Keeping Up with the Playtesters…US Open Picks!

The US Open is just days away (I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!). Working at TW is always fun during the tournaments because we all have our favorites and are glued to the matches, so of course I wanted to know who the playtesters were picking to win it all this year! Check out their answers and let us know who you pick to win it all this year at Flushing Meadows!

“Who are your picks to win the 2013 US Open?”

Granville: “It’s not going to be pretty – Djokovic and Radwanska (Aggie).”
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Wild and Wacky Wednesday at Wimbledon!

I woke up early this morning excited to turn on Wimbledon and watch some live tennis. I quickly started hearing about all of the weird injuries and retirements of the day. Little did I know that the day to follow would quickly be one of the most epic days at Wimbledon and tennis history.

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Photos by Cynthia Lum

As Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” is playing in my head, let’s re-cap what actually happened today at the All England Club.
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Davis Cup Quarterfinals

Davis Cup kicks off some exciting rubbers in the Quarterfinal Rounds for the World Group today.

Davis Cup Quarterfinals

Led by Jim Courier, Team USA begins play today on home soil this round on an indoor court in Boise, Idaho and will take on Serbia. Having met just one time before, Team USA comes up against the only World Team to have the highest ranked player on the ATP on their active roster, number one in the world, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic teams up with Viktor Troicki, Ilija Bozoljac, and Nenad Zimonjic to take on our team of Sam Querrey, John Isner, and The Bryan Brothers. Despite having powerhouse Nole on their team (who has proven to be human over the past couple months and has taken a loss or two), I am hoping to see the US take full advantage of the crisp, clean (and high altitude) Boise air and use the home court advantage to pull off the upset over Serbia.
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ATP Blog: September (and a wee bit of October) in review

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player ever to win the Japan Open last week. Look for the hard-hitting youngster to make a push for the top 10 next year.

The pro tour action is starting to pick back up again after the exciting conclusion to the US Open about a month ago. Let’s take a look at what’s happened on the pro tour over the last month…

-The United States Davis Cup team’s run was halted by Spain in the semifinals of the World Group. The pivotal match came in the second singles match, where Nicolas Almagro outlasted John Isner 6-4 4-6 6-4 3-6 7-5 to give the Spainards a 2-0 lead going into the doubles. Next month, Spain will look to repeat as champions as they take on the Czech Republic in the finals after the Czechs defeated Argentina 3-2 in the other semi.

-Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player to win the Japan Open, taking down Milos Raonic 7-6 3-6 6-0. Nishikori used the energy from the hometown crowd to beat US Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych along the way, dictating play with his aggressive court positioning and thunderous groundstrokes off both wings.

Novak Djokovic won last week's China Open, dismantling Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the finals.

-Novak Djokovic won his third straight China Open title after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final, 7-6 6-2. It was an even match until Novak just poked his head a bit in front in the first set tiebreak, and then it all began to unravel for the fiery Frenchman.

-The Shanghai Rolex Masters is underway, with 6 of the world’s top 10 players competing for $3.5 million in prize money and 1000 ATP ranking points on the line. Look for a Federer/Murray semifinal matchup if they can both make it through their respective sections of the draw. This will be the first time Roger Federer has played since his quarterfinal exit at the US Open.

Stay tuned for more ATP blogs…thanks for reading!

AG

Andy’s 2012 Men’s US Open Preview

Will Roger win his record 18th major title at this year's US Open?

There’s little intro needed for this year’s US Open. On the men’s side, we’ve had three different Grand Slam winners to start the year for the first time since 2005. Can Andy Murray join the game’s elite as a Grand Slam champion? Will we see another unexpected run to the title like Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009? Can Novak Djokovic regain his form from last season? Will Roger Federer earn himself his 18th Grand Slam title and further strengthen his claim as the game’s best? All of these questions are going to be answered in the next couple weeks in the Big Apple. I hope you’re as excited as we are for the US Open to start!

With all these great storylines and great players gunning for the title, it’s easy to overlook the great action that’s going to start the tournament in the first couple rounds. True tennis fans say that some of the most exciting tennis to watch of the whole tournament is on the outside courts during the first week. Many tennis enthusiasts purchase a grounds pass for the early rounds instead of forking out the greenbacks for a premium seat on one of the stadium courts, where they see some lower ranked guys battle their hearts out for precious rankings points and prize money.  Let’s take a look at some early round matches to keep an eye on, as well as some predictions for the rest of the tournament…

1st Round Upset Special:

Nicolas Almagro (11) vs. Radek Stepanek: I like Almagro, especially because he’s consistently a tough competitor, week in and week out. However, I see this as a tricky matchup for the feisty Spaniard. Stepanek makes his living coming forward to the net and giving big hitters little rhythm, carving them up and chopping them down. Almagro‘s even been a victim in the past, as Stepanek has beaten him both times they’ve played. Grab the popcorn and watch this one, as Almagro will scratch and claw but ultimately will get frustrated by Radek’s aggressive play…Stepanek in 4.

1st Round To Watch:

Juan Martin Del Potro (7) vs. David Nalbandian: It’s an all-Argentine matchup between two great baseliners. Del Potro looks to be finding his form of late, earning himself a bronze medal at the Olympics after taking down Djokovic and pushing Roger to the brink in the semis. Nalbandian is always a threat on the hard courts, and is 3-1 all-time against Del Po. Look for some hard hitting action, with Del Potro coming out on top…Del Potro in 4.

Potential 2nd Round Matchups To Watch:

Mardy Fish has been streaky this year, but he's won at least 3 rounds at the US Open the last three times he's played.

Mardy Fish (23) vs. Nikolay Davydenko: This is just too intriguing of a matchup to pass up. Mardy usually plays well during the summer hard court season, but has been pretty average so far this year. Davydenko had two easy wins of Dolgopolov and Mayer (both top 25) last week in Cincinnati, but then retired to Djokovic after dropping the first set 6-0. This match is more about the unknown, about which Nikolay and Mardy we are going to see. I think this match goes the distance, and Mardy rides the wave of the New York crowd to victory…Fish in 5.

Can Alexandr Dolgopolov match his round of 16 appearance of 2011?

Alexandr Dolgopolov (14) vs. Marcos Baghdatis: I want to watch this one just for the personalities, as two of the most likable players on tour potentially face off (check out this funny glimpse into the life of Alexandr at the Australian Open). These are two of my favorite players on tour, both in their game styles and personalities. Dolgopolov won a title in Washington DC, but since then has had two bad first round losses in Toronto and Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of form both these guys are in…I say Dolgopolov in 3.

Dark Horse: John Isner (9)

Big John once again has turned in a solid performance during the US summer hard court season.  He’s 18-3 since his first round exit at Wimbledon, with three top 10 wins (Tipsarevic, Tsonga, and Berdych) and two titles in Newport and Winston-Salem.  I think he’s poised for a breakout at the Open, with a favorable draw and the New York crowd ready to support him the whole way.  A couple other interesting stats for the ex-Georgia Bulldog…he’s leading the tour in aces this year with over 750, and he’s 6-2 against the top 10 this year, including wins over Djokovic in Indian Wells and Federer in Davis Cup.  Look for Isner to make his way through his section, riding the wave of the American crowd into the semifinals.  

Big John is poised for a big run at the US Open

Finals Prediction: Roger Federer (1) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (7)

I think it’s going to be a 2009 US Open final rematch! Roger is the best in the world and he’s going to continue to prove it. He’s got a great draw to get to the quarters, and then I think he takes down Murray in the semis in one of the best matches of the tournament. I think Del Potro gets hot and goes on a run. The Del Potro/Djokovic quarterfinal will be the match of the tournament, with Del Po prevailing in 5 sets, and then riding that wave of momentum to his second career Grand Slam final. Once they both get there, I’m going to say…Roger in 4!

Thanks for reading!

AG

Who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2012 season on the ATP Tour! We’ve seen Roger regain the #1 spot in the world rankings and three different players win majors, which hasn’t happened to start the year since 2005. Anything can happen leading into the Olympics in a couple weeks and with the American hard court season looming. Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not on the ATP Tour leading into summer…

Who's hotter then the #1 ranked player in the world, Roger Federer?!

Who’s Hot??

Roger Federer – Record 287 weeks at #1. He’s just won his record 17th major and record-tying 7th Wimbledon title. He’s compiled a 46-6 record so far in 2012 with 5 titles, with two Masters 1000′s (Indian Wells and Madrid) and a major. Don’t look now, but Roger has returned to the throne at the top of the men’s game, and he’s turning 31 next month. G.O.A.T.? Without a doubt!

Marin Cilic – He’s won 2 titles in 2012 and they have both come in the last month, winning Queen’s Club (Nalbandian’s epic meltdown) and this past week’s clay court event in Umag in his home country of Croatia. After missing the first couple months of the year due to injury, Marin has compiled a 22-10 record (and four of those losses are to Del Potro). His only top 10 win of the year was against Isner in Madrid, but I think the big serving Croatian is gaining confidence and finding his form coming into summer.

Hard-working Croatian Marin Cilic could be finding his form leading into summer

Brian Baker – Is there a better story in tennis right now than this guy? After five surgeries and leaving the game to coach college tennis at hometown Belmont University in Nashville, TN, the smooth-moving American has come back with a bang and exploded into the world’s top 100 rankings. And if you think his recent results are a fluke then you’re heavily mistaken…he was formally number 2 in the world in juniors, and he’s won 32 of his last 38 matches dating back to April. Watch Brian continue his hot play on the American hard courts and reach the top 50 by the end of the year.

 

Who’s Not??

John Isner – After beating Djokovic and reaching the finals in Indian Wells in March, the big serving Georgia Bulldog hasn’t done much in tournament play since the tour moved over to Europe for the clay court season. I know he won Newport this past weekend, but his best win of the week was against fellow American #48 ranked Ryan Harrison, which just so happens to be his highest-ranked win in the last two months. He lost 5 of his 8 matches on the red dirt, which normally is a surface he’s strong on. Hopefully the big man can pick up some momentum in front of the home crowds in the States this summer, because the confidence seems to be lacking a bit in recent weeks.

Big John Isner will hopefully ride the momentum of winning Newport into the American hard court season

Feliciano Lopez – He’s lost 6 of his last 7 matches, including a first round loss at Wimbledon followed by a first round loss at a Challenger event in Colombia against the 213th-ranked player in the world. Not sure what’s going on right now with the big lefty from Madrid, but he’s seen his ranking drop from a career high #15 in April to his current #30 position. We’ll see if he can get out of a tough section of the draw in Gstaad, Switzerland this week and gain some momentum for the coming weeks.

Gael Monfils – He’s been struggling with a knee injury since the beginning of the year, and we haven’t seen him since his loss to Brian Baker in Nice just before the French Open. Given his history of injuries, who knows when we will see the exciting Frenchmen again. He’s got some ranking points to defend from last year’s summer hard court season, so if he doesn’t come back soon he’ll be out of the top 20 for the first time since 2008.

Speedy Frenchmen Gael Monfils has been struggling with knee problems since the beginning of 2012

 

 

Stay tuned for more pro tennis talk as the summer action heat’s up!  Thanks for reading!

Andy G.

Happy 40th Birthday Prince!


Today, one of the most recognizable brands in tennis turns the big 4-0. The brand in question is the one that claims to “rule the court.” Of course, we are writing about Prince.

Think that catchy slogan is too tough to live up to? Consider this: Prince has sponsored some of the greatest of all time, players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Michael Chang, Martina Navratilova, and Jimmy Connors. The new class of Prince players are making their own mark on the game, from Gael Monfils to Maria Sharapova to the Bryan Brothers to John Isner. The Bryan’s even delivered an early birthday present for Prince by winning their record breaking 62nd doubles title a few days earlier at the Farmers Classic in UCLA.

A true innovator and trail blazer for the game of tennis, Prince was the first to develop a commercial ball machine, the first to introduce a multi-filament string and the first to make extended length or “longbody” racquets.

According to Prince, it all started in 1970. Working in his Princeton, New Jersey garage, inventor and entrepreneur Bob McClure reversed the motor on a household vacuum cleaner to produce the first commercially viable tennis ball machine. He called the machine the “Little Prince” and a tennis brand was born.

The original ball machine developed by Prince

Prince hit the world scene in the mid-1970’s when legendary engineer, Howard Head (who also invented the first metal alpine ski), using McClure’s ball machine to work on his tennis game, realized he could develop a racquet that would help him significantly raise his level of play and hit better shots, more often.  Head patented the first “Oversize” tennis racquet in 1976 with a 110 square inch head, called it “The Prince,” and in doing so, ushered in a major tennis ‘boom’ by making tennis easier to play and more fun for millions of people.

The first oversized racquet known as The Prince

In a statement released to the press, Nick Bollettieri said, “I remember when I first saw that new racquet in the mid to late seventies, I thought, what in the world is that?  It looked completely different to the small, heavy wooden frames of the day, but it was helping all of these people play better tennis.” The founder and President of Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy continued, saying, “I remember young kids traveling all around in cars and vans to let players at private clubs, public courts, tournaments – wherever there was a tennis player – test out these new frames.  And boy did it catch on!  Pretty soon, you could not throw a stone near a tennis court without hitting someone using a Prince racquet.  Our academy is proud to be affiliated with Prince products and we look forward to forty more years of their moving the game forward.”

Most recently, in 2005, the company debuted another revolutionary breakthrough in product design with the introduction of O-Technology in racquets.  Eliminating restrictive grommet holes in the frame, this engineering feat used large holes and suspended the string bed facilitating more string movement for an enhanced sweet spot.  Maria Sharapova won her U.S. Open (and subsequently her first Australian Open) using this new technology, and today there are nearly 100 players on tour who have switched to this racquet design innovation.

“At the end of the day, we strive to continue the mission set forth by Mr. McClure and Mr. Head – to help all player types, whether recreational or those competing at the game’s highest levels, hit more great shots, more often,” said Zach Perles, Vice President of Global Communications at Prince Sports, Inc. “We will continue to bring to market best-in-class products that help raise people’s level of play and support them with meaningful grassroots programs and industry partnerships designed to grow the game overall.  We are an integral part of the fabric of this sport, proud of our past products, programs and players, but even more energized about our plans for the future.”

Prince EXO3 Black - featuring Prince's latest technology

A list of milestones in Prince’s history:

1970 – Bob McClure invents the first commercially viable ball machine by reversing the motor on a vacuum cleaner.  The “Little Prince” is introduced and Prince Sports, Inc. is formed.

1976 –Howard Head engineers and patents the first “Prince” racquet – an “Oversize” frame at 110 square inches designed to deliver the largest sweet spot. It revolutionizes the game.

1977 – Prince introduces the original Graphite, which becomes the first “top players” racquet and the standard by which all others are compared.

1978 – Prince invents the first multi-filament tennis string, which becomes an industry top seller that same year.

1985 – Seeing the need to go beyond the all-purpose shoe, Prince introduces the TPU-4000, a lightweight and durable shoe made specifically for tennis players.

1995 – Prince is the first company to introduce ‘Longbody’ technology, which launches Michael Chang to #2 in the world.  His frame becomes the best-selling racquet in tennis.

2005 – Prince re-invents racquet design with introduction of O-Technology, which transforms traditional grommets into large holes.  The technology platform is soon exported to brands in other sports. Maria Sharapova wins the 2006 U.S. Open with the Prince O3 White (which features O-technology).  The racquet becomes the best selling model in the United States.

2009 – Building off the O-Tech platform, Prince introduces EXO3 racquet technology, which suspends the string bed for ultimate string movement resulting in a larger sweet spot.

Happy birthday Prince! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for tennis in the next 40 years.

Jason, TW