IMG signs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

IMG announced  the signing of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France to a worldwide marketing and management representation. Tsonga, currently ranked World No.15 (as of Week of July 28, 2014), has a career high ranking of World No.5, achieved week of February 27, 2012.

The Le Mans native finished 2013 in the Top 10 for the third year in a row. Tsonga has 10 career ATP titles and has been the finalist at the 2008 Australian Open and the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals in London. He has reached the semifinals of the 2013 Roland Garros and the 2011 and 2012 Wimbledon.

‘’We are thrilled that Jo-Wilfried chose IMG to represent him. He is a terrific player and a great person, and we look forward to strengthening and growing his global brand on and off the tennis court,’’ said Fernando Soler, Managing Director of IMG Tennis.

Tsonga will be managed by Carlos Fleming whose athlete management portfolio includes seven-time Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams, NFL stars Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) and Victor Cruz (New York Giants), and reigning US Open Women’s Golf Champion, Michelle Wie.

Tsonga joins IMG Tennis’s roster of stars which includes Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori, and John McEnroe, among many others.

fashion focus: australian open highlight(er)s

The fashions on the courts of Australian Open are a little more subtle this year, but a few things have stood out, most notably the presence of bright yellows and greens — the highlighter shades — for match play.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - Gael Monfils - Andy Murray - 2013 Australian Open

Gael Monfils (center), now a member of the Asics stable (he was previously with K-Swiss), played in a sleeveless crew — the Frenchman’s trademark — as he upset 18th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7(7), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. Andy Murray, on the right, is wearing this season’s Barricade crew, with the same shoulder detail that carried through from the end of last season.

Maria Sharapova - Nike - 2013 Australian Open

Grey was also the accent color of choice, with the straps on Maria Sharapova‘s Premier Tennis Dress from Nike in that shade (but we’re in love with the futuristic lines at the check and in the racerback), as well as the trims on the men’s adidas adiZero (on Dolgo) and Barricade (Murray) lines for the Australian summer.

More: Lisicki, Caro, Tomic, and the boys of Lotto all wear the brights — see ‘em  after the cut…

ferrer, quietly, in the mix

Still in it: Spaniard David Ferrer is one of the few players left in the draw who snuck into the round of 16 of the 2011 U.S. Open without much fanfare (along with Monaco and Gilles Muller); pretty much all the other guys have either tussled with (and toppled) high-profile players or are BMOCs themselves. Ferrer, the fifth seed, will face Andy Roddick for a spot in the quarters; the winner of that match plays Nadal or Muller.

Lotto: Simple kit for Lotto‘s guys this year — nothing to write home about. (That torso, though, is a different story.) As for Lotto’s women, they’re still charging on with the same flirty kits they’ve been playing in all year. Glad to see Radwanksa in the mix to help Pironkova and Schiavone sell the brand’s designs to fans.

(photo by Getty Images)

bracketology: the men of flushing (and how they’ll fare)

By Christopher Phillips


Cool and calm: Novak is the US Open’s top seed for the first time ever. (Getty Images photo)

More: See Christopher’s breakdown of the women’s side of things here.

Djokovic — Winner | Shoulder injury aside, you’d be hard pressed to not pick Novak. He opens with a qualifier then would play either Pere Riba or Carlos Berlocq, two dirtballers, in the 2nd round. His first challenge could be in the third round against Nikolay Davydenko. 13th seed Richard Gasquet, 22nd seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Kei Nishikori, Ivo Karlovic, and Fernando Gonzalez could all be waiting Novak in the 4th round.

Rafael Nadal –- Semifinals | Nadal’s road is quite a bit trickier than that of Djokovic. He opens against Andrey Golubev. The Kazakh is currently ranked no. 97, but the ATP’s Most Improved Player of the year for 2010 was as high as no. 33 in October of last year. Nadal should get through that match without too much difficulty, but could face former Top 5 players David Nalbandian or Ivan Ljubicic in the 3rd Round, then two-time Open Semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny or 17th seed Jurgen Melzer in the 4th round.

Roger Federer –- Semifinals | Federer opens against Santiago Giraldo, who hasn’t played a match on hard courts since Miami, and then could play the Brazilian lefty Thomaz Bellucci, who just missed being seeded, in the second round. Ryan Harrison or 27th seed Marin Cilic should lie head in the 3rd Round with 23rd seed Radek Stepanek, 15th seed Viktor Troicki or Philipp Kohlschreiber potentially waiting in the 4th round.

Andy Murray –- Finals | This summer’s Cincinnati champion comes into New York in fine form. He’ll open against Somdev Devvarman in round one. Big-serving Robin Haase could challenge Murray in the second round and 25th seed Feliciano Lopez in the 3rd round could pose problems for Murray, but his solid return game should counter any danger there. | TSF Vault: Murray

David Ferrer — Quarterfinals | Ferrer reached the semis in New York back in 2007 and lost a thrilling fifth-set tiebreak to countryman Fernando Verdasco here last year in the 4th round. He also tasted a Major semifinal earlier this year in Australia. The only thing that brings about concern about Ferrer living up to his seeding is his lack of hard court match play this summer: an injury sat him out for every event save Cincy. To his credit, however, he beat Roddick and Fish in Davis Cup in early July — two giant wins on American fast courst. His biggest challenge to the quarterfinals will be 10th seed Nicolas Almagro or 21st seed (how strange is that number?!) Andy Roddick.

Robin Soderling –- Second Round | The Swede hasn’t played a hard court match since early losses to Juan Martin del Potro and Kohlschreiber in Miami and Indian Wells, respectively, but follows Djokovic with the second-most hard court championships this year (three). Soderling’s lack of play this summer could send him out early to rising American veteran Alex Bogomolov Jr.. Bogomolov beat Soderling 2 and 2 in Indianapolis in 2004, so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again.

Gael Monfils –- Quarterfinals | Of the top eight, Monfils has the toughest draw into the quarterfinals. He’ll open against potential future star and current heartbreaker Grigor Dimitrov, before possibly meeting former USO finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 2nd round. 31st seed Marcel Granollers, Albert Montanes or Xavier Malisse could wait in the 3rd round before a potential match-up with 9th seed Tomas Berdych — who’s never made it past the 4th round here — or Montreal semifinalist 20th Janko Tipsarevic in the 4th round.

Not filleted: Fish is riding a strong summer coming into the USO. (Getty)

Mardy Fish –- Round of 16 | Opening against German Tobias Kamke, Fish should have pretty smooth sailing to the 4th round where he’s likely to meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga could come through in that match-up, but potential matches against big servers Thiemo De Bakker in the second round and Kevin Anderson or 29th seed Michael Llodra in the third round could give Fish the extra batting practice he needs to beat the Frenchman. | TSF Vault: Fish

Dark Horses | Potential winners? Probably not. But these boys could pull a few upsets and find themselves in week two at Flushing.

11th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga | Tsonga’s play has been one of the most exciting to watch this year. Assuming he’s regrouped and healed since his retirement against Novak in the Montreal semifinals, he’d meet slumping 19th Fernando Verdasco in the third round followed by “your country’s eyes are on you for a change” 8th seed Fish in the R16. Should Tsonga make it through both of those, he’ll face 3rd Federer for the 5th time this year and will be going into that match with some serious momentum beating the Swiss in their last two meetings.

16th seed Mikhail Youzhny | Youzhny has twice been a semifinalist in New York before: last year and in 2006. Despite a relatively easy loss to Nadal here last year, he did get the better of the Spaniard in 2006. He’s set to meet Nadal in the 4th round this year and — given the Spaniard’s unimpressive summer — it’s highly possible that Youzhny could find himself in the semifinals for a third time in six years.

18th seed Juan Martin del Potro | Well… in as much as a former champion can be considered a “dark horse.” JMdP has underperformed this summer, with second round losses to Federer and Cilic in Cincinnati and Montreal, respectively. Perhaps he’s just saving himself for the big show? The Argentine’s first challenge would be against 12th seed Gilles Simon in the 3rd round (Simon has never been past the round of 32). A potential 4th rounder versus 28th seed and Winston-Salem champ John Isner or Soderling would come next.

20th seed Janko Tipsarevic | The Serb loves the big stages and they don’t get bigger than Arthur Ashe Stadium. Janko opens against a qualifier and would face 9th seed Berdych in the 3rd round. Tomas’ track record in New York isn’t very good, so Janko could see himself in the 4th round against Monfils. And depending on the Frenchman’s form that day, perhaps even into the QFs to take on countryman Djokovic.

TSF Vault: US Open | Bracketology

First-Round Matches to Watch:

Youzhny vs. Ernests Gulbis | The Latvian was at his career peak at no. 21 in the world earlier this year, but has done little this summer since upsetting del Potro and Fish on his way to the Los Angeles title. He got the better of Youzhny at the Masters tournaments in Paris and Madrid last year.

23rd seed Radek Stepanek vs. Kohlschreiber | The dancing Czech dropped out of the top 70 earlier this year, but his title in Washington bodes well for him. The German has seen better days — but he’s always capable of an upset.

Harri situation? Ryan’s always an eye-brow raiser. (TSF)

Cilic vs. Harrison | Can the young (hot) American continue his hot summer?

Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis | Just about anytime the Cypriot is on court, it’s going to be a fun match.

32nd seed Ivan Dodig vs. Davydenko | The Russian and former world no. 3 missed being seeded by a few spots, but twice a semifinalist here, he knows how to get it done.

Fernando Gonzalez vs. Ivo Karlovic | It’s great to see the Chilean back in action. Combined ages? 63.

See the full men’s draw here | Qualies

Predictions | 4th round:
Djokovic d Gasquet
Monfils d Tipsarevic
Federer d Stepanek
Tsonga d Fish
Del Potro d Isner
Murray d Wawrinka
Ferrer d Almagro
Nadal d Youzhny

QFs:
Djokovic d Monfils
Federer d Tsonga
Murray d Del Potro
Nadal d Ferrer

SFs:
Djokovic d Federer
Murray d Nadal

Finals:
Djokovic d Murray – 4 sets

trophy watch: robin's robin? & filo's furry fury

Is that a Robin in there? No but really: there’s a bird in his trophy. Swedish fella Robin Soderling played hometown hero yesterday when he fought his was past a tough David Ferrer 6-2 6-2 at the Swedish Open in Bastad. It was Soderling’s second title in three years in front of a home crowd, winning his fourth tour tournament of 2011. Soderling improved to an impressive 10-4 against Ferrer.

Furry fury. We guess Feliciano Lopez wanted to just head to the Colombian mountains, grow a little beard and unzip his JOma jacket — ahhh, the life! But FiLo played some tennis, winning in Bogota over Colombian Carlos Salamanca 6-4 6-3 at the Seguros Bolivar Open.

TSF Vault: Feliciano | Joma

That’s really her trophy. Remember that Andy Roddick commercial where he buys two tickets for the return flight? (Note: He doesn’t have to do that much these days.) This picture reminds us of said commercial. Here the folks in Bad Gastein, Austria, must have been upset that Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez took out their home girl Patricia Mayr in the final (6-0 7-5) so they gave her this giant, ridiculous trophy to PUNISH her. We think it may have worked.

[Read more…]

roland garros bracketology: the fellas

By Christopher Phillips

[Ed note: Chris Phillips, part of TSF West, files his thoughts on who’s hot, who’s not and who might just make a run at this year’s Roland Garros. -NEM]

With the men’s and women’s most significant clay court tournaments just completed and a handful of players getting their last bit of match time in this week, let’s take a look at some of the contenders for the 2011 French Open.  I’ve listed my top 10 favorites below in my own rank order as well as some other players to watch who’ve had notable achievements this year or in the past.

Rafael Nadal | While the tennis talk of the town has definitely been focused on Djokovic the past five months, I still believe this title is Nadal’s to lose. Djokovic has beaten Nadal four times this year with his last two on clay, but beating Rafa three out of five sets is much tougher of a challenge than beating him two out of three.  If anyone can do it though, Nole’s your man. Result: Champ (d. Djokovic in five-set final)

Novak Djokovic | I think at some point “streak pressure” has got to get to him.  Once people start asking how long can you keep it going is usually about when it stops, especially when it becomes the only question (in 20 different forms) in the media room. I detected a bit of panic on his face when he was two points away from losing to Andy Murray in the Rome SFs.  If you’re looking for more reasons he won’t beat Rafa, Nole lost to Jurgen Melzer last year in the QFs after holding a two-set lead.  Additionally — and one of the reasons why I think Murray was as successful against Novak as he was in Rome — is that nobody on the tour expects to beat this guy right now, giving them an increased ability to feel like they can swing away at their shots.  That being said, anything less than a trip to the final for Djoko would have to qualify as the biggest upset (for whoever snacks on him) of the year so far. Result: Runner-up

Roger Federer | As the oldest of the top three, the great one is past his prime … but this doesn’t mean another major (or two or three) are beyond him. But I just don’t see it happening here, nor do I see him as the victim of an upset.  He’s played eight tournaments this year winning one (Doha) and losing five to either Nadal or Djokovic.  What should be most troubling for Roger however is his straight-set loss to Melzer in the Monte Carlo QFs and losing two tiebreaks to Richard “Baby Federer” Gasquet in the third round at Rome. Result: Quarterfinals

Andy Murray | Murray’s year has been up and down, but the most encouraging thing for him going into the next two weeks should be the fact — not that he’s 13-7 on the year — but that he’s 7-3 on clay with two of those three-set losses to Nadal and Djokovic, respectively.  Hopefully these semifinal runs in Monte Carlo and Rome will give him the encouragement he needs to turn his game around for the year. More: Will Andy be OK despite his ‘injury?’ Result: Semifinals

David Ferrer | Ferrer is 15-3 (Update: DF upset by Alexandr Dolgopolov in Nice) on clay this year with his losses coming solely to … Nadal and Djokovic.  He’s had wins on the dirt over Melzer (twice), Nicolas Almagro (twice), Serb Victor Troicki, Jaun Monaco and Feliciano Lopez.  It’s going to take one of the big four to take him down. Result: Semifinals

Robin Soderling | Soderling’s made the past two finals at Roland Garros, but given his play this year, it’s difficult to see him going for a three-peat. He’s won three hard court titles (Brisbane, Rotterdam and Marseille) but has gone 5-4 on clay with his deepest run to quarterfinals in Rome, Madrid and Estoril.  Three of those losses were to Djokovic (losing most recently 3 & 0), Federer and Del Potro … but the other was to Ivan Dodig.  He also struggled against Almagro, Fernando Verdasco and Jeremy Chardy.  If any of the top eight are ripe for an early upset, it’s the Swede. Result: Quarterfinals

Scalp man: Soderling has had big wins the last two years. Don’t expect him to make it three in a row.

Tomas Berdych | Berdych made it to the SFs here last year, but hasn’t won a title in over two years. His record on the dirt this year is 5-3 with his most significant wins over Monaco (twice), falling at or before the QFs in all three events. His record going into Roland Garros last year wasn’t entirely dissimilar, but it’s hard to see him reaching the SFs again. Result: Quarterfinals

Nicolas Almagro | Many have considered Almagro to be the Spanish clay court successor to Nadal, but he’s yet to live up to any of that hype.  He’s 20-4 on clay this year with two South American titles (Buenos Aires and Costa Do Sauipe) with wins over Sam Querrey, Juan-Ignacio Chela (twice), Tommy Robredo, Nikolay Davydenko, Ferrero and Jose Acasuso. His clay success has helped him crack the top ten for the first time in his career. In seven trips to Paris, he’s lost to top 10 players on five of those occasions and twice been a quarterfinalist. The real question seems to be: Can Almagro finally break through to his predicted potential? Result: Quarterfinals

Richard Gasquet | While he’s 4-7 lifetime at Roland Garros (yep! You read that right.), four of those losses have been to top ten players (Murray last year after leading two-sets-to-none, Nadal and David Nalbandian (twice) and a fifth to eventual champ Albert Costa in 2002 (Right, we forgot about Albie, too).  So far this year on the dirt, Richard is 8-4 with three losses to top 10 players (Nadal twice and countryman Gael Monfils).  His play in Rome (with victories over Federer and Berdych) was inspiring and should serve him well in Paris. But will the home crowd be too much once again? Result: Third round

Stanislas Wawrinka | He’s 10-6 at Roland Garros, but — similar to Gasquet — three of those losses were to top ten players (Federer, Ivan Ljubicic and Nalbandian) and the other three losses were to future top ten players (Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez) and eventual 2002 finalist (the now-forgotten Mariano Puerta).  Even though his 7-5 clay court record this year leaves plenty to be desired, needless to say it takes a considerable player to take out the second-highest Swiss player in Paris. Result: Third round

For a list of other players to watch, click to keep reading. [Read more…]

almagro climbs his way into the top 10

Nicolas Almagro came up short in the all-Spanish semifinal at the 2011 Barcelona Open, losing to David Ferrer 3-6, 4-6. It puts an end to another great run for Nico and puts Ferrer in his second final against Rafa Nadal in as many weeks. (They two duked it out for the Monte Carlo title, with Nadal prevailing.) But Almagro shouldn’t feel too bad: he’ll enter the ATP top 10 for the first time in his career when the rankings are released on Monday.

Stepping it up: Reebok‘s playing with prints again after keeping with solid polos to start out Nico’s year. Now there are white and teal colorways of the current crew done up with pseudo-trapezoidy/staircase-esque patterns. Not available stateside, but definitely available in brick-and-mortar stores en España. More info here: Reebok Competition Tech Top.

Draw: Read up on all the happenings of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell at the tourney’s here.

(image via Getty Images)

david ferrer springs back

David Ferrer has had a great year so far, being in an elite group of four guys who’ve won more than one singles title in 2011 — Nole has four, Soderling has three, and Ferrer and Almagro each have two.

After coming so close to winning Monte Carlo, Ferrer’s vying for his second clay title of the year in Barcelona. He opened with a quick match against Carlos Berlocq and will face Hanescu in the third round. He could meet Melzer in the quarters after that. Draw: See how all the guys are doing at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

Lotto: After playing with yellow and color blocking to start out the year, Lotto’s moved on to showcasing the chest by adding lines and patterns to polos and crews. They used orange (“Fanta”) during Ferrer’s swing through Indian Wells and Miami, and have gone back to teal for his clay run. Buy: Shirts available at Pro-Direct Tennis.

(images via Getty Images)

trophy watch: smiling, party of one

Grinning, giddily: It’s hard to imagine a bigger smile from Rafa. Are we noticing a pattern? The year starts, we doubt Nadal a little, and then he hits his stride and, well, smiles. His seventh straight title in Monte Carlo inspired this toothy grin, a 6-4, 7-5 victory over countryman David Ferrer the final notch in his flawless belt.

One more shot of Rafa, his grin and (seemingly) heart-shaped trophy after the cut. More: Weigh in on Rafa’s clay dominance.

[Read more…]