Querrey, Sock Fall @DelrayBeachOpen Monday; Nishikori Sluggish in Practice
Jonathan Morgan for Tennis East Coast
Monday was a bright and very sunny day in Delray Beach Florida, with few clouds, little wind, and roughly 80 degrees. Sorry about that, rest of the country.
The first match of the day was the American Steve Johnson vs. the massive serving Aussie Sam Groth. It was the final round of qualifying to get into the main draw. Groth has an old school serve and volley game, and he was making his way to the net on both first and second serve on these quick Delray hard courts. It was a big serving battle, with scarcely a rally over 10 shots. A few double faults at 3-4 in the second to give the break and we are one set all. Groth also smacked two serves that clocked at 141 miles per hour.
Johnson had chances in the 1-2 game in the third with Groth serving to take an advantage, but Groth held to 2-2. His 2-2 game is very long, I lost track of how many deuces, probably 11. Eventually, he breaks Groth in the 4-5 game with a great pass from the backhand side, two backhands that cause Groth to miss the forehand volley, and one more great backhand pass to seal the deal, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Very clutch in the end, making points from his weaker side. Though Johnson won, Groth still deservedly made it into the main draw via a lucky loser position.
Talk about leaning in to the serve:
Next, I made my way down to Court 1, where Wayne Odesnik was taking on Mischa Zverev in another final qualifying round. I did not stay too long, and Odesnik won it 7-6(5), 6-4, but in the brief time I was there, I did see Odesnik being very rude with a ball boy to hold his umbrella at a certain angle to shield him from the sun. Zverev is another one playing serve and volley first and second serves on these courts.
I left early in the first from there to check out some of the practice courts. On one, it was Mikhail Kukushkin hitting with Alex Bogomolov.
Practicing just next to them were Alejandro Falla and Lleyton Hewitt.
After that I went back into the stadium court to watch Gastao Elias and Robby Ginepri. Ginepri, trying to get himself back into the main tour level and Elias trying to break through. This match was much less serve-dominated than the Groth-Johnson affair, and was won through the baseline war of attrition. Elias won in 3 tough sets, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, to make it into the main draw.
The next match after that was Jack Sock and Adrian Mannarino. It was very disappointing watching Sock attacking with the serve and the forehand, with Mannarino getting everything back and Sock never approaching the net. Mannarino’s game is a bit funky, awkward, and Sock was off balance the entire time. Some shockingly bad errors at times from him, and a general malaise and lack of focus. He even broke back in the second set and there was a chance for a comeback, but even when he broke serve, there was no fire, no will to fight, and he when down meekly, 6-4, 6-2.
During these matches, Rhyne Williams also destroyed Bjorn Phau 6-0, 6-2 to also make it into the main draw. There was also a practice session on an outside court with Kei Nishikori hitting with one of the world’s top juniors, Stefan Kozlov. Kei looks really exhausted from Memphis, I would not be surprised at all if he lost this week.
There was a few hours break in the action, so I was able to get a good gym session in. It was leg day, and I’m glad I didn’t skip it. I returned to watch Lopez-Querrey. Sam was doing well, winning the first set, but early in the 2nd, Lopez began to play better, but Sam’s body language was so terrible. I went to go sit next to Lopez’s coaches and talk to them, and immediately Sam gets broken twice in a row.
Example: He hits a first serve, he misses. Massive shoulder slump, horrible negative body language. Slumping into his 2nd serve, laboring. In the critical moment, early in the second set, where he could have taken control of the match, he lets it slip. He didn’t seize it. Watching him, you could feel the negative energy coming from him. Contrast that with Lleyton Hewitt in his practice match vs. Falla, even there you could feel the positive energy coming from Lleyton, and that was just a practice match.
After he lost, I got up, ran out to where the players went to the locker room, and sure enough, Querrey had grabbed his stuff, shuffled quickly off the court. It appeared that he had signed no autographs and went as fast as he could into the locker room. Probably just as well, as he was surely disappointed. A fan ran him down, and, just as he approached the door to the locker room, he yelled out: “Sam! Good in luck in Indian Wells, man!” He just opened the door (everyone there knowing he’d heard the fans), and ran into the locker room, as if he was invisible.