Question and Answer: Chase Buchanan

Chase

In this installment of our Question and Answer series, I had the chance to ask American young gun Chase Buchanan some questions. Chase spent 3 years at THE Ohio St. University, winning the NCAA doubles title in 2011 and the 2010 and 11 Big Ten Player of the Year. In 2009, Chase won the National Junior Boys Tournament in Kalamazoo earning him a wild card to the US Open.  I watched him play Jo – Wilifried Tsonga there and while the result wasn’t what we wanted, it was a great experience for then an 18-year-old rising star. Now 22, Buchanan has matured and is ready to make an impact on tour. It was a pleasure to hear from him and hope you enjoy!

You have been playing full time on the pro tour for a little more than a year now, and recently won 2 titles in South America. What has been the biggest reason for your recent success?

The biggest reason for my recent success is a better mindset and willingness to go out of my comfort zone. I came ready to play every match regardless of the conditions.

Watching you play in Rochester over the years has been awesome. How has your game and work ethic changed over the years since you first started playing on the tour?

I’d say in the last year and a few months I’ve really learned that I want to play tennis for a long time. And therefore my passion has grown and I have really wanted to start putting all the necessary work into my tennis. It’s become more and more fun and I’m learning a lot recently.

A lot of criticism this year has been directed towards the lack of a dominant US player, or players. What do you think the state of American tennis is at the moment?

I think the state of American tennis is brighter than the average fan knows. A lot of my friends are in position to break into the top 100 and start making a name for themselves and there are more to come after them. We as Americans are working hard to get to the top.

What is the strongest part of your game right now? What is something you would like to improve on as the off-season approaches?

The strongest part of my game is probably my return. I have always loved returning serve and believe if I’m returning well it is going to be hard to beat me. In the offseason I want to improve my fitness level and serve. Along with everything else, but those are two goals for sure.

James Blake has always been my favorite player growing up. Did you have any role models growing up? And who has had the biggest influence on your game today?

My role model growing up was probably Agassi, so cool to watch the change he went through during his career. Also, the things he has done post tennis are very admirable and I wish to be able to do even a shade of what he has done. The biggest influence on my game today is probably my junior coach Al Matthews whom I worked with from when I started until I was about 17 and am still in touch with today. Other major influences have been Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker and mentor David Kass.

You were very successful in college tennis for your 3 years as a Buckeye. How has your experience at THE Ohio St. University helped you during your young pro career?

My college career really has given me a better perspective on life and how tough being a pro is. The university is such an incredible institution for developing and learning that I can’t say enough.

You have played the US Open a couple times now, how was that experience for you and what was it like not playing in it this year?

The US Open is one of the most surreal events in the world for me. I have gotten to see up close the top professionals which has helped me train and learn. Missing it this year hurt. I thought that I should have been in on my own ranking into the qualifying and I wasn’t which I was very disappointed in. It has also given me much motivation for the next year. I plan on being their next year and years to come.

You are at a career high in the rankings right now at #320, what short and long term goals have you set for yourself?

My short term goals are to put the wins I’ve had recently in the past and be humble and ready for the next events. They mean nothing now because it’s a new week. So I’m just focused on the next day. Long term I want to be playing in grand slam main draws and having opportunities on the big stage.

And here’s the one we are asking everyone. What has been your favorite tournament to play at and where is your favorite place to eat there?

Obviously the snack bar TCR is my favorite after the Mancuso’s home cooked meals. I’d have to say my favorite place to play is New York. There are some incredible restaurants in NY that I’ve gone to.

We would like to thank Chase for his interview! As for action on tour, Gilles Simon defeated Tsonga in the final of Metz. It’s good to see Jo Willy back on tour in full form. And Joey’s boy Ernie Gulbis won his fourth career title in St. Petersburg, defeating Guillermo Garcia – Lopez in 3 sets in the final. And another good bit of news, one of our recent interview players, Tenys Sandgren won the doubles title in a challenger this past weekend in Turkey, partnering up with Austin Kraijcek to take the title. We will be back this week with more interviews and action from around the world and the big challenger in Napa, California!

Advertisements

Question and Answer: Bradley Klahn

Bradley

In this edition of our Question and Answer series, I got a chance to ask rising American star Bradley Klahn some questions. Bradley is a graduate of Stanford University, where he won the 2010 Singles National Championship. I saw him play Sam Querrey in the first round of the US Open that same year and it was clear that there was some talent in this kid. He has a huge lefty forehand, a nice serve, and he is definitely on the rise after a solid 2013 season including a victory in the Aptos Challenger last month. I hope you enjoy our interview with him!

You have been playing pro events for a couple of years now and you continue to rise in the rankings, what has been the biggest adjustment to life on tour since you finished up at Stanford?

The biggest adjustment to life on tour is the realization that this is your livelihood and your job, and every day there is a person across the net trying to steal your lunch money.  You are constantly adapting to different surroundings each week, and must bring your greatest intensity and focus each and every point.  You can never be too high on your wins or too low on your losses, because every week there is another opportunity for a break through, which is the beauty of this sport.

How has your game and work ethic changed over the years since you first started playing on the tour?

I think my game has evolved a great deal since I first started playing on the tour.  My biggest focus when I started out last year was improving my serve and backhand, and I feel that although there is still plenty of work to be done in both areas, they have come a long way.  I really don’t feel that my work ethic has changed too much since leaving school, but there certainly has been an increase in the intensity and urgency in which I go about my practices.  After being around the top players and seeing firsthand the work it takes for them to be great, I have a better understanding of how I need to conduct myself on and off the court in order to achieve my goals.

A lot of criticism this year has been directed towards the lack of a dominant US player, or players. What do you think the state of American tennis is at the moment?

Times have certainly changed in this era of tennis, and you aren’t going to see the Americans dominating the game like they once did because of how many incredible athletes there are globally. That being said, I do think there are plenty of younger Americans who have the ability to break through in the next few years.  There is a good group of guys who are all training together and pushing each other to get better.  The only thing we can control is our work ethic and striving to get the most out of our games, wherever that leads us.

What is the strongest part of your game right now? What is something you would like to improve on as the off-season approaches?

I would say the strongest parts of my game currently are my serve and forehand.  This off-season, my biggest focus will be improving my strength and conditioning, as well as cleaning up my backhand and returns.  This off-season will be crucial for me to establish my base for the upcoming year, and I am looking forward to tackling those challenges.

Did you have any role models growing up? And who has had the biggest influence on your game today?

The three biggest role models in my life have been my parents and my long time coach, Lee Merry.  They truly have led by example, on and off the court.  Lee deserves all the credit in molding my tennis game from the time we began working together at the age of 11, but it would be narrow-minded of me to think that he has only influenced my tennis and nothing else.  I also am very grateful to the USTA for their coaching and support.

You were very successful in your college tennis career as a Cardinal. How has your experience at Stanford University helped you during your young pro career?

Attending Stanford and playing college tennis for four years was the best decision of my life and I would not trade the experiences I had there for anything.  I was not ready, physically or mentally, to play professionally when I graduated from high school at 17, and my family has always stressed that education is the number one priority.  Graduating from Stanford was one of the single best feelings I have had, and it gives me freedom knowing I have something to fall back on after tennis.  I was able to mature physically and mentally in a more controlled environment, and when I finished school, felt I was ready to immediately jump into the day-to-day lifestyle of the pro tour.

You have played the US Open a couple times now, how was that experience for you and what do you need to do to continue the kind of success you have been having there and the other pro events?

Playing the US Open the last few years has been an incredible experience for me to see the level that I hope to compete against in the future, and observe how the top players go about their business.  I think I have gained more and more confidence each year in my ability to compete at this level, and it serves as great motivation for me to keep putting in the extra work to consistently play on the World Tour.

You are currently #133 in the rankings right now, what short and long term goals have you set for yourself as the off season approaches?

Right now going into the last couple months of the season and off-season, my biggest focus is cracking the top 100 and making the main draw of Australia in January.  I try to stay away from such specific ranking goals, but it would be a great accomplishment to gain direct acceptance for my first grand slam.  In order to do that, however, I need to really focus on improving my consistency from point to point.  If I take care of the little details, the rest will take care of itself.

And here’s the one we are asking everyone. What has been your favorite tournament to play at and where is your favorite place to eat there?

My favorite tournament to play is the US Open. As an American growing up watching tennis, it was always a dream to play there, so to be able to fulfill that childhood dream and play in my home country’s grand slam is pretty special.  The energy and buzz around the grounds is incredible, and brings out the best in my game.  My favorite place to eat during the tournament is San Martin in Midtown.  I don’t really branch out in regards to new restaurants, so I usually will end up there 4 to 5 times a week!

We would like to thank Bradley for his answers and we will be back this weekend with more interviews and an update for the action of tour!


Question and Answer: Jason Tahir

Jason

In this episode of your Question and Answer series, I had the pleasure of asking longtime player and friend Jason Tahir some questions. Jason currently attends Duke University as a junior and is looking to lead the Blue Devils toward big things this upcoming spring. He had a tremendous summer on the futures tour as he reached the singles quarterfinals or better in Innisbrook, Rochester, and Pittsburgh. He was the runner-up in singles and doubles in Pittsburgh. Jason is only 20 years old and has the talent and attitude to succeed after college. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Q: You had a big summer, having 3 solid results in Innisbrook, Rochester, and Pittsburgh, how much confidence do you have now going into the college season?

A: My summer was definitely a confidence booster for both my singles and doubles game. I played a lot of matches and thankfully I was able to win a high percentage of them which gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming college season. Hopefully, this confidence can translate into success on the court.

Q: With 2 college seasons under your belt now, what are your expectations for this season?

A: I’m really excited for my junior year because I think as a team we have an awesome opportunity to create an identity that we will be proud of at the end of the year. I think every player on the team left last year with a bad taste in their mouth and we really want to change that this year. Personally, I just want to help the team reach its full potential in whatever capacity that may be.

Q: A lot of criticism this year has been directed towards the lack of a dominant US player, or players. What do you think the state of American tennis is at the moment?

A: I think American tennis definitely is on the upswing. Speaking from my experience as a college player, I think a lot more guys are pushing really hard in college to become pros because they realize they don’t have to turn pro at 18 to be successful. The average age for the top 100 is going up and I think Americans are realizing how lucky we are to have a system in place like the NCAA and what a great developmental tool college tennis is.

Q: You have certainly come a long way since we were both juniors, but what is the strongest part of your game right now? What is something you would like to improve on as the fall season begins?

A: My forehand and just overall power are probably the strengths of my game. One reason I’ve been more successful lately is that I’ve better learned how to harness my power and use it as a consistent strength. I’m looking to improve pretty much every facet of my game this fall and throughout the year. I’ve got a lot of parts of my game to work on but I’m really excited about the potential of my game if I can keep improving.

Q: As you already know, James Blake has always been my favorite player growing up. Who were your most important role models growing up? And who has had the biggest influence on your game today?

A: 5) Professionally, my favorite player is definitely Nadal just because of how mentally tough he is and how he constantly battling back from adversity. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a lot of great people who have influenced by game and have helped me reach the point I’m at now. From my coaches in juniors, Billy Nealon and Marcus Fugate, to my past and present coaches at Duke, Ramsey Smith, Jon Stokke, Stephen Armitraj and Kyle Spencer, I’ve been able to learn a lot.

Q: You have been competing very well on the futures level, what do you need to do in these next couple of years to get to that next level on tour?

A: I need to round out my game and become a complete player if I want to get onto the tour after Duke. Also, I need to improve my physicality along with becoming a better mental player.

And here’s the one we are asking everyone. What has been your favorite tournament to play at and where is your favorite place to eat there?

A: My favorite tournament I’ve played so far is the Futures in my hometown of Rochester, NY. The club (The Tennis Club of Rochester) does a great job of running the tournament and it’s pretty cool for me that I get to play a Futures at the same place as where I learned how to play the game. My favorite place to eat there is probably something that either one of my parents cooks for me while I’m staying at home during the tournament.

I would like to thank Jason for his participation in our interview and if you believe in him as much as I do, everyone should follow Jason on Twitter @jason_tahir. Enjoy everyone!

The End of the Road for an American Favorite

Blake

James Blake had an emotional press conference Monday morning where he announced his retirement from men’s tennis following this year’s US Open.

Blake turned pro in 1999 following his one year collegiate career at Harvard University where he was the #1 ranked collegiate singles player. As his career began to rise, James had a catastrophic injury in 2003 while he was practicing in Rome. He was running for a drop shot when he tripped on the clay and went head first into the metal net pole. Blake had a broken neck and was also diagnosed with shingles during surgery. Most players would have never played tennis again. But the recovery of Blake is one of the most inspirational stories for all tennis players. The recovery process was long and strenous, but with the support of his family and friends, he made an incredible comeback. Blake’s passion for the game was fueled by 2 people, his idol Arthur Ashe, and his father.  James heard Ashe speak at his school when he was a child and that inspired him to pick up tennis. His father was the driving force behind Blake’s career. Even when James’ dad died of cancer in 2004, his spirit kept Blake moving forward in his career.

It had been many years since Blake had played on tour due to his injury when he played the 2005 US Open. It was at his home slam that his name will forever be remembered. James’ ranking was very low, but he was granted a wild card by the USTA. He was scheduled to play former finalist Greg Rudeski in the first round. After Blake upset him, he defeated Igor Andreev in the second round. His third round was against number 2 seed and 18 year old phenom, Rafael Nadal. Considered a heavy underdog, James pulled off what I still consider to be the best win of his career as he beat Rafa in four sets. Following his fourth round win over Robredo, Blake set up the quarterfinal showdown with Andre Agassi, one of his idols and friends. I consider this match to be one of the best in US Open and maybe even Grand Slam history. The shotmaking and athleticism was incredible. Agassi ended up coming back from 2 sets to love down and best James in a fifth set tiebreaker. But as Andre said, “the real winner was tennis that night, not myself”.

Following that breakout tournament, James went on to win 10 singles titles, 7 doubles titles, and was a key piece in the US Davis Cup victory in 2007. Blake also was a finalist in the Shanghai Masters in 2006 and reached a high of #4 in the world. He had all these accomplishments on the court, but one of the most important features about James was his personality off the court. Considered to be one of the nicest players on tour, he won the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2006 for his work in fundraising for cancer prevention.

As for what James means to me, he has always been my favorite player and someone that I have always looked up to. His adversity through life and classiness off the court is something everyone should take into account. Even when coaches tried to change his game, he stuck with what he knew, and it definitely worked out for him. He was never afraid to go for the big shot and that is something everyone needs to learn how to do in pressure moments. Hit through the pressure and not crack down on it. Blake made the most of a career that could have been something much quicker and injury filled. The best thing about this retirement is that he is retiring on his own terms. I am glad his knee injuries in the past did not force him to retire and he can play his last tournament so close to home in New York. When I go to the open this weekend, I hope to see him in singles or doubles. James plays Ivo Karlovic in the first round of singles and plays the number 2 seed Peya/Suares in doubles with Jack Sock. Fire it up one time, bam! Go James go!

Day 4 Preview

James Blake

 

After the major carnage on day 3, let’s hope day 4 at Wimbledon can restore some order. The seeds in the top half have fared much better than those of the bottom half. There are many good matches on the schedule for tomorrow, so lets take a look.

Tomas Berdych vs Daniel Brands- After taking out a tricky first round opponent in Martin Klizan, things don’t get any easier for Tomas Berdych. The Birdman takes on the big serving Daniel Brands, whose game fits the grass well. Berdych has never played Name Brands, but he’ll be aware of his opponents talent. Look for a few tiebreaks in this one. I’m taking Berdych in 4.

James Blake vs Bernard Tomic- Theses two players are at the opposite ends of their career. Blake has never played very well at Wimbledon, but he’s got an opportunity to make the third round for the first time in 5 years. Bernie Tomic apparently can’t play that well unless his dad is in the stands, and he won’t be their due to his ban from the ATP for headbutting Bernard’s hitting partner. Tomic has the talent, but doesn’t seem to have the passion to be a top player yet. I’m taking Blake in 5.

Denis Kudla vs Ivan Dodig- Most people aren’t talking about this match, but I love Kudla. He also has a great opportunity, after Dodig took out Phillip Kohlshreiber in the first round. Dodig is very up and down. He beat Nadal in 2011, but I’ve also seen him play some horrible matches. I’m thinking Kudla continues his run and wins in 5 grueling sets.

Novak Djokovic vs Bobby Reynolds- Djokovic’s mouth must have a smile on his face after all the top seeds going down early. However, he knows that he has to make sure he doesn’t catch the upset bug. He shouldn’t have a problem with Bobby Reynolds. The American is a journeyman with not too many weapons, so Novak should win 3 routine sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Jesse Levine- Delpo in 3.

David Ferrer vs Roberto Bautista Agut- Ferrer in 3.

Richard Gasquet vs Go Soeda- Gasquet in 3.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Grega Zemlja- Dimitrov in 3. (I’m pulling for Grigor bigtime now that Fed is out)

Tommy Haas vs Jimmy Wang- Haas in 3.

Kei Nishikori vs Leonardo Mayer- Nishikori in 3.

Santiago Giraldo vs Alexandr Dolgopolov- Dolgopolov in 4.

Milos Raonic Igor Sijsling- Raonic in 4.

Michael Llodra vs Andreas Seppi- Llodra in 4.

Jeremy Chardy vs Jan-Lennard Struff- Chardy in 4.

Feliciano Lopez vs Paul-Henri Mathieu- Lopez in 4.

Kevin Anderson vs Michal Przysiezny- Anderson in 3.

Who do you guys have on upset alert?

French Open Day 1 Recap

simon

 

The first day of every grand slam has a special excitement about it. The anticipation for the tournament has been brewing for weeks. There were 16 men’s matches on Sunday, and they did not disappoint.

Federer Tames Busta- Some were calling for Pablo Carreno-Busta to push Federer, including the great Brad Gilbert. However, the stage was too much for Busta, who looked nervous early, and was never able to recover. Although the scoreline was 6-2 6-2 6-3, it wasn’t even that close. This match was the definition of a cake walk for the Swiss man. He broke Busta to open each set, setting the tone for the match. Federer looked sharp for the majority of the match, but he had some understandable lapses in concentration when he was up big. For Busta, this shows that there is a huge difference between having success at the futures level, and at the Grand Slam level. Roger’s serve looked good, and he will face another qualifier, Somdev Devvarman, in the second round. Devvarman took out Daniel Munoz De La Nava in straight sets.

Ferrer Rolls- David Ferrer was not given the easiest first round opponent, Marinko Matosevic. The Australian is different type of player, and has the potential to be dangerous. But Ferrer took care of business, rolling in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 6-4. Ferrer was broken 5 times by Matosevic, but each time he responded with a break of his own. They call him the pitbull for a reason, because Ferrer is always gnawing his way back into points, sets, and matches. He will face the winner of Steve Johnson and Albert Montanes.

Match of the Day- Lleyton Hewitt vs Gilles Simon. Even before this one started you could feel a long match coming. Simon Sez is one of the premier counterpunchers on the tour, and Rusty Hewitt is a former world number who made his money by grinding and fighting in every match. For the first two sets, it was all Hewitt. Although his best shot is his backhand, he was dictating points using his forehand. He was coming to net and dominating the listless Simon, taking the first two sets 6-3 6-1. Early in the third set Simon and the French Crowd woke up, which propelled Simon to a tight 6-4 victory. The fourth set went quickly, with Hewitt’s movement looking subpar. Simon took the 4th 6-1, and continued his success into the 5th, going up 5-0. Grinding rallies often exceeding 30 shots were wearing down Hewitt, who looked all but defeated. However, you can never count Hewitt out, because one the things he enjoys most about tennis is the fight. After holding serve, Hewitt saved 2 match points and broke Simon. Things still seemed to be in hand for Simon, but after Hewitt held a tough service game, all the pressure was on the Frenchman. Hewitt came up with some brilliant shots to break Simon, and eventually leveled the 5th at 5 all. In the end, Simon kept cool when all the momentum was with Hewitt, by taking it 7-5. A great match, and a great fight from Rusty.

Shot of the Day- No doubt on this one. James Blake was having a tough time against Victor Troicki, and he was down two sets and a break when he pulled off the hot dog. After chasing down a Troicki drop shot, Blake went with the short angle chip, which Troicki then volley back deep. On the full run, Blake pulled off one of the toughest Tweeners I’ve ever seen. The ball was barely bounced, but Blake hit a lob tweener which Troicki was barely able to get a racket on. It was a flash of brilliance from the American, who went down 6-4 6-2 6-2 to the Serbian #3.

Coming Up Next- A day 2 preview from Chris Hayes, and then our day 2 picks. (I lead 11-10 after Day 1)