Americans blog from the 2010 Australian Open

serenatroph
Serena Williams
John Isner
Bryan brothers.

A variety of your favorite American players, including Bob and Mike Bryan, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Robby Ginepri, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Liezel Huber, Lisa Raymond and more, are blogging for USTA.com during the 2010 Australian Open in Melbourne. Check back daily to see who is blogging next!

Sasha Bajin, Touring Coach for Serena Williams, Jan. 30, 2010

I watched Serena at practice before the match today and there was something about her and how she stepped on court and I could see in her eyes how competitive she was. I fed her a short ball and she didn't stop and attacked and came in straight to net and did her thing. You could tell she really wanted it, even though there's big pressure. Justine Henin had beaten the last three times in a Grand Slam so it was really big.

Against Justine you really have to move quickly because she moves the ball around so well and plays such a different game than the other girls, mixing up her slice backhand and coming to the net.

Tennis is always mental and there was one point in the first set when there was a call that went against Justine and the crowd was against Serena and that can really affect a player. Serena lost the next three games. But if you know you are physically stronger than the other player that's a mental relief too. Serena worked out really hard in the off season so I knew she would be ready.

Justine won five games in a row at one point. At that level, and given the opportunity and some space, a player like Justine will take advantage because she's a former No.1 and if you give her a little more time she going to get into the match.

At the start of the third set, I could tell Serena was still intense and I was hoping her best level would come. She started to play more aggressive and then started serving big again and I could see that she knew the opportunity was there. She's been in these situations before and knows when it's time to move forward.

To take a Grand Slam final away from Serena takes big, big effort. For her be able to defend a Grand Slam title is so important because she hadn't been able to that since 2002-2003 Wimbledon. The way she fell to the court and on her back and showed all of her emotions showed how much it meant to her. Every Grand Slam title is important.

It doesn't matter how many she's won because every one is a unique challenge.

Bob and Mike Bryan, Jan. 28, 2010

We beat Jarkko Nieminen and Michael Kohlmann, 6-1, 6-4, in the semis today, and it was our first easy match of the tournament. We came out and broke early, and that felt weird because we've been struggling early, and it was nice to jump on a team. We were due for a good one. In the quarters, we had a really tough one with a lot of big serving against Rajeev Ram and Eric Butorac. But Mike was seeing it really well in practice and caught fire today. We were moving around a lot and frustrating them. It was nice to get the pickle out of the jar early.

During a local broadcast of our third-set-tiebreak win over Butorac/Ram on Tuesday night, Henri Leconte [the former French player] pretended to fall asleep. We're a little disappointed, and it's unfortunate when a commentator has to be negative when we are trying our guts out. It's big-serving tennis, and the points can be short. We know it's late at night, but it's unfortunate because he's there to make the fans interested in the game. It's not about him -- it's about the tennis.

[Commentator and Australian Davis Cup Captain] John Fitzgerald apologized to us, but Henri hasn't said anything. It's disrespectful to doubles, to our opponents and to us. It's not that funny, especially when you come off the court happy and proud we got through a tough one, and to hear someone telling us that Henri is bashing you... it left a sour taste in our mouths. It was funny because he was asking us to come to his Haiti [fundraiser], joking with us and acting like he was our best friend, and since this, he hasn't looked our way. Maybe he feels bad. We'll do it for Haiti but…

We just wrote a tribute song to one of our tennis-player idols for our new album and are waiting for the OK from him. We can't tell you who it is yet, but we bet you can guess!

We play one of our main rival teams in the final, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, whom we beat at the end of last year in the ATP World Finals and ended up taking their No. 1 ranking, just like they did to us the year before. They broke our heart, and then we broke theirs. They play us tough, and we think we can change some things up from before because they've won some big matches from us. It's a pretty intense rivalry, but we are friendly in the locker room. But once we get out there, they are going to try and make us feel uncomfortable, and we are planning on doing the same to them. We have to seize the opportunities when we get them.

Wish us luck,

Bob and Mike

Lisa Raymond, Jan. 27, 2010

My partner, Wesley Moodie, and I scraped one out, 6-3, 3-6, 12-10 (super tiebreaker), in the mixed doubles quarters over Filip Polasek and Chia-Jung Chuang. Mixed is so crazy, anything can happen.

I watched a little of Venus Williams' 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 loss to China's Li Na today. Li Na is a great player, and she already had a win over Venus at the Olympics, so I wasn't shocked. Venus hasn't looked super sharp the past couple of weeks, so even though it's Venus on the other side of the court and you expect her to win, Li Na is capable. It can happen to the best of them.

Venus has never won the Australian Open, so it's not like she can go back into her head when she's down in the third and say, "I've held this trophy before." That comes into play when you are out there grinding in the third set.

I think Venus can win another Wimbledon. When she steps on grass, she's another player. Wimby, you have to take her, but on everything else, it gets harder every year.

I saw some of Serena's 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 comeback over Victoria Azarenka. After she got down 4-0 in the second, the next couple of games were huge. Once it got to 4-3, I knew she would wake up. Serena is never going to give up. She's going to claw her way back every time. It was Azarenka's match to win or lose, and she lost it. You knew after Serena won the second set that she had it.

The conditions in our mixed match were crazy and windy. You can go up and down, and in the blink of an eye, you can win the match. In the super tiebreaker, we doubled faulted, then they had a match point, and Wes hit an unbelievable return. Then I served two great points, and then Polasek hit a great return. But eventually, Wes nailed one down the line to win it.

But that's mixed, especially in the new format. You have no clue who is going to play like what, which is why you always have these totally random teams winning. Even the best players in the world can lose first round. It's like a potluck but is also fun. But at the end of the day, you are playing for a Grand Slam title.

Rennae and I play Venus and Serena in the doubles semis tomorrow, so wish us luck!

Lisa

Liezel Huber, Jan. 26, 2010

Hello everyone,

My partner Cara Black and I took a 6-3, 6-3 win today over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka. The last we played them we won in a super tiebreaker and today we finished strong so we're really pleased

It was very windy and normally I serve first but because of the sun we changed what we had planned. She wears sunglasses and usually serves into the sun, but because I like to serve first I ended up serving into the sun. I just need to not be a baby about it. They were tough and at some points the took it serious and then at some others they didn't.

If I sum up 2009 I'd say well done for us for being the No. 1 ranked team, but the year was a disappointment because we play for majors and who wants to be a No.1 without winning any Slams at the end of the year? Having said that, we did well at some of the other big tournaments.

It says a lot about us as a team that we came out strong this year, winning Auckland, Sydney and now reaching the quarters at the Australian Open after a letdown in 2009. We are coming strong to try and to prove ourselves again.

The last time we spoke after we left the WTA Championships in early November was when we arrived in Auckland at the start of this year. Cara lives in Zimbabwe and has no email or cell phone reception. I texted her the day before and said 'we are on the plane in San Francisco, see you in Brisbane - just kidding, we are on our way to Auckland. When she got to Auckland and read the message she thought “Oh no, I've got the wrong schedule!”

I didn't take any time off in the off-season. The year before when we took time off we got really sore when we first started playing. My husband (who is also my coach) tried to make it fun, we did track and triathlon workouts. It kept it fresh.

I'm kind of tired. I can't believe it's only Tuesday. It seems like it should be the end of the tournament. I have Fed Cup after this and then Paris and Dubai, but that's OK.

At a Grand Slam, I can't let up for a second or do anything wrong. If you know me, I put pressure on myself with every single thing I do. I put everything on the same scale which is both a good thing and a bad thing because some things aren't as important as others. You have to learn to relax and then switch it on when you need to. I have a breathing technique with my diaphragm and back that I use on court so I can relax and then get back into a point.

We lost to Williams sisters twice last year at Wimbledon and the US Open. Wimbledon was awful. We knew they own they owned the courts at Wimbledon in singles and we had won Wimbledon titles in doubles. We were feeling like we should own them instead of just playing and we lost pretty badly. At the US Open, even though we lost 6-2, 6-2, the score didn't reflect how the match went. I saw a lot more things in their game that I can learn from. They are strong, hit the ball so hard and are bigger than us, but if we play our best it's not impossible for us to beat them. We have to capitalize on their bad 10 minutes, if we they have them. We really want to play them here in the final because that's what we play for.

Fed Cup is what excites me the most. After we beat the Czech Republic last April, I couldn't stop talking about the final which was coming up in November. It was disappointing to lose, but Italy was too good on clay.

Fed Cup is more about the young players and being there for captain Mary Joe Fernandez and for the team and I know I'll be ready for the doubles at the end. I try to keep the young ones positive, calm, energized, not too nervous and build the team atmosphere. It's not about me; it's about them because I'm more at the end of my career. We're playing France on clay away next week and I'm not going to be arrogant and say we are going all the way this year, but we are going to try our best.

I wish Venus and Serena would play sometimes. It would be helpful for us. They are great girls and great ambassadors and we want them to play. Just play!

Cara and I's motto this year has been to play more aggressive, have a game plan, and be smarter with our volleys and use more finesse. That' s new for us and because we are concentrating on our styles here in Austrlalia, we aren't panicking.

Wish us luck,

Liezel

Lisa Raymond, Jan. 25, 2010

Hi everyone.

My partner Rennae Stubbs and I got through on Monday, 7-5, 6-3, over Monica Niculescu and Yung-Jan Chan. We're playing really well and feel pretty good about our chances.

The game has completely changed since I came on tour in 1993, both inside the locker room and on the court. I've had to completely change my game in doubles to keep up because there are only a few girls who serve and volley any more, and it seems like everyone can crush the ball from the backcourt. I've had to add topspin to my forehand to hit a heavier ball, and the way you cross, return serve and even volley have changed. We use the short volley much more than we used to because so many girls are staying back.

I'm 36 now, but I still I think I can win Grand Slam titles [Raymond owns 68 titles overall and a career Grand Slam]. Knock on wood, I'm healthy and still love to compete and think I've improved a lot.

I got really lucky that Rennae agreed to team up with me again this year. Last year was one of the toughest of my career because my partner, Kveta Peschke, was hurt most of the time, so I spent the last six months fishing around for partners, and that's no fun. I was going to team up with Yaroslava Shvedova, who is really talented, and kind of tutor her like I did with Sam Stosur, but she ended up pulling out of it, and it was a mess.

It's been great playing with Rennae again. I talked to my coach and different people, and Rennae and I talked to each other and set our boundaries to figure out how it was going to work this time around. We're both in similar places in our careers, and it's all gravy for us. We hang out a bit but also go to our separate corners, and she's been great on court.

I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason, and maybe we are destined to end our careers together. She's 38, and I'm 36, so I might have another year of playing than she does, but who knows? I'm not planning way ahead, just month-to-month, and until my body and mind tell me it's time to stop and I'm not motivated any more, I'm going to keep playing.

It's been a long time since I came on tour in 1993, but I'm in such a good position because I can pick and choose where I want to play. I'm not playing a crazy 30 tournaments a year. I'll go to Australia, Dubai, Indian Wells -- c'mon, who am I to complain? I'm extremely blessed. I do what I do well and make a very good living doing it. I try not to be on the road more than three weeks at a time, and then I'll go home to Philly or go train in L.A. with my coach, Raj Chaudhuri. I know I'm never going to play my best if I can't go home and recharge. I like being home and back in the States, surrounded by friends and family -- the normal life.

Some of the young players go week to week and just grind, and they have to understand that you can't chase a ranking and you can't chase points. When you get into that mentality, you'll never prosper. You have to get away.

The tour has changed so much. There are so many agents, parents and trainers, and it seems like everyone has an entourage of at least five people. It's insane. A player will have a physio, trainer, coach, agent, then a parent or two, and that's their world, and they don't interact with other players. When I came on tour, it was much friendlier, but it was an older tour back then. We had Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport as kids, but they were anomalies. Now 15 to 18 years old is the median age.

Unfortunately, we are judged on our results, but at the end of the day, it's about winning or losing. It's the truth. Then you have all the money and endorsements and players who are supporting their families and parents who don't work. It's a joke, and it's scary.

If I stay healthy, tennis beats anything else, and I'll keep going. I suppose I could coach, but it would be back home because there's no way I'm going to deal with some 16-year-old prima donna who is going to tell me to get her a sandwich. That's not going to happen! I'd love to coach some little kids at a club or something like that, though. But for now, I'm loving playing. We'll see what life brings.

Wish us luck,

Lisa

Rajeev Ram and Eric Butorac, Jan. 24, 2010

Hello everybody.

ERIC: We had a very tough 6-7 (3) 6-4 7-6 (3) win today over Leonardo Mayer and Horacio Zeballos and as a result we'll get to face the Bryan twins in the fourth round, who communicate better than any other paring in the world. But at least we are guaranteed to have at least one U.S. team in the quarterfinals. We played a great third set tiebreaker. The best thing to do is making your first serves, hit your spots and let the return points come. On return points we take some good swings and see what we can do.

RAJEEV: In the breaker, I hit one good return and then Eric hit a great one. We had trouble seeing their serves all day and it came down to hitting a couple of good shots at the right time. And we got one free one because I hit a horrible shot and one of them missed a complete sitter at the net.

ERIC: There was a lot of sun and wind out there and that's where just getting ball in play on a return is important. Those guys aren't the most comfortable volleyers and are more comfortable bashing forehands, so just putting a ball into play gives you a good chance.

RAJEEV: We're happy to get to the second week as this matches my best result at a Slam. But we are looking long term. We played five events together last year and won two of them and didn't team up together full time until after the US Open. I was playing with Bobby Reynolds and Eric was playing with Scott Lipsky. Then Bobby got hurt and we decided to give it a go.

ERIC: At the US Open a lot of teams are re-pairing and we were both looking for something more stable for the fall.

RAJEEV: We won Bangkok right off the bat and then reached the semis of Valencia and Moscow. The big thing is continuity.

ERIC: We started to beat a lot of the top teams and we realized that if we stick together we could make the ATP World Finals because only about 15 teams stay together throughout the year. There's so much switching that if you stick it out and get a few good results you can get in there. There are teams we think we are just as good as that got in just because they stuck together.

I have to follow Rajeev around this year because he has his singles ranking up [No. 85], but that's fine because it's not like I would be looking forward to going to South America and playing on clay. We're going to hit the American indoor and spring hardcourts events hard.

RAJEEV: It helps to get along off court because you spend a lot of time together anyway.

ERIC: Our on court chemistry is the best. We're both pretty laid back but still positive and fiery enough where we can pick each other up if things aren't going that well. I've played with partners in the past who get real angry when things don't go well and it's nice to have a guy who doesn't explode on me out there. We both have a similar temperaments, but upbeat enough where we can raise it when it counts.

RAJEEV: From the first time we played together we've played pretty well. We weren't great and still have room for improvement, but there were certain things that worked pretty well right from the beginning.

ERIC: We paired together randomly the first time at Queens and I had to play the ad side [Butorac is left-handed] and I've played the deuce court 90 percent of my career and we did well there. We tried it again in Chennai and we won and even though I didn't feel that great in the ad court, we kept winning.

RAJEEV: We've won a lot of matches where we didn't feel that great and we still managed to get through. That has a lot to do with chemistry. We don't have to play our best to win, and then when we do, we are very tough to beat.

ERIC: We both serve well and don't get broken much. We've only been broken three times in six sets and that allows us to swing away on our returns because we know we are very tough holding.

RAJEEV: We are in this draw by the skin of our teeth and there are teams that are more experienced than we are and its going to take a really good effort for us to get by the Bryans, as it will be our best result at a Slam. The Bryans take team chemistry to a new level.

ERIC: They never have a really bad match.

RAJEEV: Even when they are playing awful they are still positive, still jumping around and it makes you feel like they are still in it. Their heads are never down and that goes a long way. Maybe more in doubles than singles.

ERIC: I'm from Minnesota and a huge Vikings fan so I'm planning on getting up early and watching their game against the Saints tomorrow, which is Monday here and Sunday back home.

RAJEEV: I'm from Indiana and I'm a big Colts fans so I'm doing the same for the Colts against the Jets. We're going to go wherever we have to to watch those games.

ERIC: Our two teams might end up playing each other in the Super Bowl, which could make for a little turmoil when we are playing the tournament in Johannesburg the week after the Australian Open. Our team chemistry might then be in jeopardy:

Wish us luck,

Eric and Rajeev


Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jan. 23, 2010

It was a really busy Saturday as I had to play doubles and mixed, but it was a great day, too. Zi Yan and I beat Jelena Jankovic and Shenay Perry 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 and then Bob Bryan and I got past Su-Wei Hsieh and Bruno Soares 6-2, 4-6 10-7 (super tiebreaker) in the mixed.

I'm hoping to catch a little of the NFL Playoffs on Monday (Sunday back home) because I'm a huge Brett Favre fan. I root for the Green Bay Packers, but Brett Favre is the ultimate for me. That's why I married my husband, Justin, because he looks just like him. Brett is hot ! When Justin puts on his cap, people will come to him and ask for his autograph,, thinking that he's Brett.

I like Brett's beard, the scruff, and Justin just had his beard shaved off in the Player's Spa. He had the caveman, hunting beard going to keep him warm.

I also like the way Brett goes out and plays parking lot ball, because that's how I play tennis - when the play doesn't work out, just figure something else out to do.

Jankovic and Perry played pretty well in second set and then Yan and I knew we to be aggressive in the third. We lost three games a row at love in the second and we were backing off, weren't coming in and Jelena and Shenay were at the net. I said “listen 'Yanzee' we need to be at the net. We can't be grinding from the back.” Then we stepped it up.

Shenay is awesome and one of my best friends on tour. We went to the same academy when we were 14 - Rick Macci's -- and we played doubles together a bunch and did well. If she stays healthy I want to play with her again. She has so much talent: great hands, great serve. She can rip the ball like a guy and I think she might be able to get back to where she was ranked in singles.

I was supposed to play mixed with Mike Bryan, we played together at Wimbledon, but he's a little hurt so then I got passed off to Bob. Not bad! Our opponents played with pretty funky styles. Bob and I have never played together before and he played the deuce court. All he said to me was just rip the returns and I said, I can do that. We both play doubles like that, in the moment, reactive type of tennis. I know some players spend a lot of time on plays, which can help, but we improvised well.

I love mixed because I love returning guys' serves. I've probably have played some of my best doubles in mixed. The guys pick on you because they think you are the weaker link so I'm ready for them to blast balls at me. It's especially fun playing with guys like Mike and Bob who know doubles so well and cover the court, so you don't have to worry what your partner is doing.

I'd like to see more mixed doubles played outside of the Grand Slams, but it's a lot of tennis if you are playing singles, doubles and mixed, especially if it's a one-week tournament. Maybe they could do it with smaller draws and using super tiebreakers. I like the short sets. I know a lot of players don't, but I'm a sudden death type of person. When all the chips are on the table, I like to go for it. It's more exciting because its so fast and every point is important.

A lot of people were surprised at how easily US Open champion Kim Clijsters lost 6-0, 6-1 to Nadia Petrova, with Kim saying she had no feel for the ball all match. But everyone has had days like that. But Kim plays lights out tennis: goes for the ball, takes it early and crushes it and it's either in or out. If she doesn't want to have a day like the one she did against Petrova, maybe she shouldn't go for broke all the time.

I'm so impressed by Serena Williams. She's crushing people She lives for the Slams and I can appreciate that. If you do well at the Slams, that's all anyone cares about. She almost never loses in the early rounds and everyone knows that. It gets into some players' heads. She already has a couple game advantage when she walks on court because people are aware of her record.

I'm feeling good. I think I'll have a day off tomorrow, sleep in and hope to catch some of the Viking game on Monday, where of course I'll be pulling for Brett.

Wish me luck,

Bethanie

Bob and Mike Bryan, Jan. 22, 2010

We had a pretty tough match against Scott Lipsky and Rik De Voest today but pulled it out in three sets after dropping the first. It was pretty tricky, and neither team had opportunities on each other's serve. But we got better and better, and at the end we started to take more chances.

Lipsky hits a great ball, hits cannons and has pretty good hands. He's going to be around for awhile. He excelled at Stanford and has a live arm.

We had a quick off-season. We went right from the ATP World Finals in London to playing exhibitions, all the way until Dec. 17. We played 11 exos in 14 days, then went into a coma until New Year's. We just woke up a couple of days ago.

We learned our lesson. We went into Auckland a little frazzled, a little burned out. We keep thinking exos are easy with no pressure, but they are not. It's pretty much all day with the activities and sponsor visits and then the night matches. We sign the deals before we are tapped at the end of the year, and then when it gets to that time it's, “Oh no!” At our age we have to scale our schedule back a bit. But we don't leave a dime on the table.

It's tough, but then one of our friends will call us for a pure charity event, and we have to help our buddies out. Plus, we have our own foundation, and we want to build up some favors.

We did five nights in a row, and we were driving in the mornings, and you don't get much sleep. We went from New York, to Birmingham, to Chattanooga, to Atlanta, to Nashville, to Richmond, to Baltimore, to Tampa and then to Vegas. But John Isner was playing singles and then having to play us in doubles, so we had it easy.

This year, one of our goals is to tie the “Woodies” record of all-time doubles titles. We have 56 and are just five away. But that's a lot of Sundays. We'd love to win another title here in Australia and get the year off to a great start. We'd love to finish No. 1 again and win another Wimby. We've lost three finals there and want to get over the hump. We'd also like to double up at the French.

But we don't want the No. 1 ranking to go down to the last match of the year, like it did the last two years. Last year In London, we had to beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram to secure the ranking in the final. But that was huge. It was great drama.

A crew from "60 Minutes" flew out to film that week, and it was going to be more of a sob story, but it turned out the other way. They had four crews there, and we did a two-hour sit-down with Lesley Stahl. The "60 Minutes" crew was also at the US Open.

We don't know what they are going to use on the show, but they went at every angle, from how our dad raised us, to us being twins, to the doubles, and then they tried to go the Agassi route, but we deflected that. We have no clue which way they are going with it.

We have a new album out, “The Bryan Bros. Band Featuring David Baron,” and we are going to distribute some of them in pro shops. We did a litmus test, and we left 40 CDs at a pro shop in Richmond, and they sold in seven days. They aren't going to see well at Barnes & Noble!

Isner is playing great. He's serving out of a tree, he's hitting his backhand better and his forehand great. He's also fitter, and his coach, Craig Boynton, has been really good for him. Andy Murray is going to be a tough match up for John because he makes a lot of returns, but we see him making a run at the top 15 in the next month.

Andy Roddick seems pretty dialed in, too. He's refreshed from his time off. It seems like everything's working. He's got a good record against Fernando Gonzalez, and he's on Nadal's side. I think Roddick's coach, Larry Stefanki, who used to coach Gonzalez, has Gonzo pretty well figured out.

It will be interesting to have new singles players on the Davis Cup team. Isner will step up and serve some cannons, and maybe Sam Querrey or Mardy Fish will come to Serbia, too. Maybe Captain Pat McEnroe will take all three and see what happens. We are sticking with it. We love Davis Cup. If we can sneak one win on the first day, we like our chances, but it's going to be tough because they are going to be eating us alive over there.

Wish us luck here. We have to take it up a notch and start playing bigger.

Sam Querrey and John Isner, Jan. 21, 2010

Hello everyone.

We played doubles today and beat Jeff Coetzee and Rogier Wassen, 6-4, 6-1.

SAM: I really think that doubles improves your singles, as you are hitting returns, moving forward and helping your volleys. We're having fun out there and smiling, but it's serious to a point, as well. I'd be bummed if we lost. The deeper we go, the more we'll start thinking about winning the tournament.

JOHN: It won't ever wear us out. I'd never consider pulling out of doubles just because I'm still in singles. It's every other day, and I use doubles as practice.

SAM: Neither of us have ever gone deep enough in singles and doubles at a Grand Slam to be in a situation where you'd say you are too tired to do both, but we'd understand. If John wins his next round in singles and was cramping and asked me to pull out, I'd understand because singles takes precedence.

JOHN: There's no pressure to play with Sam because he's a great player, and we just play loose. If I'm playing really bad, he's not going to sweat it.

SAM: Playing doubles with John is great because he has a huge serve, and the other guys rarely get a return back in play. He has a good inside-out backhand return from the deuce court, too. Plus, we are such good friends it doesn't matter if someone messes up because we're not going to look at the other guy poorly. If someone misses an overhead, we'll kid each other about it.

JOHN: In two matches last year on match points, I missed sitter overheads. One was in Washington DC at night on one of the outer courts, and the lights there are so close to the court that I literally couldn't see the ball. I completely shanked it right into the top of the net, and we ended up losing. It had some weird spin on it. Same thing happened at the US Open, and I missed another one, but we won that match.

JOHN: If I we get picked for the Davis Cup, I know it's a big responsibility, but I don't know if Andy [Roddick] and James [Blake] have retired forever. Once we get out on court against Serbia, then the Davis Cup mystique could set in. I watched it a lot as a junior.

SAM: It's an honor, and as long as we do as well as we can, it's OK. My first experience as Davis Cup practice partner was against Belgium. It was the first time when I met Andy and James, and that was really cool. I didn't know that much about Davis Cup when I was young, until I was about 17. You give a great effort out there because you feel like you are playing for your country, your teammates and for yourself.

JOHN: My first experience as a practice partner was against Sweden, and it wasn't a great one because I caught a bug and got sick. But then I got to go to the final against Russia in 2007 in Portland. I was right there on the bench when the Bryans clinched it, and that was awesome. And then later in the locker room, I got all that salami and turkey thrown at my face. Then I had to give the rookie speech at the official dinner. The guys gave me some code words I had to say, and Andy was literally rolling on the floor in laughter.

SAM: I think that John has a good chance against Gael Monfils in the next round if he gets a high percentage of first serves in. He's in there with a shot.

JOHN: I'm confident. The body feels strong, and I've beaten him twice by serving and volleying and pinching the court. I need to take the initiative.

Wish us luck.

John and Sam

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jan. 20, 2010

Hello everyone. It's great to be back.

I was two points from qualifying in the Australian Open singles, and I almost made it through. It was a bit of a bummer, but I hadn't played competitive matches since Quebec City last September, so I was pretty happy with my level. I'm still in the doubles, though, with Zi Yan. We're seeded eighth and beat Melanie Oudin and Kirsten Flipkens on Wednesday.

Last year after Quebec, I took two months off - no fitness and no tennis. I ate ice cream every day! I needed a break and said screw everything, and I actually lost weight. I knew I could get back into shape, as it normally takes me two weeks to be fit and ready to go. I had hurt my back last year at Wimbledon, and I played too many tournaments in a row. I had hip surgery the year before and didn't give myself a chance to recover.

Even in doubles, I was feeling pain. I'm aggressive, and I like to fake and move, and at Wimbledon last year, I woke up one day and said to my husband, “I can't move my back.” I had to play that day with my partner Nadia Petrova, and I couldn't cross at all. I told her, “Nadia, you have to help me out here.”

I'm pretty stubborn and try to fight through things, but when you are at the point where you are asking yourself whether a ball is worth running for, then it's time to take a break.

I'm feeling a lot better now. I'm a little stiff, but it's a lot better than last year when it was so much worse.

Last year I was only playing at about 60 percent, and it was driving me crazy because I knew I should get to so many more balls, but I couldn't do it because I was physically limited due to my hip and back. It was a little depressing. If it's day in and day out, it wears on you.

Some of my joints in my back are fused, but that's something I've had since birth, and it's something I'll have to deal with forever. I'm not that old. I'm only 24, and I was asking my doctors last year, “Is it normal to be only 24 and feeling like a train hit me after all my matches?”

I do so much fitness and do all my therapy, and then the next day I wake up, I'm feeling like I'm 90 years old. That's why when I took the time off and didn't do anything, it felt awesome. I lost a little muscle, but I felt fabulous! I was thinking, this is how normal people feel. But I'm 100 percent now.

Now I'm practicing less, and I'm not running off court because the pounding takes a toll. I'm training different and have cut back on my tournaments and will take some breaks. Last year I played every week from Indian Wells to Wimbledon, and that was just stupid after being on the tour for six years and knowing better.

Nadia and I may play together again, but I couldn't play at the end of the year, and she decided to play some with Sam Stosur. We have a couple titles to defend together, and we've left it open. I'm playing with Zi Yan here and with Meghann Shaughnessy in Memphis, and that's as far as I've scheduled.

I'm going to play singles at the USTA Midland Challenger, and I've asked for a wild card into Memphis and hope someone tosses me a break. I actually think I'm playing really well and just need a few matches. [Mattek ended 2008 ranked No. 39].

In the off-season, I went to the USTA West Coast Training Center in Carson, Calif., and worked with former Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullikson. I love working with him, and he's really helped me with my serve and volleys. He's one of the best coaches I've ever run into. He makes practices relaxed, and he has a positive way of communicating. He likes my aggressive game, and hopefully he can come on the road with me once in awhile.

I'm willing to play Fed Cup against France in a couple of weeks, and I've talked to Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, and I'm ready to go if called upon because I've really enjoyed myself in Fed Cup.

I'm hoping that Zi and I can win some more matches here.

Wish me luck!

Bethanie

Robby Ginepri, Jan. 19, 2010

Hello everyone.

I suffered a tough 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-1 loss to Jan Hajek in the first round.

I had some issues with my neck in the five days leading up to the Australian Open, so my attitude was sub-par. I was a little bummed I didn't win the first set, and in the second I fought back from 0-3 down and then just handed it back. I played a horrendous game at 5-6, and I was broken at love, and after that it took a lot out of me. It was tough conditions, and it was hard for the ball to go through the court.

I've had this neck problem before, and I have to figure a way to address it. I don't have the full range of motion when I turn to the right when I serve, and it's pretty painful. I could only hit serves at about 60 percent of my ability.

When you're not 100 percent when you step on court, it's tough. You have to be 120 percent mentally and physically at a Slam, as all of the guys are pretty good players, and if you are not up to standard, you are going to have a long day. You try to push through it, but I was just happy to get through the whole match physically. I've been having problems with this for a couple of years, and it's frustrating. It's another Grand Slam that went by, and I couldn't give it my best effort, and I'm pretty bummed out.

I spent the off-season partly at home in Atlanta, and then I went out to LA for a couple of weeks to work out with Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish at the USTA West Coast Training Facility in Carson. I feel bad for Sam, who also lost, because he was busting it really hard and didn't get the result he wanted. The same thing happened to me a few years ago when I went out to California and worked really hard with Jose Higueras, but the results didn't come in Australia. Luckily they came a little later. Mardy had a good result in Sydney, and now he has knee issues and lost here. Tennis is a funny thing.

You can put in a lot of hours, feel good in practice, you kill it in the gym and on the track, and then you come here and have high expectations and, in my case, there were a few occasions where I didn't play anywhere near what I was in November and December.

Mardy, Sam and I had a great time in LA, though. We practiced really hard under USTA Coach David Nainkin, who was running the practices. Carson is a great facility, and I really like the conditions in California. David is going to help Mardy and me a little bit this year.

It's been almost five years since I reached the US Open semifinals. It looks like maybe I peaked then. I hate to think that, but at some point you have to be realistic. I have to find a way to enjoy my career again. I 'm not enjoying the travel grind and living out of suitcases as much any more, and it's getting to me a little. I spent five weeks in Asia and Russia at the end of the fall, and at the beginning of this year I went to India, which was a very long trip, and then took another long trip to Australia, and I regret doing that.

I've got to take it one day at a time and see if I can get this thing figured out. Playing healthy is the main thing, as it's no fun to practice and play matches in pain. I'm a young guy at 27, and I stay fit and do the right things, and if things still aren't working out, it takes a lot of wind out of your sail.

But I've had some good results, and when I'm playing well, I feel like I'm one of the better players out there. When everything is clicking, I'm extremely tough to beat, and I have to find that range again and learn to believe in myself.

I'm not sure if U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe will ask me to play for the team this year. I think he'll go with the younger generation, Sam and John Isner, but if he asks me I'll be up for it.

This is the career I chose, and I'm eager to get out there, but I have to find my happiness again. I've always struggled with that. I'm going to put my thinking cap on and reassess things and start over again.

Thanks for reading,
Robby

John Isner, Jan. 19, 2010

It would be nice if I could keep up this streak, winning my first title in Auckland last week and then getting by Andreas Seppi in a tough five-setter today. As long as I can keep winning, I'll be happy.

Roger Federer congratulated me the other day on winning Auckland. That was pretty cool. I didn't even think he would know about a tournament like that. Any time Roger congratulates you, let alone even talks to you, is pretty neat.

I was fortunate to get Monday off with the rain so I could get an extra day of rest. Seppi is a good player, and he picked his game up and brought it all the way to a fifth set, and credit it to him.

I cracked my racket after I lost the fourth set, but I didn't mean to. I threw it down toward my racket bag, but it hit the court. But it felt pretty good. I gave it to a fan and took a picture with him later.

I didn't feel great in the fifth, but as long as I keep holding my serve, I feel pretty good. I got an early break, which gave me a little boost of energy, and I put all my concentration into my serve.

I found out when I came to Australia that I'd be auditioning for a spot on the Davis Cup team, as Andy Roddick and James Blake have decided not to play and I've done pretty good so far. It would be awesome if Captain Mac chooses me to play, and I'm going to go to Serbia if he picks me. But it's going to be a tough task against Novak Djokovic on clay. But I think the Bryan brothers will be favored in their match. We'll be underdogs, but that's why they play the game, and I think we'll have shot.

Getting a jump on this year and playing well is huge. I missed eight weeks last year around the French and Wimbledon because I was sick, so I don't have any points to defend then, and that's the time when I can move up. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because I did really well the rest of the summer. I didn't do that well in the fall, but I had never been to Asia before, and that was different.

I did have some fun in the off-season. My favorite hockey team, the Carolina Hurricanes, sometimes lets a fan or a celebrity (even though I'm really not a celebrity) crank the horn for a Hurricane warning sign when the team comes out on the ice, and I got to do that. I'm from Greensboro and became a fan when they moved to Carolina in 1997, but I've never even ice skated or taken a shot. They played in Greensboro for two years before they moved to Raleigh, so I went to every game, and I fell in love with it. But football is No. 1 for me, even though hockey is a close second. I watched two NFL playoff games here last weekend -- the Saints and Jets games.

In the off-season, I took three weeks off tennis, but I never took any time off in the weight room, going four times a week. I gained some muscle, and that's the main reason why I've been able to win all the long matches I did in Auckland and then the one against Seppi today. I have such a big frame that I need to keep it as strong as possible or it will start to break down. The weight room maybe is more important for me than on-court time.

My goal is to reach the second week here. If I can get to the second week of my second straight major, that would be huge.

Wish me luck on Wednesday!

John

CoCo Vandeweghe, Jan. 19, 2010

Hi Everyone.

I experienced some first match jitters today with being in Australia for the first time and lost to Sandra Zahlavova 6-0, 6-1.

When I go to the US Open, I've been there two or three times already and I know where a lot of things are but here it's really different.

I would have traded anything to have won rather than lost. I'll be going over some stuff later tonight and I know there are positives you can take out of anything, but right now I just feel frustration and “Bummer-ness.”

Today was not my best day and I know I can play better than this and if I do, I'm winning the first round or at least going to three sets. I have to learn to get over my nerves and deal with the obstacles. Eventually, I'd like to be the one who has the experience and comes away with the win.

It was odd weather out there today. It was really cold during the warm-up and the sun was peaking in and out.

We had a good long first game. I had two break points and I was out rallying her in a lot of points and I should have broken her. But after she held, it became one of those matches where I had game points or break points and couldn't convert. I could have won three games in the first set, but I tightened up. At times I felt like I couldn't pick up my legs.

The second set went along the same lines, not capitalizing on my opportunities. I wasn't playing aggressive on her second serves like I should have.

My tennis was not coming consistently enough, and was only really there when I was down. The execution on shots wasn't there. She executed better than me, which is why she won.

I was happy to win Australian Open USTA Wild Card Playoff because it showed who wanted it more. Being able to have opportunity to play here for the first time was a great experience. I've have had a lot of fun in Austrlaia.

My hitting partner, Kaes Van't Hoff, isn't going to come back with me to California. He's going to New York and to put on a suit and get a “real job.”

I'm going to play some USTA Challengers coming up and hopefully move up to some WTA tournaments.

This is the first full year I can play pro so I'd like to be able to get into in the top 100 by the end of the year.

Thanks for reading and see you down the road.
Coco


CoCo Vandeweghe, Jan. 17, 2010

Hi Everyone.

I arrived here last Monday on one of the hottest days in Melbourne history. It was somewhere around 113 degrees and I went out to practice with my hitting partner, Kaes Van't Hof, and it was so hot and windy that my eyes were watering and it felt like my face was blistering. I couldn't believe it. We had to stop every 10 minutes or so I could take my shoes off because my feet were literally burning.

It's a good thing that I spent a lot of the off-season working on my fitness so I could contend with conditions. My coach, Robert Van't Hof, warned me that in Melbourne, you could have four different seasons in one day so I needed to be prepared for anything. I spent a lot of time working at Athletes' Performance at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, where the USTA has its West Coast Training Facility. It was hard work but I loved it.

I was really pleased to get the opportunity to play in the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Tournament, especially during my birthday week. I told myself when I reached the semifinals on the day of my birthday that I was going to give myself a present and win it and I did!

This is my first time playing the Australian Open and I'm really excited about the opportunity. It's so cool to go into the locker room and see all the faces that I normally see on TV. But I've been working very hard in the last year and think that my level of tennis has really improved and matured.

Robert was unable to travel with me here, but he's been calling me and anyway, Kaes, his son who used to play for USC, jokes that because his dad has coached him his whole life he can pretty much tell me everything Robert would tell me anyway.

I've gotten in a couple great practice matches, one against another American Varvara Lepchenko, and another against a Spaniard, Carla Suarez Navarro, the player who upset Venus last year. I've played doubles with Vavara before and she's great to hit with because she'll do any kind of drill you want, and not every player will do that. She's a super-nice girl.

It was great playing against Suarez and I played really well in our practice set, which gives me a lot of confidence. Practice matches are never as serious as real ones, but I try to beat whoever is across the court from me, whether its on a center court or not.

I want to try and do some fun things while in Melbourne, but Kaes wants to go to do some really crazy things, which is to go to The Edge at Eureka, a glass-floored cube hanging from the side of the city's tallest building. It's a thrill ride where I hear they blow smoke into the cube and all of a sudden it seems like you are suspended in the air way above the ground. You couldn't give me a million dollars to that and my mom feels the same way!

I'm playing my first round match on Monday against a player I've never seen, Sandra Zahlarova of the Czech Republic. Kaes and my mom you-tubed a couple videos of her so I could get an idea of how she plays. In some ways, it doesn't matter that I haven't seen her live, because you have to go with the flow, play your game and make adjustments when necessary.

Robert called me today and reminded me how well I'm playing and how I really do belong here. I need that voice of encouragement in my head.

At this point, I feel like I have the game to beat jus about anybody and now I just have to go out there to do it. I'm super-excited about my match and hope everyone back home is pulling for me.

Until next time,
CoCo


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