Out of D.C., Tsonga hoped for – and received – a WC in Montreal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From the way he looked for much of this week at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is on his way back.

Ranked No. 70 coming into the week, his two victories mean he will jump 10 spots in the rankings, to No. 60 on Monday.

It will be the Frenchman’s highest ranking in a year. And if he keeps it up, he’ll soon get to the point where he won’t need wild cards to get into the big tournaments.

But for now, as concerned the Masters 1000 in Montreal next week, the 34-year-old Frenchman had to hurry up – and wait.

Tsonga said after his win over No. 2 seed Karen Khachanov Tuesday (his first victory over a top-10 players since Oct. 2017) that he had discussed a wild card with the Rogers Cup organizers.

He certainly had the resumé to merit it. Not only did he win the tournament in 2014 (the biggest title of his career, with the 2008 Paris Masters tournament having a smaller draw), but he’s hugely popular in Montreal.

Part of that is the fact that he speaks the language. The other part is that he’s basically popular wherever he goes.

But Tsonga told Tennis.Life the tournament was holding back the final wild card for a “big player”. 

We’ve heard that before. Often, it ends up not happening. And that was indeed the case, as it was announced Thursday evening that Tsonga would be given that final wild card.

The Frenchman was headed to Montreal Thursday night. If the wild card hadn’t come through, he told Tennis.Life he would play the qualifying.

Tsonga

Little qualifying data available

Tsonga hasn’t needed to play qualifying for many years. But the last injury, which required knee surgery, and his slow road back has meant he’s either used his special ranking, or received wild cards for the most part.

He played the qualifying in Miami in March. And although he won the first round against Lukas Rosol, he then lost to Pablo Cuevas.

So it’s probably a blessing that he didn’t have to go through it.

Tsonga’s last appearance in qualifying prior to Miami this year went all the way back to Queen’s Club … in 2007. He won three rounds there, and lost to Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. He took a wild card into the second week of Wimbledon a few weeks later.

Big-time against Schnur and Khachanov

Tsonga appeared to be moving like vintage Tsonga in his 6-4, 7-6 victory over Canadian qualifier Brayden Schnur in the first round.

And he looked just as good against Khachanov in the second round. That was a match he was particularly pleased to have won.

Against Kyle Edmund Thursday, it was tight. But he wasn’t able to take advantage of his opportunities, with 18 aces and seven break points (he converted only one).

But he wasn’t unhappy with the match overall. Little by little, he’s getting there.

Doubles Andy works on his singles, too (video)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s fun for the Murray brothers, and for the fans and tournament, that Andy Murray is playing doubles this week at the Citi Open.

But there’s an extra added bonus to it, as it turns out.

The former No. 1 is on site at a tournament that features a lot of excellent singles players.

And that means: the motherlode of practice partners to help him get to the place where he can think of competing on the singles court again.

Murray was out on the practice courts Sunday with American Denis Kudla, with a lot of fans watching on.

He was sporting his “Man-bra”, or “Bro”, or whatever you want to call that thing and playing singles points.

It was pretty amusing how his demeanour was completely different than it was the previous day when he was practicing doubles.

Murray brothers reunite in D.C.

Murray would get annoyed at himself every time he missed or felt he wasn’t fast enough off the mark.

He was, kind of, “same old Andy”. Which is a welcome sight.

 

Low-key in D.C. for FAA (video)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a week, one of those watershed “firsts” in Félix Auger-Aliassime’s young career will occur.

The 18-year-old will celebrate his 19th at the Rogers Cup, which not only is a Masters 1000 event, but is held in his hometown of Montreal.

To prepare for that tournament by getting some match play on the hard courts, and to keep things on the down low before all the attention he’ll get at home, Auger-Aliassime is at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. this week.

That’s not the only reason, of course. The Citi Open is an ATP 500 event, which offers plenty of ranking points (and prize money).

The young Canadian spent about 10 days in Montreal training after taking a post-Wimbledon break.

On Saturday, he had a practice in the heat of the day, then took to the stadium court at 8 p.m. for a practice that was still going strong when your Tennis.Life chronicler left just after 9:30 p.m.

Peas in a pod

Auger-Aliassime hit with Frances Tiafoe, who is experiencing the same type of thing this week in D.C. Tiafoe is a local. But the advantage he has is that this isn’t his first Citi Open rodeo.

And, of course, there’s Coco Mania, which is sucking up all the early air before the big event begins.

Here they are on court. Auger-Aliassime’s fellow Montrealer Genie Bouchard had the 7-8 p.m. slot just before them, so the two city-twins did run into each other.

 

Murray brothers reunite in D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Andy Murray isn’t yet ready to come back in singles, his presence is a huge add to the doubles draws at the tournaments he has played.

Murray and Feliciano Lopez won the doubles at Queen’s Club, in his return to the courts after hip surgery.

And Murray, partnered with Serena Williams, were a big reason the mixed doubles event at Wimbledon turned out to be such a great event.

This week, in Washington, D.C. at the Citi Open, Murray is reuniting on court with big brother Jamie.

They’ll face Nicolas Mahut and Edouard-Roger Vasselin in the first round of a doubles draw that’s just packed with quality and interest.

It will feature the doubles debut of Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas (who drew top seeds (and Wimbledon champions) Cabal and Farah.

There are the Bryan brothers, of course, who have won the Citi Open four times (including three straight years from 2005-2007).

The immortal Leander Paes is teaming up with Jack Sock, who has been out all year and just returned to action at the Atlanta event this week.

Murray

First time since 2013 on the ATP Tour

The Murray brothers last played together at Davis Cup in 2016. They beat Japan in the first round, and then beat Juan Martin del Potro and Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the semifinals. And they also played together for three ties in 2015.

They also played together at the Rio Olympics that year.

On the ATP Tour, their last joint appearances goes all the way back to Indian Wells in 2013.

Murray just looks so happy to be on court. Three’s a lightness to him that (despite the circumstances) is just great to see.

Here’s what it looked like (videoing through the fence is, well, not ideal. But we did the best we could!)

They practiced with fellow Brit Joe Salisbury and his American partner Rajeev Ram.

Stadium practice for Bouchard with Todero

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Genie Bouchard got an evening practice session in Saturday night, with new coach Jorge Todero and a hitting partner.

She had practiced earlier, in the heat of the day, with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

There was a lot of discussion about Bouchard’s serve – with some animated input from Bouchard.

Bouchard last played the Citi Open two years ago. She defeated Christina McHale in the first round, before falling in three sets to Andrea Petkovic. But she and Sloane Stephens were a Cinderella team in the doubles, reaching the final.

In 2016, she lost in the first round to Camila Giorgi. 

Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2013, when the then 19-year-old lost in the first round of singles to Ekaterina Makarova, but reached the doubles final with 2012 Wimbledon junior partner (they won) Taylor Townsend.

Here’s what it looked like on court.

A Montreal meeting in D.C.

Félix Auger-Aliassime followed Bouchard onto the stadium court for a lengthy evening practice with his friend Frances Tiafoe.

Of course, the two crossed paths.

And Bouchard chronicled the moment on her Insta, sitting courtside as Auger-Aliassime began his practice.

More Bouchard shots

Bouchard faces the relentless Lauren Davis in the first round of the singles.

Here are some pics from the practice session.

Pospisil notches first post-surgery win – with one arm

GRANBY, Que. – The big one, of course, is coming up in 10 days at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

So with a sore left wrist – diagnosed as a bone bruise – Canadian Vasek Pospisil is taking no chances.

The 29-year-old returned to action for the first time since January back surgery in the first round of Wimbledon. There, he had the unfortunate task of having to face friend and countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime in the first round.

Pospisil lost in four sets. But while he appears to be moving well, other physical niggles have popped up, including the knee.

And, last week, while practicing before a planned appearance in the Challenger in Gatineau, Que., the left wrist.

Pospisil withdrew from Gatineau, but took a wild card into this week’s Challenger in Granby, Que., about an hour outside Montreal. 

He faced fellow Canadian Josh Peck armed with … only one arm.

You have to see it to believe it.

Pospisil didn’t hit a single two-handed backhand. Instead, he chipped most of them, and even unleashed the topspin one-handed backhand that until now, has only been showcased on the practice court – or after a point is over.

“It’s sick, isn’t it?” said Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic (he meant this in a good way!), who is helping out Pospisil for a few weeks as he makes his comeback.

Peck undoubtedly knew about Pospisil’s situation, as his college (and national training centre) teammate Ben Sigouin was practicing with Pospisil when he hurt the wrist in Gatineau. Still, he aimed primarily for Pospisil’s big forehand. Perhaps, as Pospisil posited, it was because he was running around to try to hit as many forehands as possible, and Peck wanted to open up the court.

But Pospisil was able to dictate play, serve well, and pull out his first win since the back surgery, 6-3, 6-3.

Very laid-back atmosphere

Pospisil  was just sitting on the practice court, getting ready to warm up for his match, when an official came over to tell him that the previous match on the Granby center court had ended prematurely with an injury retirement.

No worries. He said he’d be ready in half an hour, did his warmup, and headed out.

He unleashed a few one-handers there – right next to a random woman (definitely not in tennis attire) who was hitting a few balls on the next court. Granby is – well, it’s a low-key atmosphere.

Pospisil even was signing tennis balls for a group of ball kids just moments before he headed out to play the match.

Solid serving, big forehands

Pospisil got caught a few times on the backhand return, without his two-hander. Peck, 20, is taller than Pospisil and cranked his first serve as high as 213 km/hour. 

What he lacks, of course, is experience. He went through the Montreal-based national training program for several years, before going down to the U.S. where he plays for the University of North Carolina.

He has never played an ATP Tour-level event. And this was only his third career main-draw match even at a Challenger event.

The difference in level and experience was fairly evident. Here’s what it looked like.

Popular Pospisil

After the match, Pospisil was a popular man among the autograph-seeking crowd. He had Dancevic cheering him on. And Frederic Niemeyer, the Tennis Canada coach who was his first coach when he transitioned to the pro tour, came down from Montreal to support him.

Niemeyer is headed to Washington, D.C. Thursday, as he’s currently working with Brayden Schnur (who is in the qualifying there).

Escobedo next for Pospisil

Next up for Pospisil in Granby is a tougher customer in American Ernesto Escobedo.

Escobedo, still just 23, was ranked a career high No. 67 exactly at this time of the season two years ago. He’s down to No. 288 now; while he hasn’t missed any chunks of time because of injury, he has had a lot of smaller things. And his ranking has been on a steep decline since then.

Pospisil

He’s currently being coached by former top-20 American player Jan-Michael Gambill.

Pospisil

Escobedo defeated No. 14 seed Kaichi Uchida 7-5, 6-3 in his first-round match Wednesday.

 

 

Shapovalov talks about “Big Three” influence (video)

Denis Shapovalov’s remarks about how he looked up to Roger Federer when he was a kid got a lot of play last week at the Miami Open.

The fact that the 19-year-old was to play Federer in the semifinals had everything to do with that.

But in that same press conference, the Canadian teen expounded on the influence that all three members of the “Big Three” had on him growing up.

He looked at all of their games with an analytical eye.

And Shapovalov has tried to take something from all of them, and emulate it on the court.

Here are his thoughts on each of them.

On Federer:

On Djokovic:

On Nadal:

 

No rap duet with Shapo in store: FAA

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Félix Auger-Aliassime is happy his “big brother” Denis Shapovalov is expressing himself through his music.

But no, he has no plans to join him in a Canadian teen rap duet any time in the near future.

These two have a big 24 hours coming up, with Auger-Aliassime playing a late-night match against No. 11 seed Borna Coric Wednesday to reach the Miami Open semis.

Shapovalov has a doubles quarterfinal against the legendary Bryan brothers with partner Rohan Bopanna Wednesday afternoon.

And then, he will face another rising young star in Laver Cup teammate Frances Tiafoe in a quarterfinal on Thursday.

But for the moment, he is a solo act on the rapping.

Although you do hope – in the improbable scenario where the Miami Open final is an all-Canadian teen affair (the two are on opposite sides of the draw) – they might consider coming up with a little special edition.

Shapo getting some grief

It all started when Shapovalov made good on a promise in Indian Wells that if he won his next match, he’d come up with some rhymes on court.

He’s a teen of his word.

(The expiration date on the word “teen”, for Shapovalov, is April 15).

He got some social media expert musical criticism for it.

But he doesn’t care.

Meanwhile, quarterfinal foe ‘Foe chimed in on that as well.

Tiafoe could contribute the “Silencer” thing.

Anyone else looking forward to ‘Po vs. ‘Foe?

Shapo having fun rappin’, so don’t be hatin’ (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Denis Shapovalov loves music, so he’s enjoying himself writing rhyme in rappin’ time.

And if you don’t like it, the 19-year-old doesn’t really care what you think.

As he points out, it’s just a hobby, not his job. And he’s just expressing himself, something he wishes more players would do.

But in the world we live in, everyone weighs in on every single thing.

And so the social-media music critics out there have been quick to weigh in with their opinion on the quality of his lines.

The Canadian had promised on-court host Blair Henley at Indian Wells that if he won his next match, he’d have something prepared and perform it on the court.

And so, he did. 

Took guts, to be honest.

Sunscreen time

On an off day, Shapovalov made a video in which he was liberally slathered with sunscreen.

Shapo just wanna have fun

Here’s what Shapovalov had to say about his extracurriculars, immediately after his opening Miami Open win over Dan Evans.

The great thing about the mixed zone is that you don’t get a player two hours later – suited and booted and with all the match adrenaline washed away in the shower.

You can see how jazzed he still is.

He plays another rising talent, Andrey Rublev, later Monday in the third round.

A little trash talking as Andreescu bests Kerber – again (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Serena Williams pulls out of the Miami Open. World No. 1 Naomi Osaka falls prey to the wizardry of Hsieh Su-Wei.

Roger Federer almost exits the tournament at the hands of the only Moldovian tennis player you’ve heard of.

The retiring David Ferrer takes out No. 2 Alexander Zverev.

But the biggest story overnight was three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber’s parting words to Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu, after losing to her twice within a week.

“You’re the biggest drama queen ever,” said Kerber, as she dispensed the trademark WTA Tour “drive-by” handshake.

Kerber was still trending on Twitter in Canada, 12 hours after Andreescu’s 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 victory.

Andreescu, meanwhile, has won 10 matches in a row on the U.S. sunshine swing, after coming through to win Indian Wells last week as a wild card.

She is now 31-3 on the season, including two Fed Cup victories against the Netherlands and the title at a WTA 125K tournament in Newport Beach, Calif.

Tight shoulder, sore body

The strapping on the shoulder, with tape running down her right arm and another bandage below the elbow, has been in place since that Indian Wells final.

And she has played three matches in four days in Miami. Andreescu had a medical timeout to try to loosen that shoulder, and the allowed two visits on changeovers subsequent to that to dispense more quick treatment.

It’s all a lot. The Canadian has been answering the same questions for two weeks. And a look at the video below will give an idea of just how repetitive some of those can be. 

On a dramatic night that ended after 1:30 a.m., she was asked three times in the space of a few minutes about her next opponent, which will be Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Twice by the same fellow, who rapidly changed the microphone flash to a different logo and asked the same questions again.

At this point, she has to feel as though she’s repeating herself. She might try to run into Roger Federer and see how he’s managed it for 15 years.

“Biggest drama queen”

In the cool light of day, Kerber thought better of the low-level trash talking, and issued a bit of a damage-control Tweet. It was the right thing to do.

For Andreescu, Sunday brings a welcome day off from tennis, which she planned to fill with sleep and “a lot of treatment.”

Which didn’t mean she wasn’t somewhat aware of what had gone on at the net.

At the end of the video, you can see how she responded to questions about it from Ben Rothenberg, who writes for the New York Times and David Kane, who writes for the WTA Tour’s website.

If Andreescu is a little low on energy, this definitely isn’t the case for her beloved Coco.

You can see the furry female pooch running sprints all over the (fake) grass area just outside the court, after the late-night match was done.