Sloane Stephens rocked. Kalamazoo winner Dennis Novikov got by Jerzy Janowicz. Querrey won as expected. Roddick, Venus and Serena won, but they took out Americans Rhyne Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe respectively in the process. Jesse Levine let a two-set-and-a-break lead slip away in five. Vania King and Irina Falconi were upset. Thank god for the doubles victories yesterday.
Christina McHale was the saddest story of the day for the US, though. Although her match was announced as a possible move to Arthur Ashe stadium and it was available, they made McHale wait seemingly forever on Grandstand. She was ready to play by noon but wasn’t able to get on Grandstand until evening. After her three-set loss, a USOpen.org contributor gave her a parting kidney punch with the headline, “No. 21 seed crashes in first round McFail”. That’s right! The USTA’s own tournament website insults one of their own marquee trainees!
So, American tennis had a middling day at best. Caroline Wozniacki’s was worse. She looked bothered from the outset of her match against Irina Camelia-Begu. Begu won her first Grand Slam match in nearly five years. After Wozniacki’s 2011 semifinal appearance at the Open, she’s poised to drop out of the top ten with a Bartoli victory. I suspect the Danish press will be less harsh on her than their New York counterparts are on McHale.
19-year-old Christina McHale was praised for her potential by 2011 US Open Champion Samantha Stosur as reported by this blog last week. She lost a first round match to Aleksandra Wozniak, 5-7, 7-5, 4-6 last Monday in Charleston, and caught up with the tennis media shortly afterward. In the presser, she talked a lot about her career on clay.
“It’s been a decent twelve months for me”, she said, trying to stay upbeat even as the obvious disappointment of an early exit at the Family Circle Cup was still very close to the surface.
What clay warm-ups should we expect before Roland Garros?
“I think my first one will be Madrid, and then Rome, and then the one right before the French (Brussels), so hopefully, I’ll be feeling better on the clay by then.”
Memories and thoughts about clay play?
They had a 12s Super National that was on clay, so I think that was the first time I played a tournament on clay. If I practice on it more, I think my game could adapt well to it. I like the clay, I have to get used to sliding more, because I’ve never been that great at sliding, but I like it.
What’s she working on?
“I’ve been working on my serve, trying to get it more consistent and a little bit more power on it. Also, my court positioning, trying not to get so far back.”
On training at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New
York with Melanie Oudin:
Mel’s a good friend of mine. We haven’t really had too much time to practice together because I’ve been at tournaments, so we’ve missed each other. It’s nice, because everyone else is pretty young there so it’s nice to have someone else my age there.
So, does this mean Christina does not consider herself young?
Forgive me for laughing.
She’s the darling of the East Coast and the nation. Just don’t even think about calling her a kid.
Video of her play in the first round Charleston match is found below. If you want to know who’s asking the questions in the presser video up top, let me stop you right there and warn you that you have no challenges remaining. Their identities are revealed in the youtube desciption.
Day 1 winners include Benesova, the Pliskovas, Domachowska, Duque-Marino, Brengle, Craybas, Amanmuradova, Uhlirova, Ormaechea, Rogers, Lucic, Cabeza Candela, Larcher de Brito, Garcia, Hlavackova, Rampre, Chan and Giorgi. Five matches are still being played. More details to follow, including tomorrow’s Order of Play.
ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez and Darren Cahill held a conference call today wherein they discussed current events and observations of the game.
For one, Fernandez is fond of Christina McHale:
Christina is such a hard worker, with a great disposition. She wants to keep improving her game and she had a really good week. The next step for her is to finish off her matches. She had bad luck not finishing off Kerber, but I was proud of how she finished against Kvitova. She knows the keys to improving and her ranking just keeps going up.
Cahill was asked if he would compare the men’s top 10 of today to the top ten of ten years ago.
Every generation is different, but if you go back to Chang or Krajicek, Sampras and the others, if you were outside the top 10, if you could step your game up a notch, you felt like you had a chance. Now, these players today, the top 4, are more physical than I’ve ever seen. Djokovic had problems with his serve. He solved that problem. (Today’s Top 4) are the best movers and the best returners, too. We’re very lucky to be in this era.
On the hindrance rule of which Serena Williams fell afoul in last year’s US Open and Mardy Fish violated at Indian Wells before retiring to Matthew Ebden:
MJF: If you say “C’mon!” before the point is over, that’s hindrance. I think it was a good call on Serena at the US Open.
DC: The rule is quite simple. The point is awarded to the other player. Even if you smash a point and yell ‘come on’ before the second bounce. There needs to be a little more common sense in interpreting the rule. That was pretty rough that Mardy lost that point.
After declaring that Nick Bollettieri should definitely be in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Cahill opined to Tennis Maryland on the difficulties of a younger coach coming along in the style that Bollettieri or Braden did.
The question of putting together a tennis academy is much tougher than it once was. The elite juniors of the world and their associations hire away good coaches. But the best coaches in the world are the ones whose names we don’t know. They’re the ones on court with the 8-to-12 year olds day in and day out.
Cardiac Kid Christina McHale Barely Fails to Repeat as Quarter Finalist at Indian Wells; Hampton Retires #bnppo12
What a day of ups and downs for the USA WTA contingent. The sole surviving American interests in the women’s part of the BNP Paribas Open faced significant drama and yes, ’swings’ of all kinds.
First, Jamie Hampton, the New South’s new tennis darling (after ignominious hard times for Melanie Oudin), had placed #5 Agnieszka Radwanska in a difficult spot. After giving away the first set, Hampton rallied to win the second in the breaker and clearly had the momentum. Then, Hampton gave way and retired in the third set, yet another victim of the Infamous Indian Well Water Bug.
But the toughest news of today is that Christina McHale, our Mid-Atlantic sister, lost in dramatic style against 2011 US Open Semi-finalist Angelique Kerber of Germany. It was another topsy-turvy match for McHale, who won a comeback three-setter on Sunday against 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova. Today’s final score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(4) was even a tighter loss than the tight win McHale notched against Kvitova. McHale and her Navy failed to sail forward to face the winner of Kirilenko/Petrova, who play later tonight. Kerber will face that winner. But tonight, it was McHale who showed an aura of grit and determination about her that suggests that she will do much greater things in her career than simply getting back to a second straight Quarterfinal in Indian Wells.
Though Roger Federer has 602 times the career earnings of Denis Kudla, it didn’t stop Kudla from playing a good first set against the Greatest of All Time last night in Indian Wells, California. Though Fed took the match 6-4, 6-1, Kudla gained valuable experience points on a Stadium Court in prime-time play under the lights against a crowd favorite.
Tennis Channel analyst (and doubles specialist) Ashley Fisher remarked during the match that Kudla ought to be ”encouraged by his play. He broke Roger Federer in the first set and held his own on the big stage, on the second-biggest court in the world. He started to find his range.”
In Federer’s post-match interview, he said “I didn’t know Kudla very much, at all actually”.
In other Mid-Atlantic news, Christina McHale launched a dramatic and successful comeback against 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to join fellow American Jamie Hampton in the Round of 16. McHale will face Angelique Kerber for a trip the quarterfinals and Hampton will square off against Agnieszka Radwanska.
The first matches of the day are just wrapping up at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and it can already be declared a banner day for USA tennis. Two American women have cruised through to the third round. World #99 Jamie Hampton upset #14 Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 6-3 for the Alabama native’s first victory over a top-15 opponent. Christina McHale also took care of business against Elena Vesnina 6-3, 7-5.
On a local note, Denis Kudla finished off a nice comeback against Tobias Kamke moments ago, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a match where it seemed neither player had the will to win at times. This was a rematch from their last meeting in Memphis, and a much closer result than in Kudla’s victory over Kamke in the Volunteer State. If you’re wondering what took them so long to decide the winner of the match, now you know. Kudla not only won the match, but he also won the right to play the greatest of all time, Roger Federer, in the next round.
Americans Sloane Stephens and Vania King play later tonight.
The US women are just one tie away from rejoining the tennis elites of the World Group in Fed cup play. Serena Williams put the US over the top by defeating Anastasiya Yakimova in 3 sets this afternoon. The Americans soft play and the refusal of the Williams sisters to participate in the past relegated them to the subdivision of sub-par tennis nations. They have now climbed from the trough.
The American Spirit has risen up for our USA women. Relegation hurts. It’s as if your children were placed in a slow-learners program and you’re headed down to the school pretty quickly to take some names and tear it up. We may not be #1, but you better not put us in some developmental sideshow, playing hitting partner to those who are not yet ready for prime-time. Well, the US women played prime-time tennis this weekend. And by the time they play World Group ties next year, we may have a few new faces and a veteran in Christina McHale to compete in the top tier for years to come.
Azarenka’s decision not to play due to a back injury took all the competitive juices out of this tie before the first rubber began. When it did begin, Christina McHale’s opening victory over Yakimova yesterday let Belarussians fans know that this was not going to be an exciting weekend for their side. Instead of watching the new world #1 come into the American’s home and throw her weight around, Serena Williams and Christina McHale shut the door on any narrative that would allow the tiny former Soviet bloc nation to experience some silver lining from their Massachusetts visit.
At this very moment, Christina McHale is on her way to a straight sets victory over Darya Kustova and her second straight point in a Fed Cup tie. Things are looking up in the world of American tennis!
You don’t get to say it was a good day for US women’s tennis as much as you used to. Today was like old times. With a twist and turn, Christina McHale went from preparing to face Vika Azarenka and instead met Stasia Yakimova in the opening match of the US-Belarus Fed Cup tie in Worcester, Massachusetts. McHale certainly did not look a gift horse in the mouth and accepted a straight sets win to tip the tie in the favor of the USA. McHale earned her first Fed Cup point in the process. Then, Serena Williams polished off Olga Govortsova in straights to give the US an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
Tomorrow, Azarenka is scheduled to play the final rubber of the weekend with Govortsova against Venus and Liezel Huber of the US. That could be a legendary match, but it’s unlikely that many fans will stick around to catch it just a couple of hours before the Superbowl kicks off.
With Serena taking on Yakimova at noon, the final result could be determined by 1 pm. If that’s the case, you’ve got to hope that folks stick around to see McHale facing Govortsova immediately following Serena’s probable clinching win for the Americans. McHale-Govortsova could definitely be the closest rubber of the weekend. But with the greatest sporting event in the world, Puppy Bowl VIII, starting at 3 pm, only the true tennis fans will honestly be able to say they watched McHale win her second Fed Cup tie.
You’ve got to hand it to the organizers for dealing with the obvious distractions of the New England Patriots Super Bowl appearance, the late scratch of the #1 world debutante on Saturday and Venus William’s earrings. The crowd was treated today to see a historic moment in young Christina McHale’s first victory of many more to come. Afterwards, Serena’s performance put a lot of Serena-doubters aback, too, and brought the US a big lead.
For the fortunate fans who return tomorrow, they might be able to see both Serena and Christina do it all over again, with a splash of Venus, Vika and doubles superstar Liezel Huber. It’s an incredible line-up and a nice finish for the tie.
Look, the US women are going to win an international tie. This is welcome news! Beam us up, ITF. The US women are ready to return to the Mothership of the World Group.