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Roundtable: Analyzing ATP and WTA storylines from the season so far

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Stanislas Wawrinka surprised everyone by beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2014 Australian Open. (David Callow/SI)

Stanislas Wawrinka surprised everyone by beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2014 Australian Open. (David Callow/SI)

With the first three-plus months of the 2014 tennis season behind us, I’ve asked Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand, Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover, Erik Gudris of Tennis Now and Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times to reflect on what’s happened so far, and look ahead to what’s to come. Be sure to check out our winners and losers of the season so far for the ATP and the WTA, and check back to read Part II of the roundtable.

What has been the most significant development, result or storyline so far?

Erik Gudris: It’s been a busy first quarter that gave us Stanislas Wawrinka’s first ever major title, Novak Djokovic bouncing back to win the Indian Wells/Miami double, Serena Williams winning Miami though giving us a few unexpected losses and the recent surge of some young WTA players all with bright prospects moving ahead.

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • Best matches, best Tweeter, biggest bummer: Early-season offbeat awards

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    Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic pushed each other to the limit in their five-set quarterfinal match at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

    Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic pushed each other to the limit in their five-set quarterfinal match at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

    Before the clay-court season heats up, Beyond The Baseline is taking stock of the year in tennis so far. We’ve already covered the winners and losers for the ATP and WTA. Here’s a look at more highlights and lowlights from the first three months of the season.

    Best ATP match: Stanislas Wawrinka d. Novak Djokovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open

    Once again at the Australian Open, these two played an unforgettable five-set match, and this year, Wawrinka earned his revenge. Will these guys end up playing the match of the year at the Australian Open for the second season in a row?

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  • Published On Apr 11, 2014
  • Dustin Brown stuns top-seeded John Isner in Houston for first top 10 win

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    After beating John Isner in Houston, Dustin Brown may finish the week with a career-high ranking. (Bob Levey/AP)

    After beating John Isner in Houston, Dustin Brown may finish the week with a career-high ranking. (Bob Levey/AP)

    No. 101-ranked Dustin Brown scored the first top-10 win of his career, upsetting top seed and defending champion John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (4) in the second round of the Men’s Clay Court Championships.

    Isner went 0-for-9 on break point chances and double-faulted at 4-5 in a third-set tiebreaker to give Brown his third match point, which he converted. It was a narrow escape for Brown, who threw down a horrible double-fault on match point in the second set tiebreaker — trying to go for the ace on second serve and missing — and let Isner come back to force the final set. Isner will fall out of the top 10 after the loss, while Brown could finish the week at a new career-high inside the top 90.

    “It feels unbelievable,” Brown said. “It’s my first year in Houston and I’m really enjoying it.” He’ll face another American, Sam Querrey, in the quarterfinals. Querrey defeated Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-4 to advance.

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  • Published On Apr 10, 2014
  • Early-season ATP winners and losers

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    Novak Djokovic

    Novak Djokovic completed the Indian Wells/Miami double for the second time. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Before the clay-court season heats up, Beyond The Baseline is taking stock of the year in tennis so far. Here’s a look at the ATP Tour winners and losers from the first three months. Click here for the WTA Tour breakdown.

    Winners

    Stanislas Wawrinka: Wawrinka failed the best he’s ever failed — and, really, better than we ever thought he would fail — at the Australian Open, where he won his first major title and became the first player to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament. His vengeful 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 victory over Djokovic, the three-time defending champion, in the quarterfinals was his signature win of the season and left no doubt that Wawrinka can continue to be a force on tour as long as he stays healthy and motivated. (The 29-year-old Swiss hasn’t been at his best since Melbourne, though.) Wawrinka also won the season-opening Chennai Open, climbed to No. 3 to supplant Roger Federer as the Swiss No. 1 and teamed with Federer to lead Switzerland into the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time in 11 years.

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  • Published On Apr 08, 2014
  • Who should play Billie Jean King in the new Battle of the Sexes movie?

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    (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

    The casting call is still out for someone to play Billie Jean King alongside Will Ferrell, who will play Bobby Riggs. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

    The news that Will Ferrell will play Bobby Riggs in a new movie about the 1973 Battle of the Sexes has left everyone pondering one obvious question: Who will play Billie Jean King?

    Holly Hunter played the tennis icon in the 2001 made-for-television movie When Billie Beat Bobby, and she did a fine job capturing King’s athleticism and youthful spunk. But the film wasn’t an outright comedy, and with Ferrell playing Riggs and his production company behind the new film, you have to think they’re going the comedy route, a la Ferrell’s other sports-themed movies like Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory.

    With that in mind, here are our suggestions for the Billie Jean King casting call:

    Kate McKinnon

    The obvious heiress-apparent to Kristen Wiig at Saturday Night Live (more on her later), and hands-down the funniest current cast memberer on SNL, McKinnon already has her BJK audition tape ready to go. She did a wonderful impression of King during a recent Weekend Update segment before the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Just listen to her say “Trouble? I come from trouble, Seth.” That is such a Billie Jean King way to say a very Billie Jean King line.

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  • Published On Apr 04, 2014
  • ATP rankings: Roger Federer rises to fourth; new No. 2 American

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    Roger Federer

    Roger Federer is back in the top four for the first time since last June. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

    Roger Federer moved up to No. 4 in this week’s ATP Tour rankings, his highest position since last June. He trails No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka by 515 points.

    Federer and his replacement at No. 5, Tomas Berdych, both passed David Ferrer, the 2013 Sony Open finalist who fell from fourth to sixth after losing in the fourth round in Miami. The fifth spot equals a career high for Berdych, who reached the semifinals last week before withdrawing with gastroenteritis.

    Federer, who lost to Kei Nishikori in the Miami quarterfinals, joins No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic as so-called Big Four members in the actual top four. The fourth, Andy Murray, slipped from sixth to eighth after following up his 2013 Sony Open title with a quarterfinal loss to Djokovic last week. This is Murray’s lowest ranking since 2008.

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  • Published On Mar 31, 2014
  • An ATP first: Semifinals hit with two walkovers on a rough day at Sony Open

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    A pair of semifinal withdrawals means Novak Djokovic will once again lock horns with Rafael Nadal. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

    A pair of semifinal withdrawals means Novak Djokovic will once again lock horns with Rafael Nadal. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

    Spare a thought for the ticket-toting fans at the Sony Open on Friday. The tournament was hit with an unprecedented pair of withdrawals in the men’s semifinals, which gave No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic walkovers into Sunday’s final.

    The day began with news that Kei Nishikori, on the heels of two top-five wins over Roger Federer and David Ferrer, was forced to withdraw from his semifinal against Djokovic with a left groin injury. The news stung even more given Nishikori’s fantastic effort to oust Federer in the quarterfinals, coming back from a set and break down to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2011 Shanghai Masters. It also recalled the long-running joke about “The Federer Curse”:

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  • Published On Mar 28, 2014
  • Watch: Grigor Dimitrov stops match to help ailing ballgirl at Sony Open

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    Grigor Dimitrov is pretty much known for three things: being Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend, earning the “Baby Federer” nickname when he was a junior and being a promising player finally making good on all the hype. Now he gets to add one more: “Super-nice guy and friend to ballkids.”

    Early in the second set of his third-round match against Kei Nishikori at the Sony Open, Dimitrov signaled a ballgirl for his towel before he realized she was having some trouble in the heat and humidity. Dimitrov quickly took her hand and walked her off the court and laid her down on a bench before resuming play. Thank goodness the umpire didn’t give him a time violation for his good deed.

    Dimitrov lost the match, but he certainly gained a few points in my book.

    Watch the whole incident below.


  • Published On Mar 24, 2014
  • Watch: Ryan Harrison tells his father to leave during loss at Sony Open

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    What is it about Miami that brings father-son relationships to a boil?

    During his second-round match against Benjamin Becker at the Sony Open, Ryan Harrison double-faulted on set point in the first set and reportedly told his father to leave the court. Freelance tennis reporter Ravi Ubha was commentating the match for the ATP World Feed, and tweeted the details after the match:

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  • Published On Mar 24, 2014
  • Aces and Faults: Catching up after the first week of the Sony Open

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    Lucie Safarova and Maria Sharapova were possibly the most entertaining match-up of the first week. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Lucie Safarova and Maria Sharapova were possibly the most entertaining match-up of the first week. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Here’s where we stand as the second week begins at the Sony Open in Miami.

    Aces

    Rafael Nadal: After only one match, Nadal already looks to be in far better form in Miami than he did two weeks ago in Indian Wells. His 6-1 destruction of Lleyton Hewitt in the first set of their second-round clash was vintage Nadal, with his hyper-aggressive play off his forehand. That’s when you know he’s playing with confidence. Could this be the year he finally wins Miami?

    Maria Sharapova: Speaking of someone who has never won Miami, Sharapova was made to battle for nearly three hours to defeat Lucie Safarova, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in the third round. This was the most hard-fought and entertaining match I saw in the first week. Sharapova is still playing herself into form, and she told reporters that despite high expectations for herself, she’s been trying to stay realistic about her form given her four-month injury layoff. Sharapova rebounded after squandering two match points in the second set, but not before Safarova kept saving match points in spectacular fashion.

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  • Published On Mar 24, 2014


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