Tune in as we talk tennis with Bruce Lipka today, the day of love!
By JASON DILL — firstname.lastname@example.org
BRADENTON — Michael Mmoh came to Bradenton and IMG Academy a year ago from Saudia Arabia to improve his tennis game.
The laid-back 14-year-old tennis player has an ultra competitive side, too.
It’s what has catapulted Mmoh onto the tennis scene, most recently giving him a berth into the ITF $10K Futures Tour event and this week’s Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championship.
At the Herr, Mmoh earned his way as a direct entrant into the boys 18s division, owing to his powerful and mature game.
And although Mmoh lost his first-round match on Tuesday to Gustav Hansson, 7-6 (3), 6-0, the experience is part of a bigger picture.
"When Michael does good, we don’t really get too excited," said David "Red" Ayme, Mmoh’s coach. "When he doesn’t and has a couple learning weeks, and doesn’t have the best results like the past two weeks, it’s just another step in the process. We will call him out and work on a couple things and try to educate him … so we’ll take those principles, put it into play and try to get better each day."
Mmoh features a strong forehand, steady backhand and serve rocketing on the court. He’s sparred with ATP Tour players when they are in town as part of his training such as Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who is currently ranked No. 19 in the world.
However, nothing has been given to him.
Ayme said he’s earned it all.
Ayme has been at IMG for 27 years and coached some well-known players like Tommy Haas, and he sees
the “it” factor surrounding Mmoh that could lead him on the potential star path like Haas achieved.
"If you’re a coach, he’s one of the things you want to work with," Ayme said. "He’s somebody that wants to work to get better. Somebody that wants to be coached. Somebody that wants to be told what he’s doing good, but also wants to know what he needs to work on. And he doesn’t give you the impression that he knows it all. So I think he’s really coachable."
A huge attribute to Mmoh’s game is his cool demeanor inside his fiery 6-foot-1 frame. While most players can lose their composure, and subsequently their match, Mmoh is usually calm no matter how he is playing.
He does show emotion, however, and it’s designed to harness that energy into a positive result.
Normally, that’s accomplished.
"Not always," Mmoh said. "I really want to win, so I try to put things that are not going well on the side and not let it get to me too much."
On Tuesday, Mmoh fell to a player just a notch better at the current stage. But the son of former Nigerian ATP Tour professional Tony Mmoh, who reached No. 105 in the world, has achieved success and isn’t done moving forward from the first-round exit.
As a 12 year old, Michael claimed an Orange Bowl victory and reached the finals at the Eddie Herr. Both tournaments are considered the top junior events outside the Grand Slams, with the Orange Bowl dubbed as the “Grand Daddy.”
And in two short years, he’s morphed his game into a well-rounded display that netted him a berth into the U.S. Open first round of the boys junior main draw through qualification.
He won a match there, and is expected to make his second Grand Slam appearance at the Australian Open as a direct entrant on the boys junior side.
"He’s following in a pipeline that developed Tommy Haas, Xavier Malisse, Kei Nishikori," Ayme said. "And at this point in time, he’s showing signs of being able to maybe follow in those footsteps. And our goal with Michael is to not really be the next Tommy Haas, but to be the best he can be. And where that lands, we don’t really put numbers on it. But we do think he has the super potential to follow that."
Two dominant American players started the 2012 season coming off injuries and passing age 30. It appeared it could be the time for a simmering young talent to boil to the top of the women’s tour. Goodbye to Serena and Venus Williams, who have dominated headlines since the late 1990s, hello to some new faces.
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, who won 26 matches to start the season, Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who reached the Wimbledon final, and Italy’s Sara Errani, who found some magic in a new racket, all seemed poised to break through.
In the first part of the year, it seemed like the women’s game might be ready for a changing of the guard. But then a familiar face came roaring back.
After a slow start — including a first-round loss at the French Open — Serena Williams came back to win Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open and the year-end championship. She earned more than $7 million in prize money, second only to Azarenka, despite playing three fewer tournaments.
It was another remarkable year for Williams, 31, who seems to have more tennis incarnations than a cat has lives.
A foot injury threatened her career in 2011, then she suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. As she recovered from the condition and the tour went on without her, tennis seemed a distant goal.
"There was a feeling that I didn’t even think about playing tennis," Williams said after winning the U.S. Open title. "And I always said my goal wasn’t even to play anymore, it was just to be healthy. And I thought, ‘Wow I’ve had a great career, but I just want to be healthy and make it out of here.’"
Williams ultimately came to appreciate the game again. She at times in her career has seemed preoccupied by outside endeavors. After embracing tennis, she proved once again that when she is playing her best, she is nearly impossible to beat.
With her 15 wins, Williams is sixth on the list of women’s Grand Slam event winners. She will continue to work for her place in history, saying retirement is not in her plans. That means the next wave of young women will have to work even harder to catch up.
"So many people on tour are like, ‘Oh, you just show up and you win matches,’" Williams said. "And I just smile and I let them believe that, but the fact of the matter is I probably work harder than anyone on the WTA Tour."
If there were a runner-up for player of the year, it would be Azarenka. She won her first major in Australia and was the No. 1 player in the world for most of the year. So it is fitting that the best match of the 2012 would feature Azarenka and a resurgent Williams.
Azarenka was the top seed at the 2012 U.S. Open and won her first four matches in straight sets. Playing excellent tennis, she faced Williams in the final.
It was the best serve in the game versus perhaps the best return. The two reached a third set. Exhausted and trailing 5-3 in the third set, Williams somehow found a reservoir of energy to win the last four games and win her 15th Grand Slam 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
Laura Robson needed to qualify for the Australian Open in January and the French in May, but by the U.S. Open, the 18-year-old Brit was in the main draw and reached the round of 16 on her own before losing to defending champion Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-4.
She rose to 53rd in the rankings and is poised to build on that success. And fittingly, Robson makes her home in Wimbledon, England.
This had all the ingredients of a breakout year for Agnieszka Radwanska. She started strong by winning in Dubai and Miami before reaching the Wimbledon final. For some women, that might be a career year.
But after the loss to Williams in London, Radwanska reached just one final and had mediocre results in many other tournaments. Radwanska has the potential to win majors but seems to have trouble getting past players like Williams and Li Na.
Radwanska has the potential to separate from her contemporaries. Perhaps 2013 is the year she does it.
MELBOURNE, November 27 (R-Sport) – The Austrailan Open tournament director has tipped Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova to win the singles titles at the first Grand Slam of 2013.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic looks to defend his crown against a likely resurgent Rafael Nadal, who is returning to the action after missing half a year with knee injury, and Roger Federer, who is looking become the first man in the Open Era to win five Australian Open titles.
But Craig Tiley, the chief administrator at Melbourne Park, insists Murray will pose the greatest threat to the Serbian star for the January 14-27 event.
“I think, on the men’s side Andy Murray will be difficult to beat this year,” Tiley said. “Novak is a defending champion, he is playing great tennis, he is obviously tough to beat, but I think Andy Murray is someone who we are going to see even more.”
Murray enjoyed the best year of his career in 2012, winning the Olympics and his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in September.
In the women’s draw, Tiley sided with the Russian No. 1 over Victoria Azarenka, who beat Sharapova to win the title last January.
“In the women’s draw, I think, Maria,” Tiley said. “I think she was probably playing the best tennis at the end of the year. Azarenka is playing great tennis and she won here last year obviously and this was her first breakthrough.”
This year, players in all four main draws will fight for a share of $30 million, the biggest prize fund on the tour.
German-born, Russian-bred Zverev dazzles tennis world
By JASON DILL — email@example.com
BRADENTON — Like most tennis players, Alexander Zverev talks to himself when things are going bad and when things are going good on the court.
Unlike most tennis players, the German-born Zverev is doing so mostly in Russian and harnessing the pep talk into a burning fire from within himself to defeat the opposition.
"I’ve heard that a lot of times," said Zverev, who is from Hamburg. "I have to say I am emotional on the court as well. I hope in a good way … I’m saying ‘Come on,’ every time I’m losing. I’m saying ‘Come on,’ to every point I win. Not very loud, but just in myself and it helps me a lot."
Consequently, Zverev is a favorite whenever he steps onto the tennis court. However, he’s an unseeded player in this week’s Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships.
It’s because the 15-year-old is playing up in age groups, testing his skill against older players in the boys 18s.
On Monday, he dusted off Austria’s Lucas Miedler in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, in a first-round match.
"It was tougher than the score was," Zverev said.
Zverev’s preparation for the Eddie Herr involved a couple ITF Futures Tour events in Florida. Most notably, the wunderkind delivered a finals appearance in the pro circuit $10K tournament at IMG that concluded Nov. 18.
The Herr is on hard courts, except for the 18s. Those players are competing on clay, and Zverev’s strong results in the Futures Tour event held at IMG served as perfect setup to this week’s event.
"I have a lot of confidence," he said. "I beat very good players there, and now I know I can pretty much beat everybody. I don’t know how the other guys (think) that. But it gave me a lot of confidence as well."
Of course, Zverev’s pedigree is one reason for his penchant for tennis and subsequent rise through the ranks.
His father and mother are former Russia Davis Cup and Fed Cup members, and his older brother, Mischa, reached No. 49 in the world rankings back in 2009.
In fact, Mischa’s tournament travels around the world enabled Alexander to gain unique experiences as a youth as well as picking up an extra language to become fluent in.
He speaks German, Russian and English while dabbling in some French.
But on the court, his game is all his own.
It’s a mix of the Russian heritage and German culture he was raised in, and it’s why the 6-foot-3 right-hander has a promising future.
"I know there’s a lot of pressure because everybody in my family is playing," Zverev said. "But I enjoy it more than having pressure. So there’s not a lot of pressure in me. I just play my game."
One bright future that even had legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri singing his praises following the Futures Tour final on Nov. 18.
Bollettieri said Zverev is someone the tennis world will be hearing about in the future.
Right now, though, Manatee County tennis fans can catch a glimpse of this budding star this week at the Eddie Herr held at IMG.
By JASON DILL — firstname.lastname@example.org
MANATEE — With all the hoopla surrounding Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s easy to forget about the big-time junior tennis tournament that arrived late last week.
IMG Academy is hosting the Eddie Herr International Championship. The main draw portion for singles players in various age divisions for boys and girls starts Monday.
The qualifying draw began Friday and wrapped up Sunday.
"It’s probably the biggest international tennis tournament with 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s," said tournament director Mark Dalzell, referring to participating age groups. "It’s very rare that has all of them under one property at one facility. Normally, tournaments this big would have four, five or six facilities. … So here’s a great opportunity to get the top players here … competing against each other."
The tournament is open to the public and admission is free. The main draw runs the entire week with the finals held Sunday.
The tournament is a prestigious event with an illustrious history. Players such as Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Marcelo Rios and Anna Kournikova have claimed titles at the Herr during their junior years. Roger Federer played in the tournament as a youth as well.
"The majority of the professional players on tour now have participated in Eddie Herr," Dalzell said.
Boys and girls compete in four different age divisions (12s, 14s, 16s and 18s) to give the event a unique flavor.
However, this year’s event has a wrinkle: The field was reduced from 128 to 64 in the main draw for the 12s and 14s to provide a more competitive pool.
The 18s will be the lone age group playing on a clay surface — the others are on hard courts.
The tournament also serves to prepare players for the Orange Bowl, another top-level junior tourney in December on Florida’s east coast.
"The Orange Bowl has always been sort of the granddaddy of all tournaments years ago, but that’s because it was centralized around one or two sites," Dalzell said. "Now that it’s so many different sites — and it’s still a very, very prominent tournament — it’s just not viewer-
friendly compared to what we have here. … It’s a good little circuit. A highly competitive circuit.”
Alexander Zverev and Michael Mmoh are leading contenders for the boys title. Zverev, the 15-year-old phenom from Germany, advanced to the finals of the ITF $10K Futures Tour event held earlier this month at IMG Academy.
The pro circuit tournament featured players of all ages, ranging from past collegiate stars in their early 20s all the way to winner Florian Reynet, who is 26.
Meanwhile, Mmoh also competed in the Futures Tour event for his firstappearance in a pro tournament. He was a finalist in the Herr in 2011.
But those two aren’t the only high-profile juniors in the field.
There are 28 of the top 100 junior boys in the world that were accepted to play in the event, while 10 of the top 20 junior girls are scheduled to compete.