Eight of America’s top juniors will play in a unique tournament this weekend, competing against some of the country’s top collegiate players in the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic at Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena
This will mark the third straight year juniors are incorporated into the 12-year-old event, a round-robin style tournament that rewards its winner with a USTA wild card entry into a USTA Pro Circuit event. The tournament will feature eight of America’s premier juniors competing against four players from six NCAA Division I schools, including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Illinois, and Texas.
“We’re excited that another group of our top juniors gets to compete against some very strong collegians in a respected, valuable event,” said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of USTA player development. “Collegiate competition is a significant part of the pathway from junior tennis to professional tennis, and letting our juniors compete with college veterans will only benefit their mental and physical development.”
Each school will send four players to compete alongside the eight juniors, and the 32-man field will be split into eight pools featuring three collegians and a junior. Following three matches in pool play, the eight pool winners will compete in the PlayBrave USTA Wild Card Shootout, a single-elimination, 10-point tiebreak tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive a USTA-sponsored wild card into a USTA Pro Circuit event that is yet to be determined.
The Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic is the first of three events this fall combining juniors and collegians. Similar tournaments will be held in Portland, Ore., (women’s) and Orlando (men’s) in November. The Classic, which was founded 12 years ago by Cal coach Peter Wright and Meadowood Tennis Director Doug King, will feature junior players for the third consecutive year after being held exclusively for collegians from 2001-09. The 2010 Classic included Jack Sock, who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open, while Cal senior Nick Andrews claimed the 2011 title. This year’s roster of juniors was selected by USTA Player Development based on ATP rankings (if applicable), national junior rankings and results, and a selection of younger players for developmental purposes.
A MAN WHO LOVED THE GAME
The late Chris Stevens, 52, the U.S. ambassador who was killed recently in Libya, loved tennis. As a teen growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, he played on the Piedmont High School tennis team and maintained his interest in the game while in Libya and the Middle East. According to Megan Hernandez, the co-Athletic Director at Piedmont High School, while in school Stevens edited the school paper, sung in musicals and was active in the American Field Service.
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SCOT ENDS 76-YEAR BRITISH DROUGHT WITH WIN OVER DJOKOVIC
After 4:53 of this epic final against Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray secured the first Grand Slam Championship point of his career. His forehand drifted wide.
Earlier in the match he was up two sets to none, only to falter and lose the next two sets.
Four times the slender Scot had reached Slam finals. Four times he lost.
“It’s been a long road,” he said.
Well it’s been an even longer road for his nation. Who knew that when Fred Perry beat Don Budge in the 1936 U.S. National Championship that a Brit would not win another major for 76 years?
Then destiny delivered. Andy Murray’s 7-6, (10) 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 win was a triumph of British pluck, will and determination. Few other athletes have upgraded their play with such calculation and hard hat intention amidst so many obstacles.
Yes Murray had good genes and good tennis parents. He was shipped off as a young teen to a Spanish tennis factory and won the U.S. Open junior championships. He reached one Slam final after another, only to fall. Forget Henmania, Murray took over and carried the considerable weight of his Kingdom on his shoulders. Yes, they re-named Henman Hill. Murray Mount it was.
A hero to some, diistant and sullen to others, he endured storms of criticism. Far from cuddly, it was hard to cozy up to the introspective youth. Still a cadre of writers followed his every move. He was said to be weak. So he worked countless hours in the gym, added ten pounds and flexed his biceps, as if to say, I may be Scottish, I may have a pasty complexion, but I’m no wimp.
Still the critics insisted he had “the demeanor of a gravedigger.” But the boy became a man in front of a million eyes. He handled his country’s invasive tabloid journalists with astounding ease and an almost Zen-like detachment. He remained true to his self.
On court, wonks howled that his offense wasn’t good enough. Yes, he play with a liquid grace suggestive of old Miloslav Mecir. But, Andy didn’t go for his shots and he didn’t listen. So he hired the fiercest man in tennis since Jimmy Connors, a man with a gravitas which was hard to ignore.
Never mind that Ivan Lendl might be the only man in tennis who was more glum and unsmiling than Andy. The eight-time Slam winner had Andy flatten his forehand. He insisted he go for his shots, give 110% and leave all he had on the court. Lendl’s core, no philosophy was simple: “Win the last point!”
But time and again Murray had failed. In particular, after losing to Djokovic in the 2011 Aussie Open he went into a kind of free fall. Deep funk, ample angst, woe-is-me grimaces and self-indulgent body language were all too common. Another new coach (Alex Corretja) didn’t click.
Then, before this year’s Aussie Open, he hired Lendl and soon after lost with honor to Djokovic in over five hours in one of the greatest matches of all time.
But at the French Open he struggled with a wretched back. It was said he only winced when he lost a point. Virginia Wade called him a drama queen – not a great way to go into Wimbledon. But Murray reached the final at the All-England Club, where he took a set off of Federer and won the hearts of British fans with his teary (vulnerable for the first time) homage to his backers. “Rain fell like tears,” they told us. “And then tears fell like rain.”
Then at the Olympics, as a member of Britain’s “Team GB” (and with a little less focus on him) Murray caught Federer on an off day and won the Gold. Lendl called it a major. But, everyone knew better. Yes, Murray was on the ascent and on the cusp of greatness. But like his coach before him, he wore the dubious crown of being the best player in the game to have never have won a Slam. So what does it take to win a Slam? Djokovic said Andy had, “all the capacity in the world … it was just a matter of belief, to really be mentally mature and to understand what you need to do to become … the best in the world.”
Fate was smiling. Next up for Andy was America’s Slam and Andy loves America. He has a place in Florida. There’s less pressure here. He won the U.S. Open juniors here and his mom always said the US Open would be his first Slam victory. More importantly, Nadal was sidelined and Federer lost. In a blustery semi the wind-wise Scot dismantled a confused Tomas Berdych to reach the final where he would meet a man he had much in common with. He and Djokovic were born within a week. Both are in their primes, great movers and defenders, have superb backhands and returns and know a thing or two about laboring in the shadow of Roger and Roger.
But today they put on their own show. As the winds again came and went, world class goundies alternated with awkward lunges and junior-like pokes. Twisting forehands curved and became knock down punches. wicked slices floated, drop shots drifted into the alleys. Try and plant and blast – forget it! Establish a rhythm – not on this day. This was more a match – at least at the beginning – in which it was more a matter of not losing the competition then winning it. And Murray managed the winds with some command and far more ease then the surprisingly baffled, hands on his hips, Djokovic who lost a marathon 1:27 first set, 12-10 in the tie-break. Murray then rolled on to claim the second set 7-5. Presumably the match was his.
But as the wind died down, Djokovic’s game picked up. Stepping in, hitting out, serving with power and placement and prevailing in many a wonder rally, the limber Serb claimed the next two sets.
For the first time since Pancho Gonzalez in 1949 a man had come back from two sets down to force a fifth set. For the first time since 1988 the Open would feature a five-set men’s final and a three-set woman’s finale. And, for the first time since the second set, Djokovic’s game dipped. As Sean Connery huddled under a blanket in the President’s Box and was served yet another coffee, his fellow Scot served up a fifth set break of serve and never looked back. The dye had been set. At last someone not named Djokovic, Federer nor Nadal would prevail and when a final forehand from the Serb faltered, a stunned Murray was overwhelmed with emotion. Clasping his knees and holding his head, he actually managed to get a smile out of Lendl.
Still, he would explain, that “relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling.” But when a reporter asked, if there was a moment you thought “exaltation” too, Murray replied that he didn’t know what exaltation meant. But Andy does know a thing or two about history and “The Spirit of ’76.”
No, not our “Spirit of 76” when in 1776 we Yankees rebelled against his King, but rather tennis’ spirit of 76 and the 76 seasons it took before Brit Andy gave Crown and Country their first Grand Slam in over three-quarters of a century, a feat that is indeed worth a toothy transatlantic smile.
When Andy Murray was young he played with Fred Perry Apparel and Perry was the last Brit to win a Grand Slam since 1936. Murray told Inside Tennis he would have liked to have talked with the great champion. And actually the
have much in common.
FRED PERRY ANDY MURRAY
DATE OF BIRTH
FIRST GRAND SLAM VICTORY
US Open US Open
DATE OF FIRST GRAND SLAM VICTORY
SEED AT US OPEN
No. 3 No. 3
SEED OF OPPONENT IN FINAL
No.2 (Jack Crawford) No. 2. (Novak Djokovic)
At the time of the actual US Open final their opponents had/has 3 Australian Open titles
Jack Crawford Novak Djokovic
(1931, 1932, 1933) (2008, 2011, 2012)
At the time of the actual US Open final their opponents were the reigning Australian Open champion
Jack Crawford Novack Djokovic
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FROM TWO-TONED MULLETS TO NUANCED INSIGHTS AND U.S. OPEN INSIGHTS
Andre Agassi, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, returned to Ashe Stadium Sunday to be inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. The Las Vegan was known almost as much for his style and charisma as for his daring and flashy play. As a teen who just got his driver’s permit, he showed up for his first Open, but he could not convince an attendant that he belonged. His first opponent, Britain’s Jeremy Bates, ranked No. 128, wasn’t convinced either.
But according to Andy Roddick, who introduced his friend, Agassi ‘’had a whole generation of kids wearing jean shorts and pink tights.’’
Andre told the huge crowd awaiting the women’s final that he first showed up ‘‘rocking a spiky, fluffy, two-tone mullet.’’ Agassi, who has evolved into both a remarkable humanitarian and a adept speaker, said, “I always came back here. It’s the only Grand Slam that I have never missed. Quite honestly, I wish I had the words to describe the sounds you make during critical matches, the roar, the pause, the look, it’s like a jet engine and a giant heartbeat. I used to start to hear that sound back in the tunnel. In Paris, you get to center court through a stairway, in London you get to centre court through a club, in Melbourne you enter through a hallway, and here in New York, you enter through a long tunnel, which amplifies the noise [and] amplifies the love. That sound is almost as powerful, almost as inspiring as your silence. In Paris, in London, in Melbourne, they fall silent many times during a match, but here in New York, you don’t bestow your silence at just any moment, so when you do it is dandy. It’s a sign of deep respect with high expectations. And it’s deafening. I assure you that you will never in your life hear something so loud as 23,000 stone cold, silent New Yorkers.
People often ask me if I miss the game, and I think of my back, and I think of my hips, and I remember Federer taking me apart like my kids taking apart their Lego toys, and I say, yes and no. But when someone asks me if I miss the U.S. Open, I don’t hesitate. I miss your sound, I miss your silence, I miss giving everything I had and a little bit more. Thanks for giving me everything you had for 21 years and a little bit more. More »
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SERENA KEEPS THE DREAM ALIVE AT ASHE
When the rains stopped and the winds calmed; when the poignant ceremony for Andre Agassi ended and the beautiful people in the luxury suites stopped sipping their Chardonnays, it came down to what the great Jimmy Connors once said: “This is what they want, this is what they paid for.”
After 17 lean years of rather desolate finals, the U.S. Open finally got itself a suitable conclusion – Serena Williams over Victoria Azarenka in three sizzling sets.
Azarenka – the Aussie Open champion and the No. 1 player in the world, is a fierce ball striker with a hefty shriek and a louder future. Earlier this year, she won 26 straight matches – hurray! She went home from the Olympics with two medals – well done! But against Serena she had lost nine of their ten matches. Williams had crushed her at the Olympics, Wimbledon, Madrid and at last year’s Open. You get the picture.
So did reporters who asked her if her goal was just to make the final a competitive match. Vika bristled. Still she said Serena was the toughest player in tennis and she would have to do something to surprise her. So, asked a writer, would she watch videos of their old matches? “Well,” said Azarenka, “I don’t want to be depressed. There is not really something that you can look at.”
There is much you can debate about Serena Williams. Is her serve the best stroke in the history of the game? Is she, at her core, a nice young woman? Were her father’s predictions that she and Venus would become the two best players on the circuit, the best prediction in sports history? Does her ongoing boycott of Indian Wells make sense? Is she better then Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova and the best player of all time?
Who knows? More »
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FERRER SUSTAINS TENNIS’ SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL TRADITION
Macho guys might call him a shrimp.
The politically correct would just say the 5’ 9” Ferrer is vertically challenged.
The old school cliche is that good things come in small packages.
The updated New Age version is that small is beautiful.
Never mind that we live in an era of giants, including John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro. David Ferrer is part of a long (slightly endangered) tradition of great short players. It’s long heritage that goes back to the non-stop hustler Bobby Riggs and the the mini-Aussies Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, who boasted mighty resumes. In the tennis boom era, there was Harold Solomon and Eddie Dibbs. Then came the amazing scrambler Michael Chang who won the French Open, became No. 2 and popularized the game for Asian-Americans, and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who some say is the fiercest competitor in the game.
More recently David Ferrer, 30, emerged in the golden era of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and rose to No. 5. He improved his serve and forehand. He won the most compelling match of this year’s Open, his marathon quarterfinal against Yanko Tipsarevic. His success has been based on two things: fight and a dogged determination. Some call him a terrier. Other say he is like a pit-bull with a bone in his teeth. He’s a mobile backboard who never gives up. But, it hasn’t been easy.
When he was a kid and not making an effort in practice, his coach locked him in a shed. Talk about tough love on steroids.
His nation offered a slew of sexy and charismatic players such as Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco. And, as we noted the other day, he long has played in the considerable Spanish shadow of an icon named Rafa Nadal. But, after dominating an ill-prepared, out-of-sorts Novak Djokovic yesterday in blustery conditions, Ferrer was overpowered and promptly dispatched by the defending champion and the best hard court player in the world 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
Ferrer expressed pride in reaching his third Grand Slam semi and admitted there was a considerable gap between himself and the top four who now dominate. But why, we asked. “I can’t answer two or three things. Certainly if I will know, I will be 2 or 3 in the world, not 5.” Then again No. 5 ain’t too shabby for a vertically challenged guy who was once locked in a shed.