tennis

2012 SAP Open

I don't have much good to say about the SAP Open this year, so I'll keep this brief. I was really looking forward to the doubles exhibition on the first night, my all-time favorite player John McEnroe, plus my current favorite player Gael Monfils were squaring off, each partnering with a young American player.

John McEnroe - 2012 SAP Open

John McEnroe - 2012 SAP Open

John McEnroe - 2012 SAP Open

John McEnroe - 2012 SAP Open

John McEnroe - 2012 SAP Open

Gael Monfils - 2012 SAP Open

Gael Monfils - 2012 SAP Open

Steve Johnson - 2012 SAP Open

Jack Sock - 2012 SAP Open

The big name this year was Andy Roddick, who apparently has not grown up since this nonsense.

Andy Roddick - 2012 SAP Open

Andy Roddick - 2012 SAP Open

Andy Roddick - 2012 SAP Open

Andy Roddick - 2012 SAP Open

Andy Roddick - 2012 SAP Open

Sam Querrey - 2012 SAP Open

Sam Querrey - 2012 SAP Open

I didn't have as much luck with the panning shots this year, but this one of Matthew Ebden worked out:

Matthew Ebden - 2012 SAP Open

Matthew Ebden - 2012 SAP Open

Dudi Sela - 2012 SAP Open

Kevin Anderson - 2012 SAP Open

Kevin Anderson - 2012 SAP Open

Dimitar Kutrovsky - 2012 SAP Open

Denis Kudla - 2012 SAP Open

Ryan Sweeting - 2012 SAP Open

Seems that Monfils is not the only French player with big moves on the court:

Julien Benneteau - 2012 SAP Open

Ryan Harrison followed up his solid Davis Cup showing with a run to the semifinals:

Ryan Harrison - 2012 SAP Open

Istomin took out Roddick... Denis Istomin - 2012 SAP Open

...but came up short in the final to defending champion Milos Raonic:

Milos Raonic - 2012 SAP Open

Milos Raonic - 2012 SAP Open

A word about the multiple exposure pictures: These were all done in-camera (Nikon D3/D3S) with no manipulation.

2011 Bank of the West Classic

Kind of a dramatic change, going from bull dropping showers to shooting the ladies of the WTA tour, but that's the beauty of this life. It was Bank of the West Classic week at Stanford, and with Serena Williams on the comeback trail from injuries and in the draw, it was sure to be an interesting week. I honestly don't know enough about tennis to write much about it, (for that you should go read the excellent writing of Chris Oddo at The Fan Child's Two Cents, especially this post on what it's like to watch Serena play in person) but I will say that the opportunity to watch one of the best ever do her thing was a privilege. In an era where players in all sports try to stay cool and act as if success is no big deal, Serena doesn't even try to mask her emotions. More than just giving it up after big points or big wins, in heated rallies, Serena's expression gets even more intense from shot to shot. Action is great, but emotion is king, or in this case, queen. Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

After the final, Marion Bartoli said some nice things about Serena, and Serena nearly broke down:

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Then she posed with the trophy:

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena's father Richard Williams was present all week, supervising her workouts and cheering her on from the stands.

Richard Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

2009 BotWC champion Marion Bartoli had an easy path to the final, playing just three sets total due to injuries to her opponents. Still, despite getting off to a fast start in the final, she couldn't match Serena's power, and was slowed by a hand injury in the second set.

Marion Bartoli - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Marion Bartoli - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Marion Bartoli - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Marion Bartoli - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

2010 BotWC champion Victoria Azarenka didn't play as well this year in singles, but she and partner Maria Kirilenko mowed down the doubles field to take the title.

Victoria Azarenka - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Victoria Azarenka - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Victoria Azarenka - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Sabine Lisicki rode a huge serve to the semifinals, but admitted that she tightened up against Serena.

Sabine Lisicki - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Sabine Lisicki - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Sabine Lisicki - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Sabine Lisicki - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Dominika Cibulkova played well, but succumbed to an abdominal injury and pulled out before her semifinal match.

Dominika Cibulkova - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Dominika Cibulkova - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Marina Erakovic - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Christina McHale - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Julia Goerges - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Julia Goerges - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Julia Goerges - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Neither of my two favorites (Kirilenko and Ana Ivanovic) made it very far in the singles draw, but Kirilenko did end up winning the doubles title.

Ana Ivanovic - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Ana Ivanovic - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Ana Ivanovic - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Maria Kirilenko - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Maria Kirilenko - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Maria Kirilenko - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Some early clips:

Maria Kirilenko - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

Serena Williams - 2011 Bank of the West Classic

SAP Open - Day Seven - Singles Final

© Matt Cohen 2011

Sunday was the final of the SAP Open featuring Fernando Verdasco of Spain
and Canadian Milos Raonic. On paper, the match between defending champion
Verdasco and world #84 Raonic (who needed a wild card just to get into the
field) was a mismatch. But Raonic's serve - approaching 150mph - was just
too much for Verdasco to handle, and the day ended with Raonic taking his
first tournament with a 7-6, 7-6 win.

© Matt Cohen 2011

Following up his heavy serve and solid baseline game with a few trips to the
net, Raonic gave Verdasco no room to paint the lines in the manner that got
him to the final.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Despite the closeness of the match on the scoreboard, Raonic dictated play,
and Verdasco was in the unfamiliar position of alternately chasing and having
to fight off serves.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

The second set tiebreaker was tense, with more mistakes than great shots. But
for the first time all week, there was genuine emotion on both sides of the net.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

After the match, Verdasco was almost despondent in his press conference,
speaking about the near-futility of playing against guys who can serve
150mph. He's going to have to figure something out quickly, because in a
scheduling irony due to Raonic's low pre-SAP Open ranking, the two will have
a rematch on Wednesday at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in
Memphis.

SAP Open - Day Five

© Matt Cohen 2011

Lleyton Hewitt couldn't handle Juan Martin del Potro's power, falling 6-2, 6-3. © Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Milos Raonic slipped by Richard Berankis 6-4, 7-6. © Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Gael Monfils played with a wrist injury serious enough that he withdrew from
the tournament after beating Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

(I almost never process like this, but it seems to fit this picture.) © Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Fernando Verdasco beat Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-4.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

SAP Open - Day Three

Gael Monfils makes a face after losing a line-call challenge. © Matt Cohen 2011

I was back at HP Pavilion on Wednesday for first round matches featuring
defending champion Fernando Verdasco of Spain and noted camera thief
Gael Monfils of France.

Verdasco drew Rajeev Ram (USA) who spent most of the hour-long match
looking exactly like this:

© Matt Cohen 2011

Verdasco sat back at the baseline ripping flat ground strokes just over the net
that landed on the lines more often than not.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

After Verdasco dispatched Ram 6-3, 6-2, he served against a San Jose radio DJ
in a friendly challenge. He started out at 130mph which the DJ missed so badly,
it made Verdasco wince.

© Matt Cohen 2011

In the second match Stanford junior and current NCAA singles champion Bradley
Klahn faced Monfils. Klahn had his own cheering section made up of Stanford
frat boys who may have missed the memo about tennis being a gentlemen's game.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

But Monfils seemed to feed off of the crowd, making amazing shots, covering
every inch of the court, and in general having a lot of fun in his 6-3, 6-2 win.

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Monfils reminds you that you should follow me on Twitter. © Matt Cohen 2011

SAP Open - Day One

Gael Monfils takes the court during introductions. As the other players were
being introduced, I was mentally measuring the exact angles in hopes of
catching Monfils' head exactly between my camera and the spotlight. I missed
by a bit, so instead of a straight backlit silhouette, I got this picture that ended
up looking like it was made in natural sunlight, complete with golden lens
flare. Geometry was never my strongest subject...
© Matt Cohen 2011

The 2011 SAP Open kicked off Monday at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

I grew up playing tennis, and followed the game religiously until serve and
volleyers were banished from the tour. I can appreciate Federer and Nadal
slugging it out until they can crack a crosscourt winner, but I'd rather watch
McEnroe or Sampras placing insane drop shots at the net any day. So I
made the trek down to San Jose to shoot Sampras play Gael Monfils in an
exhibition match.

Exhibition matches are often fun to shoot because instead of the usual intensity,
players often joke with the crowd and each other. Or in the case of Monfils,
stealing my camera.

Sampras can't believe a Monfils drop shot... © Matt Cohen 2011

...and again. © Matt Cohen 2011

Monfils uses a ball to wipe sweat from his neck. © Matt Cohen 2011

Monfils crouches as he awaits a serve. © Matt Cohen 2011

Aside from the kidding, there were some nice points. Sampras lines up a forehand. © Matt Cohen 2011

Monfils slides clay-court style... © Matt Cohen 2011

...and then knocks a ball through his legs... © Matt Cohen 2011

...and finishes with a hefty dose of top spin. © Matt Cohen 2011

After Sampras-Monfils, Aussie Lleyton Hewitt beat Bjorn Phau 6-3, 6-3 © Matt Cohen 2011

Also on the bill for the first night was James Blake, who is currently on the
comeback trail. After a rocky start, he regrouped for a 7-5, 6-1 win over
qualifier Jesse Levine.
© Matt Cohen 2011