Eric Logan, Tennis East Coast
Sunday marked the beginning of main draw action at the Winston-Salem Open, as well as completion of the qualifying competition. The tournament’s top sixteen seeds received byes to the second round but there were still plenty of matches played around the ground nonetheless.
In the final round of qualifying, second seed Simone Bolelli was upset by Wayne Odesnik. While I did not watch this match, I was able to hear the crowd’s reaction and it seemed they were on Odesnik’s side, which is somewhat surprising in spite of Odesnik’s nationality given his reputation.
While Odesnik came from a set behind to beat the flashy Italian, fourth seed, Damir Dzumhur struggled through a 6-4 6-4 win against Austrian doubles specialist Philipp Oswald.. The big-serving Oswald, who towered over Dzumhur, grabbed the early break but failed to compete as the match became more physical. Dzumhur struggled to close out the match from 40-0 but held on to seal the win.
Top seeded David Goffin- who would be seeded if he had made the cut for the main draw six weeks ago- had his weak serve punished on numerous occasions but was too solid from the baseline for Jason Jung, who faded to a 6-1 second set after a hard fought 7-5 first. Marcos Giron won a battle of unseeded players as he came back from a set down to qualify against Mate Pavic.
Following the end of the qualifying tournament, the main draw action began. Benjamin Becker took on Pablo Carreño Busta in a topsy-turvy match that spanned three sets. Carreño Busta allowed Becker to dictate the match at all points except perhaps when he was up a break in the second. The German seemed to go on holiday between a first set where he overwhelmed the Spanish clay-courter with his power and a third that was much of the same. Becker’s powerful serve proved to be an obstacle for the Spaniard throughout and Carreño Busta won a dismal 13% of first serve return points in the match. Credit to the good spirits shown from PCB post match, he was more than happy to sign autographs for children even after his defeat.
Nicolas Mahut was never troubled in a straight set win over Blaz Kavcic. Kavcic has bettered his ranking significantly in the past few months with success at Challengers and was arguably in better form than the French veteran, but lost by a tame 6-3 6-2 scoreline.
Dustin Brown delivered the day’s best performance with an incredible 6-3 6-2 shellacking of Alejandro Gonzalez. Brown went up 5-1 in about fifteen minutes with a dazzling display of serve and volley, return winners, drop shots, and huge serves (though relatively rarely aces). It appeared his level had come to Earth briefly when Gonzalez recaptured one break with a “vamos” but Brown was equally ruthless in the second set. Gonzalez did not play poorly, but simply looked out of his league, getting sympathy from the crowd for being on the wrong end of one of the most flawless performances of the season.
The final match of the day session on Center Court pitted Robin Haase against Benoit Paire in a battle of underachieving talents. Paire argued with the umpire after equaling the match at a set apiece over what appeared to be a Haase toilet break, only to then (in protest?) sit down when Haase broke for 2-0 in the decider saying he couldn’t play and leave the court for an extended period at 3-0, leading Haase to have his own words with the umpire. After Paire extended very little effort at 5-2, Haase won the three setter in what will be remembered as yet another match in which Paire defeated himself.
In evening session action, Bradley Klahn survived a topsy turvy 3 setter with young American wild card Noah Rubin to win 6-2 0-6 7-6. Rubin struggled to get accustomed to Klahns big serve in set 1, but after Klahn started spewing errors, his aggressive approach and lanky strokes won him a decided advantage in set 2. In the third, Klahn got back in the saddle and was up 4-1, but Rubin clawed back and from 5-5 they went to a tiebreak that Klahn edged out. Given it was his first match back from injury, the struggles from Klahn were to be expected, and Rubin put up a good account for himself. Both players have plenty to work on going into the US Open. Fellow American Ryan Harrison joins Klahn in round 2 after a late night 6-4 6-2 victory over JL Struff.
Tomorrow’s schedule marks the conclusion of the first round, the beginning of the second, and the start of an extremely drawn-out first round of doubles. Defending champion Jurgen Melzer opens against David Goffin on Center Court, a match that pits the oft-injured Austrian against a player coming back from injury problems of his own. Had they been healthy in the past twelve months, both of these players would have been seeded. As it is, only one will make it to the second round. That match is to be followed by an impossible to call battle of veterans in a match between Paul-Henri Mathieu and wild card Robby Ginepri. Sam Querrey, whose name was properly spelled on the tournament banner this year, will end the day session with what should be a fairly routine match against Spanish clay-courter Pere Riba. The lone singles match of the night session will have fifth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez facing off against today’s hottest player, Dustin Brown.
On the outside courts, Jerzy Janowicz will face Argentine Carlos Berlocq. Berlocq is the type of player that Janowicz must learn to beat consistently to return to the top twenty after a severe dip in form in 2014. Two up-and-coming lefties will face off when Martin Klizan plays what should be a simple match against Federico Delbonis, who has yet to prove himself off of his favored clay. Jarkko Nieminen will attempt to put last year’s disastrous match against Sam Querrey (in which he squandered a number of match points) behind him as he opens his 2014 campaign against Benjamin Becker.
In doubles action, Daniel Nestor headlines on Center Court with (presumably temporary) partner Rohan Bopanna against the accomplished team of Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal. On Court 2, the wild card team of Jurgen Melzer and Lukas Rosol will face the odd pairing of world number 226 doubles player Pablo Andujar and world number 14 Marcel Granollers.