World No. 1 and Six-Time Champion Serena William Leads 2016 US Open Women’s field and vies to win record 23rd Grand Slam

July 20, 2016

White Plains, N.Y., July 20, 2016 – The USTA today announced that world No. 1 and six-time US Open champion Serena Williams leads the women’s singles field for the 2016 US Open Tennis Championships. Williams is joined by 101 of the world’s top 103 women, including 2016 Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Angelique Kerber, 2016 French Open champion and world No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza, two-time US Open champion and world No. 7 Venus Williams, 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci, 2014 US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki, and former US Open champions Samantha Stosur and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

In total, 37 different countries are represented in the women’s field. Fourteen U.S. women received direct entry into the main draw – the most of any country and the most direct entries for American women since 2004 when there were 15 entries.

The 2016 US Open will be played Monday, August 29, through Sunday, September 11, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The US Open Women’s Singles Championship is presented by J.P. Morgan.

Leading the entry list is world No. 1 Serena Williams, who won her sixth US Open crown in 2014, tying her with Chris Evert for the most US Open women’s singles titles in the Open Era. At this year’s US Open, Williams is looking to break the record for the most Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era. At Wimbledon, Williams tied Steffi Graf for the most major titles when Williams won her 22nd Grand Slam singles title.

Joining Williams in the field’s top four are world No. 2 Kerber, of Germany, who defeated Serena Williams in the Australian Open final this year and also reached the 2016 Wimbledon final; No. 3 Muguruza, of Spain, the 2016 French Open champion and 2015 Wimbledon finalist; and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam singles final (2012 Wimbledon) and a 2016 Australian Open semifinalist.

Rounding out the top 10 entries are: No. 5 Simona Halep, of Romania, the 2014 French Open finalist and 2015 US Open semifinalist; No. 7 Venus Williams, of the United States, who won the US Open in 2000 and 2001 and is a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion; No. 8 Roberta Vinci, of Italy, who reached her first Grand Slam final at the US Open last year at age 32; No. 9 Carla Suárez Navarro, of Spain, a five-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, who reached the US Open quarterfinals in 2013; No. 10 Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, the 2004 US Open champion and 2009 French Open champion; and world No. 11 Madison Keys, of the United States, a 2015 Australian Open semifinalist, who debuted in the Top 10 last month after winning her second career WTA title.

World No. 6 and two-time US Open singles finalist Victoria Azarenka will not be competing in this year’s US Open after announcing her pregnancy last week. 2006 US Open champion Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 97 this week, will also not compete due to an ITF anti-doping provisional suspension, which is currently under appeal.

Nine players who have won Grand Slam singles titles in their careers are competing in the US Open this year, including two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (2011, 2014), former world No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, of Serbia, and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, of Italy.

Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich, ranked No. 103, is the last player accepted directly into the women’s field of 128. Azarenka and Sharapova are the only withdrawals. Three players are using a special ranking to gain entry into the main draw – No. 27 Peng Shuai, of China, No. 64 Galina Voskoboeva, of Kazakhstan, and No. 91 Vitalia Diatchenko, of Russia. Sixteen more players will gain entry through the US Open Qualifying Tournament, August 23-26, while the remaining eight spots are wild cards awarded by the USTA.

In addition to Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Keys, the other American women who received direct entry into this year’s tournament include: No. 23 Sloane Stephens, of Coral Springs, Fla., No. 35 Coco Vandeweghe, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., No. 52 Varvara Lepchenko, of Allentown, Pa., No. 55 Madison Brengle, of Dover, Del., No. 57 Shelby Rogers, of Charleston, S.C., No. 63 Christina McHale, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., No. 69 Louisa Chirico, of Harrison, N.Y., No. 70 Irina Falconi, of West Palm Beach, Fla., No. 71 Nicole Gibbs, of Santa Monica, Calif., No. 78 Alison Riske, of Pittsburgh, and No. 101 Samantha Crawford, of Tamarac, Fla.

Several of the young Americans listed above have had breakout performances on the WTA tour this year. Stephens, 23, won three WTA titles this year (Auckland, Acapulco, and Charleston); Vandeweghe, 24, won her second career WTA singles title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch; and Rogers, 23, advanced to her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open.

Among the players competing in the US Open Qualifying Tournament will be the winner of the seventh annual US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship, held during the Emirates Airline US Open Series’ Connecticut Open in New Haven, Conn., prior to the US Open Qualifying Tournament. The USTA created the US Open National Playoffs in 2010 to allow players 14 and older, regardless of playing ability or nationality, to vie for a spot in the US Open Qualifying Tournament via one of 15 sectional qualifying tournaments.

The July 18 edition of the WTA rankings was used to determine the US Open main draw entry list. Seeds will be determined and announced closer to the start of the event.

The 2016 US Open will mark the culmination of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, the North American summer season of seven ATP World Tour and WTA events that began this week in Stanford, Calif.

The US Open is the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world. 2016 marks the second year of an 11-year partnership between the USTA and ESPN, which will see the US Open carried on the ESPN family of networks through 2025. During this year’s US Open, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to air nearly 130 hours of live match play with more than 1,200 hours of first-to-last ball coverage to be seen on ESPN3 on WatchESPN, which will also be available via the US Open website – USOpen.org. In the continued expansion of its US Open coverage, ESPN will feature play from up to 12 courts.

USTA Names 2016 U.S. Olympic Team

July 15, 2016

U.S. Women Feature Olympic Gold Medalists Serena and Venus Williams,

along with first-time Olympians Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens,

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe

Olympic Gold Medalist Doubles Team of Bob and Mike Bryan to Lead Men

with Olympic Rookies Steve Johnson, Jack Sock, Denis Kudla and Brian Baker

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 15, 2016 – The USTA, the governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States, today announced the 12-player U.S. Olympic Tennis Team roster for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5-21.

U.S. women’s tennis coach Mary Joe Fernandez nominated six players with four singles entries and two doubles teams. The 22-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams will compete in the singles competition along with Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, both making their Olympic debut, as well as Venus Williams, who will be competing in her fifth Olympics.In doubles, Serena Williams, the reigning singles gold medalist, and sister Venus Williams will look to remain undefeated in Olympic doubles competition as they seek their fourth gold medal (2000, 2008, 2012). They will be joined by first-time Olympians Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe in the doubles draw.

U.S. men’s tennis coach Jay Berger also nominated six players, including four singles entries and two doubles teams. Four American men will make their Olympic debuts, as Steve Johnson, Jack Sock, Denis Kudla and Brian Baker each will play singles. Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, the reigning gold medalists in men’s doubles,will return to the Olympics as a U.S. doubles team, with Johnson and Sock making up the other U.S. doubles pairing.

The U.S. will later announce its two teams in mixed doubles – which will be contested at the Olympics for the second time since tennis returned to the Games in 1988 – comprised from among the 12 players already named, once all players are in Rio.

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held August 5-21 in Rio with the tennis competition being staged August 6-14 at the Barra Tennis Center. The U.S. has won 21 Olympic medals in men’s and women’s tennis since it returned as a full medal sport in 1988 – more than any other nation.

“The USTA is extremely proud of the 12 athletes who have worked countless hours on and off the court to earn the opportunity to represent the United States at the Rio Games,” said Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman, CEO and President. “It’s going to be an exciting time for the eight first-time Olympians and for the four returning gold medalists.  I’m looking forward to watching them compete as they look to claim gold.”

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Serena Williams, 34, is the reigning singles gold medalist and a three-time gold medalist in doubles (2000, 2008, 2012). She also was a singles quarterfinalist in her only other Olympic singles appearance in 2008. By winning the Olympic gold medal in singles and again in doubles in 2012, Williams became the first player ever to complete the career Golden Slam in singles and doubles (winning all four Grand Slam events and the Olympic gold medal in a career). Williams is a 22-time Grand Slam singles champion, tying  her with Steffi Graf for second on the all-time list, two behind Margaret Court.  Serena also has captured 14 Grand Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles. She is one of six women in history to have held the No. 1 rankings in both singles and doubles simultaneously and finished 2015 as the No. 1 player in the world for the fifth time.  Williams holds a 16-1 record in Fed Cup play, including 13-0 in singles, and she helped the U.S. capture the 1999 Fed Cup title. Williams is ranked No. 1 in the world.

Video: Serena Williams

Venus Williams, 36, holds four Olympic gold medals and will become the first American tennis player to compete in five Olympic Games. She captured the gold medal in singles in 2000 and won gold medals in doubles with her sister Serena in 2000, 2008, and 2012. She is a seven-time Grand Slam champion, including five Wimbledon titles, and has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles. She also has ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles. Williams posted her first Top 10 season since 2010 last year, winning three WTA titles and reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and US Open. In 2013, she re-entered the Top 20 for the first time since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, following the 2011 US Open. Williams is 23-4 in Fed Cup competition, including 19-2 in singles, and she helped lead the U.S. to the 1999 title. Williams is ranked No. 7 in the world.

Video: Venus Williams

Keys, 21, will make her Olympic debut on the heels of breaking into the Top 10 for the first time this June, becoming the first American to debut in the Top 10 since Serena Williams in April 1999.  Keys won her second WTA singles title in June at the grass-court Aegon Classic, played in Birmingham in Great Britain. With the title, Keys peaked at No. 9 in the world. Keys advanced to her first career Grand Slam semifinal at the 2015 Australian Open, where she upset No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 18 seed Venus Williams. This year, Keys reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and the French Open. She captured her first WTA title at the grass-court event in Eastbourne, Great Britain in 2014, and in 2011, she became the youngest player to win a main draw match at the US Open since Nicole Vaidisova in 2005. Keys has played in three Fed Cup ties for the U.S. with a 3-3 overall record (2-2 in singles, 1-1 in doubles). She is ranked No. 11 in the world.

Video: Madison Keys

Stephens, 23, is making her Olympic debut and has won three WTA titles this year in Charleston, S.C., Auckland, and Acapulco. She won her first WTA title last year in Washington D.C. Stephens’ breakout came at the 2013 Australian Open, where she defeated Serena Williams en route to the semifinals. At 19 years, 10 months, 3 days old, Stephens was the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam singles semifinal since Williams reached the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals at 18 years, 9 months, 8 days old. Stephens also advanced to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2013 to peak at No. 11 in the world that October. Stephens has played in four Fed Cup ties for the U.S., and is ranked No. 23 in the world.

Video: Sloane Stephens

Vandeweghe, 24, is making her Olympic debut and won her second WTA singles title this year in ‘s’Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (she also won that title in 2014). The following week, she advanced to the semifinals of the WTA event in Birmingham, Great Britain, to reach No. 29 in the world. Vandeweghe also has had success in doubles, advancing to the semifinals at the 2015 US Open and the quarterfinals at the 2016 Australian Open. She also won her first WTA doubles title this year in Indian Wells with her Olympic doubles partner Mattek-Sands. Vandeweghe, also a U.S. Fed Cup player, is ranked No. 35 in the world.

Video:  Coco Vandeweghe & Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Mattek-Sands, 31, is a veteran on the WTA Tour, but is making her Olympic debut. She is ranked in the Top 10 in doubles and swept back-to-back doubles titles in Indian Wells (with Vandeweghe) and Miami (with Lucie Safarova) this year for her 18th and 19th WTA doubles titles. In 2015, Mattek-Sands won the Australian Open and French Open women’s doubles titles (with Safarova) and the French Open mixed doubles title (with Olympian Mike Bryan). At the 2012 Australian Open, Mattek-Sands teamed with Horia Tecau to win her first Grand Slam title in mixed doubles. In singles, Mattek-Sands has played in 14 US Opens and reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2008 and the French Open in 2013 for her career-best Grand Slam results. In 2011, she was ranked a career-high No. 30 in the world in singles before being sidelined by a rotator cuff injury. Mattek-Sands holds a 5-0 record in Fed Cup doubles and a 2-6 record in singles, playing in seven ties. She is ranked No. 12 in the world in doubles.

Video: Coco Vandeweghe & Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Johnson, 26, is making his Olympic debut. He is ranked a career-high No. 29 in the world after winning his first ATP singles title this June in Birmingham, Great Britain. Last year, Johnsonreached his first career ATP final in Vienna in October, while reaching three additional ATP semifinals.Johnson also made his debut for the U.S. Davis Cup Team in 2015 against Uzbekistan, winning the doubles rubber with Sam Querrey after the duo advanced to the US Open doubles semifinals together. Johnson turned pro in 2012 after completing an outstanding college tennis career at the University of Southern California, winning the 2011 and 2012 NCAA singles championships and leading the Trojans to team titles all four years he played for the school. Following USC, Johnson reached the third round of the 2012 US Open, becoming the first reigning NCAA champion to advance to the third round of the men’s singles since Sargis Sargisian in 1995. He is ranked No. 25 in the world.

Video: Steve Johnson

Sock, 23, is making his Olympic debut. He reached the final of the ATP events in Auckland and Houston earlier this year and reached a career-high No. 22 in the world this January. Sock won his first ATP singles title in 2015 in Houston and his career-best Grand Slam result came when he reached the fourth round of the 2015 French Open. Sock also has thrived in doubles, winning the 2014 Wimbledon doubles title and the 2015 Indian Wells crown with Vasek Pospisil and peaking at a career-high No. 6 in the doubles rankings in May 2015. He also reached the doubles quarterfinals of the 2015 French Open and 2016 Australian Open.  Sock made his Davis Cup debut in September 2015 in the World Group Playoff in Uzbekistan, where he won both of his singles matches to keep the U.S. Davis Cup team in the World Group for 2016. Sock also competed in the Davis Cup first round this March in Australia and was named to the team for this year’s quarterfinal against Croatia. He is ranked No. 26 in the world.

Video: Jack Sock

Kudla, 23, is making his Olympic debut and was one of the last direct entries into the Olympics. Kudlaearned a wild card into Wimbledon in 2015 and reached the fourth round for his career-best Grand Slam singles result. In summer 2015, he reached the semifinals of the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Atlanta (his best ATP result) and qualified for both Cincinnati and Montreal. This year, Kudla won his first-round match at the Australian Open and won matches at the ATP events in Indian Wells, Miami, Houston, and Madrid. Kudla holds six USTA Pro Circuit singles titles and four doubles titles. He was ranked No. 3 in the world junior rankings and reached the boys’ singles final at the 2010 US Open. He is ranked No. 102 in the world.

Video: Denis Kudla

Baker, 31, used a protected ranking to compete in the Olympics this year. He has played on the professional tennis circuit since 2001 and has had numerous successes, but also numerous injuries. At the 2013 Australian Open, Baker retired in his second-round match due to a knee injury and played in just three more tournaments that year (the last being the US Open), having knee surgery in 2014.  In 2012, Baker reached his first-ever ATP final in Nice, France, and advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon. He also won three singles titles on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2012, including the $50,000 Challenger in Savannah, Ga., to climb nearly 400 spots in the ATP rankings and into the Top 60. Baker also was a standout junior, peaking at No. 2 in the ITF World Junior Rankings in 2003 after reaching the boys’ singles final at the French Open. He is ranked No. 546 in the world and used a protected ranking to make the Olympic team.

Video: Brian Baker

Bob and Mike Bryan, 38, will make their fourth consecutive Olympic appearance. The brothers captured a gold medal in men’s doubles at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as well as a bronze medal in men’s doubles in 2008. Together, they own 16 Grand Slam men’s doubles titles. Bob has won seven mixed doubles titles, while Mike has won four mixed doubles titles, including the 2015 French Open with Mattek-Sands. The Bryans own a record 112 ATP World Tour doubles titles together and ended 2014 as the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the world for a record 10th time in 12 years. Bob and Mike are 24-4 together in doubles when playing for the U.S. Davis Cup team and are the all-time winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history. They also helped lead the U.S. to the 2007 Davis Cup title. Bob has one additional doubles win in Davis Cup with Mardy Fish in 2010.  Mike has two additional doubles wins in Davis Cup in 2008 and 2012. Bob is ranked No. 3 in the world in doubles, while Mike is ranked No. 4.

Video:  Bob & Mike Bryan

Venus and Serena Williams are the last American women to win Olympic gold in tennis, with Serena winning the singles gold medal and the sisters capturing the gold in women’s doubles at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Andre Agassi was the last American man to win Olympic gold in men’s singles when he defeated Spain’s Sergi Bruguera in the gold medal match at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The U.S. has not won gold in mixed doubles since 1988.

Tennis was part of the Olympic program from the first modern Olympiad in 1896 until 1924.  After a 64-year hiatus, tennis returned to the official Olympic program in 1988, becoming the first sport to feature professional athletes.

Team nominations were made by the USTA’s Olympic Oversight Committee and are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Tennis Federation.

Tennis Elbow: Andy Murray the legend, and other Wimbledon lessons

July 11, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses what he’s learned at Wimbledon 2016.

Andy Murray and Serena Williams have emerged unscathed and as newly crowned champions of this 2016 Wimbledon, that much is clear.

That said, there are quite a few lessons to remember from this edition of this major’s major. (Of course, that isn’t Wimbledon’s official title, but only because showing off isn’t a gentlemanly thing to do—because make no mistake: Wimbledon certainly believes in the Wimbledon myth.)

Andy Murray the biggest winner

In defeating Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3) and 7-6(2), Murray has cemented his status as a true legend of the game. “I’m proud to have my hands on the trophy,” Murray said after his win. “I played really good stuff today.”

He now has a third Grand Slam title, which is about the point where history tends to differentiate between the “fluke” major winners and those that had and have lasting power and career. Put it this way: we always knew Murray was not, say, Marat Safin, and now history will make sure to remember the two as distinct.

We probably won’t care much for the fact that Murray’s tally may have been higher if he hadn’t played in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic—but whatever. “[It's the] most important tournament for me every year,” the Brit said. “The wins feel extra special because of the losses.”

Have a blast, Andy. You’ve certainly earned it!

The Williams renaissance

While it was great to see Serena Williams finally win a major in 2016 and catch up to Steffi Graf with the 22nd Grand Slam title of her career, our greatest joy on the women’s draw was seeing the 36-year-old Venus Williams make her first Grand Slam semifinal since 2010.

The older Williams sister has had a rough few years but it’s been great to watch her play. And don’t look now, but she somehow has made a return to the Top 10, coming in  ranked No. 7 on the WTA Tour.

What’s the excuse for Roger Federer now?

The 2016 Wimbledon should have been Roger Federer’s to lose. He was to play on his best and favourite surface while his biggest rival, Nadal, had pulled out. Then, a few days in, his “bête noire” of the moment, Djokovic, inexplicably lost against Sam Querrey.

The coast was clear for ol’ Rog’ to finally grab another major title. Smooth sailing, as they say…but for the past few years, even a clear sky has given the Swiss problems. Federer first needed five sets against Marin Cilic only to lose his next match, another five-set marathon against the eventual finalist.

Next month at the US Open, the then-35-year-old will have his final chance in 2016 to add yet another Grand Slam title, which he hasn’t managed to do since 2012. We’ve harped on it quite a few times already this year: in 2016, Federer is just old. And the days of him winning Grand Slam events seem gone.

Does Raonic have next?

Tennis has become an old man’s game for quite some time now, which is really just another way of saying that the sport needs new faces.

Consider that 29-year-old Djokovic, 29-year-old Murray and almost-35-year-old Federer are the three foremost players on the ATP World Tour. (Nadal, 30, is a fellow superstar—though his days of domination appear to be over.) Consider, too, that Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem are the lone trio in the world’s top 10 that are younger than 27.

Tennis is an old man’s game that’s looking for a few new faces, and Raonic certainly could be one of those. He’s been on the verge of a major breakthrough for what seems like forever and, though he’s already 25 years old, he’s still improving and so have his results.

The Canadian has shown promise and should continue to for a few years. I’ve been writing on Tennis Connected since the end of 2011 and, already then, he was supposed to be next.

Maybe I’ll tell you about how he’s the reason why I started writing for this site in the first place; I’ll do it when he wins his first Grand Slam tournament, how about that?

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Serena Williams captures 22nd career Major title at Wimbledon over Kerber

July 9, 2016

Wimbledon 2016—London, England

Top seed Serena Williams poured in a memorable effort on Saturday at the All England Club in London, England, defeating No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 to take the Championship. Needing one hour and 21 minutes to claim her seventh Wimbledon title, Williams struck 13 aces, won 88 percent of her first serve points and broke her German opponent on two of six occasions. Avenging her loss to Kerber at the Australian Open earlier this year, Williams tied Steffi Graf’s Open era record for 22 Grand Slam victories.

The American great will next set her sights on an Olympic Gold medal in Rio, which will be followed by the US Open in New York to close out the summer.

Kerber, who acquitted herself very well throughout the fortnight, fell to 1-1 in Major finals during her career.

Tennis Elbow: Looking ahead at day 2 of Wimbledon 2016

June 27, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first day of action in England.

Well at least now, all British eyes will be on Wimbledon—correct?

Alright, they always, always are. But still. On a day where the Brits shamefully (as they tend to do) bowed out of an international soccer competition, this time losing against the mighty nation of Island in the Euro 2016 knockout stage, Wimbledon 2016 got underway.

And while England’s eyes may have a bigger appetite than what its stomach can muster on a football pitch, it’s an entirely different story at Wimbledon. Because year after year, there is no more important show in tennis than what unfolds during these weeks at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Long-time readers know that I’ve never shied away from criticizing the tournament that I’ve dubbed the Cathedral of tennis, poking fun at how much Wimbledon believes in the myth of Wimbledon—but in that battle I’m fairly alone.

I may say that the Cathedral needs to adapt to continue thriving, but my voice pales in comparison to that of, say, Novak Djokovic (et tu, Novak?). “It is going to be the first match on the untouched grass,” the Serb said ahead of his first-round match. “That’s probably one of the most special tennis matches that you get to experience as a professional tennis player.”

Who cares about a match on untouched grass? Well at Wimbledon, everyone does care about it because this untouched grass was presumably blessed by the tennis Gods, or at the very least Princess Kate I guess, or someone else, or whatever it’s Wimbledon okay?!

So anyway, Wimbledon has started with Djokovic barely breaking a sweat in a straight sets win.

Tennis’s most eminent star Roger Federer also played his first match but we’ll get to him in a minute. For now, let’s mention that the first day of action at Wimbledon had a little bit of everything for everyone. There was, as we’ve covered above, the reigning champion and current best player in the world. There was the ex-Grand Slam winner (though elsewhere) who managed to give one more crowning achievement to her career.

There was the ex-young promising player, who hasn’t really shown much promise of late and who couldn’t quite catch magic in her home country.

There was the old veteran who managed to win a marathon match in which, and this is a joke, the longest point probably lasted all of four strokes.

There was also the qualifier who managed quite a huge win on this opening day.

Looking ahead to day two, here’s what we know. On day two, we know that Serena Williams will make her debut against Amra Sadikovic. Will this Wimbledon finally be her calling card at the 2016 majors? We also know that women will be front and center at the main courts, and that this is a good thing.

If we look just slightly ahead beyond the second day of action, you’ll notice one storyline—both for its sheer unlikelihood as well as because it opposes the monarch of the sport.

That’s right: for his second match at Wimbledon, Federer will battle Marcus Willis, the 772nd-ranked player in the world.

If we may interject here: to some, a match against Federer may be an even bigger and better trophy than the one you get for winning Wimbledon.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Wimbledon 2016: Men’s and Women’s Tournament Preview and Analysis

June 25, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

The year’s third Grand Slam starts on Monday and, just like last year, top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams enter the tournament as the respective favourites for the men’s and women’s singles. But it’s a different set of circumstances to last year, when Williams was halfway to a potential calendar Grand Slam and Djokovic was coming off a devastating loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final. This year, Djokovic enters the tournament as the holder of all four Grand Slam titles, whilst Williams is looking to win her first major since Wimbledon last year after suffering surprise defeats in the last three Grand Slams.

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

Novak Djokovic is the red-hot favourite on the men’s side, and rightfully so. Having completed the career Grand Slam in Paris, where the burden of never having won the French Open was finally lifted off his shoulders, Djokovic will begin his campaign at the All England Club not only full of confidence but probably more relaxed than he was in Paris. If he is successful in London, however, there will no doubt be a flurry of media scrutiny in New York as he attempts to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

There’s plenty of tough matches to be won by Djokovic at the All England Club before he can lift the trophy once more and, if Djokovic is undoubtedly the best player on the planet right now, then Andy Murray is pretty clearly the second-best player. This year, the Scot recorded his best ever French Open result by reaching the final and, having reunited with former coach Ivan Lendl, Murray will be focused on reclaiming the title he so famously claimed in 2013.

Murray is on the easier side of the draw, with potential semi-final opponent Stan Wawrinka never having played his best tennis on grass (although it will be interesting to see how the Swiss star performs with former Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek recently added to his team as a grass-court consultant). Winning a record fifth title at Queen’s Club will provide Murray with additional confidence, as will the fact he has beaten Djokovic on the two occasions the pair has played on grass.

Djokovic is scheduled to face seven-time champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals and, whilst the Swiss legend has had an injury-interrupted season to date, Federer’s love of the tournament and grass-court nous means he will be very tough to defeat if he can negotiate his way through the early rounds. Before that, Djokovic faces a tough potential quarter-final with Milos Raonic, a former semi-finalist at Wimbledon who has added former champion John McEnroe to his coaching team, whilst Kevin Anderson, who so very nearly beat Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, also lurks in the Serb’s quarter.

Dominic Thiem has had a terrific season to date and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young Austrian make a deep run at the tournament. Similarly, Bernard Tomic has a particular affinity with grass-courts and could well feature in the second week of the tournament.

I’ll back Murray and Djokovic to once again meet in a Grand Slam final, with the Scot using his grass-court nous and the home crowd support to finally get one back over the world number one.

Winner: Andy Murray

Finalist: Novak Djokovic

Semi-finalists: Federer, Thiem

Outside Chance: Wawrinka, Raonic

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

Going into the semi-finals in New York last year, Serena Williams was just two wins away from completing a calendar Grand Slam. Since then, the world number one has lost Grand Slam matches to Roberta Vinci, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza’s terrific performance in Paris perhaps heralds the start of a new era in women’s tennis but I would be very reluctant to write off Williams just yet.

Williams may get a chance for revenge against Vinci if the pair meet in the quarter-finals as scheduled. Petra Kvitova has had a typically inconsistent year to date but the two-time winner is at her very best on grass and I’m backing her to put in an impressive performance during the next fortnight. In the top half of the draw, former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska is another player who is adept on grass-courts and could produce a deep run in the tournament. Similarly, Dominika Cibulkova has been in good form of late and the former Australian Open finalist could do some damage in the second week of the tournament.

In the bottom half of the draw, I think Muguruza may struggle to deal with the pressures and expectations associated with being a Grand Slam champion and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spaniard make a relatively early exit. Madison Keys, a recent addition to the world’s top 10, could take full advantage if the bottom half of the draw opens up, and I predict the rising star will scrape past five-time winner Venus Williams if the pair end up locking horns in the semi-finals.

With no Grand Slams to her name in 2016 to date, you can bank on Serena Williams being absolutely fixated on claiming this trophy and I think the American will shrug off some of rather sluggish recent Grand Slam performances to turn in a dynamic performance during the fortnight at the All England Club.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Madison Keys

Semi-finalists: Kvitova, Venus Williams

Outside Chance: Radwanska, Muguruza, Cibulkova

That’s it for now. Enjoy the tennis from the All England Club and follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Garbine Muguruza defeats Serena Williams for French Open title

June 4, 2016

French Open 2016—Paris, France

No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza won her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open on Saturday, defeating top seed and defending champion Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4. In a match that featured hard-hitting tennis at its finest, Muguruza broke serve on four occasions and hit 23 winners to 22 unforced errors. Defeating Williams at the 2014 French Open, Muguruza cemented her place as a force in women’s tennis by claiming the title on her fifth match point.

Muguruza and Williams also faced off in the Wimbledon final last year. A match that Williams won.

Tennis Elbow: Two titans lost, but a third one’s still there at the French Open

May 30, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2016 French Open and looks ahead at the second.

A week ago, we said that the 2016 French Open seemed destined to become one of the better ones in recent memory.

Well we were wrong on it being “better”: a French Open that lacks the people’s champ in Roger Federer AND the best clay court player ever in Rafael Nadal can’t be “better” in any sort of way.

But we were right on the nose in predicting that it would indeed be memorable.

While we’ve had over a week to process the Swiss’s absence—maybe we’ll just need to start acknowledging that he’s an old man now?—Nadal’s withdrawal stings a whole lot right now.

Nadal has played 12 French Opens
9 titles
72 wins
2 losses (Soderling, Djokovic)
1 withdrawal with left-wrist injuryhttps://t.co/Wb1S4i000A

— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) May 27, 2016

Consider that this is the first time in the Spaniard’s career that he withdraws from a Grand Slam event he has entered, and that it comes at the French Open, the tournament he has traditionally owned.

Life comes at you fast, and now’s probably as good a time as any to think about a tennis world where neither Nadal nor Federer is as relevant as they have been.

Let’s see, what else did we get over the first week at Roland Garros?

Hmm, well we know that Milos Raonic, though he was very much still in the running when it was announced (i.e. the Canadian has since lost 2-6, 4-6 and 4-6 against unseeded Albert Ramos-Vinola), will add the great John McEnroe to his coaching staff for the grass season.

'Milos has a great team with Ricardo Piatti and Carlos Moya. I'm going to be a consultant on the grass. I'm excited'. McEnroe (Eurosport)

— DavidLaw (@DavidLawTennis) May 27, 2016

Raonic is probably one of a select few players capable of winning Wimbledon, and his hope has to be that the presence of McEnroe can help make the difference in a tight match.

Oh, there was also tennis played this week in Paris and, as usual at the French Open, it was excellent; perhaps none as crazy as this point between Barbora Strycova and Agnieszka Radwanska.

The most fun point of the year, from Barbora Strycova and Agnieszka Radwanska. #RG16: https://t.co/MOzJshp5ZZ

— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 27, 2016

As for what lies ahead, all eyes will be on the likely two favourites, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic.

For the former, this French Open is a chance to fully sink her teeth into this 2016 season, where she still has only one title to her name. She’s won a bunch of matches, as she typically always has, sure, but Serena Williams is known for winning tournaments. Better yet, she’s known for winning major tournaments: of her 70 career titles, a full 30 per cent have occurred at Grand Slams.

Williams very well may add a 22nd major title this week in Paris, as she’s yet to truly be bothered in winning her three first matches in straight sets. She’d take it.

Meanwhile, Djokovic will hope to make history at the end of this week by winning his first French Open title, thereby completing the career Grand Slam. It’s become harder and harder to ever doubt his credentials, but possessing at least one title at each Grand Slam would forever etch his name in tennis lore. If ever there remained doubt whether he belonged alongside Federer’s and Nadal’s names, this win would fix everything—and possibly push him over the top.

Djokovic is odds-on favorite to win the French Open. Murray is a distant second; Wawrinka a really distant third https://t.co/SFAvGs6qyK

— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) May 27, 2016

And with the withdrawal of his two chief rivals, Djokovic has as good a chance to win Roland Garros as he ever has.

Since Sept. 2010, Djokovic has won 74 of 78 matches against the guys he could face before the final: https://t.co/cYZ582wTo0

— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) May 27, 2016

The folks at FiveThirtyEight believe Djokovic would already two French Opens if not for Nadal. Let’s go get the first one.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

French Open 2016: Tournament Predictions

May 21, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

With the 2016 French Open commencing tomorrow, it’s time to predict both the men’s and women’s singles champions.

On the men’s side, world number one Novak Djokovic is desperate to complete the career Grand Slam by capturing the one major title to have eluded him to date, whilst on the women’s side top seed Serena Williams is looking to defend her title and claim the twenty-second Grand Slam title of her illustrious career.

Will Djokovic finally find success in France? Can anyone stop Serena? Read on for my thoughts and predictions.

*****

Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles

Tennis fans worldwide will be disappointed with the withdrawals of Federer and Monfils from the tournament, but there are still a number of fascinating story-lines heading into the second major of the year.

Djokovic remains head and shoulders above everyone else on the ATP Tour, and once again returns to Roland Garros fixated on lifting the trophy. The Serb has had a couple of hiccups during this year’s clay-court season, losing to Vesely in Monte Carlo and Murray in Rome, but in some ways I think those losses will benefit him. Last year, Djokovic arrived in Paris on a 22 match winning streak, which he extended to 28 consecutive wins before being upset by a red-hot Wawrinka in the final.

This year, Djokovic doesn’t bear the burden of any winning streak, and I think we will see the Serb remaining very low-key in the early stages of the tournament, seeking to negotiate his way through to the second week of the tournament with a minimum of fuss.

There’s no doubt Djokovic wants the French Open title more than any other at this point in his career, but he and his coaching team understand the importance of staying in the moment and not letting desperation or the weight of expectation affect his performance. The Serb has a relatively easy path through to the quarter-finals, where he is likely to face former finalist Ferrer, who is always a tough opponent on the red dirt, or Berdych, who has struggled against the ATP Tour’s elite performers in recent times.

Nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal has had a very good clay-court season after a poor 2014, the Spaniard picking up titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Federer’s withdrawal allowed Nadal to become the tournament’s fourth seed, meaning he won’t face Djokovic until the semi-finals. However, the Spaniard has a tough path to the final four, with match-ups against bogeyman Fabio Fognini and the much-improved Dominic Thiem on the cards.

Nadal was very close to beating Djokovic in Rome, but couldn’t seal the deal in either of the sets the pair played. If the fourth seed can boost his confidence by performing well in the lead-up to the semi-finals, I think the Nadal-Djokovic clash, if it eventuates, will be far closer than last year’s encounter in Paris which Djokovic won easily.

In the bottom half of the draw, defending champion Stan Wawrinka and the in-form Andy Murray are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals. A finalist in Madrid and the winner in Rome, Murray is enjoy a second consecutive season of success on clay and I think the Scot has his best ever chance of claiming the French Open title. He’s got a tricky first round match against the veteran Stepanek, but I fancy Murray to move through to the quarter-finals without too much trouble. There he will likely face Kei Nishikori, who has proved himself to be one of the ATP Tour’s best clay-courters in recent years. I favour Murray to come out on top given the best of five sets format, but he’ll need to be at his best if he faces Nishikori as predicted.

It will be interesting to see how Wawrinka backs up last year’s sensational victory at Roland Garros. The Swiss star has a relatively easy section of the draw, although French counterpuncher Gilles Simon is lurking as a tricky potential opponent. In the quarter-finals Wawrinka could face eighth seed Milos Raonic or former US Open champion Marin Cilic, but I think the third seed will be too strong should he face either Cilic or Raonic.

In many respects, Wawrinka enters this tournament with nothing to lose after his unexpected 2015 triumph, and that may allow him to play with the freedom and aggressive shotmaking that saw him stun Djokovic in last year’s final. A Murray-Wawrinka semi-final, should it eventuate, would pit Wawrinka’s hard-hitting against Murray’s counterpunching nous. Murray’s improved first and second serves have delivered results so far this year, and I think the Scot is in better form than Wawrinka right now.

After splitting the Madrid and Rome finals, it would be no surprise to see Murray and Djokovic square off in the French Open final. Murray won the last encounter, in Rome, but for a variety of reasons Djokovic was not at his best in that match. Djokovic has had the better of Murray in their recent Grand Slam finals and, assuming Djokovic is at full health, I think the Serb will be too strong for the Scot over five sets.

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Finalist: Andy Murray

Semi-finalists: Nadal, Wawrinka

Outside Chance: Nishikori, Thiem

*****

Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles

After her surprise loss to Angelique Kerber in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year, one can be sure that Serena Williams will be determined to reconfirm her status as the dominant player on the WTA Tour.

Williams has a few tricky players in her section of the draw, including former champions Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone, but I think the American will march her way into the quarter-finals in impressive fashion. Victoria Azarenka, Williams’ toughest opponent on tour, is her likely opponent in the final eight and whilst such match, if it eventuates, would no doubt be tightly contested, I favour Williams on the red dirt as Azarenka is a far better performer on faster surfaces.

Timea Bacsinszky was a surprise semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year and the Swiss player could well make another deep run this year. Other players in her very open section of the draw with a chance of making the semi-finals include Madison Keys, who reached the final in Rome, and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who will no doubt have much greater confidence following her triumph in Melbourne.

In the bottom half of the draw, two-time French Open quarter-finalist Garbine Muguruza is well-placed to make a deep run, with the Spaniard finding herself in a weaker quarter of the draw. By contrast, the bottom quarter of the draw is littered with talent, with second seed Agnieszka Radwanksa paired with former French Open finalists such as Errani, Safarova, Stosur and Halep.

After a difficult start to the year, Simona Halep enjoyed a much-needed confidence boost by claiming the title in Madrid and, under the guidance of the  very astute Darren Cahill, I think the Romanian can put together a run to the final four in Paris. If she and Muguruza square off in the semi-finals, as predicted, I favour Muguruza courtesy of her greater firepower.

A Muguruza-Williams final would be a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final, where Muguruza had some chances but Williams was ultimately too composed and experienced. Muguruza has beaten Williams in Paris before, but if the pair meet in the final this year then I think Williams will handle the pressure of the situation better and eventually prevail.

Winner: Serena Williams

Finalist: Garbine Muguruza

Semi-finalists: Bacsinszky, Halep

Outside Chance: Azarenka, Radwanska, Kerber

That’s it for now. Enjoy the fortnight of tennis from Paris and be sure to follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Tennis Elbow: So who should be the Roland Garros favourites?

May 16, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2016 clay court season.

At long last, here we are.

At long last, all that separates us from the 2016 Roland Garros is one mere week of rest. After more or less two full months of clay court tournaments of relative importance, we’ve reached the big one.

And you know what’s the fun part?

On both the men’s and women’s sides, results from April and May have made this edition of the French Open, often the most fascinating event of the year, as unsettled as it’s been in recent memory.

This year when we ask, “Who should be the favourites?” we can make a legitimate case for plenty of players.

Men

The would-be favourite: Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal going back to his winning ways in Paris for the tournament he has traditionally owned would make one hell of a storyline. Unfortunately, the Spaniard has become hopeless against Novak Djokovic, losing seven matches and 15 sets in a row. If he wants to win, he’ll likely have to avoid the Djoker—because even when he’s great, he’s not good enough.

The people’s choice: Roger Federer

Everyone loves Roger Federer and, at Roland Garros just like everywhere else, everyone wants to see him win. But while he’s an excellent clay court player, Federer has also been hampered by a myriad of little injuries since the Australian Open; if his body hasn’t completely broken down, it’s close. We forget that he’s turning 35 and that this shouldn’t be surprising.

The hot streak: Andy Murray

Andy Murray celebrated his 29th birthday with a first title in 2016, defeating Novak Djokovic a week after the Serb had overcome him to win the Madrid Open title. He’s concluded the pre-Roland Garros portion of the clay court with a 12-2 record and is as playing as good tennis as anyone else.

The boom or bust: Stanislas Wawrinka

One who isn’t playing especially well is Stanislas Wawrinka. Since winning in Dubai in February, the 31-year-old has won only five of his 10 matches. That simply won’t be good enough for the French Open, though maybe not all is lost? Before he lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2015, Wawrinka arrived in Paris on an 8-7 run. The Swiss can catch fire at any time.

The young blood: Dominic Thiem or David Goffin

The 25-year-old David Goffin and 22-year-old Dominic Thiem have been playing especially great tennis in 2016 and both possess the kind of games that translates well to clay courts. They’re now firmly entrenched in the Top 15 and will be as dangerous as anyone else in Paris.

The favourite: Novak Djokovic

He’ll be fine. Novak Djokovic suffered his third defeat of 2016 against Andy Murray, losing 6-3 and 6-3 in the Rome final. Some may see signs for worry but other than an inexplicable early defeat in Monte-Carlo, and an early retirement at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Djokovic hasn’t done worse than a final in 2016.

He’ll be fine, and anyway the weather probably played a role in his loss against Murray. (Alright alright, no excuses.)

Women

The would-be favourite: Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka was always going to come back down to earth. After the blistering start to the 2016 season she had, after winning 26 of 27 matches and three tournaments, she was always going to run into some trouble—that these unfolded at Madrid and Rome, two clay court events that don’t play to her strengths, shouldn’t be surprising. On a different surface, we would have been inclined to pick the Belarus but alas.

The absentee: Maria Sharapova

We have already discussed the Maria Sharapova (non)-doping case ad nauseam already. It’s really too bad for her that her suspension had to carry through the month of May, because the clay court season has typically been perhaps the best time of the year for the Russian. But there’s always next year! (Unless she’s suspended, of course.)

The boom or bust: Simona Halep

Up until she took advantage of a (very) favourable main draw in Madrid for her first title of the 2016 season, Simona Halep had been in the midst of a relatively okay season: not bad, but not particularly good either. She’ll hope to avoid the same fate as she suffered in Paris in 2015, as she lost in the second round just a year after making the finals.

The young blood: Garbine Muguruza

Lest we forget, and you’d be forgotten for overlooking her this season as she’s been only average, but Garbine Muguruza has reached the quarterfinals of the past two French Opens. We envision the Spaniard once again among the last eight standing, if not even better.

The favourite: Serena Williams

It’s silly to think so, but Serena Williams’s 2016 season had been disappointing up to this point. Sure, she had amassed $1.8 million in prize money while losing only three times in 16 matches, but she was on the verge of entering Roland Garros still without a title to her name. Mostly, that’s why this Internazionali BNL d’Italia was important for the American.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

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