Today I took a good look at the vendors of our 2011 Farmers Classic, and at the technology partner, IDS Information and Display Systems. Very interesting firms indeed. I’ll be reporting about them in a separate article. Watched a bunch of matches and delighted in James Blake’s win tonight. It was definitely Sam Querrey day for me, though, since I ran into him at a press conference, during the Johnson/Muller match, and at two photo ops in different Farmers Classic suites. He smiled when I told him we “…gotta stop meeting like that.”
Match Xavier Malisse – Ernests Gulbis
Gulbis wins 2-6, 6-3, 7-6
The Belgian Malisse is and has always been a hot shot. Why he couldn’t handle the man from Latvia is beyond me. After all, he beat Tsonga (BNP Paribas Open) and Melzer Wimbledon) this year and took Verdasco to 4 sets in the French Open. Gulbis had a little help from his 13 aces, of course. I think Malisse is playing way below his abilities and I hate to see him break his racquets with his bare hands. He did that twice today, the second time after match point before shaking hands with Gulbis. Not too classy, Mr. Malisse!
League Day and Captain of the Year + Sam Querrey photo op
Every year, the SCTA (Southern California Tennis Association) adult League staff celebrates their Area League Coordinators and the tremendous work they do with thousands of tennis players in each of the 13 areas, during the Farmers Classic tournament. The Coordinators are being treated to a nice day of food and tennis in one of the top level suites at the LA Tennis Center’s Stadium Court.
Another classy tradition is the invitation to the same VIP treatment for the “Captain of the Year”, which today is Beth Chamberlin from Santa Clarita, here with her husband Tim. Beth is Captain of a 4.0 adult League team in Santa Clarita (San Fernando Valley), and her SCTA Area League Coordinator is Lisa Gillette Glick. Beth met her husband playing at the now defunct Universal City racquet Club in 1989. She plays USTA League tennis for about 7 years now, captaining teams for much of that time. Tim is also Captain of a 3.5 Men’s team which is going to Sectional Championships this year (Congrats!).
Beth Chamberlin likes the fact that captaining a USTA League team allows her to use her considerable organizing skills and to meet a lot of real nice people throughout the year. “I play with a great bunch of ladies and we’re having so much fun,” were her words. Asked what she would do to improve the League program she suggested to create some in-between League divisions (like 3.75) to accommodate those in-between level players.
The highlight of everyone’s day at the SCTA League suite was Sam Querrey’s visit. He was being extremely nice to everyone, chatted with people, let them take photos, and left a real positive impression. Those LA and Valley people love their homeboy Sam Querrey, for sure! Very classy, Mr. Querrey! Congratulations, Beth Chamberlin!
Match Gonzalez – Kunitsyn
Kunitsyn wins 6-4, 6-3
The big serving Russian Igor Kunitsyn broke Fernando Gonzalez early and challenged him on every level. Gonzalez performed his mastery in sliced backhands to such an extend that one spectator shouted “No more slices!” But his errors showed up when he tried to crack top spin backhands or ran around the backhand for inside out forehands. He also failed to guard his right hand court during those sliced backhand rallies from the extreme left side of the court. Overall, Gonzalez played much riskier than Kunitsyn, who, not without sloppy shotmaking problems of his own, prevailed by often just keeping the ball in play and waiting for Gonzalez to make an error.
Kunitsyn press conference: “Having so much fun playing tennis!”
Later in the press conference, Kunitsyn confessed how much he loved playing in Los Angeles. “The LA Tennis Center is a fantastic venue and a great facility,” says Kunitsyn. “I am also having so much fun playing tennis, and this is very important for me.” Interesting enough: Kunitsyn’s coach happens to be Dr. Alan Fox, the famous sports psychologist, author, and LA winner of 1966. Kunitsyn says he had met Fox in Indian Wells 4-5 years ago. They became friends, their families became close, and he is coaching him primarily via telephone today. “Dr. Fox has been such a great mentor to me,” says Kunitsyn, and adds, “I became mentally stronger and overall more of a solid player, although there is still room for improvement!”
Asked if he was surprised by the weak Gonzalez backhand he suggested that the backhand was always Fernando’s weakest shot. “He’s not moving 100% for sure, but if he stays healthy we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.”
Kunitsyn ended the session by explaining that traveling and seeing the world is the best part of being a touring pro for him. He’s staying often with families which expands his horizon and helps him develop as a person. “It’s an unbelievable experience for me and it also helps me pay my bills. The only bad party is it keeps me away from my family.” Well said and very classy, Mr. Kunitsyn!
Fernando Gonzalez press conference: “I can handle the pain.”
Gonzalez is coming back after surgery on his right hip. Also, his right knee is bothering him now a little, which seems to be coming from the hip problem and how his body adapts to that. “I can handle the pain and I have a lot of faith,” says Gonzalez. He adds, “I’m giving it my best on and off the court and I know that I’m not going to play my best tennis next week and in the weeks to come, but I’ll try hard. Wimbledon felt good already and you’ll see steady improvement very soon.” All the best, Mr. Gonzalez!
Mardy Fish press conference: “Tennis is in a great spot right now!”
Mardy came in all fit and lean. Diet and fitness is an important part of his life now. After he started losing weight he saw a difference in his game in a matter of weeks and it changed his mental outlook, too. “Winning is contagious – the results in my case speak for themselves.”
Mardy has a home in Southern Cal, so he loves playing here because he can sleep in his own bed. “With my dog.” He had a good summer last year, entered a lot of events, and has many points to defend this year. Last week’s winning and defending his Atlanta title allows him to pick and choose more where and when to play leading up to the 2011 US open. And no, Mardy does not feel cursed here for never winning in LA. Same in Miami. But he’s ready to give it a good shot! He’s expecting more of himself this year.
On Davis Cup: Mardy was delighted to play #1 on the Davis Cup team. This is all a new experience for him. “I am lucky enough to be at an age where I can step back and realize where I am in the rankings today. “
On the depth of the field in men’s tennis: “The depth is incredible. The top 4 guys in men’s tennis are a LOT better than everyone else right now. Look at Djokovic’s winning streak of 43 matches. Sampras says it’s one of the greatest accomplishments in tennis history. Look at him beating one of the greatest clay court players (Nadal) the game has ever seen. Very impressive! I am a historian of the game and can assure you that tennis is in a great spot right now. Globally, this sport is very popular everywhere we go.” Love your optimistic look at our sport, Mr. Fish!
Sam Querrey press conference: “All the gravel removed in my elbow.”
All 6’6” of Sam Querrey dropped into the chair and he was so relaxed, smiled, and answered every question openly. Remember, he had this pain in his arm and the MRI found pieces of bone torn off the radius bone in his elbow. Those pieces were surgically removed by Davis Cup Doctor Dines. “It was one specific shot in the Queens Cup (England) during warm up that triggered the pain. Dr. Dines removed all the gravel in my elbow and I should be fine soon.
Sam is planning on starting to hit tennis balls again on Monday, although he’s still in rehab, doing push-ups and lifting weights. He can probably play Winston Salem and then it’s the US Open. “It’s a bummer I can’t defend my title here in LA. I miss playing and miss my Samurais.” Asked what the Samurais are doing nowadays he smiles and says he hopes they are studying right now. Sam Querrey is such a great guy!
Match Johnson – Muller
Muller wins 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
The fans loved their new hometown hero Steve Johnson, but the man from Luxembourg, Gilles Muller just had the better shots when it counted that night. Johnson is one of those players who goes for everything, never lets one go by without trying. Muller regularly gave up on those kinds of shots, but it was still enough to beat Johnson in 3 sets. I liked Johnson’s chances after winning the first set. My prediction: we’ll see more of Steve Johnson in the future. He has a lot of room for improvement. I love his grinding style!
James Blake press conference: “I can make it in LA this year!”
Blake won his match against German Michael Berrer rather comfortably in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. Blake is ranked #90 in the world and thinks he has a good chance for another run to the top. He loves playing in Los Angeles and his fans know it. He also has more fun playing nowadays, saying he is “…back to playing at a level I am used to.” Asked about his chances against his next opponent, Juan Martin del Potro, he says, “Juan Martin moves well and has a big serve. Either way, it’ll be fun tennis. I’ve beaten some of the top guys in the world, and I’m pretty confident right now.” Asked about his #90 ranking he replied, “You can’t argue with the computer, of course, but if I keep playing as well as tonight, I can make it in LA this year!”
Blake likes Ryan Harrison and calls him a great player and a really nice kid. “I am very impressed with him. He told me he wants to go through the process and reach his full potential.”
Asked about how he rates his new racquet from Donnay (X-Dual) he says he loves it. Remember? Blake went from Prince to Dunlop, then Wilson, back to Dunlop, then HEAD, and now Donnay.
Blake always came across as a fine gentleman to me. Very classy man! And so is his brother Thomas, who I saw playing at Steve Bellamy’s Shotgun 21 in Pacific Palisades last Sunday.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2011
Singles – First Round
 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) d [WC] Tommy Haas (GER) 63 62
 Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) 64 63
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d Xavier Malisse (BEL) 26 63 76 (5)
[Q] Daniel Kosakowski (USA) d [Q] Tim Smyczek (USA) 26 61 63
[SE] Ryan Harrison (USA) d Richard Berankis (LTU) 67 (4) 75 63
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 26 63 64
Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA) d. [Q] Greg Jones (AUS) 46 61 61
James Blake (USA) d Michael Berrer (GER) 62 63
Alejandro Falla (COL) d [Q] Laurynas Grigelis (LTU) 62 64
ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2011
STRAUS STADIUM start 2:00 pm
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) vs [Q] Daniel Kosakowski (USA)
 Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
 Jonathan Erlich (ISR) / Andy Ram (ISR) vs Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) / Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
Not Before 7:00 PM
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) / Michael Russell (USA) vs [WC] Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) / Nichalos Massu (CHI)
James Blake (USA) vs  Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
GRANDSTAND start 2:00 pm
Ryan Harrison (USA) vs Michael Russell (USA)
 Marcelo Melo (BRA) / Bruno Soares (BRA) vs Somdev Devvarman (IND) / Treat Conrad Huey (PHI)
Colin Fleming (GBR) / Ross Hutchins (GBR) vs  Mark Knowles (BAH) / Xavier Malisse (BEL)
Gilles Muller (LUX) / Jamie Murray (GBR) vs Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA) / Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) / Frank Moser (GER) vs  Scott Lipsky (USA) / Rajeev Ram (USA)
Tickets for the 85th annual Farmers Classic presented by Mercedes-Benz are on sale now through Ticketmaster. More information can be found at www.FarmersClassic.com/Tickets or by calling (310) 824 -1010 ext. 251.
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