2012 Winston-Salem Open: Fan-Friendly Dash-City Behind-the-Scenes Re-Cap
Lindsay Gibbs, Special to TennisEastCoast.com
First of all, I’d like to thank Steve for inviting me to do a couple of guest posts here on Tennis East Coast. I’ve been a follower of the site since it was Tennis Maryland, and even though I’m biased since I consider Steve a friend, I’m an admirer of any site that aims to give some face-time to those tennis players who aren’t in the top echelon of racquet society.
Now, two days removed from the Winston-Salem Open, I’m still trying to process all that happened. This was only my second tournament as media this summer, and my fifth overall, and having a credential and getting to sit in press conferences and talk with players one-on-one still blows my mind. The tournament in Winston-Salem is extra special for me because, like John Isner, I’m from the nearby city of Greensboro, North Carolina. Though I’ve lived in New York City for eight years, it’s very meaningful to have tennis in (or, rather, near) my hometown. I get to stay with my dad and occasionally watch tennis matches with family members (last year my mom joined, this year it was a second cousin.) Moreover, it’s just fun to watch the Southern community that is so familiar to me embrace the tennis world that I have come to know so well. And it’s neat to feel a part of that in a small way.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to take Tennis East Coast readers on a bit of a behind the scenes look at my time at the Winston-Salem Open… you know, re-live some of my favorite moments and reflect on some of the things I saw in press that stuck out to me. A bit of a personal journal entry that I’m letting everyone read. I’ll leave the dirty parts out. (There were no dirty parts.)
-First of all, let me take you inside the Winston-Salem Media Center:
While lacking in most things technological, the room did have one advantage–a view! No, not of tennis, that would make too much sense. Rather, we got to overlook the Wake Forest University Football Stadium!
This had two perks: a) When there were rain delays we got to see movies on the big screen, and b) The Players Lounge was adjacent to the Media Center and they shared the same terrace as we did, so we often got to see them hanging out there or warming up before their matches! It made me feel like a spy.
I was pretty impressed with all the players in press, especially after losses. Perhaps it was the Southern hospitality, but even Andy Roddick was in a fairly congenial mood after his loss. A few of my favorite moments were:
• Darcis came to press quickly after losing the final 10 games of his quarterfinal against Berdych. We all followed him from the Media Center to the press room (which was down a flight of stairs), but when we got here it turned out he had forgotten his credential and the security wouldn’t let him in, even though we all promised he was a player! Instead of being pissed off (like I imagine most players would be), he apologized profusely to the media and went back up the stairs and grabbed his credential!
• Querrey was extra cheery in his presser after his loss to Berdych too. He had a “Have An Awesome Day” t-shirt on, and was smiling throughout. Afterward, he chatted with tournament director Bill Oakes and played ping-pong in the player’s lounge.
• Right after the Querrey match, we were told it would be 10 minutes for the Berdych presser. Well, a mere two minutes later he showed up at the door of the interview room. Instead of barging in (which he could have done), he knocked on the door casually and asked if we were ready for him. I thought that was cute.
–Even the smallest tennis tournaments are really busy, and I’ve learned that you can’t follow all the stories you want to, as a fan or as a member of the media. I was really excited to get one-on-one interviews with Gulbis, Stakhovsky, and McClune last week, but I wasn’t able to solve a few mysteries. For example:
Late one night I found Tommy Robredo on a practice court feeding balls to a young girl. Was she a local? Was she a friend of his? Was she a relative? So many questions, but cute nonetheless.
A Winston-Salem Open volunteer befriended Donald Young’s family, and sat in the box with his mom and coach during his matches. I saw them walking around the grounds together often, but before I could follow up on the friendship Young was already out of the tournament.
If anyone has any information on the above mysteries, please let me know! (This is journalism at it’s finest.)
–The grounds of the Winston-Salem Open are really fun.
The Grandstand Court is built underneath the overhang of the football Stadium. Also, in the true spirit of Southern Hospitality, all of the bathrooms seem to be dedicated to players. Because I’m immature, I found this hysterical.
There are more cool parts of the grounds, but I didn’t take pictures of any of them. Oh except for this:
–Last but certainly not least, my favorite thing about the Winston-Salem Open, besides everything else I’ve mentioned in this post, is the Doubles Trophy Ceremony. The Doubles Final takes place after the Singles Final, so not everyone stays. Therefore, Tournament Director Bill Oakes invites all the fans onto the court for the trophy presentation! Pretty awesome. Here are my favorite camera phone pics from the special occasion:
(I have no idea what I did to deserve getting that face from Mayer! I swear I was being professional. I SWEAR OKAY.)
Anyways, hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the Winston-Salem Open. Hopefully, Steve will have me back again soon!
Lindsay Gibbs is the author of “Titanic: The Tennis Story“. Buy a copy today! You’re invited back anytime, Lindsay. Thanks for giving us some academic street cred!
Isner defends Winston-Salem title, Djokovic claims Emirates US Open Series
John Isner needed his oft typical three sets and a tiebreak to defeat Winston-Salem Open 2 seed Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, finishing it off in a nail-biting tiebreaker 11-9 after saving multiple match points. With the victory, he claims his second straight Winston-Salem Open title and the North Carolina native is still the only man to have won the event.
It was a solid run to the final for the world number 7 Berdych, who appears to have broken out of a slump he had been in since Wimbledon. While Berdych seemed to play a cleaner match in the final than Isner, his play was not rewarded and it will be interesting to see the effect this match will have on both players as they head to New York and look to make runs at the US Open.
Berdych beat Alex Bogomolov, Jarkko Nieminen, Steve Darcis in three and Sam Querrey to reach the final, while Isner beat Martin Klizan, Jurgen Melzer, David Goffin and top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three and a tiebreak en route to the final, another steady tournament and heady performance from Big John.
Querrey’s loss in the semis gives Novak Djokovic the Emirates US Open Summer Series title. Still, it was a good summer for Sam and many other guys including tournament winners Andy Roddick (Atlanta: d. Gilles Muller), the forementioned Querrey (LA: d. Ricardas Berankis), Alexandr Dolgopolov (DC: d. Tommy Haas), Roger Federer (Cincy: d. Djokovic) and Isner.
–Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
There’s something about acclaimed tennis auteur Lindsay Gibbs. People just open up to her. So it was with Latvian superstar Ernests Gulbis at the Winston-Salem Open yesterday. Tennis East Coast is proud to publish her inaugural post on this L’il Debbie of a blog. She’ll be in Winston-Salem the rest of the week, where she was born and raised. Here’s her grand slam in her first at bat on Tennis East Coast. How she’ll top this interview is anyone’s guess, but luckily for us, her Lasso of Truth never needs recharging.
2012 Winston-Salem Interview: Ernests Gulbis
Lindsay Gibbs, Special to TennisEastCoast.com
On Tuesday in Winston Salem, I got to check an item off of the tennis bucket list: I got to interview Ernests Gulbis. Erik Gudris (from adjustingthenet.com) and I got to sit down informally with the infamous Latvian, and soak in the bravado in person. I didn’t know what to expect, and even now a day later I’m not sure exactly what I got. He’s ranked 153 in the world right now, and therefore had to go through qualifying here in Winston-Salem, and fought through some matches and into the 3rd Round. He sat down with us after his 6-4, 7-6(2) win over Kevin Anderson, the #35 player in the world.
Ernests is a ball of contradictions, an obscure mix of sincerity and sarcasm, of reality and fantasy. He just has a different philosophy on, well, pretty much everything. He gave long and rambling answers to every question, and I think it’s best to just let Ernests speak for himself. (Though I have italicized a few things, for effect. I couldn’t help myself.)
Gulbis on why he got broken early in the 2nd set against Anderson:
Well, I served pretty well today. I got broken at the first time in the 2nd set mostly because of old balls and because I broke him and then he broke me straight back with the oldest balls possible. And then they changed them the next game. It’s really tough to serve with really old balls, especially here. He’s a guy also, when it’s 15-0, 30-0 he’s going to make good points, it’s going to be nice, with an ace, he’s confident, but when it’s 0-15, 0-30, everybody chokes. Even the best guys. Even Roger or Rafa chokes, it’s just normal. I broke him twice. He made twice double-fault. It’s tough to get to that point when you have break points against a big server like this. You know, couple games, the match is long. Even if it’s a five set match, it’s even longer. You shouldn’t worry, just relax, keep going.
Gulbis on his new coach:
I changed my coach a few months ago…before Paris. Gunter Bresnik. Austrian guy. He’s a good coach. It’s been good…I’m not playing my best tennis, I’ve just gotten some wins, and some confidence, and you know when I’m playing like this maybe I can win the tournament.
Gulbis on his upset over Berdych at Wimbledon:
I just prove to myself that when I’m good I can beat anybody. It’s clear for the rest of the players as well. They know when I play well I will give them trouble. Doesn’t matter who it is. When I play bad, I can lose to anyone.
Gulbis on the constant complaints by other players about the U.S. Open logistics, such as transportation:
A lot of players are princesses, you know. I like New York, you know. I don’t like a place like Cincinnati, there’s nothing to do. There is one Applebees, two hotels, you go out you get depressed. It’s a joke.
Gulbis on his favorite thing to do in New York:
I’m not going to tell you.
Gulbis on his reputation (hookers, private jets, etc.) that precedes him:
I’m trying to balance it. With age, you become more and more professional. So now I think I’ve calmed down, I’m doing the right stuff, but still I have my moments. I think you’re going to hear about them from time to time. Nothing has changed. But I’m trying to keep it more quiet.
Gulbis on his opponents:
I never care who I play against, I only care about my game. It’s simple. If I feel the ball well I really don’t care who I play. I can beat anybody, of course, I can lose also…. I really get pissed off if I am playing like shit, like I did at the beginning of the year, I didn’t get any wins. It’s a joke.
Gulbis on the players ranked ahead of him:
No disrespect to the other guys, but when I see what kind of players are already in top 50, I’m a bit shocked. I don’t know some of the names. Even I come here to this tournament, I see some of the guys, I ask my friend, ‘Who is this?’ He is ranked top 50!
Gulbis on consistency and Challengers:
Just consistency to get to the top 50. Yes, of course, these guys play only challengers, they win 5 or 6 challengers and they are ranked in the top 100. I play maybe 2 challengers in the last 4 or 5 years. I went to the big tournaments no matter what, I didn’t care about my ranking points, I just wanted and went to the big tournaments, so this is what I’m going to continue to be doing, doesn’t matter what’s my ranking. I’m not going to go to a challenger because of points. I can go to a challenger because of lack of matches or something like that, but never because of points.
And I know that any given week I can play well– reach quarter, I can reach semis– and the points in these tournaments are bigger. I just need two good weeks. I’m going to be top 50 in no time, if I play and continue working.
Gulbis on Qualifying:
Here (Winston-Salem) I came, so you have to win 9 matches to win the tournament. It’s more than a Grand Slam! And also, how they treat the players in qualifying it’s also a joke. First of all, you come to the center court they don’t have the net divide, they don’t have the hawk-eye system. They have the hawk-eye system, they just don’t want to use it for qualifying. Qualifying is not really a tournament sometimes. It’s ‘okay, let the guys play there’, whatever. I have this feeling, maybe I’m wrong, it’s very subjective always. I’m still going to try, I’m going to go to Asia, I’m going to play the quallies there, then I believe they’re not easy. Here was tough quallies, there was a lot of tough players.
Gulbis on the impact of his new coach on his mindset and game:
There is nothing to change about that, it’s my own decision what I’m doing in my life and outside the court, but on the court, my forehand.
2012 ATP Winston-Salem Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
In the final tune up before the US Open and the last event in the summer long Emirates US Open Series, pros will battle it out on courts at the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Winston-Salem is in just its second year on the ATP calendar.
ATP World Tour 250 (and Emirates US Open Series)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
August 19-August 25, 2012
Prize Money $553,125
Top 8 seeds (who all receive 1st round byes, asdo the top 16 seeds)
1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2: Tomas Berdych
3: John Isner
4: Alexandr Dolgopolov
5: Andy Roddick
6: Marcel Granollers
7: Sam Querrey
8: Julien Benneteau
The addition of top 10 players Tsonga and Berdych gives Winston-Salem a stellar field for an ATP 250.
1st round matchups to watch:
Go Soeda vs. Ryan Harrison
Harrison lost last week to fellow youngster Bernard Tomic in Cincy and hasn’t had the brightest summer, while Soeda hasn’t played since the Olympics and will make his return to the hardcourts where he last made the semis in Atlanta.
Tommy Robredo vs. Lukasz Kubot
Tommy Robredo was once a top ten player, but after struggling mightily with the injury bug, he sits inside the top 200. The Spanish vet has had to make do playing on the challenger circuit and the occasional main draw of ATP events, and while he prefers clay, his results have been looking up recently. On theother hand, Kubot lost to Yen-Hsun Lu in Cincy and hasn’t been hot recently. Robredo could pull off an upset.
Tsonga, hopefully recovered from a knee injury that forced him to skip Cincy, will start off against either Thomaz Bellucci or Marcos Baghdatis (who pushed eventual quarterfinalist Milos Raonic to three sets in Cincy). It gets easier for Tsonga from there as he likely faces 15 seed Pablo Andujar or Atlanta finalist Gilles Muller in the third round.
Marcel Granollers will face the winner of Harrison/Soeda, while 12 seed Kevin Anderson, who lostin the first round of both Toronto and Cincy and has been icy this summer, will face a qualifier or grinder Carlos Berlocq in the second round. This part of the draw is pretty open for whoever wants to seize the moment.
Toronto semifinalist and defending champ John Isner will face Benoit Paire or Martin Klizan and then could see 13 seed Jurgen Melzer, who gave Sam Querrey a scare in Cincy. After that, he could play the man he beat in the Winston-Salem final last year, Julien Benneteau, who plays the winner of Kubot/Robredo, or more likely 10 seed Viktor Troicki.
Berdych, who has struggled mightily on the hard courts this summer, will face either fellow struggler Alex Bogomolov or Malek Jaziri in the second round, after that he could battle 16 seed Jarkko Nieminen , Tatsuma Ito or a qualifier.
5 seed Andy Roddick, the Atlanta Champ who lost to Jeremy Chardy in Cincy and might be slightly banged up, will face the winner of wildcard James Blake vs. Albert Ramos and then could face 11 seed Denis Istomin inthe third round. Istomin will play a Belgian in his opener: either Xaiver Malisse or Steve Darcis.
4 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, the wildly inconsistent DC champ who got completely thrashed in his last two matches, to Radek Stepanek in Toronto and Nikolay Davydenko in Cincy, will face the winner of Lukas Lacko vs.Yen-Hsun Lu. Whoever advances will face either 14 seed David Nalbadian, who nearly managed to enact revenge on Tommy Haas in the 1st round of Cincy but choked away the match, or the winner of Nikolay Davydenko/Robin Haase. Davydenko impressed in advancing to the third round of Cincy out of nowhere, but had to retire with shoulder issues against Novak Djokovic.
7 seed Sam Querrey, the LA champ, will face either Santiago Giraldo or Edouard Roger-Vasselin and then likely faces a tough match up with 9 seed Feliciano Lopez. Lopez will play the winner of Leonardo Mayer vs. Donald Young. Young has lost has lost 17 matches in a row and it shows no signs of stopping.
Dark Horses: Viktor Troicki and Feliciano Lopez
Troicki made the third round of Cincy and has been better of late. In addition, he has the advantage of having a pretty easy draw until he’d reach Isner in the quarterfinals. While he would be an underdog in that match, it would be winnable.
As for Lopez, the Winston-Salem draw is stronger in the top half than it is in the bottom, which is much more wide open. While he hasn’t shown anything that dynamic, Feli always has it in him to make a run and the only other seed in his path is the still somewhat inconsistent Sam Querrey. If he defeats Querrey, he either gets Nalbandian or Dolgopolov, and you never really know which Dolgopolov is going to show up. The semis are certainly possible for Feli and if he gets the inconsistent and possibly injured Roddick in the semis, and then a possibly still injured Tsonga in the final, ANYTHING is possible.
Tsonga d. Isner
Lopez d. Roddick
Tsonga d. Lopez