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2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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CONTENTS “ THERE ARE SIGNS THE FUTURE IS COMING FAST “

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TALKING POINTS By Alberto Amalfi

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FEDERER OUT

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ALL DRESSED IN WHITE

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HARD ACHES

10 WIMBLEDON TAKEAWAYS

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CHAMPS ON CHAMPS

By Richard Pagliaro

By Chris Oddo

By Stephen White

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By Richard Pagliaro

By Chris Oddo

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HARD-COURT PREVIEW By Erik Gudris


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SUMMER STORIES

By Erik Gudris

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OLYMPIC PREVIEW

By Richard Pagliaro

FIND US ONLINE

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CLOSING SHOTS

TennisNow.com

By Christopher Levy

facebook.com/tennisnow twitter.com/Tennis_Now youtube.com/user/TennisNowTV pinterest.com/TennisNow/

Live Scores Gossip Draws TV Listings Instruction Results Rankings Player Interviews Editorials Statistics Match Analysis Daily Updates Daily Video News Forums Photo Gallery Blogs 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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WRITERS

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR The 2016 season is a year of union and reunion. Ana Ivanovic, Dominika Cibulkova and Taylor Fritz all celebrated weddings this month, weeks after US Open champion Flavia Pennetta and Australian Open doubles champion Fabio Fognini were married. Andy Murray reunited with coach Ivan Lendl and recaptured the Wimbledon crown. The Williams sisters reunited to win their 14th Grand Slam doubles championship at Wimbledon and prepare for the Rio Olympics. Venus and Serena Williams will join forces to add to their collection of four Olympic gold medals apiece, including three in doubles. Former world No. 1 Grand Slam champions and good friends Roger Federer and Martina Hingis planned to reprise their doubles partnership headlining the 16-team Olympic mixed doubles draw. However, the 34-year-old Federer has pulled the plug on the season to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee. Federer’s future is the focus of our cover story. In our hard-court preview, we look ahead to the US Open

Alberto Amalfi

Erik Gudris

Series and Olympic Games and review the 130th staging of The Championships. Chris Oddo, who was on site at SW19 from first ball to last, provides his Top 10 Wimbledon Takeaways and reveals the 10 players aiming for hard-court redemption. Erik Gudris previews the top ATP and WTA storylines for the summer hard-court season. Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick assess future champions. All this and much more to prepare you for the adventure of summer hard-court season.

Richard Pagliaro EDITOR Tennis Now Magazine

Chris Oddo

PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Peterson/Corleve Stephen White/ CameraSport Christopher Levy ESPN Getty Images Hopman Cup International Tennis Federation Mercedes Cup Mutua Madrid Open Roland Garros USTA

DESIGN Natalie Valenkova Shirin Abdollahi

CONTACT US To advertise with us: ads@tennisnow.com General comments or questions: media@tennisnow.com

Tennis Now

1 Baker Street, Suite #612 Mount Kisco, NY 10549 914.595.4211 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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TALKING POINTS By Alberto Amalfi

Controversial, candid and provocative comments from the pro circuit. “In life there is no such thing as impossible. It’s always possible. That’s what you feel as an athlete. Pretty much our job is to make the impossible happen every day. It’s like magic, you know. I like that.” — Venus Williams on inspiration.

Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

“He’s not even on the court mentally. He’s snapped. It looks like Kyrgios doesn’t really want to be out there.” — John McEnroe criticizing Nick Kyrgios’ effort during his fourthround Wimbledon loss to Andy Murray. 6

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Photo credit: Zimbio

“I want to thank everybody, brothers and sisters, in our tennis world. Thank you for the ride, for the ups and downs. We cried, we played, we broke the racquets, we insulted the referees, only sometimes, but this is all part of our life and part of the history.” —Marat Safin on being the first Russian player inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I BELIEVE IN MY SECOND SERVE.”

“I think when things get tough, I’m just a little bit soft. I mean, I’ve got experience, but it ultimately comes down to just laying it all out there and competing for a long time. I didn’t do that today at all.” — “I believe in my second serve. So even if I go bigger, it’s still not Nick Kyrgios admitting he can that much of a risk for me, I feel. wilt under pressure after his fourth-round Wimbledon loss to That served me well throughout my career. I think Pete Sampras Andy Murray. once said, You’re only as good as your second serve. I’m happy that my second serve has always been there for me.” — Roger Federer on secondserve strength. “I regret to announce that I have decided I will not compete in the Olympic Games taking place this summer in Rio. The reason for my decision is the concern regarding the danger posed by the Zika virus.” —Simona Halep announcing her withdrawal from the Rio Olympic Games. Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport


“I just like the big stage more, when it’s more important. When I have more pressure, you know, when the expectations are big, I like those occasions... Obviously that’s when I play best. At least for now. I hope it’s going to stay like that.” — Borna Coric after beating Jack Sock in the decisive match to clinch Croatia’s Davis Cup semifinal spot.

“I feel like when you’re younger you’re obviously super excited and you get really nervous. And when you’re older it’s like you kind of have to win and you get used to winning. It’s like when you taste something that tastes so good you want it again and again and again. So it’s a little addicting.” — Serena Williams describing the feeling of winning her 22nd Grand Slam championship.

Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

“I hope and pray the doctors will be able to treat me. As a Wimbledon champion, I’m trying to fight my hardest to survive. I want people to understand that I don’t do [this] to myself on purpose; this is what I’m going through and it’s absolutely horrendous.” — Marion Bartoli on the mystery virus that has caused her weight to plummet leaving her fearing for her life.

“Try to go through him. Maybe I can blow a hole through his stomach next time, we’ll try.” —Milos Raonic on his strategy for facing Andy Murray.

Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

“Right now if you just look at numbers, Roger (Federer) is obviously there. I think five Slams clear (of Novak Djokovic) is significant. But Novak’s obviously trending. He’s the greatest right now. “Roger will be the first to tell you he’s not currently the best player in the world. So we’re kind of trying to predict the end, which is kind of tough. I think it’s really exciting that it’s a realistic conversation to have. It’s a realistic question to ask: Where do you think he’ll fall in the line-up? It’s a testament to Novak that he’s kind of forced his way into the conversation.” —Andy Roddick on the GOAT.

“I say, this is, for me, politics. Suddenly everything has to go against Russia. Somebody in Russia, they’re all bad, and all the world is good. For me, it’s a little bit funny. I have nothing to do with that. I hope they resolve it. And the clean athletes who deserve to go to Olympics, they will go.” — Svetlana Kuznetsova on the Russian Athletics team ban from the Rio Olympics for doping violations.

“SOMEBODY IN RUSSIA, THEY’RE ALL BAD, AND ALL THE WORLD IS GOOD. ” “Obviously your game has to be on the very high level, I would say. Almost be on the line that you are able to play. You have to really play on the edge of your tennis abilities, playing very aggressive.” — Tomas Berdych on the key to beating Roger Federer.

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All Dressed In

White A majestic view of the 2016 Wimbledon seen through the lens of photographer Stephen White.

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LAWN LESSONS:

10 WIMBLEDON TAKEAWAYS By Chris Oddo

Novak Djokovic’s loss proved no one is invincible, while Serena Williams’ triumph reminded us greatness trumps age— but only for a select few.

Rain held sway over The Championships for much of week one and by the time the sun came out Novak Djokovic had fallen prey to the upset bug. But the rain couldn’t stop Serena Williams’ march to Grand Slam glory. She swept the women’s singles and doubles titles and climbed another notch higher on the ladder of history. What do Novak’s failure and Serena’s success at SW19 portend for the rest of the season? We explore the lessons we learned from grass-court season.

Photo credit: Christopher Levy

1. Serena the Great What can we say that hasn’t already been said about the legend known simply as Serena? Can we consider her the Greatest Of All Time now that she’s snagged her 22nd major and 7th Wimbledon title? Here’s a novel idea: Why don’t we just scrap that debate until Williams is finished winning majors? Judging from the way the 34-year-old marched through the draw at Wimbledon, she’s very far from being done. She was in full flight at SW19, rising above the field winning her final 12 sets without needing a tiebreaker. Next she’ll chase Olympic Gold and then head to New York to try to win an Open Era-record 23rd Grand Slam title. Time will eventually catch up with Serena, but at the moment, it can’t even get a ball by her. Advantage, Williams, for the foreseeable future. 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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2. Roger’s Missed Moment

If Roger Federer had defeated Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon semifinal, what are the odds he would have beaten Murray in the final? The smart money would have been on Murray but given their history one never knows. And… one never will know, because Federer coughed up a two sets to one lead to the big Canadian in dramatic fashion. Federer was seemingly in control of the match, but served back-to-back double faults giving Raonic a critical break and the fourth set before taking a dangerous fall in the decider and getting broken after dusting himself off. Federer could not hide the sting of the loss in his post-match press conference. It was a blown opportunity, and with his 35th birthday fast approaching, how many more opportunities will the maestro have?

“FEDERER COULD NOT HIDE THE STING OF THE LOSS”

3. The Race for No. 1

Serena Williams’ greatness is indisputable, but someone else has been great in 2016: Angelique Kerber. The gritty German held her own against one of the most lethal grass-court players of all time in the final. Always a fantastic mover and fighter, Kerber has become much more than a counterpuncher. She now knows how to finish points from both wings and she’s driven to prove that her Grand Slam title in Australia was no fluke. It will be interesting to see where the German’s game—and attitude—takes her this summer.

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Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

4. Novak Gains Much-Needed Rest All good things come to an end and yes, even Novak the invincible can lose a Grand Slam match. But in the scheme of things, an early loss will make Djokovic more determined and more hungry at the US Open. He’s still No. 1, he’s still in his prime, and the rest of the tour still needs to be very afraid.

5. The Lendl Effect

Andy Murray is 3-1 in Grand Slam finals with Ivan Lendl in his box. Without Lendl, the Scot is an unsightly 0-7 in major finals. Clearly, Lendl has had a profound effect on Murray’s game and self-belief at the majors. Of course, the counter argument is each time Lendl stepped in as Murray’s coach, the Scot has been on the cusp of something great. Murray has worked hard and given himself plenty of opportunities for Grand Slam glory and he’s in the prime of his career right now at the age of 29. If there is anybody in danger of derailing the Nole express it could be Murray right here, right now with Lendl at his side.


8. Biggest Wimbledon Disappointment?

Our vote for biggest Wimbledon flop goes to Kei Nishikori. Japan’s No. 1 is a once-in-a-generation talent, but he can’t stay healthy enough to master the majors. A rib injury forced the fifth seed to retire in the second set of his fourthround match with Marin Cilic. It seems the 26-year-old Nishikori is always sabotaged by fitness. Will he ever stay healthy long enough to realize his great gifts at Grand Slams?

Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

6. Delpo’s Uprising The Tower of Tandil tells the world he’s “going to be dangerous” in 2017 after he regains his feel for the game and gets his backhand back up to snuff. His second-round takedown of Stan Wawrinka proves del Potro is dangerous right now. Still leaning on the backhand slice and guiding his two-handed backhand without much zing, del Potro packed more than enough punch to take out the fourth-seeded Swiss. He did it with his powerful serve, his bruising forehand and his world-class movement.

“DEL POTRO PACKED MORE THAN

9. Williams Sisters Doubles Delight To step inside a nearly packed Centre Court hours after Serena Williams captured her seventh Wimbledon singles title, and witness two American tennis icons win the doubles crown was absolutely breathtaking. The Williams sisters have ruled Centre Court in style for more than a decade. To see their continued impact on the grandest stage winning their 14th major doubles title was one of the highlights of the fortnight.

10. Sam Querrey, American Hero? Maybe that’s taking it too far, but Querrey’s performance at Wimbledon was truly eye-opening. Not only did the big-serving American upset Djokovic, he also reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal and did it all with humility.

ENOUGH PUNCH TO TAKE OUT THE FOURTH-SEEDED SWISS”

7. Future Wimbledon Champs? Our picks of players who could win Wimbledon someday: Marin Cilic, who has now reached the quarterfinals three years running and has a game well-suited for grass; 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska has been close before and just needs a little bit of luck. Dominic Thiem has dramatically improved his grass-court game despite a second-round loss to Jiri Vesely. CoCo Vandeweghe, a 2015 quarterfinalist, owns the crushing serve and attacking style that play well on grass.

Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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FEDERER PULLS PLUG ON 2016 SEASON

By Richard Pagliaro

This is not the birthday celebration his fans envisioned: Roger Federer will not play again in 2016. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has pulled the plug on his 2016 season to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee.

In a Facebook post announcing his decision, the 34-year-old Federer said he needs “extensive rehabilitation” following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in February. “I have made the very difficult decision to call an end to my 2016 season as I need more extensive rehabilitation following my knee surgery earlier this year,” Federer said. “The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover. It is tough to miss the rest of the year.” Federer, who celebrates his 35th birthday on August 8th, will miss the Rio Olympic Games and the shot for the first Olympic singles gold medal of his career.

The third-ranked Swiss, who has played in four Olympics, was scheduled to partner Stan Wawrinka in doubles, reprising their gold-medal winning doubles partnership, and form a dream team with fellow former world No. 1 Martina Hingis in mixed doubles. Injury and illness have plagued Federer this season, limiting him to a 21-7 record. On February 2nd, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. A planned return in Miami was scrapped as Federer came down with gastroenteritis. A lower back injury forced Federer to withdraw from Madrid and Roland Garros, snapping his Open Era-record streak of 65 straight Grand Slam appearances. 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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Despite the physical issues, Federer advanced to Grand Slam semifinals at the Australian Open, losing to eventual-champion Novak Djokovic, and at Wimbledon where Federer fought off three match match points brilliantly rallying from a two-set deficit to edge Marin Cilic, 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3, and advance to his record-tying 11th Wimbledon semifinal and 40th Grand Slam semifinal. The elation from that thrilling comeback gave way to deflation as Federer squandered a two sets to one lead before a surprising stumble to Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon semifinals. Federer took a rare tumble to the turf in the fifth set of his Wimbledon semifinal loss, remarking afterward he was both inspired by his run and curious to see how his body would react after the fall. 22

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“Actually, it’s very encouraging for the season, hopefully for the rest of my career,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “Not that I was worried it was going to end somehow, but I was insecure coming into Wimbledon. I must tell you. I mentioned that a lot beforehand. “For some maybe not that clear, for others very clear. It’s been a great run for me here, I must say. I just hope with the slip I had in the fifth, I’m going to be fine tomorrow and beyond. I mean, curious in a weird way to find out what’s the deal now.” It’s a curiosity the tennis world now shares with Federer.


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HARD ACHES:

10 PLAYERS AIMING FOR REDEMPTION The US Open Series provides familiar faces a shot to jump-start stalled seasons. 24

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By Chris Oddo

1. CAROLINE WOZNIACKI There was a time where Caroline Wozniacki stood atop the WTA mountain, holding the No. 1 ranking for 67 weeks from October 2010 to January of 2012. A lot has happened since then. And it hasn’t all been good for Wozniacki. The Dane finds herself in danger of dropping out of the Top 60 as the US Open Series begins. Plagued by injuries for much of the spring, can the two-time US Open finalist find her health and groove in North America?


2. GRIGOR DIMITROV The Bulgarian was once considered a perennial Top 10 player, but now he’s out of the Top 40 and struggling mightily. At Wimbledon, Dimitrov was enthused about winning back-to-back matches for the first time since April, but he was knocked out in the third round by Steve Johnson and then got stung by Dan Evans two weeks later in the first round at Washington, D.C. The 25-year-old Dimitrov has the talent to get back on track, but often lacks belief under pressure.

3. SANTINA Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza started the season by winning four titles in succession, including their third straight major at the Australian Open. But since then it has been rough sledding for the superstar tandem. Since winning in St. Petersburg in February, Hingis and Mirza have only claimed the title at one of nine events played.

4. ROGER FEDERER The Grand Slam king has had one of the most trying seasons in his brilliant career. Even he admitted that he expected very little at Wimbledon with back and knee issues limiting his match play. Then Federer suddenly found himself in the Wimbledon semis in a Novak Djokovic-less draw and it seemed like this might be Roger’s time to shock the world and win his 18th major. It didn’t happen as Federer suffered a bitter loss to Milos Raonic. Now the Swiss will take the rest of the season off to rehab his knee and aim for an injury-free 2017.

5. BRYAN BROTHERS After winning at least one Grand Slam title every year from 2005 to 2014, the legendary twins are in danger of going a second consecutive season without a major. They had their chance, reaching the Roland Garros final earlier this year, but didn’t cash in. Can the California kids find their mojo this summer in New York?

6. DAVID FERRER The Energizer bunny of the ATP Tour badly needs a recharge. The normally consistent Spaniard has lost 10 matches to players ranked outside of the Top 20 this year and has yet to reach a final. Has Ferrer lost a step? Has one of tennis’ fiercest competitors finally lost his edge? If the 34-year-old Ferrer wants to remain relevant, the time is now. 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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7. JACK SOCK The American owns one of the most jawdropping forehands in the game and he’s an explosive mover. In short, Sock is a very talented young player who is spinning his wheels a bit this year, a few notches below his career-high ranking of No. 22. It’s time for Sock to make the most of his extended stay on home soil. He has the game, he has the swagger, he just needs to continue building his backhand and fitness to become the next American to reach the Top 10.

8. PETRA KVITOVA The two-time major champion’s best 2016 result is a trip to the Stuttgart semis. How in the world can a player as gifted as Kvitova come out of the grass-court season with a record of 16-15 and zero finals on the season? The talent is there, but something has been missing from Kvitova’s game. Has she failed to click with new coach Frantisek Cermak? Is she suffering from ennui? North America has never been Kvitova’s favorite place to play but if there was ever time she needs to produce results, this is it. 26

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9. EUGENIE BOUCHARD The Canadian pulled out of a year-long funk last year at the US Open, but quickly slipped right into another funk when her mini-run at the Open ended with a freak locker room slip that eventually resulted in a lawsuit against the USTA. This year, Bouchard has produced better results but she is still nowhere near the form or consistency that saw her reach the semifinals or better at three majors in 2014.

IT’S TIME FOR SOCK TO MAKE THE MOST OF HIS EXTENDED STAY ON HOME SOIL 10. KEI NISHIKORI The world No. 6 has been solid though not spectacular since his run to the 2014 US Open final, but Nishikori flopped out of the Flushing Meadows first round last year. Japan’s No.1 has chosen not to defend his Washington, DC title this year, but will be in action at Toronto, the Rio Olympics, Cincinnati and the US Open. If he stays healthy, always a question, Nishikori will have a great chance to make a bold statement on the hard courts this summer.


Major Champions On Future Champions

Grand Slam champions assess the top prospects as major successors. BY RICHARD PAGLIARO

HARD-COURT PREVIEW Photo credit:2016 Mark Peterson/Corleve

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Photo credit: Roland Garros/FFT

The world stands still at the US Open. The Unisphere from the World’s Fair that greets guests entering the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center reminds visitors tennis is a global game. The mark some young players are making on the tennis map could signal a shift in the ATP power structure. Hard court season is a season of opportunity for three talented young players—Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev—to continue their rise up the rankings. Elite opponents assert all three are potential future Grand Slam champions. 28

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Zverev is a clear possible future No. 1, Rafael Nadal said after saving match point edging Zverev in Indian Wells. “He’s an amazing player. He has all the shots. Very good physical performance. Tall, good serve, first and second, great shots from the baseline, forehand and backhand. He has everything to become big star and he’s playing well.” Since Juan Martin del Potro scored successive victories over Nadal and Roger Federer to capture the 2009 US Open, five men have combined to collect 26 of the last 27 Grand Slam crowns. Only 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic has disrupted the dominance of the five champions—Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka—who have each won multiple majors in that span. World No. 1 Djokovic has reeled off six of the last nine Grand Slams and will arrive in New York as a strong favorite to claim his third US Open title.


There are signs the future is coming fast.

The enigmatic Kyrgios, who is 5-7 vs. Top 10 players this season, including a straight-sets win over Cilic to claim his first title in Marseille, may be the most physically gifted of the group. Shot selection, fitness and maturity have all been Milos Raonic advanced to his first Grand Slam final issues for Kyrgios, who famously upset Nadal at the at Wimbledon falling to Andy Murray earlier this 2014 Wimbledon, toppled Federer in Madrid last month. Raonic’s breakthrough came weeks after year, made global headlines for his crude remark Dominic Thiem reached his first major semifinal at toward Wawrinka in Montreal last summer and fell Roland Garros. to Murray in the Wimbledon fourth round earlier this The ninth-ranked Thiem, who has won four titles month, admitting when the going gets tough he can and posted a 4-6 record vs. Top 10 opponents this get “a little bit soft.” season, defeated seven-time Wimbledon champiRoddick believes if the 21-year-old Aussie can on Federer on grass in the Stuttgart semifinals last mature and commit to competing on every point, he month. That victory came after the Austrian topped “could be one of the greats.” Federer on the red clay of Rome in May following a “Kyrgios it’s gonna be between the ears,” Roddick Buenos Aires conquest of nine-time French Open said. “And he admitted that much (at Wimbledon). champion Nadal earlier this season. His upside is amazing. If you could combine his “Thiem, on slow courts with big swings, we knew talent and his game with someone who may be his upside was there,” former No. 1 Andy Roddick more disciplined mentally, then you’d have someone said. “I was encouraged by him. I know he didn’t who could be one of the greats.” have a great Wimbledon, but in the warm-up tournaLast month, the 19-year-old Zverev dethroned ment being able to transition from slow clay where Federer on grass, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3, scoring the people thought that might be his bread-and-butter biggest win of his career in advancing to his first to playing well on grass, I thought was a huge thing. Halle final. That struck me as something very important.” Photo credit: Hopman Cup

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Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

“I love Zverev. I saw him play in DC last year and I tweeted out I thought we could be looking at a guy who could be the best young player I’d seen in a long time,” Roddick said. “I’ve heard his work ethic is great. I’ve heard him speak and been impressed so you definitely have great prospects which is great to watch.” World No.1 Djokovic believes we are witnessing the evolution of the game with Thiem, Kyrgios and Zverev among those leading the next wave.

Photo credit: Christopher Levy

“It is exciting, because tennis definitely needs the next generation of young players who are playing the way Dominic does and challenging the best players in the world,” Djokovic said. “It’s a process for every young player to really develop and understand what it takes mentally, physically, emotionally, to get to the top of the world and win major titles.

“It’s a long road ahead for (Thiem) and for everybody else, but definitely they are on the right track. Kyrgios is another prospect, somebody that has a bright future if he continues going on this path.”

Photo credit: Paul Zimmer/Mercedes Cup

Kyrgios opened the season sweeping Zverev in a Hopman Cup clash between two massive talents who shrink the court to Xbox proportions and may well be meeting on the game’s biggest stages soon. “I really like the kid; I think he’s got a great future ahead,” Kyrgios said of Zverev. “He’s a great athlete for his size. He moves well and serves big. So I don’t see it as a rivalry, but I guess we’re going to be playing a lot of big matches in the future, so in that case, yeah (it’s a future rivalry).”

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Stephen White/CameraSport


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HARD-COURT

PREVIEW:

Will Serena Soar This Summer? by Erik Gudris

World No. 1 plays for Grand Slam record, while major challenges rise on the road to the US Open.

Serena Seeks to Peak in Rio and New York

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Angelique Kerber Aiming for No. 1 Empowered by winning her seventh Wimbledon title, Serena Williams is now aiming for more Olympic gold-medal glory in Rio. That means Williams has adjusted her schedule to appear in Montreal, but is not yet on the entry list for Cincinnati, which occurs right after Rio. The 2015 Cincinnati champion is scheduled to defend her Olympic championships in singles and doubles, partnering sister Venus in pursuit of a 4th doubles gold. Should Serena strike gold again in Rio, look for her to be inspired to make history by claiming an Open Era-record 23rd Grand Slam championship in New York.

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Angelique Kerber’s run to the Wimbledon final vaulted her to world No. 2. Now the Australian Open champion sets her sights on taking the top spot in the rankings. With Kerber only defending thirdround points from last year’s US Open, a solid US Open Series is a must to surpass Serena for No. 1. To get there, the 2011 US Open semifinalist will need deep runs in both Montreal and Cincinnati. With Williams currently only scheduled to play in Montreal, the opportunity is there for the German to close the rankings gap. Kerber is still prone to early-round losses, but a confident Kerber is the biggest threat to Williams keeping her world No. 1 ranking until year’s end.


Breakthrough Players

Which Muguruza Shows Up? It’s been a season of extreme highs and lows for Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza. After sporadic results at the start of the year, Muguruza claimed her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros beating Serena Williams in the final. But then, Muguruza crashed out of the second round of Wimbledon to Jana Cepelova. The good news for Muguruza is that she isn’t defending that many ranking points this summer after a disappointing hard court swing last year.

Turnaround Time

The US Open series could prove to be a springboard to bigger things in New York for three players. Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2014 Montreal champion, could spin her web of slices and drop shots on her way to another big hard court title. Simona Halep, looking to reassert herself as a major title contender, is skipping Rio but arrives in North America fresh off dishing out a double-bagel victory in the Bucharest final. Finally, newlywed Dominika Cibulkova, who is enjoying her best season in some time, will be a dangerous foe for anyone as she aims to break back into the Top 10 again. The feisty former Australian Open finalist has the biggest opportunity to earn rankings points as she is playing a full schedule of events including Stanford, Toronto, Montreal and New Haven.

This summer could be what two players need to turnaround recent slumps, injury setbacks and build needed momentum heading into the final major of the year. Petra Kvitova, a Wimbledon second-round casualty, will seek to get her big serving game back on track as she hopes to return to the Top 10. The Czech will play a full schedule of events including in New Haven where she is former champion. Another former New Haven winner, Caroline Wozniacki is also hoping for a summer bounce back. Now recovered from her ankle injury suffered before the French Open, Wozniacki finds herself outside the Top 50. The two-time US Open finalist hopes to reignite her climb back up the rankings despite knowing she will face seeded opponents early in events. The woman nicknamed “Sunshine” needs Top 20 victories to brighten her dreary season. 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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Summer Stories Novak Djokovic leads the field looking to build momentum during the US Open Series. BY ERIK GUDRIS

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The US Open Series often offers hard-hitting and exciting tennis all summer. But in this Olympic year, several big names have changed their schedule. This opens the door for more players to have a shot at more rankings points and bigger titles as everyone aims to peak for New York later this summer.

Djokovic Ready to Rebound World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will look to rebound after his upset loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon. But given Djokovic’s overall form this year, it shouldn’t take too long for the Serbian superstar to find his footing on the hard courts of North America. Djokovic will enter heavily favored in both Toronto and Cincinnati; especially considering he’ll be wellrested having had an extra few weeks off due to his early exit at the All England Club. And, now without any added pressure of playing for an elusive calendar year Grand Slam, Djokovic will aim to win one or two more Masters titles to add to his ATP-record 29 Masters crowns. Simply put, Djokovic remains the man to beat all summer. 38

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Murray, Nadal Taking Their Time Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each made last-minute changes to their schedules in hopes of being fully fit and rested for the Rio Games. Each man withdrew from Toronto to prepare for the Olympics. Then Federer stunned the tennis world announcing he was pulling the plug on his 2016 season. Murray, fresh off winning his second Wimbledon title, will instead spend an extra few weeks training for Rio. That means Murray’s only scheduled stop during the US Open series will be in Cincinnati, an event he’s won twice. The big question for Murray is: Can he continue his grass-court momentum with this new abbreviated schedule? How the No. 2 fares against Djokovic will be key. And if they meet in the Cincinnati final, the outcome should infuse the winner with confidence in New York. After the disappointment of his Wimbledon semifinal loss, Federer was aiming for Olympic success and an unprecedented eighth Cincinnati crown. However, the 34-year-old Swiss’ announcement that his surgically-repaired left knee requires “extensive rehabilitation” signals the first extended break of Federer’s career just weeks before his 35th birthday. Photo credit: Stephen White/CameraSport

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Can he come back strong? Time will tell. Nadal missed Wimbledon due to a left wrist injury and decided he needed more time to be fully ready for his return. But how will Nadal’s return on hard courts impact his comeback? On the one hand, hard courts are not Nadal’s preferred surface. Yet, Nadal has proven himself as a hard-court champion winning the US Open twice, in 2010 and 2013, which was the year he also swept the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati championships. The good news for Nadal this summer is that he will enter refreshed and not feeling the same degree of pressure as Djokovic, Murray and Federer. That may make him the most dangerous player in every draw—if he’s healthy.

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Dominic Thiem, now in the Top 10, is another player choosing to focus on the North American hard court swing. The 22-year-old Austrian, enjoying one of the best seasons on tour, certainly has the tools The US Open Series often produces surprise to make inroads during the North American results and stellar runs by players outside road trip. the Big Four. This year’s US Open Series is Finally, keep any eye on rising 18-year-old unique as several players are choosing to Taylor Fritz. Fresh off his wedding to fellow bypass the Olympics to focus on achieving tennis player Raquel Pedraza and back bigger results this summer. Am erican John playing on home soil, this summer could be Isner is skipping Rio to concentrate on his his opportunity to take the next major step favorite part of the season in an effort to gain valuable ranking points and improve his in his career as many see the maturing Fritz as the next big American star. seeding for New York.

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Olympic Preview: Five Facts To Know For Rio

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Gold Standard: Venus & Serena

Olympic gold is more meaningful to Venus Williams than Grand Slam silverware. The four-time Olympic gold medal champion values the Games more than Grand Slams because of the pride she feels competing as an Olympian.

Photo credit: International Tennis Federation

“For me, personally, yes (Olympics are above Grand Slams),” Venus said. “The proudest moment for me when they do the on-court announcements, are the Olympic results. For me, that feels legitimate.”

four gold medals apiece—they are the only fourtime gold medalists in Olympic tennis history. Serena Williams also won the singles gold in London, joining Venus, who swept gold in singles and doubles at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The Williams sisters made history at the 2012 London Olympics capturing their third consecutive doubles gold medal, giving them

Empowered by their 14th Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon, the sisters are playing singles and doubles in Rio.

Medal Head: Novak

professional athlete, it’s a huge honor to be part of it. I was fortunate enough to be part of Beijing Olympic Games, London as well. I also had that satisfaction of winning a medal for my country in Beijing, and also the honor of carrying the flag at the opening ceremony in London. “I’ve experienced the most, I would say, exciting moments of Olympic Games. It’s really amazing to be along side all the best athletes in the world, to dine with them, to watch them perform live. It’s quite an experience I really look forward to.”

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The Grand Slam king and world No. 1 have each done just about everything you can do in the sport except win an Olympic singles gold medal. The spirit of the Olympic flame burns intently in Novak Djokovic. “There is no bigger sports event than Olympic Games,” Djokovic said. “For me, as a 42

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Zika Virus Stings Participation

The Games are approaching, some players are departing. Tomas Berdych, Simona Halep and Milos Raonic all withdrew citing concerns over the Zika virus. Australian men’s coach Lleyton Hewitt also pulled out due to personal reasons. The International Olympic Committee says it is implementing safety precautions including daily inspection of Rio venues “to ensure that any puddles of stagnant water - where the mosquitoes breed - are removed, therefore minimizing the risk of athletes and visitors coming into contact with mosquitoes. Rio 2016 will also continue to follow the virus prevention and control measures provided by the authorities, and will provide the relevant guidance to Games athletes and visitors.” 2016 HARD-COURT PREVIEW

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Photo credit: Mini USA

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Rio By Numbers

A total of 51 nations will be represented in the Olympic tennis tournament, which will be staged on hard court at the Olympic Tennis Center August 6-14th. The 2012 Olympic gold medal singles champions—Andy Murray and Serena Williams— will try to defend their titles in the 64-player singles draws. The Bryan brothers and Williams sisters are the defending gold medal doubles champions. Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka, who won the mixed doubles gold medal in

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London, will not defend their title as Azarenka is pregnant and expecting her first child by the end of the year. Jennifer Capriati is the youngest gold-medal champion: She was 16 when she won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games. No reigning men’s world No. 1 has ever won an Olympic singles gold medal. Rafael Nadal was ranked No. 2 when he won the gold in Beijing and Andy Murray was No. 4 when he struck gold in London. Only three players—the Williams sisters and Conchita Martinez—have won medals at three different Olympics.


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Rio Reunions

Grand Slam singles champions Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka are all entered in both singles and doubles events for the Rio Games. Nadal, who has not played a match since suffering a tendon injury to his left wrist that forced him to withdraw from Roland Garros, was named Spanish flag bearer. It’s an honor he received four years ago before a knee injury prompted the 2008 gold-medal champion to withdraw from the London Games.

On the ladies side, former world No. 1 doubles partners Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci will reunite for Italy, Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro will play for Spain and Indian Wells champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe, the daughter of a twotime Olympian, join forces alongside Venus and Serena on Team USA.

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CLOSING SHOTS By Christopher Levy

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