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Five questions on new Novak Djokovic-Boris Becker partnership

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic made a surprising coaching move ahead of the 2014 season. (Marko Drobnjakovic/AP)

Novak Djokovic surprised everyone when he announced the hiring of six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker as his new head coach on Wednesday. Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s coach since 2006, will remain with the team but will cede the main job to Becker, who has never had a notable coaching appointment before.

The news left me scratching my head. Here are five questions that keep swirling:

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  • Published On Dec 18, 2013
  • Madrid Open preview

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    Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer

    Rafael Nadal (left) has little chance of overtaking David Ferrer for the No. 4 seed at the French Open. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

    Preparation for the French Open gets going in earnest as May begins. The ATP and WTA are set to play the two biggest clay tournaments ahead of Paris, beginning this weekend at the Madrid Open. Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka are back on tour after extended breaks, and a number of important rankings scenarios are in play for both the men and women.

    Here are key questions for Madrid:

    Men

    [Complete Singles Draw]

    1. Can No. 5 Rafael Nadal make a run at No. 4 David Ferrer? Nadal lost in the third round to Fernando Verdasco in Madrid last year. That means he can pick up 910 points if he wins Madrid, his toughest of all the clay events. Since the tournament moved from indoor hard courts to clay in 2009, Nadal has won it once (2010) and lost in the final to Federer (2009) and Novak Djokovic (2011). This is Nadal’s opportunity to close the gap significantly on the No. 4 ranking, which he trails by 935 points. A Nadal win combined with an early loss by Ferrer, and he could take No. 4 outright heading into Rome.

    Auction for private lesson with Nadal at six figures

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  • Published On May 03, 2013
  • American history: How Sloane Stephens compares to past U.S. teen breakouts

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    Sloane Stephens

    Sloane Stephens moved into the top 20 with her semifinal run in Australia. (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Icon SMI)

    It had been a long time since a young American made as big a splash as Sloane Stephens did at the Australian Open. Not only did she hand Serena Williams her first career loss to a younger American, but the 19-year-old also became the first U.S. teen to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament since a 19-year-old Serena at the 2001 U.S. Open. This week, Stephens hit another milestone, becoming the first American teenager to make her top-20 debut since Williams in 1998.

    Those results, combined with Stephens’ engaging personality and precocious nature, mean that the spotlight is shining a few hundred watts brighter. She’s already done a measured post-tournament media blitz, appearing on CNN and The Ellen Degeneres Show this week.

    So how does Stephens compare to some of the other recent breakout American women?

    Alexandra Stevenson: One name kept coming up as Stephens made the semifinals in Melbourne, though it was whispered in the dark corners of the Internet rather than bandied about in broad daylight on ESPN. The comparisons between Stevenson and Stephens were easy and useful in keeping expectations in check. Both have famous pro-athlete fathers — Stevenson is the daughter of NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving, while Stephens’ late father, John, was a Pro Bowl running back for the New England Patriots. Both were teens when they made the semifinals at a major, with Stevenson getting to the Wimbledon final four as an 18-year-old qualifier in 1999. Both lost to the eventual champion, Stevenson to Lindsay Davenport and Stephens to Victoria Azarenka.

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  • Published On Feb 01, 2013
  • Highlights, stats, tweets from Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open win

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    A roundup of what you may have missed overnight from Novak Djokovic’s record-breaking 6-7 (2), 7-6 (43, 6-3, 6-1 win over Andy Murray in the Australian Open final.

    Highlights

    ESPN promo:

    Australian Open TV highlights:

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2013
  • Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray: Australian Open final live analysis

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    Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray

    Novak Djokovic (left) leads the head-to-head with Andy Murray 10-7. (AFP/Getty Images)

    Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to defend his Australian Open title. Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to win three consecutive Australian Opens. He how has six Grand Slam titles.

    Despite having the best returners in the game, the match featured 31 straight holds before Djokovic finally broke through to break Murray in the third set. The Serb ran away with the match from there as Murray, who endured a four-hour match against Roger Federer two days ago, struggled with blisters and a hamstring problem.

    Game-by-game analysis of the match after the jump.

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  • Published On Jan 27, 2013
  • Highlights, reaction, Redfoo from Victoria Azarenka’s Australian Open win

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    Redfoo

    “Get your grunt on.” Redfoo wasn’t helping Victoria Azarenka gain more fans. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    A roundup of what you may have missed overnight from Victoria Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Li Na in the Australian Open final.

    WERTHEIM: Azarenka overcomes Li, Internet spanking

    Azarenka’s trophy has unfortunate error

    Men’s final preview

    Highlights

    ESPN’s opening promo for the final. Who knew its over the top dramatics were actually appropriate for what was about to unfold?

    After taking the first set, Li rolled her left ankle and went tumbling to the ground:

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  • Published On Jan 26, 2013
  • Victoria Azarenka’s medical timeout causes controversy at Aussie Open

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    Victoria Azarenka faces Sloane Stephens at Australian Open

    Victoria Azarenka receives medical attention late in the second set Thursday. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)sl

    Victoria Azarenka made her second straight Australian Open final by defeating Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4, but her controversial use of a 10-minute medical timeout before Stephens was to serve to stay in the match has everyone talking.

    After breaking to go ahead 5-3 in the second set, Azarenka served for the match and choked. And choked. And choked. She earned five match points and squandered five match points with nervous groundstrokes, particularly from her forehand. She grew more and more frustrated with each missed opportunity, swatting at balls angrily, letting loose ear-piercing shrieks and exhibiting the worst body language we’ve seen from her in quite some time. Stephens eventually broke her serve. That’s when things got complicated.

    With Stephens about to serve to stay in the match after the changeover, Azarenka called a medical timeout that lasted 10 minutes off court and allowed her to regroup. There was no official word at the time as to the medical reasons for her call to the doctor, though she was seen pointing to her chest during the evaluation period. After the 10-minute break, during which Stephens just sat at her bench, Azarenka came out and promptly broke for the win.

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  • Published On Jan 24, 2013
  • Sloane Stephens’ upset victory over Serena Williams creates instant buzz

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    Screencap from YouTube.

    Screencap from YouTube.

    Sloane Stephens pulled off the unthinkable Wednesday, knocking out 15-time Slam champion Serena Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the Australian Open semifinals. Williams looked well on her way to a routine straight-set win when she reaggravated a back injury she said she sustained a few days ago. Stephens, 19, took advantage to make her first Grand Slam semifinal, where she’ll face No. 1 Victoria Azarenka on Thursday.

    WERTHEIM: Stephens seizes her moment | Day 10 photos | Video: Serena smashes racket

    Highlights of Stephens’ victory

    Has there been a better postmatch reaction than Stephens’ look of utter shock and surprise?

    After the match, the normally even-keeled Stephens was moved to tears during her on-court interview with Rennae Stubbs.

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  • Published On Jan 23, 2013
  • U.S. players in the Australian Open

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    venus-williams-ao

    Venus Williams, who has never won the Australian Open, was a finalist in 2003. (Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    What can we expect from the Americans at the Australian Open? It depends on which draw you’re looking at. Hopes are high for the women because of the presence of Serena Williams and the potential breakthrough of the next generation of players, led by 19-year-old Sloane Stephens. Four women are seeded and 11 are in the draw (with one more on the verge of qualifying).

    The men’s outlook, however, is far less rosy. With John Isner and Mardy Fish sidelined and Andy Roddick enjoying retirement, the buzz around the Americans is virtually nonexistent. To make matters worse, three U.S. players are in No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s section of the draw. The U.S. has a mere five men in the main draw, though that number could double with five more still alive in qualifying.

    Here’s a brief rundown of the Americans in Melbourne.

    Women

    Serena Williams (No. 3 seed): Williams, who has an Open Era-record five Australian Open titles, is a heavy favorite to win her third consecutive Grand Slam tournament and 16th major overall.  Coming off an easy run to the Brisbane title, she’s the one beat.

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  • Published On Jan 11, 2013
  • Serena, Azarenka and Federer, Murray in same halves of Aussie Open draws

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    Roger Federer

    Roger Federer has a tough draw to capture his fifth Australian Open. (Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

    The Australian Open draw has been made, and the 30-minute delay due to the late arrival by boat of defending champions and No. 1 seeds Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka kept people restless. The wait turned out to be well worth it. The biggest question of the day surrounded the No. 3 seeds: On whose side of the draw would Andy Murray and Serena Williams land? Murray landed in Roger’s Federer’s half, while Serena finds herself in Azarenka’s half. Federer may have to beat both Murray and Djokovic to win the title (while Djokovic would only have to beat one of the two). That’s a significant difference.

    First off, here are the projected quarterfinal matchups based on the seedings to help you get oriented:

    Men: Novak Djokovic vs. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer vs. Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Martin del Potro vs. Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Roger Federer.

    Women: Victoria Azarenka vs. Sara Errani, Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova, Li Na vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber vs. Maria Sharapova

    Here’s a link to the complete draws for the men and women. Here are the key takeaways:

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  • Published On Jan 10, 2013


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