Patrascu starts petition to save ITF tour

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Canadian Maria Patrascu isn’t a player you’ll have heard about.

The 21-year-old has been struggling at the low levels of the pros in 2018. But last weekend, she won her first main-draw matches of the season – and went all the way to the doubles title at a $15,000 event in Cairo, Egypt.

The changes that the ITF and ATP have planned for a “transition tour” in 2019 will affect hundreds of players.

And Patrascu lays out reality in a video that accompanies a petition she has started to fight the proposed changes.

Sign it!

Steve Johnson looks back on tough year

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Steve Johnson lost his father Steve Sr. in May, 2017.

A year on, the American won the clay-court event in Houston. Opponent Tennys Sandgren knew how he felt.

“I know our dads are watching in the crowd,” said Sandgren, who lost his own father some years ago.

On the ATP Tour website, Johnson writes about the year.

“I’ve panicked. There have been times when my anxiety spiralled out of control. Some weeks it is easier and I can’t explain why,” said Johnson, who was in and out of the hospital for a week after Wimbledon.

WTA promos Bouchard, as she hits ITF

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Some tone-deafness on the part of the WTA Tour Twitter account this week, as it promoted Genie Bouchard  – and linked to an April photo shoot – the very week the 24-year-old Canadian takes to the ITF circuit at Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.

A year ago in Madrid, Bouchard upset Maria Sharapova in arguably one of the matches of the year for its intensity and drama. 

But that was a year ago. So it was just grist for the haters’ mill.

It might do Bouchard good to watch the video, though, before her first match in France. She was pumped.

19 points in a row for Sharapova

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The first set against Irina-Camelia Begu Monday was a tight one.

But in the second set, Maria Sharapova went on a roll, winning 19 consecutive points to sprint to victory and reach the third round at the Madrid Open.

“That is pretty cool. Doesn’t happen often. Not with me,” Sharapova said during the press conference. She hadn’t realized her roll was quite that good.

“I really set up a good opportunity for me to step up, and I thought I did a really good job of that, especially the last six games,” she said.

New tennis video game WTA-impaired

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The Tennis World Tour video game is set to launch May 22.

But as the players tested it out in Madrid Friday, one thing became apparent: there are almost no WTA Tour players on it.

In fact, an awkward moment as world No. 4 Elina Svitolina wanted to play as her own character, except … no.

In all, there are 24 men – headed by Roger Federer, but not Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic – and two legends (Agassi and McEnroe). 

Total number of women? Five, including Genie Bouchard.

We won’t talk about the 2017-vintage mismatched Nike green outfits.

Columbian player suspended under TIU

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Here’s the rule, kids.

If the Tennis Integrity Unit tells you to come for an interview and surrender your mobile phone, you’d probably best do it.

Barlaham Zuluaga Gaviria begged off on the interview because of illness. He wouldn’t reschedule. He wouldn’t surrender his cell phone and when he finally did – it was a different phone. 

The result after a hearing April 29 is the 22-year-old Colombian received a three-year suspension, and a $5,000 fine

Zuluaga originally was suspended all the way back in July, 2017.

His career high of No. 1491 came as a 17-year-old, in 2003.

Top-50 Greek tennis up to the moms

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How does Greece have a two players in the top 50?

Well, it’s a mom thing.

For Barcelona finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, it’s Russian-born Julija Salnikova Apostoli, now 53. She played for her native Russia, then Greece after her marriage to Tsitsipas’s father/coach Apostolos.

For Sakkari, it’s mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou, 52. Kanellopoulou reached a career best singles ranking of No. 43 … exactly 30 years ago.

On Monday, Tsitsipas sits at No. 44.

As for Sakkari, her semifinal in Istanbul meant she squeezed past her mom – by one spot.

But Sakkari doesn’t have a commercial – at least not yet.

Bryan brothers hit the big 4-0

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The ATP Tour put together a nice reel of people in tennis – and out – wishing the legendary Bryan brothers a happy 40th birthday.

The pair hit the milestone Sunday (countryman Andre Agassi hit 48 the same day) at opposite ends of the earth. They withdrew from Barcelona this week after winning in Monte Carlo.

Bob spent his day with his wife and three kids at home in Florida. Mike, freshly divorced, hit Morocco with his new girlfriend Nadia Murgasova and even gave her a tennis lesson.

They currently stand at No. 2 in the race to London.

Clay Coco also a crier, it turns out

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The fortnight was long as Coco Vandeweghe went straight from Fed Cup to Stuttgart.

Despite her low expectations, she ended up in the final, losing a close one to Karolina Pliskova.

“I try not to be a crier but  it seems like I am a crier,” Vandeweghe said after the loss.

“As much as I get written up for being such a nightmare, I try to be as jovial as I can … Sometimes to get myself into the right mind frame, I have to hate my opponent. It’s not necessarily true; it’s just something I have to do.”

Honest comments.

Shaggy Stefanos gets career win

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Stefanos Tsitsipas showed up in Monte Carlo with traces of a beard.

And it seems shaggier he gets, the better it’s working for him as the 19-year-old upset world No. 7 Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the Barcelona quarterfinals Friday.

The hair is getting longer, the beard is coming in. Perhaps Tsitsipas is superstitious – and won’t make any changes until he … hits the top 50?

He falls one short of that with Friday’s win. If he beats Pablo Carreño Busta in the semis Saturday, he’ll make it easily.

A year ago, the Greek teen stood at No. 206.