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Azarenka's coach pleased with Round 2

5/30/2012

PARIS -- Tennis coach Sam Sumyk's Wednesday at the French Open was a lot less stressful than his Monday.

His pupil, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, sailed past German Dinah Pfizenmaier 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour to land in the third round. In the first round, Azarenka was on the brink of defeat, trailing Italian Alberta Brianti by a set and down 4-0. Then Azarenka woke up, the moment got to Brianti, and Azarenka advanced.

"No matter who you are, you're going to have tough matches," Sumyk told ESPN.com after the easier second round. "Hopefully you go through them.
"But no, today was just a different match. I'm happy she saved some energy."

Despite holding down the top spot in the rankings, few considered Azarenka the favorite coming into the French. Clay is far from her preferred surface, and Serena Williams cruised in Charleston and Madrid.

But now Williams is gone.

Sumyk and Azarenka had a longer-than-usual discussion after Monday's match, trying to assess what went wrong. Azarenka's escape against Brianti could prove to be a turning point.

"That situation is a scenario that's in your mind, and we do everything not to have that scenario," Sumyk said. "But it still happened in front of your eyes, and you're like, 'S---.' Then you start thinking, 'What did we miss, what did we do wrong?' But there's nothing you can do.

"She's on her own, and I'm pretty pleased and happy that she showed huge mental strength. She showed her mental ability."

Lost opportunity

Sumyk indicated that Williams' 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to Virginie Razzano had no direct effect for him. Williams blew a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreaker only to face a marathon game in the third set that Razzano survived.

"I'm not sad, I'm not happy. That's just sports," Sumyk said. "It's unfortunate for Serena and fantastic for Razzano. In women's tennis, nothing surprises me."

David Witt, Venus Williams' hitting partner, offered his own view of Serena's defeat. He began watching late in the third set and saw Razzano cramping as she attempted to serve out the match at 5-3.

"Nineteen times out of 20, Serena will win the 'breaker, and this is the time she didn't," Witt said. "I thought she was still going to win because Razzano got really tight in that 5-3 game. I honestly have no clue how she pulled that game out. I saw she started to cramp a little, and then I was like, 'It's gonna be finished for sure.'"

Sticking with it

After his first-round win over Simone Bolelli, Spaniard Rafael Nadal was asked about the controversial Madrid Masters. The blue clay courts irked Nadal and Novak Djokovic to such an extent they said they wouldn't return next year if the blue remained.

Nadal didn't back down Tuesday.

"I would like to come back and play in one of my favorite places to play tennis on tour, play with the support of the crowd and the country," Nadal said. "So for me, if next year the court is blue and I am not able to go there, it will be a big disappointment."

Nadal thus stuck by his words -- and so did the owner of the Madrid tournament, Ion Tiriac.

If Tiriac has his way, and the ATP and WTA agree, the blue clay courts are here to stay.

"I'm convinced the blue is better than any other color," Tiriac told ESPN.com. "Darker the blue is, better you see the ball, better the player sees the ball, better for the spectator, and particularly, better for the television."

Tiriac wants to see both Nadal and Djokovic in Madrid next season. He vows the courts will be in better shape.

"Concerning the court, yes, the court was maybe too slippery," Tiriac said. "Definitely we can make the court perfect because now we don't have to take it off and put it back five weeks before the event. Now you can keep it there, and that's the whole situation.

"I was the first one to say, as an outsider, the courts were slippery and the first one to say that that's not going to happen again because [tournament organizers] aren't stupid, and they have another year to do things properly."

Although Nadal and Djokovic were complaining about the surface, Roger Federer won the Madrid title, with minimal fuss.

New gear

Gilles Muller was given these instructions: He will have to use a new Wilson bag from Wimbledon through to the Olympics.

The new bag actually looked old. The colors weren't striking or fluorescent, bucking the current trend. Rather, they were different shades of brown.

"It's a special edition for the Olympics," Luxembourg native Muller said. "It's old-fashioned, but very nice."

Muller, ranked 54th, is a lock to make the Olympics after missing out in 2008, when he was outside the top 100 at the cutoff date.

His potent lefty serve means he'll be dangerous on the grass in London. Muller reached the third round at Wimbledon last year, taking Nadal, the eventual finalist and two-time Wimbledon champion, to a pair of tiebreakers.

"The most important thing was to qualify," Muller said. "Even if it was on clay, I would have been happy. But, of course, since it's on grass, it's good for me and suits my game."

A family affair

American Brian Baker, one of the feel-good stories of the year in tennis, had ample friends and family watching when he played Gilles Simon on the main Philippe Chatrier court Wednesday.

Baker received a wild card into the French Open and advanced to the second round by defeating Xavier Malisse 6-3, 7-6(1), 7-6(5). Hours before the second-round match, his entourage assembled next to the players restaurant and chatted away. Baker's 30-year-old brother, Art, a physician, revealed how fast-paced the past week has been.

The family had only expected to watch him in Paris, but Baker, after multiple -- and serious -- injuries and surgeries, ventured to his first ATP Tour final in Nice, France, on Saturday. They rushed to join him.

"The only match we got to see in Nice was the final because we all flew into Paris with plans of just being able to watch him here," Art Baker said. "We watched his semifinal at the airport before flying over and found a way to get tickets over there. We arrived in Nice about 15 seconds before his first point in the final, and we got to see that one. To see him play there and win a match in Paris, it's just a lot of fun for everyone."
Simon, though, ended Baker's journey, but he needed five sets to do so.