US Open 2014 – Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina

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TENNIS US OPEN – 6th of September 2014. Makarova – Vesnina d. Pennetta – Hingis 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. An interview with Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina

 

Q. Congratulations. Very long games on your serve to hold in the third set. Just what were your nerves or emotions during those?

ELENA VESNINA: Yeah, we had really long games on both of our serves. It was really difficult to win all these games, because Flavia and Martina, they start playing better. They started hitting a lot of down the lines. They kind of changed their games a little bit on our serves, so it was really important to hold that serve. On Katya’s serve we change a little bit tactics on the very big game and it worked. We hold that serve, and after that it was easy, a little bit easier.

Q. First set seemed to be all Pennetta and all Hingis. You found something in the second and third sets. What did you find?

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, I can say that I was so nervous at the beginning. Elena just tried to keep me up. Then after the first set we were just really fighting, fighting every point, just go for it, go for it. They have a break and we were losing with the break. But still we were just really like motivated and really wanted to…

ELENA VESNINA: Stay with them.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yeah, stay with them, just keep going, keep going. We broke them a little bit.

ELENA VESNINA: Like before the match we were talking with Katya that we will have chances on their serve because they don’t have big serve like Serena or Venus. They don’t have that much free points on their serve. So even we were down with a break we were losing set, we were still thinking that it’s not over. We could still get this break back. I think we really stick together on that tough moment, and we kind of took a risk on some points and played more aggressive than we were playing at the beginning. We kind of put pressure on them, and it worked.

Q. What does this mean to you? What does did mean to your country?

ELENA VESNINA: It means a lot to win a Grand Slam. (Smiling.)

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yeah, that’s a great feeling. It’s second Grand Slam for us. We have been in the final of the Australian Open, and actually in third set we were twice serving for a match. We were leading 5-2.

ELENA VESNINA: Same situation: 5-2 serving for the match.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: And here — I was serving there at 5-2 and like today, so I just really was thinking that this is not gonna happen again. So we just finish it. It’s a great emotions. So happy.

ELENA VESNINA: Yeah, it’s a big win for us and for our country, as well, I hope.

Q. Let’s go back to that win over the Williamses. How big was that? How much of a confidence boost does that give you for the rest of the tournament? Did you feel you could beat anybody after that?

ELENA VESNINA: I saw Serena this morning in the locker room. We had lockers next to each other. I saw her and she said, Are you playing final today? I’m like, Yes. She looked straight at me in my eyes, she’s like, Go for it, because you really deserve it. I was like, Ah, thank you. That win, of course, gave us confidence, because beating Serena and Venus at home with their crowd and on the big stadium when everybody was for them, it’s really kind of exciting win for us.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: And the match was so close. We were like leading 4-1 and they were leading 5-4. In the tiebreak, yeah, in the second set was 6-4, so it was so close match.

ELENA VESNINA: And very hot day.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Condition, yeah.

ELENA VESNINA: It was really hot.

Q. What was it like playing against Hingis? With all the winning she’s done in her career, she’s already in the Hall of Fame, most players don’t play against players in the Hall of Fame. What does that mean?

ELENA VESNINA: She’s a legend. What can we say? She’s a legend. We were watching her matches when we were — she’s not, I mean, old. We are not saying we were watching her matches when we were little kids. I was watching her matches and I really loved the way she was playing. She’s a great champion. We lost to her in Miami final, and, I mean, I’m impressed how she was able — you know, she didn’t play so long. She came and she’s competing with best teams in the world. I mean, she still has so much into her pockets, you know. She still can get so much variety and so many good shots, so many thoughts in her mind. You see that on the match. I mean, it’s difficult to play against her because you know she has so much experience, she’s very confident, and she won everything. Yeah, so that was really important for us to believe in ourself and don’t even think we’re playing against Hingis, you know.

Q. Just walking off the court, but how does this compare to the win at the French Open last year?

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, this match was — I don’t want to say harder, but still three sets, you know, like more tight. French Open we were playing so many times against Errani-Vinci, and that time was first time we beat them. Here also very interesting match. I think I have especially kind of the same emotion after the match point. It’s a great feeling, and it’s Grand Slam. I don’t know, like you want to keep this moment, you know, just right after the match point.

ELENA VESNINA: Just want to enjoy it. When we won the French Open it was our first Grand Slam, obviously. Of course we were like so super happy and exciting, and now I think it’s even harder to win another title, you know, because it’s not easy. You know, when you win one Grand Slam you think, Okay, it’s going to be so easy for us and we are going to win another one. We are playing so god together. That’s not true. We were losing with Katya like final of Australian and then French Open and Wimbledon we lost like second and third round. We were thinking, Oh, my God we are top-10 player and we are gonna play on all Grand Slams like semifinal, final, and we will have title. It’s such a high competition right now women’s doubles teams. Every single match is so tough. All teams practicing doubles. All teams working together. It’s big prize money for doubles. Each team knows what they are going for. Of course it’s a Grand Slam. Who doesn’t want to win a Grand Slam? It’s a dream of your life. It’s just something that you will tell your kids, I don’t know, about that win. (Smiling.)

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Travelling across tennis, relationships and life with John Lloyd

Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to John Lloyd about a series of topics on his professional and personal life.

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In an exclusive talk with Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, John Lloyd, former British No.1 and Davis Cup Captain provides insights on tennis, a changing world and his personal history

 

Edited by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Wimbledon and the recent publication of “Dear John”, John Lloyd’s autobiography, set up the occasion for Ubitennis to meet up with John Lloyd and have a long talk which embraced four decades of tennis and personal anecdotes.

“Friend” is the word which most often recurs in John’s tales and unveils his unique empathy in his relating to people, to life. Always eager to embrace new experiences, yet loyal to his past.

Indeed, John Lloyds’ best run in a major was halted by a friend. In 1977, in fact, he reached the final at the Australian Open, which he lost in five sets to Vitas Gerulatis:

The Slam in Australia wasn’t like it is now. It was still a big tournament, but some of the big players didn’t come over because it was over Christmas. I got to the final. I should have won that match. I lost in five sets to my friend Vitas, which was a big disappointment although if I was going to lose with someone, he’s the guy because, you know, he was a great guy. It was one of the saddest days when he passed away at 40 years old with that tragedy with the carbon dioxide poisoning.

John is not a person who allows rear-view perspective to indulge in regrets, yet in terms of tennis he admits he regrets never managing to make a breakthrough at Wimbledon, where he says he always suffered from a self-inflicted pressure:

For some reason at Wimbledon I never played my best tennis. I won two mixed doubles, which was great [in 1983 and in 1984 with Wendy Turnbull] but in singles I was always very disappointed with my performances. I had a couple of big wins.  I beat my friend Roscoe Tanner when he was seeded number 3 and a lot of people thought he was going to win the title that year. I beat him on court number 1 but it was typical of my Wimbledon performances that I lost the next day to a German player called Karl Meiler who I should have beaten [after comfortably winning the first two sets he ended up losing in 9 7 in the fifth]. I let myself down after having one of the best wins of my career. And that was my Wimbledon story.

“Dear John” was written with Phil Jones, BBC journalist, while the foreword is by a tennis great, and friend, Bjorn Borg:

Bjorn is a good friend of mine. We’ve had many good times together when we played and also when we played on the senior tour. Bjorn is a lovely man and I called him up and asked him and he said no problem, I’d love to do it.  We’ve had so many good stories. I’ve always thought he is one of the greatest champions of all time. I beat him once in Monte Carlo on clay [1975, 60 57 64, in the quarterfinals]. It was probably my best ever win although there are rumours he was out until four in the morning with some ladies…but that’s not my fault!

When we mention how there was a moment when he became very popular also outside the world of tennis, owing to his romance with Chris Evert, John opens up about the difficulties in getting married so young and to a worldwide tennis star:

We had some good times. We were married for 8 years but we were too young, both 24, on the tennis circuit, going to different places.  If we had been married 10 years later we could have had a chance. We had some good times and some bad times, but we are still friends. I married into someone who was a huge legend. It was fortunate I was well known in Britain so I was used to having press around and that kind of stuff, but it was nothing like until I got married with Chris. It opened a lot of doors to me, to be honest. I met people I wouldn’t have met before. We went to wonderful places, met amazing people.

As well as broadcasting for BBC, John Lloyd’s working life spans from selling real estate for Sotheby’s in Western Palm Beach, where he is currently living, to some coaching, and some tennis lessons in Mar-a-Lago club run by Donald Trump, former US president and a man who built a financial empire with real estate. Mr Trump’s knack for business is well proved by a story John recalls:

I’ve known Mr Trump for 40 years. I saw him about three months ago at the golf club and had a chat with him. He said “John, how about you doing some celebrity lessons at Mar-a-Lago?” I said “Mr President, that could be good”. He said “This is what we will do: I’ll tell the director of the club and you’ll charge 500 $ an hour. So that’s good and I’ll take half.” “That’s a good deal” I said. So that was the president. He knows how to do business. There was no negotiation. It was like I’ll take 250, but 250 is not bad so I’ll do that.

Donald Trump is only one of the celebrities John Lloyd met in his journeying around the world and that he writes about:

I do a lot of name dropping. I’m very good at that. I’ve been around with a lot of celebrities. I’ve had some funny stories about celebrities that people would like to hear, I hope. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve met presidents, the queen, the royal family, I’ve met billionaires, amazing businessmen.

I’m a boy from a place called Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, a small town. From a family below middle class. And I’ve seen every country in the world I’ve wanted to be. I’ve been very very fortunate.

We can infer that John Lloyd’s autobiography is not just an album of tennis memories:

I think that the word “great” in tennis is a very overused word. I think great players are players that have won slams in singles. I was a good player and a good player cannot write a book on just what he did on the court. But I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve lived in four decades of professional tennis. I came in at the end of the Rod Laver era, and then came in with my era which was Borg, Connors and McEnroe. Then I went into the next era where I was Davis Cup captain with Henman, Rusedski, and Agassi, Sampras. Then the TV puts me into another one. So this book is really stories more than anything and I’m proud of it. But there’s also some serious stuff. I do a chapter about when six years ago I had prostate cancer and I’m very honest about that.

I also talk about my family and my son, who I’m very proud of. He had an addictive problem and he’s been clean now for thirteen years. When I wrote the book he asked me if I was going to mention it and I said no. And he said I want you to, because maybe it will help someone. So that was a very emotional and difficult chapter to write, about that period in my life which was without doubt the worst period, but then it became the most wonderful period to see my son turn out to be this amazing person.

Venturing back to tennis, since John has just spoken about players who were and still are good friends of his, we ask him if there were players he actually didn’t get along with. We learn that the toughest times came as a Davis Cup Captain:

I struggled a little bit with Andy Murray at times. I put in the book how much I admire him as a player, but I struggled a bit with his behaviour with coaches, the way he would say things to them. To be honest, it was one of my fears when I took the Davis Cup job that he was going to be on the court with me. I always thought to myself that if someone behaved like that and I was coaching them, I would just walk out, no matter how much they paid me. But as a Davis Cup captain, you can’t do that. I got really nervous about it. Then I came up with a good idea. At the time when I was captain he was being coached by Brad Gilbert. So I asked Brad to give me some instructions when Andy was playing, and he agreed to. And when Andy was coming up to me  and I could see he was mad, I told Andy, for instance, “Andy you need to come in to the net on the forehand more.” And he was about to say something, and I said, pointing at Brad, “He told me to tell you! It was him!” So Brad got all the shouting and I just gave him [Andy] the towel.

I struggled with Greg Rusedski a little bit too. He was fine on my team but, after he left, he was then trying to get my job and made a few remarks about me on TV, that I was picking the wrong players, the wrong chords, that kind of stuff that I wouldn’t do, sure.

This is the prompt that leads up to a comparison between tennis of different eras and John has a few prickly ideas.

Most players were good in my era. There were some guys that I struggled with a little bit, but, you know, we didn’t have entourages around us the way they do now. We had a group and we’d play matches, we’d be in the locker room and the guy who lost, it was like “Let’s go out tonight.” Now they’ve got managers and physiotherapists and parents, they are in all these groups… I always say to people I’m envious of how much money the players of today make, of course I would love that, but they don’t have as good a time as we had. I have friends that I still see. And I’m lucky I wasn’t in the era with cell phones and Ipads. I would probably have got locked up about twenty times for the things I did, but nobody could catch me.

As John has sailed through so many tennis eras and is well docked in the current harbours, we ask him if he expected players to be able to win twenty and more slams, and three players to win 62 [63, after Wimbledon 2022]. We also cannot but be curious to hear his say on the GOAT debate:

It’s a remarkable feat that these three players have done. I also wrote a chapter on this, called records. I like all those players but one of the things I like about Djokovic is that he is not scared to tell you that he wants to win the most titles, that’s his goal. Rafa and Roger come up with all this rubbish where they say “Oh no, that’s not my concern.” That’s just lies, of course it is. It’s in your DNA. Records are records, that’s what you live for if you are a player. And for them to say that is nonsense.

Who is the greatest of all time? It’s a fun conversation. I thought for sure that Novak was going to win more and then Nadal does what he does. I still think Novak is going to win more in the end, but for me when I talk about the greatest and all this, I switch it a little bit to say that what Rafa has done at the French Open, the 14 there, is the greatest sports achievement in any sport in history. So for me, whether he finishes second or third in terms of slams is not important. It’s a miracle he played 16 French Opens and won 14. It’s impossible what he did. That to me is the greatest achievement anyone has ever done.

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(EXCLUSIVE) Anne Keothavong Reacts To British Success At Wimbledon

The captain of the British Billie Jean king Cup team tells Ubitennis she believes her players can keep the momentum going beyond the grass swing.

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Image via https://www.twitter.com/tennisexplorer

This year’s Wimbledon Championships have without a doubt been a success for British tennis.

 

It all began during the first week when 10 Brits secured a place in the second round of the tournament – six in the men’s draw and four in the women’s. Making it the most successful start to the Grand Slam by British players since 1984. Continuing the momentum Liam Broady and Katie Boulter secured a place in the third round. Meanwhile, Heather Watson made it to the last 16 for the first time on her 12th attempt.

The stand-out Brit this year though has been Cameron Norrie who is only the fourth man from his country to reach the last four of Wimbledon in the Open Era. The breakthrough by the 26-year-old has been one in the making following a series of successes he has achieved on the ATP Tour. Norrie, who has featured in nine ATP finals since May 2021, will take on top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday.

Watching the success from the sidelines is Anne Keothavong who is the current captain of the British Billie Jean King Cup team. As a player, she cracked the world’s top 50 in 2009 and was the first female player from her country to do so for 16 years. She played in 24 Grand Slam main draws during a 13-year period.

As it is with every Wimbledon, the task for the LTA is to continue the momentum generated by their players beyond the grass season. Something Keothavong thinks will be certainly possible.

“That’s the challenge. All the British players – men and women – have had an unbelievable grass-court season, not just Wimbledon,” she tells Ubitennis.
“Naturally there is a kind of a break to regroup after everything that has gone on but they will be back in training in no time and getting ready for the hardcourt season.”

Due to the ban on Russian and Belarussian players playing at British events this year, no ranking points have been issued. Undoubtedly an annoyance for the likes of Watson and Norrie but they have made peace with the situation already.

Keothavong is one of those nurturing the best female players in her country and providing any possible help if asked to. The British women have been thriving in recent months, especially Emma Raduanu who became the first qualifier in history to win a major title at the US Open. In total there are six Brits in the WTA top 200 and a further two younger players just outside. 21-year-old Francesca Jones is 219th and 20-year-old Sonay Kartal is 226th.

“On the women’s side, all of those players have so much confidence,” said Keothavong. “Their ranking is going in the right direction, they are able to enter tournaments which they might not have been able to do at the start of the grass-court season. It’s a good place to be but they need to remain focused and keep doing what they can do.”

The tennis community is described by some as a family. An analogy Keothavong can certainly relate to as she describes herself as a ‘big sister’ to the other girls. Throughout Wimbledon, the home players have spoken out in support of each other with Norrie mentioning their participation in the Battle Of The Brits exhibition helped them form a closer bond.

“If you ask them (the players) they probably say I am like a big sister to them,” she said. “In my role as Billie jean king cup captain, I guess it is important that I do maintain a good relationship with all of the players. I follow their progress and if they need extra support they know I’m there.”
“It’s really important to have that relationship with them as captain and we need to be open with each other. I don’t invade their privacy but they know if they need anything I’m there.”

Under Keothavong’s guidance, the British Billie Jean King Cup team has won six out of their last eight ties since 2019. Their only losses were to the formidable Czech Republic (2-3) earlier this year and Slovakia (1-3) in February 2021.

The team will return to action later this year in the Finals which will be held in Glasgow. Britain has been drawn in the same group as Spain and Kazakhstan.

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal

Ubitennis has an exclusive interview with the legendary coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.

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When it comes to looking at the current status of men’s tennis Brad Gilbert is perhaps one of the best people to speak to. 

 

The American reached a high of world No.4 as a player, as well as winning 20 ATP Tour titles. After retiring from the sport in the mid-1990s he has become one of the most well-known coaches in the sport after working with an array of top names. Besides that, he is also an author and commentator on the sport. 

Ubitennis caught up with Gilbert at The All England Club where he spoke highly of Italy’s Jannik Sinner who led Novak Djokovic by two sets before losing in the quarter-finals. He also looks ahead to Nick Kyrgios’ semi-final clash with an injured Rafael Nadal. 

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