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2011 Year in Review 1


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WHAT’S INSIDE LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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GET TO KNOW JO-WILFRIED TSONGA

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SONY ERICSSON OPEN PREVIEW

ORDER ON THE COURT

p.10-17

p.30-31

KLEYBANOVA’S WILD RIDE

RACQUET AND SHOE REVIEWS

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WILL MARDY FISH SINK OR SWIM?

RANKINGS

GET TO KNOW JOHN ISNER

BEHIND THE LENS

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p.20-21

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Editors

Theodore L. LePak Erwin Ong

Photography

Natasha Peterson/Corleve Tony Chang/Chang Photography

Writers

Nick Georgandis Erik Gudris Robert Martin Chris Oddo Elena Scuro

Design

Alberto Capetillo Juan Esparza

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Letter from the Editor Indian Wells never fails to produce incredibly entertaining Tennis. My predecessor, James Waterson, once wrote “The great thing about Tennis is its unpredictable nature”…and after Indian Wells this year I couldn’t agree more. If tennis had March Madness brackets I would have been way off, but it sure was interesting! Andy Murray and Petra Kvitova both got knocked out early, Michael Llodra insulted some innocent fans, Roger Federer finally beat Rafael Nadal (on an outdoor hard court nonetheless), and don’t forget big John Isner steamrolling the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic! A few months ago right after I had taken the Editor position here at Tennis Now, I asked my younger brother who his favorite player was. I was expecting a reply like “Rafael Nadal! He’s such a great athlete and he’s willing to sacrifice his body to win!” but I was wrong. He said, “John Isner because he’s a big guy with a big serve, a motivated American underdog and he has the eye of the tiger.” Once again, after watching his play in Indian Wells I couldn’t agree more. In this edition, we pay tribute with our cover to John Isner who ascended into the top 10 this week after his impressive

showing at Indian Wells. Victoria Azarenka is on our WTA cover after dominating Indian Wells. She is also the defending champion in Miami. In the this edition we have a great feature on whether or not Mardy Fish will sink or swim in Miami and we honor the tremendous accomplishment of Alisa Kleybanova after overcoming Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and returning back to tennis at the Sony Ericsson. We had some great photo coverage at this tournament! Both Tony Chang and Natasha Peterson snapped some splendid photos for us. Thank you both for your hard work and good eyes! A word of gratitude to Erwin Ong, Erik Gudris, Chris Oddo, Elena Scuro, Rob Martin, and Nick Georgandis for writing, and helping manage the content of Tennis Now. To my graphics team, I apologize and thank you for being able to work under such short deadlines. Putting out two magazines back to back is a daunting task, and we will be doing it again shortly. We hope you tennis fans out there enjoy this issue and we look forward to bringing you more tennis coverage in Miami!

Theodore LePak Editor, Tennis Now Magazine Ted@TennisNow.com

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Gear Guide

Victoria Azarenka Best Result in Miami: Winner (2009, 2011)

Nike Lunar Speed 3

Previously known more for her screaming and injuries than her play, Victoria Azarenka arrived on the big stage in Melbourne. Not only did she quiet the inner demons to reach her first Grand Slam final, but made the most of it, winning not only the Australian Open, but also passing Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki to become the new World No. 1.

In addition to her powerful ground strokes, Azarenka has emerged as one of the best movers on the WTA, an attribute certainly helped out by the Lunar Speed 3 shoe. Flywire technology keeps her stable while the Lunarlon technology keeps the shoe ultra lightweight to give Vika even more speed.

Wilson Juice 100 BLX

Nike Tie Break Graphic Tennis Tank

A member of Wilson’s Power and Spin family, the Juice 100 BLX is a great compliment to Azarenka’s game that combines power, precision, and consistency. Her heavy topspin is enhanced by the open string pattern while the power from the new racquet makes her ground strokes even more dangerous.

Azarenka stays cool under the pressure of her new fame in the Nike Tie Break Graphic Tank thanks to the superior moisture wicking of Dri-Fit fabric and an open back silhouette. Never straying far from fashion, this top features contrasting color design side panels for outfit versatility.

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TV SCHEDULE Monday, March 19 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Indian Wells (M), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat) 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Indian Wells (M), Final (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Saturday, March 24 11:00 am - 10:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Live) 10:00 pm - 10:00 am: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Sunday, March 25 11:00 am - 11:30 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Live) 11:30 pm - 12:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Monday, March 26 11:00 am - 11:30 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Live) 11:30 pm - 12:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Tuesday, March 27 11:00 am - 11:30 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds/Quarterfinals (Tennis Channel, Live) 11:30 pm - 12:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Early rounds/Quarterfinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Wednesday, March 28 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals (ESPN2, Live) 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals (ESPN2, Live)

Thursday, March 29 12:00 am - 4:00 am: Miami (M), Quarterfinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat) 7:00 am - 1:00 pm: Miami (M), Quarterfinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat) 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals/Semifinals (ESPN2, Live) 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals/Semifinals (ESPN2, Live) 9:00 pm - 11:00 pm: Miami (W), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Live) 11:00 pm - 5:00 am: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals/Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Friday, March 30 7:00 am - 1:00 pm: Miami (M/W), Quarterfinals/Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat) 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Miami (M), Semifinals (ESPN2, Live) 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Miami (M), Semifinals (ESPN2, Live) 10:00 pm - 4:00 am: Miami (M), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Saturday, March 31 6:30 am - 12:30 pm: Miami (M/W), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat) 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm: Miami (W), Final (CBS, Live) 8:00 pm - 12:00 am: Miami (M), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

Sunday, April 1 9:00 am - 1:00 pm: Miami (M), Semifinals (Tennis Channel, Repeat)

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2012 SONY ERICSSON OPEN

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PREVIEW

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Men’s Preview

by Chris Oddo

Federer’s Quest for a Third Indian Wells-Miami Double There have only been two players to win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back in the same year since 2001—Roger Federer (2005,2006) and Novak Djokovic (2011)—and they could potentially meet one another in the semifinals at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami next week. With Federer the only player in history to have accomplished the feat twice, it’s a safe bet that Djokovic would like nothing more than to deprive him of the chance to pad his legacy. The pair of world-beaters are evenly matched, having split their last eight meetings, and while Djokovic comes in as the clear world No. 1, Federer enters Miami with the tour’s longest winning streak of 15 matches. Federer brushed aside talk that his Indian Wells performance means that he’s “back,” preferring to believe that he never left his spot among the game’s elite in the first place. “Sometimes people think so much in the short term,” said Federer after defeating Nadal last week. “It’s a bit unfortunate.”

Murray: Down but Not Out Andy Murray suffered a shocking upset at the hands of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his first match at Indian Wells, and he hasn’t won a match in Miami since he won the event in ’09, but don’t count the great Scot out because of that. Murray will benefit from having Ivan Lendl by his side throughout the tournament. The world No. 4 played some of the most inspired tennis of his career the last time Lendl was with him in Australia, and with his poor performance last week providing him with motivation, expect Murray to hit the ground running in Miami.

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Rafa: Happy with Current Form Nadal fans had to be disappointed to see their hero drop a straightsets loss to Roger Federer in the Indian Wells semis, but just like Federer, the Spaniard is taking the longer view with regard to his form. He was happy to be back in action for the first time since the Australian Open, and he feels that his game is coming together quite nicely, in spite of the loss. “He played fantastic,” said Nadal of his rival. “I lost against a player who played better than me this afternoon. Congratulations. That’s all. Keep fighting for me for next week.” Rafa has never won in Miami, losing in the finals to Federer (’05), Davydenko (’08), and Djokovic (’11), so there could be some extra motivation for the 10-time Grand Slam champion.


Will Isner be the Top Ranked American in Two Weeks? A little-known fact that could become a hot topic of conversation during the Miami event: If John Isner and Mardy Fish earn the same amount of ranking points at the event, Isner would emerge as the top-ranked American. It was just a year ago that we visited this script for the first time in a long time, when Fish’s impressive run to the semifinals at Miami enabled him to surpass Roddick, who had held the spot since 2007. Thanks to last week’s final run at Indian Wells by Isner, and some less-than-stellar results from Fish (he has yet to win consecutive matches this year), Isner is in pole position to claim American topdog status after Miami.

Dark Horses and Dreamers As always, we like to leave room in our minds and in our hearts for the dark horse. Last week, it was John Isner. The American used his bruising serve and forehand game to blast his way past defending champ Novak Djokovic and into the Indian Wells final, where he gave Roger Federer a pretty good run for his money. There was also wildcard David Nalbandian, who upset Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before narrowly missing out on a chance to upset Rafael Nadal. This week it could be someone else. Perhaps Fernando Gonzalez could make one last run? Or maybe Juan Martin Del Potro can finally have his breakthrough moment against one of the big three? With the current level of depth on the ATP tour, the possibilities are endless. And the best part? It’s only a matter of time before we find out who it is.

Say Goodbye to Gonzo He’s electric. He’s fiery. He has one of the most wickedly delicious forehands that you’ve ever seen. I’m talking about Fernando Gonzalez, one of the wild boys from an era gone by, a time when the tennis culture was a little less refined, when the passion was a little more palpable, when players wore their emotions on their sleeves instead of keeping them locked up beneath their sponsorship logo-adorned tennis attire. After a tennis career that has spanned three decades, the 31-year-old Chilean icon has elected to call it quits in Miami, a place where he’s always been appreciated by the hordes of Latino fans that flock to the event each year. Gonzalez, who had hip surgery in 2010 and has been injuryriddled since, isn‘t sure what he‘ll do next. “It’s difficult because I have not done anything else in my life,” Gonzalez told the Sony Ericsson Open. “I like to compete. Now, [I] have to take the time and fight to [find] something that will refill that place.”

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A Look at the Draws

by Chris Oddo

Djokovic’s Quarter

Nadal’s Quarter

To repeat as champion in Miami, Djokovic will have to get through a quarter that is stacked with talent. The Serb could end up meeting Marcos Baghdatis in the second round and compatriot Viktor Troicki in the third round. That’s no easy task by itself, but an even bigger challenge will come later for Djokovic, when he could face either Juan Martin Del Potro or David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. A fun floater to watch in this section will be the wildly talented but depressingly inconsistent Bernard Tomic. On paper it looks good for Djokovic. He’s the world No. 1 and he hasn’t slipped much from his unbeatable form of 2011. But all that tough competition in the muggy Miami heat will test Djokovic’s fitness. Does he want it as bad as he did last year?

1st-rounder to watch: Sergiy Stahovsky vs. Bernard Tomic

Pick: Djokovic Federer’s Quarter

If Federer continues his fine form he should be a shoe-in to make the semifinals, but there are a lot of Americans—both young and old—in his quarter who will be more than happy to jump in should Federer slip up. The Swiss Maestro could face 19-year-old Ryan Harrison in the second round, Andy Roddick in the third round, and Mardy Fish in the quarters. Gael Monfils, Juan Monaco, Fernando Verdasco, and Kevin Anderson are also in Federer’s quarter, but it’s just too hard to imagine any of these names giving Federer trouble the way he is prowling the baseline of late.

1st-rounder to watch: Ryan Harrison vs. Potito Starace

Pick: Federer

Miami is one of the few Masters events that 10-time Grand Slam Champion (and holder of 19 overall Masters titles) has never won. That could change next week. While the loss to Federer may have been disappointing, it also served as a reminder to Nadal that he can get blown off the court by anyone when he doesn’t play his trademark aggressive tennis and dictate as early and often as is possible. Nadal forgot to impose himself on Federer last week, instead opting to play it safe and wait for opportunities to present themselves, and he paid dearly for it. Nadal will face stiff competition from the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner and Kei Nishikori in his quarter, and he could be challenged by a possible second-round tilt with the very feisty up-and-coming Columbian, Santiago Giraldo. But in the end, if Rafa plays his aggressive, swashbuckling brand of tennis, he should advance to the semifinals.

1st-rounder to watch: Nikolay Davydenko vs. James Blake

Pick: Nadal Murray’s Quarter

Murray has been conspicuously absent from the later rounds of this event ever since he won the title in 2009, and he’s got a lot to prove after bowing out in the second round at Indian Wells in straight sets too. What better time than now? With coach Ivan Lendl at his side for the first time since Australia, Murray will give us all a chance to find out if the Lendl effect is for real. We’ll find out quickly, as Murray is slated to face hard-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in round three. Also lurking in this section are Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon, and Jurgen Melzer. Of these four, Berdych is probably the most serious threat to go through. The other threat to Murray being Murray himself, of course.

1st-rounder to watch: Fernando Gonzalez vs. Nicolas Mahut

Pick: Murray 14

Semis: Federer over Djokovic, Nadal over Murray Finals: Nadal over Federer


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Women’s Preview

by Erik Gudris

Will Azarenka Woo Miami Once Again?

Even after Victoria Azarenka won the Sony Ericsson Open for a second time last year, very few would have predicted it would be the start to Azarenka’s rapid rise to the No. 1 ranking. Now as she returns to Miami to defend her title and keep her perfect win streak going, the question may not be will Azarenka reach the final again, but instead does anyone have a real chance at stopping her from going 29-0?

Azarenka’s Quarter

Kvitova’s Quarter

The top seed proved that the biggest threat to her unbeaten streak may be herself as she almost figured out a way to lose to Mona Barthel in the second round of Indian Wells. But unless Azarenka loses the plot again in Miami, it’s hard to see anyone stopping Azarenka from reaching the semis though a few tricky foes do lie in wait. Angelique Kerber, who played Azarenka close in their semifinals match last week in the desert, could set up a fourth round meeting with the No. 1. The German, now at a career high ranking of No. 14, proved she can test “Vika”, but if Kerber believes she can actually beat Azarenka is a whole other question. Marion Bartoli would be the expected quarterfinal opponent for Azarenka, but don’t be surprised if Russia’s Maria Kirilenko shows up there instead. Kirilenko is tied with Azarenka in their overall head to head 2-2, but they haven’t played each other in nearly two years, and as everybody knows, Azarenka is a far better player now. Bottom line—Azarenka might drop a set, but to not see her in the semis would be a shock.

No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova can make up some ground on Azarenka as the current Wimbledon champion hopes to go farther than her early third round loss last year. Kvitova is said to be feeling better after catching the Indian Wells stomach bug last week, but it’s still not a given that she go far in Miami based on her recent lackluster results at North American events. Kvitova could face in the second round the winner of the “ageless wonders” meeting between Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm. Just stepping on the court would be its own victory for Williams who hasn’t played a competitive match since last summer’s U.S. Open as she continues to deal with Sjögren’s syndrome. But for her to challenge Kvitova would be a lot to ask of the three-time Miami champion. No. 5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska should breeze into the quarterfinals as the biggest challengers in her section, Vera Zvonareva, Flavia Pennetta and Kaia Kanepi, are all dealing with some form of injury. But even though “Aggie” is playing some of her best tennis right now and has pushed Kvitova in their last two meetings, Kvitova should be able to power through to reach her first ever Miami semi.

Pick: Azarenka

Pick: Kvitova

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Semis: Azarenka over Kvitova, Williams over Sharapova Finals: Azarenka over Williams


Sharapova’s Quarter Last year’s Miami finalist will want to forget all about her recent thumping by Azarenka at Indian Wells and at least in the early rounds, Maria Sharapova will be able to swing away against the likes of Italy’s Sara Errani and either Jelena Jankovic or fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both of whom are faltering right now. Waiting for Sharapova in the quarters could be the winner of a likely fourth round battle between China’s Li Na and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki beat the current French Open champion twice last year, but is a dismal 0-3 versus Sharapova, including a tough three set loss at this year’s Australian Open. And that’s why you can bet Sharapova will be rooting for the German as Sharapova has lost her last four matches against the Chinese No. 1. As we saw with Sharapova at Indian Wells, matchups are the key for her “Plan A” style game to be fully effective.

Pick: Sharapova Wozniacki’s Quarter It used to be one could always pencil in the former No. 1 to reach at least the semis of any hard court event she entered. But not anymore. Wozniacki’s recent losses have made her a vulnerable target and her section of the draw only exacerbates that. Just count the list of players here that have all beaten Wozniacki in the last seven months. Unseeded Christina McHale could be the first obstacle the Dane must overcome before facing Germany’s Julia Goerges who beat Wozniacki in Dubai. That is unless its former Miami champion Kim Clijsters, who ended Wozniacki’s reign at No. 1 in the quarters of Melbourne, who meets her instead. If she survives that, Wozniacki could then meet No. 10 seed Serena Williams, who although she hasn’t played since Australia, is always capable of working her way into an event. Finally, there’s Sam Stosur who’s notched a few wins herself over Wozniacki and, if she gets her big serve going, could be a threat to anyone. Wozniacki might battle her way through this minefield, proving that she still has the kind of consistent defense to beat anyone, anywhere. But this loaded section feels more like Williams’s to lose, especially since her early rounds will allow her to work herself back into match tough shape.

Pick: Williams

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Kleybanova’s Wild Ride Ends with a Wildcard into Miami

Alisa Kleybanova will take the court against Johanna Larsson in round one after a straight sets victory over cancer.

Known as one of the biggest fighters on the WTA Tour, Alisa Kleybanova was in the midst of a steady climb up the rankings before she faced her most daunting opponent. Nevermind that she’d scalped the best women around, scoring big wins over Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, and Kim Clijsters; or that she had upset then-world No. 7 Elena Dementieva in Malaysia to win her first title, in 2010; or that she had put together a strong start to 2011 by taking the doubles title in Brisbane (with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and reaching the fourth round in Indian Wells: as Kleybanova asserted her place in the top 25 of women’s tennis – while playing the tournament stop in Rome – she realized something wasn’t right. “I was feeling sick, like the cold or flu, and it was happening quite a lot. I was playing through it but I wasn’t feeling well in practice, and I got really sick in Rome. I decided to stop and see, deep inside, what was really going wrong,” she said. Then in May, the Russian unexpectedly withdrew from the French Open and later, in June, from Wimbledon. On July 15,

her 22nd birthday, she revealed to the WTA the reason for her absence: Kleybanova ahd been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. For 10 months, Kleybanova underwent medical treatments in Italy while fans eagerly awaited news about her health and recovery. Finally, on February 29, 2012, she announced that she had successfully completed her treatments and would start training again in West Palm Beach, Fla. “I missed the competition a lot,” she told the WTA. “My dream has come true right now - I’m back on the court again.” With a wildcard into the Sony Ericsson Open, Kleybanova will return to the Tour and play Sweden’s Johanna Larsson in the main draw’s opening round. But before she gets back on the road to reclaiming her spot in the top 20 (she’s currently ranked 248th), take a peek at her official website, where she gives a little nod to her most recent match – against cancer. Kleybanova bageled that one.

­– Elena Scuro

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Will

Mardy Fish Sink or Swim

in Miami? ­– Erik Gudris

“I have been around here a long time to realize that there are certainly highs and lows. You try to keep the highs as long as you can and keep the lows as quick as possible. There’s no doubt that this is a low, for sure, for me.” After ending 2011 on a high having competed for the first time at the season ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, America’s Mardy Fish looked poised to keep his career resurgence, including reaching the top ten for the first time, going at the start of 2012. But instead, Fish started off the new year in terrible form, as he struggled in his opening match at the Hopman Cup against unheralded Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and then later becoming involved in a bizarre altercation against Grigor Dimitrov in their match that saw Fish spit in Dimitrov’s direction while almost coming to blows with the young Bulgarian. Fish’s dismal winter continued as he crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round to Alejandro Falla, lost his opening match in Marseille to the big serving, yet virtually unknown, No. 388 ranked Albano Olivetti and then followed it up with another early exit in Dubai. Fish’s only bright spot was a good win for the U.S. team in Davis Cup over Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka on clay earlier in February, Fish’s hopes for a turnaround at this month’s BNP Paribas Open were dashed when he lost in the round of 32 to Australia’s Matthew Ebden in a match that saw Fish be issued a hindrance penalty for yelling out after hitting a winning volley before Ebden finished trying to chase it down. Fish’s lengthy argument with the chair umpire left the American angry yet resigned to his fate, a mood that continues to hang over Fish as he enters Miami this week with a lackluster 4-4 win/loss record for the year.

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With many tennis fans trying to figure out what has happened to the likable American who inspired many with his recent physical transformation and stellar results, they might not find any comfort in the fact that Fish isn’t so sure himself. As he works to figure it out, the questions remain -- Did Mardy push himself too hard last year? Did his success create more expectation than he can handle? Or is it something else? “I see it as a natural slump,” says Eurosport commentator and tennis analyst Miguel Seabra. “I thought Mardy got the most out of his tennis to get into the top 10. One could say his results this year reflect the emotional/physical hangover of such a demanding season, especially since it ended later than he is used to with his participation in the ATP World Tour Finals in London. I think he needed more time to recover. I also still see Mardy with a big hole in his game: the forehand; even though he has perfected that shot incredibly over the past four years, it’s the shot that can let him down in tight situations against good players.” While working on his game on the practice court is definitely something Fish can do, getting to that practice court is tougher for him, especially since he must deal with more expectation and demands, not just from himself, but from sponsors and media who now all want more time with Fish off the court. It’s a new part of his life that Fish admits he hasn’t quite got a handle on. “There are certain perks that you get and then certain things people don’t understand, as well,” Fish said in his


post-match press conference after losing to Ebden. “That your time is less and less, especially tournaments like the U.S. Open and tournaments like Miami where I’ve got to manage my days around sponsors’ visits and media requests and things like this. And that stuff is different for me and not easy to do. Some people handle it better than others, for sure.” But the biggest obstacle facing Fish could well be the weight of expectation placed on him to be the best American tennis player, especially now that his good friend, and former U.S. No. 1, Andy Roddick, appears to be in a slow decline in his own career, according to ESPN tennis analyst Darren Cahill. “I think the toughest thing for Mardy at the moment is the expectation that’s now been placed upon his shoulders with Andy Roddick slipping down and him being inside the top ten. That year of consolidating after you have a great year is always the toughest year, so for me if Mardy was to finish ranked sort of between 12 and 18 in the world in 2012, I think that would be a very, very good performance from him because he’s now got a target on his back. He’s now one of those players, a top ten player that feels like if they play well and he’s down on confidence, it’s an opportunity match for those other guys.” Not being an “opportunity” for other players on tour is something Fish knows he has to prevent. Doing that means building his confidence and stopping the negative outbursts of energy that he’s displayed this year at the Hopman Cup and at Indian Wells. Fish spoke about working with as he called them, “mental coaches”, to help him deal with that. “I felt like the negative energy that I had on the court I could try to channel it better. That was maybe the goal. You always want to improve your weaknesses. Mentally I felt like

that was an area that I could improve in the off-season, and I tried to improve that. We spoke to a few people, you know, mental coaches and things like this, and I don’t think it worked, bottom line. So I’d like to get back to competing better, competing at a higher level, competing at a position where I am not giving these guys some of their best wins of their career just off me.” Fish knows he’s in a “lull” as he describes it right now, but even though he’s trying to get himself out of it, it might not be that easy especially if he panics on court and goes against his natural patience to try and win a match. Getting his confidence back to prevent that is key says Cahill. “Mardy has to go back to the player that made him successful last year, and he’s not the type of player that’s going to blow people off the court, but he’s the type of player that with his improved movement around the back of the court that can now wait a little longer on points and wait for the right shot and be a little more selective on taking the right option. Once you lose that patience, you become a different type of player and you become vulnerable. So confidence for me is a bit of an issue for him. I’m sure he’ll get it back.” Fish certainly hopes he can find his confidence back soon so that this current low point doesn’t turn into a valley that he can’t climb out of. Plenty of people can give him advice on what he must do, but Fish knows it’s ultimately up to him to try and rebound as soon as possible. “You just gotta minimize the time of the losing and just move on. I mean, there’s just no time to worry about it. Miami is going to start on Wednesday and no one’s gonna feel sorry for me. So I have to turn it around.”

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Get to Know: John Isner American John Isner is climbing ever higher in the tennis world and in his career. Last week he reached a career-high ranking of No. 11 in the world, has recently notched a victory against Roger Federer (on clay in Switzerland) and broke numerous records during his famous marathon match at Wimbledon in 2010. Here are some things you may not know about him:

5. He Loves Wrestling One of Isner’s favorite tweeting topics is the WWE. He’s said, “It’s something that I’ve loved since I was little, and I get a lot of grief about it, but it’s something I just love.”

1. He’s a Bulldog It’s safe to say anyone who has heard of Isner knows he went to the University of Georgia. He can usually be seen off the court wearing a UGA hat or tweeting something about the Bulldogs (“go dawgs,” in particular). Isner played tennis there from 2004 to 2007, prior to turning pro, and became the school’s all-time leader in singles and doubles victories. He earned All-American honors each of his four years and led his team to the 2007 NCAA Championship.

7. Declines With Regrets Isner has two brothers and one got married last year, but John was not in attendance. Instead, he was playing the ATP final in Newport, Rhode Island. “It worked out for the best, because once I won that tournament it gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.

2. Yes, He Played A Really Long Match If you’ve been following tennis for years you know Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut in the longest matched ever played at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. If you’re a new tennis fan then here’s what you need to know - Isner set the record for most aces in a single match (113), most aces in a Grand Slam singles match (113), most aces in a single set (85), most games won in a single match (92) and most winners in a single match (246). With Mahut, Isner holds the records for longest singles match ever played (11 hours, 5 minutes), longest play in a single day (7 hours, 6 minutes) and most games in a single day (118). 3. He Won An ESPY With Mahut, Isner won the 2010 ESPY Award for Best Record-Breaking Performance in sport. 4. @JohnIsner An avid tweeter with over 80,000 followers, Isner follows numerous athletes (besides tennis players) like Dirk Nowitzki, Rory McIlroy and Chris Paul, and actress Ashley Greene. (Follow him!)

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6. He’s A Sweater Isner often goes through numerous shirts, shorts, hats and wristbands during a match, especially during the humid hardcourt season in the United States. Now sponsored by Lacoste, hopefully they’ll stock him with a lot of extra gear this Summer!

8. He’s An Olympic Ambassador Isner is serving as one of CocaCola’s “Ambassadors of Active Living” for the 2012 Olympic Games and will take part in the campaign to help encourage and inspire people to lead active, balanced lives. “They’ve chosen eight athletes to kind of sponsor and highlight for next year’s Olympics, and I’m one of them. That’s a huge achievement. I feel definitely honored to be a part of their team,” he said. 9. NBA If Not Tennis Isner played basketball until the ninth grade and has said if he wasn’t a tennis player he would probably play professional basketball. Also, he said his idol was former NBA star Karl Malone. 10. He Helps Out Because his mom is an ovarian cancer survivor, Isner often does his part to support the research foundation. “After her battle with the disease, I try to help cancer research as much as I can by taking part in several charity events all over the country when my time allows me to do so,” he said.

­– Elena Scuro


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Gear Guide John Isner

Best Result in Miami: Round of 16 (2011)

Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3 At 6’9”, John Isner is not high on the list of players that many want to face. His imposing serve takes a part of the match out of the hands of his opponent and his ranking continues to climb as he approaches the coveted Top 10. His movement and return can be seen as a weakness, but there is not a single player on the tour that looks forward to a match against the Georgia graduate.

Moving around at 6’9” is not easy, but the Air Max Courtballistec 4.3 offer an incredible amount of stability whether they are being worn by Isner or the man they were designed for, Rafael Nadal. The most cushioning offered by Nike in the Air Max heel results in one of the most comfortable shoes to date with this much performance.

Lacoste Short Sleeve Super Dry Tennis Polo

Prince EXO3 Warrior 100

The traditional polo gets a fabric upgrade as the Lacoste Super Dry polo is sure to keep Isner cool under the pressure of the tiebreak. The Super Dry fabric quickly wicks away moisture where it can evaporate quickly. This performance apparel offers the same classic look that the Lacoste polo has been known 26 for throughout the years.

A unique racquet in appearance and function, the Prince EXO3 Warrior 100 is designed with aggression in mind, a perfect match to Isner’s highpowered game. The edge-to-edge performance offered by the Energy Bridge technology results in quality shots even on shots hit off-center, allowing the big-swinging Isner to punish the ball.

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Get to Know: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one of the most charismatic and likable players on the ATP Tour and his victory dance alone earns him fans after each match. The 26-year-old Frenchman rose to fame at the 2008 Australian Open, defeating Rafael Nadal to reach the final and has since continued to prove himself a challenger to the big three. Here are some things you may not know about him: 1. Sporting Family Tsonga’s father, Didier, moved to France from Congo in the 1970s to play handball. His younger brother, Enzo, is part of the French basketball program. His cousin Charles N’Zogbia plays football for Aston Villa F.C. and his other cousin Mael Lepicier plays football for Congo.

7. No Breaks When asked at the Australian Open if he had ever broken a newly strung, still-in-its-wrapping racquet,Tsonga replied “Never. Never. But, anyway, my father told me all the time, If you broke the racquet, I broke you. So I go easy with the racquet. Sometimes I prefer hit myself than my racquet.”

2. Early Success As a junior, Tsonga won the U.S. Open title (he played Marcos Baghdatis in the final) and reached three other semifinals of junior Grand Slams.

8. He Was Robbed While top dog Roger Federer was running away with the final at the ATP World Tour Championships in London last November, Tsonga’s house in Gingins, Switzerland, was burglarized.

3. Idolizing “His Airness” Tsonga has said his idols growing up were NBA star Michael Jordan as well as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter.

9. Actor Tsonga If he had to act in a film with someone, Tsonga told Roland Garros’ web site he would choose David Ferrer. “He’d play Forrest in Forrest Gump, and I’d play Bubba, his shrimp-fishing friend,” he said.

4. Stings Like A Bee Tsonga’s nickname is “Ali” and is often referred to as the Muhammad Ali of tennis because of his resemblance to the legendary boxer. But would Tsonga do as well in a ring as he would on a court? “I don’t know,” he responds, “because I didn’t do it when I was young. It is different. When you are boxing you take a lot of shots on your head. So it’s not as nice as tennis maybe.” 5. French Fraternity Tsonga has said there’s a lot of support between the French players. “Of course we play together in Davis Cup. And anyway we have a good relationship,” he said. “Sometime we train together, we play together. I live not far from Gael Monfils, and sometimes, yeah, we will practice a lot together.” 6. La Vie en Japon Tsonga told Roland Garros’ web site that his favorite restaurant is Minori in Paris and he would take Kei Nishikori there, if he had to bring a friend. “I’ll show him that French sushi is better than Japanese sushi,” he said.

10. He Helps Out Tsonga’s charity, Attrap La Balle (“Catch the Ball”) was founded by him and some friends in 2009 to provide underprivileged children in Congo with access to sports activities. It has since renovated existing facilities, built new sports centers and works to improve hygiene and nutrition in schools. Last year, Tsonga was presented with a $10,000 ATP Aces for Charity grant for his foundation. “Through Attrap La Balle, I really take to heart helping children in need in Congo, which is like my second country. I know this money will be wisely spent in helping kids to develop not only their sporting skills but also general life skills,” he said.

­– Elena Scuro

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ORDER ON THE COURT

DOuBLES! Pointers from the Pro

by Ian Westermann Head Pro, EssentialTennis.com

get to the net! In lower level and intermediate team practices that I teach there seems to be a constant debate over whether coming to the net all the time is good or not. A large amount of players at the 2.0-4.0 level feel it’s better court coverage to have one player stay back. Well, I’m here to tell you that if you ever want to move up in level (rather than moving up within your level) coming to the net is not only good, it’s necessary. Below are the main reasons why.

you want to hit down, not up Next time you’re on a tennis court go stand on the baseline and look over to the other side of the court. How much of the opponent’s court can you see while looking OVER the top of the net? The answer is none of it. What does that mean for your tennis? As long as you stay on the baseline you are going to have to hit the ball in an upwards direction in order to get it to your opponents side of the court. You can do this either by opening up the racket face, or hitting it more aggressively by closing the face more but swinging upwards to hit it over. In both cases you are lifting the ball upwards, which must happen in order to make your shot from the baseline. The closer and closer you get to the net the more of your opponents court becomes available for you to hit directly at, instead of hitting up. If you’re of average height and stand on the service line, now you can see some of the court over

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the top of the net in no-man’s land on the other side. Take two or three more steps in, now you can see to around the service line on the other side. Take two more steps in, now most of the court is at your disposal to hit into. Why is this important? If you stay at the baseline and hit up, and your opponents come to the net, they have the ability to hit down. That’s a problem. You’re now lifting the ball up to them, and they have the ability to hit down at you. If you were a volleyball player, what would you rather be doing, setting to your opponents or spiking? Hopefully I don’t have to answer that for you. The closer you are to the net the more potential you have to attack. Now you still need to have the technical skills to accomplish this, and so if your net game is not very good coming to the net will become quite frustrating. Does that mean the strategy is poor? No of course not, it means you have to get out and improve your technique.

take time away from your opponents The closer you get to the net the less time your opponents have to react to your shot. This means a mediocre shot at the net can end up winning the point, where an outstanding shot would have been needed from the baseline to throw them off the same amount. Does it mean that it takes time away from yourself as well? Yes. Therefore make sure that you’re not running up and kissing the net after hitting a weak shot to your opponents. Hit a shot that’s either low to their feet, or strong and with a lot of pace before committing to moving all the way in. Otherwise you could end up being a sitting duck.


“ If you were a volleyball player, what would you rather be doing, set ting to your opponen ts or spik ing? Hope fully I don’t have to answer t ha t for you.”

intimidate and pressure When both you and your partner move up to the net together your opponents will be pressured to hit a better quality shot. Had one of you stayed back, there would be an easy out to the baseliner, a way to neutralize the point and stay comfortable. With both players at the net ready to put the ball away a better quality shot must be hit by your opponents to avoid getting beat, this will make them uncomfortable and they will make more errors.

proactive tennis, not passive Coming to the net puts matters into your own hands, you’re trying to take over and take care of business. This is exactly what your similarly skilled opponents don’t want. They want to stay in their comfort zone and not be pressured or rushed. Don’t let them feel comfortable! It’s your job to make them as uneasy as possible, pressuring them as much as possible. Moving both players to the net as much as possible will do just that, don’t sit back and give them an easy way out to avoid hitting to a net player. Get in there and shut them down.

it’s what high level players do! Period. This is the strategy of top level doubles players. Get to the net, get to the net often, and get to the net quickly. Are you happy and satisfied playing at the level you’re at right now? Something tells me that if you were you wouldn’t be reading this article. If you or your partner are currently playing one up/one back moving you both to the net will improve your doubles. Will you get lobbed over and passed? Sure you will. Will it be every point? Of course not, if your net game is competent then the balls you put away and the mistakes your opponents make trying to hit a perfect lob or passing shot will far outweigh the great shots that they do end up hitting. If your volleys and overhead aren’t good enough to keep from making a lot of errors once you get up there then you need to get out and work on your technique!

“Coming to the net puts matters into your own hands, you’re trying to take over and take care of business. This is exactly what your similarly skilled opponents don’t want.” 31


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RACQUET REVIEWS The year continues on and the new racquets keep coming.

As the game evolves into a sport of bigger and harder hitting baseliners dominating the professional ranks, every other player wants to emulate that style. While many are not realistically able to dedicate hours each day to training, there is hope in sight. As racquet technology continues to advance, frames begin to provide more power and spin to make it easier on the player.

None of the racquets here will give you the feel of Roger Federer, but they will let you hit more consistently with less effort. All featuring open string patterns, these frames are designed for the modern game of baseline play with weights ranging from 10 ounces up to 11.6 ounces. You may not see some of these frames in the hands of the professionals, but don’t discount them if you are searching for something to make it easier to hit heavy ground strokes and dominate like your favorite player.

Babolat Pure Drive Pros: Power, Spin Cons: Not for Flat Hitters, Firm Feel Rundown: Quite simply, it’s a Pure Drive. There is a reason that this racquet has remained largely unchanged for over a decade, and it still provides the same power and spin that it always has, but the last few versions have decided to up the performance. In this case, the GT construction remains for added stability, and the Cortex system gets an upgrade with Cortex Active, designed for more intelligent vibrational tuning for better feel.

Gamma RZR 98T Pros: Maneuverability, Spin Cons: Firm Feel, Low Power Rundown: A heavier version of the RZR 98, this one comes in at just over 12 ounces for the stronger player that is looking to create plenty of spin. The same aerodynamic construction is used to cut down on air resistance in as many places as possible. Another one that will have to break past the typical brand hype of the bigger names, this frame is equipped to do so for players that enjoy swinging big and creating a lot of spin and power from their strokes.

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Head Youtek IG Radical OS Pros: Forgiving, High Control Cons: Some Stability Issues, Dying Breed Rundown: With the game getting faster and faster, the control oriented oversize frame appears to be on its way out, aside from a few outliers, such as the Radical OS. While the larger head size is great for forgiveness and provides some additional power over a similarly designed midplus, it does sacrifice some directional control and now with thicker beamed tweener frames, the Radical OS can feel underpowered.

Wilson Juice 108 BLX Pros: Power, Spin, Not too Stiff Cons: Control, Not for Flat Hitters Rundown: The definition of what an oversize racquet has become, this powerful frame is a bit nicer on the arm than many of its competitors. Definitely suited to players with moderate length strokes, the Juice 108 BLX is designed with ease of use in mind, generating plenty of spin even with shorter swings thanks to the open string pattern. Best of all, at 10.5 ounces strung, this frames sits in a good spot to work well from the baseline as well as the net.

Prince EXO3 Hornet 100 Pros: Power, Forgiving, Price Cons: Hybrid Technology, Low Control Rundown: A mid plus head size at an attractive $99 retail price, the Hornet stays close to its roots as a moderate weight frame that offers a solid blend of power and control. The Hybrid O3 technology does provide a bit more on the power side of the balance, but this one is a surprising performer. Prince may not have made significant changes to their technology in years, but it’s nice to be able to see the design instead of having to take the manufacturer’s word for it.

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SHOE REVIEWS Whether you are looking for the latest shoe, or just the right shoe for you, the search can be daunting. Even though nothing can match the feel of trying on a shoe for yourself, we can at least help narrow the list down based on what you are looking for, whether it be ultra light weight or maximum durability. We’re taking a look at five shoes that offer a variety of options whether you are an occasional or hardcore player.

Price does not always mean performance as we show with offerings from Prince and K-Swiss that provide a cushioned feel with an easier to stomach price tag. Other options from Babolat, adidas, and Yonex all provide something special, but as each player is different and each foot type has a different requirement, we hand off the final decision to the player.

Babolat Propulse 3 Pros: Ventilation, Durability, Traction Cons: Fit Not for Everyone Rundown: Not exactly a new shoe, but it still warrants a review in this age where shoes are lucky to last six months. In its second year, the Propulse 3 is still the most popular as Babolat has improved on previous models by making them more breathable without sacrificing stability. It’s hard to beat Michelin treads for traction, and that’s exactly what the Propulse has. The cushioned heel and low forefoot give the shoe a unique fit that is not for everyone, so be sure to try these on first.

Prince T-14 Pros: Wider Toebox, Attractive Price Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Ventilation Could be Better Rundown: An economical alternative to the new T-24, this one offers a slightly less durable sole and more mesh to lighten the shoe a bit. By placing most of the mesh along the inside of the foot, stability towards the outer part of the foot is not compromised. Many will either love or hate the graphics of the shoe, but the wider toebox makes it an excellent fit for players with a bit wider foot who want more options than just New Balance.

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adidas adizero Tempaia Pros: Lightweight, Cushioning Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Narrow Fit Rundown: The women’s version of the adiZero Feather, this one has a unique fit that you simply must try on before buying. A raised heel offers plenty of cushioning in this lightweight shoe, but stability is certainly not on par with the barricade family. The adiWear 6 and adiTuff materials give the sole good durability, but this is more of a match-day shoe designed for speed. Frequent players will wear the sole down fairly quickly.

K-Swiss Ultrascendor II Pros: Lightweight, Versatile Outsole, Cushioning Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Rather Plain Looking Rundown: When you go about replacing a shoe as popular as the Ultrascendor, you have to make absolutely sure you get it right. This one is a little lighter without sacrificing the comfort thanks to a unique two-piece skeletized outsole. The shoe takes advantage of what they call a wavebone tread pattern, which makes it a solid choice for hard courts as well as clay courts. This is a good lightweight shoe, but it’s obviously not going to be the most durable thing out there.

Yonex SHT-308 Pros: Lightweight, Superior Cushioning, Great Traction Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Love or Hate Looks Rundown: The SHT-307 was one of the best all-around shoes we’ve ever tried, and Yonex actually made it better. The lateral stability was improved with an external TPU heel cradle, and the Y-Strap is now integrated inside the shoe rather than being on the outside. Not wanting to mess too much with a good thing, the Power Cushion remains for a comfortable and responsive ride. With everything that is good about this shoe, it definitely has a distinctive look, one which some players may not appreciate.

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RANKINGS Rank

Name

Nat.

Points

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Djokovic, Novak Nadal, Rafael Federer, Roger Murray, Andy Ferrer, David Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried Berdych, Tomas Fish, Mardy Tipsarevic, Janko Isner, John Del Potro, Juan Martin Almagro, Nicolas Simon, Gilles Monfils, Gael Lopez, Feliciano Nishikori, Kei Gasquet, Richard Dolgopolov, Alexandr Mayer, Florian Verdasco, Fernando Monaco, Juan Melzer, Jurgen Cilic, Marin Granollers, Marcel Stepanek, Radek

SRB ESP SUI GBR ESP FRA CZE USA SRB USA ARG ESP FRA FRA ESP JPN FRA UKR GER ESP ARG AUT CRO ESP CZE

12,670 10,175 9,350 7,450 4,700 4,535 3,860 2,910 2,730 2,675 2,660 2,205 2,140 1,970 1,890 1,685 1,595 1,540 1,540 1,530 1,495 1,472 1,400 1,395 1,365

* South African Airways ATP Rankings - March 19, 2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Azarenka, Victoria Sharapova, Maria Kvitova, Petra Radwanska, Agnieszka Stosur, Samantha Wozniacki, Caroline Bartoli, Marion Li, Na Zvonareva, Vera Petkovic, Andrea Williams, Serena Schiavone, Francesca Lisicki, Sabine Kerber, Angelique Jankovic, Jelena Ivanovic, Ana Goerges, Julia Cibulkova, Dominika Hantuchova, Daniela Vinci, Roberta Pavlyuchenkova, Anastasia Kirilenko, Maria Peng, Shuai Kuznetsova, Svetlana Safarova, Lucie

BLR RUS CZE POL AUS DEN FRA CHN RUS GER USA ITA GER GER SRB SRB GER SVK SVK ITA RUS RUS CHN RUS vCZE

* WTA Singles Rankings as of March 19, 2012

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9730 7930 7170 5960 5825 5410 4710 4635 4340 3800 3580 3515 3141 2820 2815 2785 2785 2485 2450 2395 2381 2350 2240 2106 2080


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BEHIND THE LENS Nestled in the Coachella valley at the base of the spectacular Santa Rosa Mountains, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden brings together world-class tennis and a fan-friendly venue in a captivating desert setting. Upgrades to lighting on the two outer stadiums translated into better photography captures from the night matches of the BNP Paribas Open. Hawkeye systems have been installed on all eight match courts. Electronic displays erected throughout the grounds give fans live information as well as match and practice schedules everyday. With all these enhancements, It comes as no surprise that this tournament has broken its attendance record for the last six years with this year’s attendance record set at 370, 408 fans. My most memorable match of the tournament was the semifinal between Novak Djokovic and John Isner. It was a delight to document Isner’s composed confidence as it unfolded on the court. His tremendous serves and powerful forehand anchored his game all the way to an upset of defending champ Djokovic. The crowd gave the American a standing ovation for his victory. Later in the post match interview, Djokovic commented on the self-belief, powerful serves, and match confidence that led Isner to win and earn his place amongst the top ten. It was a pleasure and honor to be part of this tournament and I look forward to covering it again next year. Natasha Peterson, Corleve Photographer

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CLOSING SHOTS

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2012 Miami Preview