Sanity Finally Prevails @WSOpen R16 #WSOpen
Eric Logan, Tennis East Coast
The seeds met in the R16 today at the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina. The day produced some great drama, a wide variety of quality, and in the end, the majority of favored players advanced.
Action began on center court (and only center court, given the small number of matches on courts two and three) with twelfth seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin considered the underdog against Jerzy Janowicz despite his higher rank. Fresh off a controversial win over Joao Sousa, the Pole came back from a set down to win in a rather messy three set-match. The quality of tennis was low, but there was great drama at the end as Janowicz faced break point from 40-0 up serving for the match before serving out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win.
Janowicz’s victory was followed by what would be considered the match of the day by most present, where fifth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez faced eleventh seeded American Donald Young. A tight first set was decided in a tiebreak in which, after a great effort earlier in the set to save a number of set points, the Spaniard crumbled at 4-5 in the tiebreak, losing both service points. Garcia-Lopez rebounded by breaking twice in the second set by prevailing in numerous beautiful rallies.
In the third, Garcia-Lopez captured the break and looked poised to win when he held two match points serving at 5-4. Young brought the crowd to its feet, however, by saving them with a return winner and a smash off a smash before Garcia-Lopez broke himself on a double fault. After drawing the set to a tiebreak, Young then held two match points at 6-4. Garcia-Lopez saved the first with a forehand winner before Young threw the second away with a double fault of his own. Garcia-Lopez then hit another of his countless forehand winners to set up a third match point on his serve, which he took at last.
The third match on Center court was another low-quality affair, where Sam Querrey dispatched an out-of-sorts Kevin Anderson in a match defined by countless Anderson unforced errors by a score of 7-6(4) 6-4. This match brought an end to the day session on center court, and left the tournament without three of its top four seeds after Robredo and Mayer’s losses in the previous round.
On the outer courts, eight players attempted to punch their tickets into the quarterfinals. Marcel Granollers arrived late to his match against Yen-Hsun Lu and looked thoroughly unprepared to play tennis. The eighth seed fell to the ninth 6-1 6-2 in a match in which he sliced the vast majority of groundstrokes, was kept on the defense constantly, and won only two return points in the second set.
David Goffin continued his win streak with a 6-4 4-6 6-4 score against an unexpectedly game Jarkko Nieminen. Nieminen has been in very poor form in contrast to Goffin’s 24 (now 25) straight victories. In the end, however, Goffin’s game proved more solid than the Finn’s. Lukas Rosol defeated Pablo Andujar 1-6 6-2 6-2 in an up-and-down match that seemed to end with words between the players. Nicolas Mahut was unable to back up his win against Tommy Robredo as he fell 6-4 7-6(7) to Andreas Seppi.
In the night match, top seeded John Isner took on thirteenth seed Mikhail Kukushkin. The Kazakhstani player began
the match extremely poorly, surrendering the first set 6-1 in a flurry of unforced errors amid some good returning by Isner. Kukushkin raised his game in the second to make the match competitive, but was unable to return Isner’s huge serve in critical moments and in the end surrendered 6-1 7-6(3).
The day’s most dramatic match in doubles ended the same way the most dramatic match in singles had: heartbreak for Donald Young. Young and Nicolas Monroe lost the first set to Florin Mergea and Joao Sousa 6-2 before roaring back to win 5 games in a row and send the match to a supertiebreak at 2-6 6-1. Here, the American team led 7-1 amid a number of bad calls against the Europeans that had even the North Carolina crowd calling out in dismay and had to have Sousa wondering if the officials had a pact against him. Things then began to turn, and it was a tighter 6-9 when Young and Monroe arrived at match point.
On the first match point, Sousa served an ace. The second was dealt with routinely as well. The third, however, was the shot of the tournament thus far. Off of a big Young serve that looked to have the point won, Mergea hit a stunning full stretch backhand return winner that seemed a good deal faster than the aggressive serve. Mergea backed up the shot with a big forehand, and a point later Mergea and Sousa clinched an incredible
In the final match of the day, Sam Groth showed off his enormous serve as he hit 147 miles per hour in the first game of his doubles effort partnership with Chris Guccione. The Australians faced two losers from the singles draw, Marcel Granollers and Pablo Andujar. Some clutch Granollers net play saved four break points, including a set point. Chris Guccione then tightened up to lose all three service points in the first set tiebreak to allow the Spaniards to steal a set in which they were clearly not the better team. In the second, however, they stepped it up a notch to break twice for a 7-6(4) 7-5 win.
Tomorrow’s schedule includes one doubles match, Jamie Murray and John Peers against the veteran Polish team of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. It also includes four appealing men’s singles quarterfinal matches: John Isner against Lukas Rosol, Andreas Seppi against Yen-Hsun Lu, Jerzy Janowicz against David Goffin, and Sam Querrey against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Until then, all eight players should still feel they have a fighting shot at the title in Winston-Salem.