Only 2 More Days at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Atlanta OpenFriday was another great day of tennis at the BB&T Atlanta Open – Quarterfinal Day did not disappoint, even though we had a short rain delay in the first set of the first singles match of the day.

Tommy Paul came out swinging in his match versus tour veteran and Rafa-Slayer Gilles Muller, holding his own through the first few games. But, then the Weather Gods decided we all needed a little break to grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping around Atlantic Station, and when the match resumed, Tommy didn’t have quite the same firepower.

Muller went on a rampage, showing why he’s had so much success this summer. To Tommy’s credit, he kept a very positive attitude out there and battled through to the bitter end. USTA coaches Diego Moyano and Brian Boland remained

Diego Moyano & Brian Boland

positive as well, encouraging Tommy to keep going for his shots. They both seemed pleased with their young charge’s performance against the veteran Muller, pow-wowing throughout the match about what to work on moving forward.

Next up was former Georgia Bulldog and 3-time Atlanta Champion John Isner who always has tons of support at this event. As he came on court, you could hear the fans Woof-ing at the Big Dawg, which John acknowledged with a big smile and waves to the crowd.

Even though there was only one break of serve by Isner in each set, he never seem too bothered by Lacko and went about his business in less time than it takes to drive from Atlanta to Athens. Isner did face a break point in the first set. “Yea dangit that was a horrible service performance today [laughing]. No I served well. He was for a good portion of the match on me a little bit. He returned well. He takes the return early, and he hit quite a few good returns quick and right at my feet. I stayed calm at that breakpoint; hit a great serve, hit three great serves. Got out of dodge there and then was able to play a great game at 5 all to win the first set.”

The third quarterfinal of the day was perhaps the most anticipated: 25-year-old Louisiana native Ryan Harrison versus 21-year-old Atlanta native (and rising Georgia Tech senior) Chris Eubanks. Chris has had a dream run this week, using his Wildcard to its full advantage while taking out fellow NextGen players Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson in the first two rounds. Ryan Harrison proved too tough for the Yellowjacket, cruising to an early 5-0 lead in the first set before Chris finally held serve to get on the scoreboard. Harrison held to close out the first set 6-1 then kept his foot on the gas throughout the second set to win it 6-2.

At the end of the match, the announcer handed Chris the mic so he could talk to the very supportive crowd. He was very gracious, thanking everyone for their support, acknowledging that this was a great experience for him and gave him a chance to see what he needs to work on as he finishes up at GA Tech and prepares for life on the pro tour.

Ryan was complimentary of Chris’s play. “Chris was pretty aggressive early, and he was making a few errors,” explained Harrison. “So I was trying to focus on keeping my first serve percentage up. I know he’s got big weapons, especially with that forehand. I thought if I made first serves it would be difficult for him to control the point with it. I was really emphasizing on trying to make those. Then just you know I usually do a good job of making a lot of balls back and kind of putting that extra ball back in the court.”

The last Quarterfinal match pitted top-seeded Jack Sock against UK standout Kyle Edmund. Edmund, the twenty-two-year-old British star and Davis Cup player, seemed ready for aggressive play from Sock. He remained steady with his serve and returned the firepower with fire of his own, to come out on top. After winning the first set 6-4, Edmund took advantage of a weakened Sock – who requested a medical timeout but never seemed to recover fully despite massive crowd support – and dominated the second set, which ended quickly at 6-1.

RESULTS – JULY 28, 2017

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals

[3] G. Muller (LUX) d [Q] T. Paul (USA) 6-3 6-1
[2] J. Isner (USA) d L. Lacko (SVK) 7-5 6-4
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) 6-1 6-2
[5] K. Edmund (GBR) d [1] J. Sock (USA) 6-4 6-1

Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals

[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d H. Chung (KOR) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND) 6-1 6-2

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

[4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Not Before 3:00 pm

[3] G. Muller (LUX) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)

Not Before 7:00 pm

[5] K. Edmund (GBR) vs [4] R. Harrison (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) vs [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA)

AJC GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon

ALTA AA-3 CITY FINALS MIXED DOUBLES

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com

Semifinal Day at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Photo credit to Alex Smith
Photo credit to Alex Smith

 

The following was provided by Rick Limpert, Media Director at the BB&T Atlanta Open:

At the start of Friday’s quarterfinal matches an all-American-stacked top half of the draw guaranteed that an American will reach the final on Sunday. In the six years of the BB&T Atlanta Open, Americans have swept all six titles. The four Americans battle for a chance to continue the streak is between 18-year-old wild card Reilly Opelka, Atlanta resident Donald Young, 18-year-old Taylor Fritz, and three-time champion John Isner. Fritz is the youngest Atlanta quarter-finalist in tournament history at 18 years, 9 months. This is the first time two 18-year-old Americans have reached the quarter-finals of an ATP World Tour tournament since Los Angeles in 1990 when Michael Chang reached the final and Pete Sampras advanced to the semi-finals.

History was again made on Friday as Opelka continued his run and pulled another upset. It’s not often a player ranked over 800 in the world makes a run at an ATP World Tour event. This time the victim was hometown favorite and seventh-seeded Donald Young.The hard-hitting Opelka played with a strong presence at the net and a purpose in winning 6-4, 6-4.

Opelka started quickly with a break in the first game. A clearly irritated Young failed to counter Opelka’s break as he struggled with Opelka’s serve.

Opelka continued the hot play and big serving converting a breakpoint in the fifth game and delivered six aces in the second set to walk off the court with yet another big win.

Earlier in the week, Opelka earned his first ATP victory against Georgia Tech player Chris Eubanks in the first round and continued the streak with an upset over third-seeded Kevin Anderson in the

Opelka’s next opponent, three-time defending champ, John Isner.

manny tweet

Isner stepped onto the stadium court Friday night riding an impressive streak here in Atlanta. He had won 13 consecutive matches and is 21-3 overall at the BB&T. This match against Fritz would not be easy.

In the first set, Isner had a couple of early break chances but wasn’t able to convert until the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. Fritz fought hard, but he couldn’t gain any traction on the Isner serve. Isner totalled 12 aces in the opener.

Come the second set, Fritz appeared to have issues with his right shoulder, getting visited by the trainer on two changeovers. Isner didn’t let up and continued to use his strong serve. He went up 4-3 on a break and then finished with an ace on match point to finish off Fritz 7-5, 6-4.

“It’s encouraging for me to win matches in straight sets, no tiebreakers,” said Isner. “I’ve played a lot of tiebreakers in my career. I feel like I’m playing well from the back of the court and I’m returning well also.”

Isner advances to his seventh consecutive semifinal in Atlanta.

“I’m just comfortable here. I enjoy being here … If I could play every tournament here in Atlanta I could be number one!”

In the bottom half of the draw, rising Japanese star, Yoshihito Nishioka, earned early breaks in each set to close out Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 6-4 in just over an hour. It’s Nishioka’s first ATP World Tour semifinal and he’s ready.

“I’m so excited for that,” said the world No. 97. “The first was a lot as I was out on the court three hours for singles and then doubles, so I was a bit tired. Today it was just an hour, so I’ll be able to recover.”

Spanish star, Fernando Verdasco, fell to second-seeded Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3 in their quarterfinal match on Friday afternoon. Verdasco struggled to keep up with the Kyrgios serve as he totaled 18 aces and numerous service winners in the match that lasted just under two hours.

“I came out (feeling) real good. I wanted to get up on him early,” admitted Kyrgios.

Kyrgios took the first set by securing a break in the third game with an ace and after that he spent time engaging the fans, talking to his opponent and trying to speed up play.

They both traded holds leading up to a tiebreaker where Kyrgios fell victim to Verdasco’s strong and accurate groundstrokes. Kyrgios came out quickly in the third set, winning 80% of his service points and outlasting Verdasco from the backcourt to take the match.

On playing Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in the semifinal on Saturday.

“We are the same age, I grew up playing juniors with him. He’s transitioned well and has a great future ahead of him.”

RESULTS – AUGUST 05, 2016

Singles – Quarterfinals

[1] J. Isner (USA) d [8] T. Fritz (USA) 75 64

[2] N. Kyrgios (AUS) d [5] F. Verdasco (ESP) 64 67(5) 63

[WC] R. Opelka (USA) d [7] D. Young (USA) 64 64

Y. Nishioka (JPN) d H. Zeballos (ARG) 64 64

Doubles – Quarterfinals

J. Brunstrom (SWE) / A. Siljestrom (SWE) d N. Monroe (USA) / A. Sitak (NZL) 67(6) 64 11-9

A. Molteni (ARG) / H. Zeballos (ARG) d [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) / Z. Kennedy (USA) 75 75

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, AUGUST 06, 2016

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) vs A. Molteni (ARG) / H. Zeballos (ARG)

Not Before 3:00 pm

Y. Nishioka (JPN) vs [2] N. Kyrgios (AUS)

Not Before 7:00 pm

[1] J. Isner (USA) vs [WC] R. Opelka (USA)

M. Demoliner (BRA) / G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs J. Brunstrom (SWE) / A. Siljestrom (SWE)

Interviews at the US Open – Tennis Parents

It is so interesting to talk to the parents (and family members) of the top junior players as well as the pros – while they all have a different take on things, there are definitely some common threads among them. You may have already listened to some of these interviews in previous posts, but I wanted to group them together on one page for convenience. I hope you enjoy learning from them as I did!

IMG_6112 Lawrence Roddick – dad of young junior boy

 

 

 

 

 

lisawithjudymurrayJudy Murray – mom of Andy

 

 

 

 

 

lisawithopelkasLynne & George Opelka – parents of top-level junior boy

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1610Karen Isner – mom of John

 

 

 

 

 

Guy FritzGuy Fritz – dad of top-level junior boy

 

 

 

 

 

Anita SchneiderAnita Schneider – mom of top-level junior boy

 

 

 

 

 

Shelia TownsendShelia Townsend – mom of top-level junior girl

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6011Steve & Michelle Johnson – mom of Steve

 

 

 

 

 

20130828-082528.jpgGeoff Grant – dad of young players as well as collegiate players (he and his wife have 6 children!)

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1631Melanie & Jessie Rubin – mom and sister of top-level junior boy

 

 

Interviews at the US Open – Karen Isner

IMG_1610

 

I was so fortunate to have the chance to sit down and chat with Karen Isner, mom of our Bulldog John Isner. We talked about raising a junior tennis player, the transition from juniors to college, and the transition then to professional tennis. Of course, I had to ask her about what happened during John’s match with Gael Monfils the other night. Unfortunately, our interview got cut off somehow, but Karen told me how proud she was of her son’s maturity and grace in terms of the way he handled the adversity dished out by a harsh crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium. She said she just didn’t understand why they turned on John, especially since he and Gael are such good friends and have never had a harsh word between them. I assured her that everyone I had heard from was impressed by and proud of the way John spoke about the incident with the media afterward and that she certainly raised him well! I’m pleased to report that the crowd in today’s match versus Phillip Kolschreiber stayed in John’s corner ’til the bitter end, and John seemed to feed off and appreciate the support. Take a listen . . .

Karen Isner

John Isner to Appear at Emirates Airline Youth Tennis Clinic

Tennis.IsnerVia press release from USTA Southern:

WHAT: Youth Tennis Clinic, with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta

WHEN: Wednesday, July 24, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., John Isner scheduled to appear at 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: Atlantic Station’s Central Park

Between 18th and 19th and Market Streets

Atlanta, Ga. 30363

(Atlantic Station is the site of the BB&T Atlanta Open)

Between 90-100 local children in the YMCA of Greater Atlanta tennis program will hit with local teaching pros, interact with the tournament’s top-seed John Isner, have lunch and watch tournament matches.

Emirates, the world’s fastest growing airline, has partnered with USTA Serves, the national charitable foundation of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), to bring the fun and fitness of tennis to children across North America as part of “Emirates Returns.” The program, a grassroots charitable initiative connected to the Emirates Airline US Open Series, provides underserved youth in the various Series markets access to the sport of tennis as well as opens up educational opportunities.

A key component of the initiative includes a charitable donation of cash and new tennis equipment for each tournament’s affiliated charitable youth tennis partner. The total value of the donation across all nine Series tournaments and the US Open is $140,000. From that figure, Emirates will make a total cash contribution of $90,000 to USTA Serves which will then be distributed to the designated local youth tennis organizations in the form of grants to fund tennis and education programming.

Now in its 10th season, the Emirates Airline US Open Series continues to serve as a true regular season of hard-court tennis, linking nine summer tournaments to the US Open. Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova won the 2012 Emirates Airline US Open Series men’s and women’s titles. In 2007, Roger Federer collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history – $2.4 million – for winning the US Open and the Emirates Airline US Open Series titles. In 2005, Kim Clijsters also captured both the US Open and the Series, winning $2.2 million – the largest purse in women’s sports history – and equaled that amount in 2010, winning the US Open and finishing the Emirates Airline US Open Series in second place.

There’s No “I” in T-E-A-M

UGA Men's Tennis Team - 2007 NCAA Champions

Jim Courier, Bob Bryan, John Isner, Mike Bryan, Ryan Harrison

I know I’ve written a lot lately about high school and college tennis, but it’s just where I am right now, so please indulge me one more time!

I watched this past weekend’s Davis Cup matches with great interest, not only because my childhood friend’s son was playing for the US but also because our #1 singles player, John Isner, was a 4-year member of the University of Georgia men’s tennis team (Go Dawgs!).

As I watched World #11 Isner play against World #6 Jo Wilfred Tsonga, in what turned out to be the clinching match, I couldn’t help but wonder how Isner’s experience at UGA shaped his ability to close out such a decisive match on Sunday or how it affected his ability to close versus Roger Federer in the previous Davis Cup tie.

In John Isner’s own words (via Twitter), “That’s the beauty of team tennis, Coach!! Lay it all out there!!!”

Laying it all out there is exactly what John did to help lead the US team to victory versus Switzerland then versus France, coming in as the underdogs in both ties, being forced to play on what has been considered the US team’s weakest surface, red clay.  But, as a Georgia Bulldog, John had lots of experience in coming from behind and using the sideline energy of his teammates to push him to victory.

UGA Head Coach, Manny Diaz, told me that John was always a great team player. “I believe that playing a team sport at an early age (basketball) plays a big part.”

Coach Diaz went on to say, “I think that we [UGA] emphasize the ‘team’ concept very strongly. I feel that it helps develop closeness and it teaches them that even when you do not feel your best you play a very important part of what happens each day in practice. It’s much easier to just go through the motions when you are tired. But if you have a close team, you do not want to let the others down.”

There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that high school tennis is a waste of time.  There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that college tennis is NOT the proper path to the pros.

According to Coach Diaz, Isner is one of the greatest competitors and leaders his UGA team has ever had. In college, he was always at his best when others were counting on him. He would never let down the team by giving less than 100%, and when his teammates needed a win from him, he would raise his level to meet that need.  Now that Isner is on the ATP tour and playing Davis Cup, he seems to have carried that never-say-die attitude with him and is quickly becoming the go-to guy for Davis Cup coach Jim Courier.

I do realize that John Isner is an exception, that as Andy Roddick said, “You can’t teach 6-9!”  But, I can’t help but feel that, but for Isner’s 4 years under the tutelage of Coach Manny Diaz, he might never have developed into the kind of player who can withstand and thrive under the pressure of Davis Cup, especially the “away” matches with thousands of fans cheering against him.  If you’ve ever had the chance to watch your favorite college team play live, you know the kind of noise the home team can make.  Davis Cup fans have NOTHIN’ on college fans, especially in the SEC!

Here’s the thing . . . the odds are stacked waaaay against any junior player hoping to find success at the professional level.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s just the way it is.  So, why not advise your child to take at least a year or two (or four!) to mature, develop, and educate before making the decision to go on the tour?  Your child could be the next Davis Cup hero!

If the Pros Do It . . .

A while back, I wrote an article about watching the pros play in order to improve your tennis game.  Well, what about watching them in order to improve your tennis parenting skills?

As y’all know, I was lucky enough to get to go to the BNP Paribas Open last weekend in Indian Wells and see some amazing tennis.  In two of the matches – Isner (Go Dawg!) vs. Djokovic and Nadal vs. Federer – the higher-ranked player lost.  And, in my non-professional opinion, they lost not only because their opponent played a better match but also because they just weren’t 100% on their game that day.  They were missing shots that they would normally make in their sleep.  They were a half-step slow in their movement around the court.  They seemed a bit out of focus and not really up to the task of problem-solving in the moment.  And they looked frustrated which, especially from Nadal, you rarely see.

So, if these guys – who have been playing this game for probably close to 2/3 of their lives – have off days, why should we expect any different from our junior players?

I saw Djokovic griping to himself and to his player box numerous times throughout his semi-final match against John Isner.  He would throw his hands up as if to say, “Now what?” after another Isner ace.  He would walk back to the baseline with his head down and shoulders slumped after he made another unforced error.  He would look over at his coach with an aggravated look on his face after another failed attempt at a passing shot.

I saw Nadal muttering – in Spanish, of course – at the baseline after failing to keep his forehand deep enough in the court to prevent another Fed winner.  I saw him hit a ball at the back wall in frustration after missing an overhead.  I saw him drop his head, projecting NOT the invincible warrior we’re used to seeing but rather a defeated underdog.

Negative self-talk.  Negative body language.  Griping at the coach.  All behaviors I see from time to time with my son and all behaviors that I cannot stand!  Only now, after seeing some of my favorite professionals do the same things, I’m hoping I can keep them in perspective and remember that if the pros do it, too, then maybe I need to cut my kid (emphasis on kid) a little slack.

If you would like to see my photos from Indian Wells, visit the ParentingAces Facebook page.