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GB captain plans Davis Cup legacy

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2015

Davis Cup captain Leon Smith says Great Britain can build on their success and inspire a new generation of players.

GB won the team of the year award and Andy Murray was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday.

Murray has previously said that talking to the Lawn Tennis Association about the future of British tennis was “a waste of time”.

But Smith said: “We’ve had really good discussions with everyone at the LTA recently to really take it up a gear.”

He added: “On the court, we need to keep winning but off the court we have a great chance to do something.”

LTA plans for 2016 include taking the Davis Cup trophy on tour and issuing 10,000 free junior tennis racquets.

Taking the trophy on tour & free tennis lessons

Recruitment will start in January for a team of 1,000 coaches to deliver 10,0000 free junior tennis courses where free racquets will be offered.

Fifty different venues across Britain will have the chance to host the Davis Cup trophy in their local community, park or club, with some surprise visits from players.

“We want to try to inspire as many young people as possible to get into the sport, and more importantly stay in the sport,” said Smith.

“Part of the legacy is training up as many grassroots coaches as possible to help them. That first interaction with a coach at school or the local club, I think all of us can help that story.

“We talk about showcasing our support. I think what we can do for our first round match against Japan in Birmingham in March is pretty amazing – the lead-up to the event, the event itself, and afterwards. It will be packed for that tie, and with Andy confirmed to play, it’s going to give us a lot of momentum.”

2016 Davis Cup schedule
First round: 4-6 March, Birmingham: GB v Japan
Quarter-finals: 15-17 July (Wimbledon 27 June-10 July; Olympic tennis 6-14 August)
Semi-finals: 16-18 September
Final: 25-27 November

Defending the title

Murray, who went 11 games unbeaten in the winning 2015 run, is committed to playing in the first round of the title defence.

But Smith knows he may be without him should GB make July’s quarter-finals, which are sandwiched between Wimbledon and the 28-year-old Scot’s defence of his Olympic title.

“It’s a huge challenge. The nature of the competition is it is determined by who plays for each nation in any given year,” said Smith.

“It’s very, very busy especially for the likes of Andy who is going to be featuring in the latter stages of the biggest tournaments, it’s tough to fit it all in.

“We’ll see how it goes because once you start in the competition, when these group of players get together, the bond stays pretty close. It’s a great feeling.

“We’ve got a strong team, and in the years before had some very big wins, notably against the likes of Russia (in 2013) when Andy wasn’t playing.”

Smith said he was keen to avoid the mistakes of some previous Davis Cup winners that fielded a below-strength side in their first round match the following year, and faced a relegation tie after losing.

“The most important thing is we win that first round tie, which brings us into the quarter-finals again and it guarantees World Group status for the following year, which is very important as we try to build on what we have achieved,” he added.

Jamie Murray on brother Andy
“Anyone who watched the Davis Cup saw what he went through for the team, to get enough points on the board, particularly the France match over all three days. It’s not easy to do at all, and to go the year 11-0 without losing, he was immense.On how he is viewed by the public: “I guess he got off to a bit of a rocky start which wasn’t his fault I don’t think. We’ve all known him for a long time, and are very proud of everything he’s achieved.”

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Serena Williams: ITF World Champion

Serena Williams: ITF World Champion

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2015

LONDON, England – Serena Williams has been named ITF Women’s World Champion for the sixth time in her career, it was announced Wednesday, adding the 2015 honors to 2002, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The ITF has been naming ITF World Champions since 1978, and Williams is just the third WTA player to win it six or more times after Martina Navratilova (who won it six times – 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986) and Steffi Graf (who won it seven times – 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1996).

“It means a lot to me to be named the ITF World Champion for the sixth time,” Williams said of the news. “I am proud to have achieved my second Serena Slam, in what has been an amazing year for me.

“Thank you for this recognition and for the undying support of the tennis community.”

Williams outperformed everyone on the Grand Slam stage this year, winning three of the four majors (Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon) and reaching the semifinals of the other one (US Open).

ITF World Champion is the latest in a long list of accolades Williams has received after her dynamite 2015 season – she earned the WTA Year-End World No.1 Singles Ranking presented by Dubai Duty Free, she was voted WTA Player Of The Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsperson Of The Year, and last week she reached a more unique milestone, becoming the first WTA player to cross 6 million Twitter followers.

Also coming away with a big honor on Wednesday was the doubles team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, who received the ITF Women’s Doubles World Champions honor. Hingis had won it once before, in 1999 alongside Anna Kournikova, while Mirza received the honor for the first time in her career.

“It is a great honor to be named ITF Women’s Doubles World Champions,” Hingis commented. “Sania and I have enjoyed every minute of the season and we hope to continue in 2016 in the same fashion. We are set to join a long list of champions and it is a privilege to be recognized alongside them.”

“I am very honored to receive this award from the ITF after what has been a great year for me and Martina. It is incredible that we have achieved so much in such a short time playing together,” said Mirza, who also had some powerful and inspirational words for her countrywomen. “I am grateful to everyone that has helped me throughout my career and I hope that my success can inspire other girls in India.”

The ITF’s selection of its World Champions is based on an objective system that considers all results during the year, but gives special weight to the Grand Slam tournaments and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.

The winners will receive their awards at the ITF World Champions Dinner during the 2016 French Open.

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Sock's Best Of 2015: Kansas City Highs

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2015

Sock's Best Of 2015: Kansas City Highs

From his first title to his brother’s recovery and the Royals’ World Series triumph, Jack Sock describes the best moments of 2015

American Jack Sock had quite the year to remember in 2015, both on and off the court. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:

  1. Buying and remodeling a house in Kansas City
  2. Being by his brother’s side as he survived a near-death battle with Lemierre’s Syndrome
  3. Winning the BNP Paribas Open doubles title with Vasek Pospisil in his first tournament of 2015
  4. Claiming his first ATP World Tour title in Houston
  5. Watching the Kansas City Royals win the World Series
  6. Reaching the Stockholm singles (l. to Berdych) and doubles finals (won with Nicholas Monroe)
  7. Coming within one match win of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with Pospisil (“PopSock”, as they call themselves, will return in 2016)
  8. Reaching a career-high No. 25 Emirates ATP Ranking in November
  9. Earning a nomination as Comeback Player of the Year
  10. Adopting a puppy, a little Pomeranian boy, named Dash. asked the 23 year old to take a look back.

Best Moment On Court
“I would say probably Houston. Houston’s gotta be up there. One of my goals this year was to try and win my first singles title, and I love that tournament in Houston. They do an unbelievable job there. It’s very cozy, they do a great job with the hospitality, so it’s a relaxing tournament. My brother (Eric) was with me, after his illness, so it was special to also have him there” 

Best Moment Off Court
“Probably my brother getting out of the hospital. He was finally able to go home after being there for a few weeks – the ventilator, the surgery and everything. We got a big cake for him. It was pretty special for my family.”

Best Locker Room Prank
“John Isner and I were getting each other in Beijing. He had left for the day and I put some old food in his locker, so he came back the next day and it smelled horrible when he opened his locker. I also put a bunch of trash in there so when he opened it, it all fell out. And I, for some reason, thought he wasn’t going to do anything back, but I was wrong. The following day I came in and opened my locker and there was a four-day old salmon in there and some yogurt and some dirty socks. That was pretty rotten. Good prank on his part!”

Best Sports Moment
“Royals winning the World Series, by far. I was not in Kansas City or even in the States, but when I got home after Paris, you could still feel it, the electricity in the air. The city was still buzzing, so that was awesome.”
Better than your Houston win?
“Uh… [long pause] that’s close. It’s different. One’s personal and one’s the home city winning. I’d say it’s pretty close.” 

Best Ping-Pong Match Played
“Against (Nick) Kyrgios in Rome, we played probably 400 games in a few days there. We played all day, every day, we were both left in doubles. We’d practice, then we’d go play. I also played (Gael) Monfils this summer in Canada and he’s really good. Those two are probably my toughest opponents so far.” 

On-Court Resolution For 2016
“On court, continue doing what I’m doing. I finished the year strong, got a lot of wins, got the confidence up a lot. That will help going into next year for sure. And just building off that, I think with more time on tour, more experience and more matches under my belt, I think only good things can happen.” 

Off-Court Resolution For 2016
“I was able to spend a lot more time with my family this year, which was nice, being back in Kansas City. But after that, maybe if I have some time, trying to get my handicap better in golf. We’ll see.”

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Karolina Pliskova: 2016 Preview

Karolina Pliskova: 2016 Preview

  • Posted: Dec 22, 2015

Last season’s numbers make pretty pleasant reading for Karolina Pliskova.

Having started the campaign outside the Top 20, the willowy Czech finished it at No.11, more than doubling her career earnings along the way. A title on home soil in Prague and five more finals further underlined her status as one of the most exciting – not to mention busiest – young talents on tour.

Less than two weeks after teaming up with Barbora Strycova to earn the decisive point in the Czech Republic’s Fed Cup victory over Russia, Pliskova was jetting off to Asia to compete in the International Premier Tennis League, defeating Serena Williams to help the OUE Singapore Slammers walk away with the silverware.

This marked the start of the 23-year-old’s preparation for the new season, a season in which many will expect her to start challenging for the game’s biggest prizes.

A regular in the winners’ circle on tour, Pliskova strangely has found success harder to come by at the Grand Slams, where she has never been beyond the third round in 14 appearances.

“It has been a little pressure from me,” she said before the US Open where she succumbed to qualifier Anna Tatishvili. “It was a new thing. I was playing really well at the tournaments before the Grand Slams. Maybe I came a little tired.

“I am seeded now and that is different. I am getting used to it and hopefully next year I will be different.”

Pliskova is very much the prototype for the modern tennis player, a booming serve – she struck more aces (517) than any other player in 2015 – backed up by equally punchy groundstrokes and a touch that belies her Amazonian frame. Judging by her showings against the WTA’s established stars, she is equally well furnished in the mental department.

In her final WTA outing of the year, Pliskova held her own against a motivated Venus Williams in a high-quality Zhuhai final. And despite being pipped in two tight sets, performing this way in such esteemed company bodes well for her hopes of taking the next step.

“I think, and even my coach thinks this, that this was the best week from the whole year like with the way how I played,” Pliskova said after the Zhuhai final. “Very happy about this week. Obviously it’s going to help me to start the new season next year.”

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Sania Mirza's Big Facebook Milestone

Sania Mirza's Big Facebook Milestone

  • Posted: Dec 21, 2015

She had an historic year – nine WTA doubles titles in a breakthrough partnership with Martina Hingis, including her first two Grand Slam women’s doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as rising to No.1 on the WTA Doubles Rankings, the first Indian woman to reach No.1 in the sport.

And now, while the tennis world takes a break to rest up, recharge and gear up for the 2016 season, Sania Mirza has hit another milestone – she crossed 10 million Facebook fans over the weekend.

Here’s the Top 5 most-followed WTA stars on Facebook – Mirza’s the second to hit 10 million:

1. Maria Sharapova (15.2M)
2. Sania Mirza (10.0M)
3. Serena Williams (4.0M)
4. Ana Ivanovic (3.1M)
5. Venus Williams (2.1M)

The Indian trailblazer posted this message on her Facebook page on Monday to thank her fans:

I love you all to the moon and back 󾌬󾌬󾌬󾌬󾌬󾌬 #10million #Thankyouuuu #SANTEAM #Santastic 󾰀󾰀

Posted by Sania Mirza on Monday, December 21, 2015

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Sousa Models For Portugal's Men's Health And GQ

  • Posted: Dec 21, 2015

Sousa Models For Portugal's Men's Health And GQ

The 26-year-old Guimares native shows off his style in Portuguese periodicals 

Joao Sousa graces the cover of Portugal’s Men’s Health and is featured within the pages of Portugal’s GQ in the magazines’ respective December issues.

For Men’s Health, the World No. 33 gives readers a sneak peek into his daily life, including what he eats, how he trains and how he has grown as a player. 

In GQ, the top tennis player from Portugal shows his relaxed side in a more fashionable photo shoot. 

Men’s Health and GQ are on newsstands in Portugal now.

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2015 ATP Best Off Court Moments

  • Posted: Dec 21, 2015

2015 ATP Best Off Court Moments

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Best of 2015 Off-Court Part 3: An Hour With Roger

Best of 2015 Off-Court Part 3: An Hour With Roger

  • Posted: Dec 21, 2015

Best of 2015 Off-Court Part 3: An Hour With Roger highlights the best off-court moments from the 2015 season

Do you have a favourite? Have your say on MyATP.

Federer Fan Surprise

On her first visit to watch Roger Federer play in person, a lucky fan at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals received the opportunity of a lifetime: an hour with the great Swiss. 

The winner of 1049 tour-level matches also caught up with a giant from another sport ahead of the Shanghai Rolex Masters,. The Swiss met American basketball legend Michael Jordan in an event organised by Nike.

Isner Grilled

Rarely has John Isner faced such a media grilling as when Caroline Wozniacki joined his first-round US Open press conference.

Djokovic On Top Of The World

Novak Djokovic, en route to his best year ever on the court, did plenty off the court at well.

The 2015 US Open champion posed for Vogue, aced the traditional post-tournament media tour in New York City, got in on the fun with a professional impersonator, and even had time to visit the Great Wall of China.

Horsing Around

David Ferrer and Kevin Anderson, the top two seeds at the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna, visited the Spanish Riding School at Vienna’s Imperial Hofburg Palace. 

“This is quite unique,” Anderson said. “My experience around horses has been very limited. But it’s been very nice getting behind the scenes. There’s a lot of history. This building is obviously over 500 years old and it’s all so beautiful.”

Anderson and Ferrer are not the only ATP World Tour stars who enjoyed spending time with horses. In February, Santiago Giraldo got in the saddle at the Jockey Club Brasileiro, the site of the Rio Open.

Downing Street Bound

Downing Street

After claiming Great Britain’s first Davis Cup title since 1936, captain Leon Smith and his players were invited to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron at No. 10 Downing Street in London. 

Read Part 1 – Novak’s Biggest Fan

Read Part 2 – Murray Undercover

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Kudla Gunning For 2016

  • Posted: Dec 21, 2015

Kudla Gunning For 2016

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