

I think the main goal of any player is to win a Grand Slam. It’s the biggest thing that you can get in tennis.

Which is your favorite Grand Slam?

Roland Garros

And what do you think you need to improve to reach this goal?

Everything. There is nothing that I can’t improve. I should work hard each day so that I will be able to reach my goals.

And that’s Dominic Thiem, the good guy that writes “Bamos” and dreams of winning Roland Garros.

Translated by jpine

A long process for Eugenie by @JessicaLapinski

Translation of this piece from Le Journal de Montréal website by Jessica Lapinski

The short trip back home for Eugenie Bouchard didn’t have the desired result. On the contrary. In search of wins, “Genie” left Montréal with two losses instead. What’s more, two losses mired in controversy.

It was more than disappointing; it was sad. Those two matches, against courageous but beatable Romanians, were supposed to help cure her ailing confidence. Instead, it was a troubled, occasionally irritated Bouchard who showed up for the press conference after her second loss.

Only a little more than two months ago she was in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Yes, that wasn’t as good as her semi-final of the year before, but it was a result worthy of her world ranking of seven.

What happened in these last weeks for the future champion to transform into a player satisfied with simply keeping the ball in play? Into a player unable to beat an opponent ranked lower than 60th.?

What happened that caused Bouchard’s aggressive game, which allowed her to beat some of the best, to seemingly reverse itself?

No explanations

Sunday, even Eugenie herself couldn’t find reasons for her setbacks. “I really have no explanation. I don’t feel like myself on the court,” she declared, lamenting her uncharacteristic lack of aggression.

But as recently as Wednesday, Bouchard affirmed that she felt at ease on the courts despite a start to the season that, all in all, was disappointing. Since Melbourne, she’s won two small matches and has now lost five in a row, all against players ranked lower than 60.

“There are signs, except I don’t think there’s only one solution,” says Sylvain Bruneau, her Fed Cup captain.

“We haven’t talked about it together, but yes, I was hoping this weekend would allow her to regain a bit of confidence. Sometimes it only takes one or two wins to do that.”

Among the signs is the well-known second-year jinx. In her press conference, Bouchard herself talked about this “sophomore slump”, this “evil” that sometimes affects athletes in all sports after a phenomenal first year.

Bruneau agrees: “After her first season, she now needs to learn how to manage the expectations,” he explains.

Then there was the coaching change. Last week Bouchard alluded to a period of adaptation, especially for a girl who had been advised by the same man, Nick Saviano, for eight years.

Several have asked questions about the relationship between Bouchard and Sam Sumyk. Both have a strong temperament, and the Québecker doesn’t seem to be assimilating what the Frenchman is trying to teach her, both tactically and technically.

“It’s a big change and I need to adjust,” she insisted on Wednesday. “I’ve had the same coach since I was 12. Sumyk is more direct. I like the ideas he has about my game. We can improve all aspects of it.”

“In tennis, when you don’t have the feel, when you don’t have your usual reference points, you tend to revert to what you did well with in the past, but that doesn’t always work,” adds Bruneau. He also talks about a period of adaptation.

Patience, patience …

What Bruneau especially advocates is patience. For her fans as much as for Genie.

Bouchard also mentioned the process she’s going through right now. A process during which she’ll lose, that’s certain, but which should eventually bring her back on the right track.

It might be long, and, judging from last weekend, it won’t be free from tears and broken racquets. But at 21, Eugenie Bouchard still has time to renew acquaintance with success.

It will be one match at a time, one win at a time.

Translated by MAN

Tears of Anger – Fed Cup fallout in Germany

Translation of this piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung by Philipp Schneider

Andrea Petkovic has cried quite a few times on the big stages of the world of sports during her career as a tennis pro, she never held back her sad emotions during press conferences and there were very different reasons for her to cry. Sometimes because she had once again injured herself. And sometimes because she lost. This Sunday Andrea Petkovic cried again, immediately after the last point of the decisive doubles rubber against Russia. But these were different tears, tears of anger, that streamed out of her on the tennis court in Sochi.

She almost pulled it off, the most remarkable comeback in the German Fed Cup history. But after her 2-6 3-6 loss with Sabine Lisicki against Elena Vesnina and Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, even the interim equalizer to 2-2, almost a miracle in itself, was moot. So Andrea Petkovic cried. The score was 3-2 for Russia. And Petkovic knew: They were once again not going to win the Fed Cup.

On Saturday night the German tennis women were already almost eliminated, 0-2 down after singles losses by Julia Görges and Sabine Lisicki. It seemed far-fetched to think that Barbara Rittner’s team could reach the final to win the “damn thing”, as Rittner had called the Fed Cup after last year’s final loss to the Czech Republic. And it looked like Rittner outfoxed herself with her decision to rest Petkovic and Angelique Kerber on the first day.

Rittner had made the plan with Görges and Lisicki because she believed that Petkovic and Kerber were not rested enough to already play on Saturday. It almost worked.

Kerber had flown around the world three times recently, before she arrived at the black sea on Wednesday after winning the WTA tournament in Charleston. Whoever booked the adventurous journey with stops in Washington – Frankfurt – Poznan – Munich – Istanbul – Sochi either was forced to improvise at the last minute – or has a crude sense of humour. Two days Kerber spent on the road, and somewhere along the way her luggage got lost. Would she have been ready on Saturday? It’s moot to speculate.

On Sunday anyway, Kerber played as well rested as a groundhog after months of hibernation in a well-cushioned nest. With a 6-1 6-0 she just rolled over Pavlyuchenkova – it took just 52 minutes until she used her second match point. Maybe Kerber should have played doubles, where Pavlyunchekova, who had just had been humiliated by her, was playing for Russia.

Petkovic loves heroic stories

The chance for the equalizing point had been made possible by Petkovic, who won a surprisingly relaxed 6-2 6-1 match over Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian is one of the most experienced and uncomfortable opponents on tour. In 2004 she won the US Open, 2009 the French Open. Kuznetsova, 31, born in Leningrad, looks with her massive head band always like she is going to battle. She was one of the reasons why Russia had chosen clay in the first place. Twice she and Petkovic had played on this surface, twice the Russian had won.

But this was Fed Cup.

And Petkovic, that much she knew beforehand, would save the team and even German tennis with a win once again. Petkovic loves heroic stories like this, even those about herself. Since her Fed Cup performance against Australia in February, where she contributed two points to the 4-1 victory over Australia, she has also raised her level of play on tour. Her game benefits from the fact that she has been coached in the last few weeks by Rittner’s assistant Dirk Dier, who for Petkovic seems to be a Fed Cup chef: After winning a tournament in Antwerp she also reached the semifinal in Miami and did the same in Charleston, where she lost to her team-mate and eventual champion Angelique Kerber.

Petkovic played focused against Kuznetsova, smart, with angles, brave. She was quickly up 3-0 in the first set, she made barely any errors, especially her two-handed backhand put the Russian under pressure. A frustrated Kuznetsova threw her racket to the ground, and after the first set she disappeared to the toilet for a quarter of an hour. Shortly before Petkovic used her second match point it looked like Kuznetsova was about to eat her own fists out of desperation.

“She soaked in the atmosphere and then realized that it’s cool to play here,” Coach Dier said. And Petkovic happily shared the tricks she tried to overcome the jet-lag: “Vitamin pills and aspirin, but I’m still so tired. Tomorrow I’m lying down in the bath tub for five days”. Nobody was going to argue with that, especially since Petkovic, as opposed to Kerber, had come back out on court. And lost the decisive doubles match.

Translated by Katja

Thomas Estrada of Colombia – played singles against and doubles with del Potro, and gave it all up to study and live in the US

Translated from this piece  by from El Columbiano by Luz Élida Molida Marín

He played singles against Juan Martin del Potro, was beaten, then played doubles with him.

They had parallel careers, and they both should have figured in the ATP TOP 50, but history willed it otherwise: the Argentine continued playing and got to number four in the ATP rankings, while Thomas Estrada shelved his racquet and went to study and live in the US.

The lack of support coupled with the high cost of playing tennis forced the number one South American junior to end his story before it started. “It was very difficult to continue. In Colombia in 2010 there weren’t tournaments big enough  to get points and I had no sponsors; I was living out of my parents’ pockets. It was too much and I had to quit,” explains the manager of the Fortuna Bakery in Orlando, Florida.

When he watches Juan Martin play, his mind goes back to the tennis courts and the days when he fought like a lion against del Potro and local Colombians Michael Quintero, Francisco Franco, Sebastian Gallego, Santiago Giraldo and Robert Farah.

The decision Thomas made pained not only him but also his coach of two years Fernando Rodas. ” I was desolated when he quit. His talent was impressive. I was sure that his technical and tactical ability would make him a force in the tennis world.”

He had a very tough mental struggle deciding between the financial difficulties of a tennis career and an academic scholarship, but, in the end, the scholarship won out. That’s the reason Thomas travelled to the States, where he now has economics and graphic design degrees, two professions he’s now combining.

His love and passion for tennis means he’s to be found in the stands at every US Open. From there he follows Santiago Giraldo, Alejandro Falla and his good friend del Potro.

“It’s difficult seeing them play and thinking I could have been there. I get very nostalgic,” says the Columbian, who misses the atmosphere and the competition.

A week ago he got the bug and picked up a racquet again for the first time in three years. He played against another Colombian, a wiry businessman, and he won 6-0 6-0 just like when he was at his peak.

Never mind that he was panting and and asking for time every 15 minutes to hydrate, he felt good.

“The truth is, he was the one who was dead and I told him to take a water break to let him catch his breath,” laughs the Antioquian native, holding like a great treasure the racquet which last was used in 2010 when, at 22, he decided to quit.

For more on the financial difficulties, read this piece, an Équipe interview with Gilles Simon, this piece from l’Équipe on wealth and poverty on the tennis tour, this piece in l’Équipe about Antoine Benneteau’s problems making it on the ITF Futures tour, and this piece featuring Pauline Parmentier talking about the problems on the ITF Challenger tour.

Translated by MAN

“In my head, everything is fine”: Michaëlla Krajicek

Interview by Fred Buddenberg published in the 18 April 2015 print edition of Dutch daily Trouw (page 24).

“Completely healthy and very happy.”  Michaëlla Krajicek answers a question about how she’s  doing with a big smile.  She knows it has not always been so in her turbulent career.  Now, at age 26, the tennis star has found the peace that she longed for so often on her way to adulthood.

“In my head, everything is fine.”  Krajicek is in Den Bosch, where the Dutch Fed Cup team is competing with Australia for a place in the World Group.  “I’m getting married, I get a lot of support from Richard, and everything with my father is quiet and good.  And that has a positive influence on me.  Also, I’m older now and I look at things differently.”

Since her professional debut in 2003 (!), Krajicek’s career has been erratic, to put it mildly.  Triumphs and tragedies followed in rapid succession, both in sports and on a personal level.  “In life, things sometimes happen on purpose, it seems,” said Krajicek.  “There are maybe one or two things I can blame myself for.”

For example, the choice of Allistair McCaw, the South African conditioning coach with whom she also had a personal relationship.  “That was my own choice, but a very bad one,” says Krajicek about her first ex-boyfriend.  “I was just 19 years old and didn’t really think.  Looking back, I wonder: how stupid can you be?  These are things you need to learn from.  I paid the price.”

That relationship was not good for her tennis and also caused a rift between “Misa” and father Petr, for years his daughter’s coach.  Petr didn’t hide his distaste for McCaw.  After Krajicek’s elimination at Roland Garros in 2008, he called him a “tennis-illiterate.”  It was a difficult time for Krajicek, with one foot on the threshold to adulthood.  “My father was always so close to me, and from one day to the next, he was no longer there.  For example, during training—all of a sudden, everything was different.  He meant well, but it should have gone differently.  It was also my own stubbornness.”   She laughs, “Yes, stubbornness runs in the family.”

“I have had two periods, when I thought: ‘I’m done with it.’  Because of a lack of results.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like tennis.  I was also often asked if I still had goals, why I didn’t retire.  But tennis is my sport and I feel I have achieved a lot.”

With her mind at rest, Krajicek decided to give her singles career another serious chance.  In recent years, she was mainly active as a doubles player, and not without success.  With Czech Barbora Strychova, she is now ranked 15th on the WTA doubles list of 2015.  Yet she also wants to continue on her own, as she thinks she isn’t finished yet.

“I think I still have a lot to prove to myself.  I still believe in it, and my knee is currently quite good.  The ultimate goal is to improve my best ranking, but that is still very far.  I have done a lot to get much fitter: for instance, with my diet and by getting a new fitness coach, James Fitzpatrick.  I’m excited.”

Krajicek has three single titles, reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2007, and had a career-high ranking of 30 in February 2008.  Last week in Dijon, she got back to playing singles again after an long time ranked 441 (!).  “As I don’t like to play on clay, I’ll mostly play doubles until Roland Garros.  After that, I will really focus on singles.”

An important detail in Krajicek’s return is whether the body can last.  Two ankle and three knee surgeries didn’t do her career any good.  “At the end of last year, I was treated with blood plasma,” Krajicek said.  “Your blood goes into a machine and is then transferred to the knee.  It worked perfectly and now my knee feels very good.  I can’t complain—and let’s hope it stays that way.”

“After my last knee surgery in 2012, a doctor said I had a forty percent chance I would again walk without pain.  Sometimes I watch old videos of me exercising in the water.  I just had to stand on that leg and I couldn’t—that’s how bad it was.  Anyone can say anything, but I have shown that I have the willpower.  Even my father, who is always very strict and criticizes everything, is proud that I persist.”

~

Translated by Nicole Lucas.

 

18-year old Québecker Françoise Abanda is unhappy with the start of her 2015 season

Translation of this online piece from Le Journal de Montréal April 16 2015

The Québecker Françoise Abanda, only 18, is probably her own worst critic.

‘In the last six months, I haven’t met my own expectations when it comes to my goals, my objectives,’ she affirms after a practice session up to the Fed Cup meeting in Montréal April 18-19. ‘There have been some matches I should have won. I’m thinking about my ranking too, I can better it.’

Abanda is at 260 in the WTA world rankings.

But she’s been ranked as high as 175 last autumn, which allowed her to take part in Slam qualies.

Abanda works hard to climb the rankings. She knows she especially needs to improve her serve, especially her second shot. On the other side of the court, the Québecker is still trying to adjust to the powerful serves of certain of her opponents.

‘I’ve played against players with the hardest serves like Sabine Lisicki [at the 2014 US Open, lost 6-3, 7-5] and Venus Williams [in Québec City] and it’s quick, not at all like the serves I’m used to in juniors. It’s like a weapon for them. You’re certain to start the point badly when your opponent puts you in difficulty.’

Abanda isn’t necessarily surprised by the strength of her opponents, she simply has to go through a period of adjustment.

‘When you’re going to play Venus, you know you’re going to receive bombs,’ she indicated. ‘I expected it, but it’s just that it’s tough receiving. The ball gets to you quickly and there’s not much reaction time.’

Become a model

Despite everything, Abanda did well in Québec against Venus Williams, losing in two sets 7-5, 6-3 last September.

The start of 2015 has been more difficult.

‘I haven’t won a lot of matches, but I’ve gained a lot of experience,’ noted Abanda, who would have liked to have beaten Shahar Peer during the Australian Open Qualies.

The young Québecker is visibly impatient for the experience to translate into important wins.

‘I play tennis to leave my mark, to help and be a positive influence on young people,’ she continued. ‘If I have the ability to do that, that’s my goal. If I can get recognised and become a role model, that would be mission accomplished.’

To achieve her noble ambitions, Abanda needs to climb in the world hierarchy. Having blown out her 18 candles in February, she still has a few years to get there.

Translated by MAN