Tsonga wins comeback match, Dolgopolov, Djokovic thrill in Miami (Saturday Day 5 Miami Open Recap)
Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
The ATP side of the draw provided the primary highlights on an action packed Saturday at the 2015 Miami Open. Most of the top players advanced, as upsets were few and far between, meaning the fans will get the big name tennis that they wanted in the later rounds. With so many matches around the grounds, here is a handy synopsis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Tim Smyczek 6-4 3-6 6-3
The crowd gathered in anticipation in the main stadium to witness the return of the always entertaining Tsonga to the courts following his injury lay-off. This would be his first match in 2015, his last match was back in November of 2014 in the Davis Cup final when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in 4 sets. Tim Smyczek became a popular player this year after the amazing fight he put up against Rafael Nadal back in the Australian Open, especially related to the incredible moment of sportsmanship he displayed in a pivotal point during that match. Regardless it’s an opponent Jo would expect to beat, but of course after 4 months of not playing competitive tennis anything could happen, as the two fan favorite players met on Stadium court.
The Frenchman didn’t look rusty at all as he held with ease at the start, backed by an impressive serve that flummoxed Smyczek. Tim on the other hand didn’t look like he was dealing with pace of Tsonga’s groundstrokes very well, but regardless he would be able to hold serve the first few games. The first break would come at 3-3 in the 1st. Tim failed to keep up with the powerful Tsonga who was overpowering him in the rallies, and would get broken at 3-3. The Frenchman would continue his excellent serving as he consolidated the break to go up 5-4. A funny moment would present itself when Jo was serving for the set. the Frenchman would completely whiff a forehand on a short ball. Tsonga would then joke with the crowd as he pretended to not be able to catch the ball handed to him by the ballboy, he was in good spirits out there. The world # 13 would close out the set in style blasting a DTL backhand which Tim can only watch fly past him. The set was Tsonga’s 6-4.
The crowd would start to sense that Jo would continue to steamroll past the American in the 2nd, and with the way the Frenchman was serving it seemed so. The 2nd set began with both players holding serve, but Tim still didn’t look comfortable out there, as errors were flying off his racquet. He would appear to threaten Jo’s serve with a brilliant backhand pass only to follow it up with a silly unforced error, the story of the match for him at this point, all square at 2-2 in the second. Tim despite his inconsistent play was holding serve rather comfortably, he was hanging around and you could sense he just needed Jo to blink to turn things around. That’s exactly what would happen as Jo was serving at 3-2, the Frenchman would make a couple of unforced errors and just like that American would go up 4-2. At this point the pendulum was truly swinging as Tsonga was starting to lose focus and miss routine shots. Tim would hold at ease and go up 5-2, Jo was now serving to stay in the 2nd. The two players were starting to play some incredible points putting on a show in the main stadium, Tim’s lob would sail long forcing him to serve out the set himself. Jo would get a little help from the net-cord to generate a break point but Tim would save it. Jo was now uncharacteristically slicing everything back waiting for the American to make the mistake, however Tim would keep his composure and take the set at 6-3.
Tsonga would come out in the 3rd with a more intensity right off the bat, beautifully mixing up a cheeky drop shot with a forehand winner to the delight of the Miami crowd. The condition were unusual for Miami this time of year, relatively cold temperatures with a little bit of wind to spice things up. Both players would hold, 1-2 3rd set. Jo was definitely back to his 1st set form, playing a beauty of a cross court pass ending a marathon of a game to draw blood first in the 3rd, Tim meanwhile would let the wall behind him know how frustrated he was. Tsonga would continue serving efficiently to consolidate and go up 4-1 in the decider. At this point you got the feeling that it was all going to happen on the Frenchman’s racket, there was little Tim could do about it. Brimming with confidence, Tsonga would break again to get to just one game away from his first win in 2015. Jo would show no nerves as he serves out the match. The Frenchman was elated, jumping around waving to the crowd as the winner was announced. Even with rust, Tsonga had more raw talent than Smyczek and his serve, mixed with variety from the ground, were very effective weapons on the day.
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Tommy Robredo 6-7(1) 6-3 7-5
Last year’s quarterfinalist in Miami, Alex Dolgopolov put on a spectacular showcase in his second round match with baselining, veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Dolgo’s speed, shotmaking, and variation was on full display as he fired 33 winners and broke Robredo 6 times over the course of three long, and competitive sets. Dolgo got off to a fast start, breaking 2-0, but he couldn’t maintain the break, and likewise, Robredo failed to serve out the set 5-4 in the first, as he was broken back himself. At 6-5 Dolgo had a lone set point that he failed to convert, and then Robredo rose up, battling hard from the ground to take the first set tiebreak 7-1.
In the second, Dolgopolov recovered, securing a double break to take it 6-3, as he closed out the set with a break, something he had failed to do in the third set. The match was incredibly high quality, and positively intense throughout, as both players delighted spectators both in person, and in front of their video screens. The third set however, was something else, as both players rose to a level that made this match, the match of the tournament thus far. Similar to the previous two sets, an early break was found, as Robredo generated it and converted, but again, Dolgo would break back, and they would hold serve all the way to 4-4, as Robredo saved a lone break point to hold. The tennis from 4-4 in the third was magical, and defined everything great about the ATP game, and the sport itself. Dolgopolov committed himself to using athleticism to overcome the crafty Robredo, showing off his wheels, and his ability to create shots from all variety of court positions, as the highlight video below demonstrates. The tennis in this match was jaw dropping, and Dolgopolov broke in the final game for a 7-5 third set. It took him three match points, and on the final one, he drilled the ball from the whipping forehand side directly at Robredo who was approaching the net, drawing the error, and a match victory. These two fan favorite players were a delight to watch, and it was a must witness match.
Novak Djokovic d. Martin Klizan 6-0 5-7 6-1
Fans were treated to all shades of both Novak Djokovic and Martin Klizan, in their stadium court, night session clash. Djokovic got off to a fast start with the bagel, though Klizan was still showing signs of life, as none of the games within the set were love games, and he was hitting his forehand crisply. Even still, given the bakery products, it seemed Klizan might have thrown in the towel going into set 2, however, that was not the case as the Slovak recommitted himself. Klizan broke in the opening game to show he had his head in the game, and though Novak would break twice to go up 6-0 5-3, Kizan hit an amazing drop shot, and utillized power to break back at 15 against the world number 1. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, as they wanted to get more bang their buck, and though they appreciated Novak, it was clear most in the stadium wanted to see a third set.
Klizan, and Novak would give the crowd what they paid to see, as Klizan broke late, and then held, after saving two break points, for a 7-5 second set. It seemed Novak had gotten tense late in the second, and had taken his foot off the throat of his streaky opponent, who previously had beaten Rafael Nadal last fall in Beijing. Klian couldn’t conjure up that magic though, as Novak righted the ship, and was simply too firm from the baseline, redirecting the shots that Klizan wacked his way. Djokovic notched his second bakery product of the evening, taking the third 6-1, and he was pleased to have avoided a crisis in his opening match from Crandon Park.
Grigor Dimitrov d. Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2
Dimitrov was coming off a rather disappointing early exit in Indian Wells, and clearly had the desire to make a deep run down in Miami. He would play the Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who has presently failed to matriculate into the player that many thought he could be. The 24 year olds would clash on the Stadium court, and Grigor would not waste anytime breaking the Canadian right out the gate, the Bulgarian looked like he was on a mission. He would jump to a 2-1 lead in the 1st, Pospisil meanwhile looked shaken up. Dimitov would continue putting in an efficient display of tennis with a stunning DTL backhand winner to get the 2nd break going up 4-1. As good as the Dimitrov was today Vasek looked completely out of sorts, his timing seemed to be off. Grigor would have a minor hiccup after sloppy start to the next game but would eventually string 4 points in a row to save double break point and consolidate the 2nd break. The world #11 would comfortably continue on to take the 1st set 6-2. The crowd was in a bit of lull, due to the lack of competitiveness in the match.
Vasek would start off the 2nd set looking just as shaky but eventually regain his composure to avoid getting broken right away. Pospisil was starting to play a bit better now but still not putting any sort of pressure on Grigor’s serve. Dimitrov was in the zone today, he was simply too good for the Canadian breaking him at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. That seemed to be the one that finally knocke all the fight out of Pospisil. It was one way traffic from there-on, with the Bulgarian winning all the remaining games to wrap up a convincing 6-2, 6-2 domination of VasekPospisil. He will be facing the big serving John Isner in the 3rd round which should prove to be a tougher test for him.
We caught up with Grigor after the match, he would speak about facing Isner the next round and talk candidly about the constant pressure he faces on tour.
Kei Nishikori d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-1
Day 6, in fact kicked off with a matchup between two players with quite contrasting career trajectories. Fans gathered in the Grandstand to watch the Japanese shotmaker Kei Nishikoti take on the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Nishikori is coming off an underwhelming performance in Indian Wells and looking to at least replicate the deep run he made here in Miami in 2014 which included beating Roger Federer before withdrawing due to injury. Meanwhile, the wheels on Youzhny’s career were rusting, as he only had two wins in 2015 coming into this one.
The very first game was a sign of things to come in this encounter as Youzhny struggled to hold serve right off the bat. He would face a break point before winning 3 straight points to get avoid the early break. In contrast, Nishikori would hold easily as the Russian was struggling to hit his spots sailing a couple of forehands long. Kei would pounce quickly. Youzhny’s groundstrokes weren’t on the same level as the Japanese, he would find himself facing triple break point. The veteran would stick a volley into the net to give Kei his first break as he stared up into the bright, Miami, sun. Nishikori would once again hold easily to consolidate and go up 3-1. Mikhail would finally start serving better, to hold, and keep the lead at a single break. Nishikori’s groundstrokes were looking as good as ever, bringing back memories of the match he played against Dimitrov in this same stadium a year ago. Youzhny still wouldn’t be able to find his rhythm as he continued making silly mistakes. This time it was an ill-advised poorly executed drop shot that would open up a double break opportunity for Kei. The Japanese was in unforgiving form as he converted the break points to take a 2 break lead 5-2. Youzhny with his back to the wall would take Kei to deuce but it would prove to be a futile attempt, the latter would hold his nerve, and take the set 6-2.
The match so far has been one-sided and even though the crowd was trying to urge Mikhail on, the Russian wasn’t responding. In fact he would kick off the 2nd set with back to back double faults. Mikhail would continue making unforced errors to give Kei 2 break points, causing him to yell something to himself in Russian, seeminly not of the positive sort. Kei on the other hand would fist pump as he converted the break point to take the lead right away. Youzhny would follow that game with probably his best tennis of the match, pushing Nishikori to 4 deuces on his service game. However even that effort wouldn’t be enough to break through.
Mikhail would eventually commit a couple of unforced errors as Kei hed and consolidated the break to go up 2-0. The crowd wanted to see a more competitive match but they were starting to feel this was going to be one way traffic. Nishikori would win 4 straight points on Youzhny’s serve to take go up 2 breaks, 4-1 in the 2nd set. The outcome was inevitable when Kei hit a couple of aces to consolidate the 2nd break and go up 5-1. The final game would actually prove to be entertaining marathon of 6 deuces but just like the rest of the match the Japanese would come out on top as he break for a 3rd time and claim the victory. Nishikori won it in straight sets in just over an hour.
We caught up with Kei after the match to give his insight on how he deals with the increasing number of defensive player on tour.
Americans Sock, and Isner, Frenchmen Simon, Monfils, and Chardy score successes in ATP singles, Bellucci wins late night thriller
American and French players both had good results in second round singles action on Saturday. Jack Sock continued his good form, winning a competitive first set over slumping Italian Fabio Fognini, before, as is almost expected at this point, Fognini tanked hard in the second, as the match ended 7-6 6-1 in anti-climatic fashion. John Isner dominated the Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4, as Rublev had zero familiarity with Big John’s serve. He struggled to even get a racquet on the second serve of the American #1, and thus the result was never in question. Gilles Simon played graceful tennis in the third set and took out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 6-0, Kukushkin lost momentum early in the third, but Simon was brilliant from both the baseline, and the net, having lulled his opponent into a poor course of play. Jeremy Chardy won all but two games from 0-4 down in his match against Jurgen Melzer, as the Austrian may have injured himself, the final scoreline 6-4 6-1. Gael Monfils won a thriller against underdog Filip Krajinovic, 3-6 6-2 7-6. Monfils failed to convert four match point chances in the third set, but finally won the tiebreak to take out the pesky Serb.
After the match Monfils was asked about having to play his good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3.
Thomaz Bellucci won a late night thriller over Pablo Cuevas 2-6 6-2 7-5. The grandstand court was packed with fans of the Brazilian veteran, and though he got off to a slow start, 1-4 down in a short span of time, his passion showed as he battled back to make it a match against the higher ranked Cuevas. Bellucci took a nasty fall early in the second set, twisting his ankle, and was visibly grimacing in pain as he received a medical timeout and treatment for his fall, which primarily involved stretching and testing his ankle. However, instead of retiring, he was capable of continuing, and rather than merely dragging himself the rest of the way through, he rose up and broke Cuevas to go 2-1 up. This outraged a frustrated Cuevas, who yelled at him when they were crossing sides during the changeover, with some harsh words (in Spanish or Portuguese I’m not certain). As a result of this outburst, the fans really got behind Bellucci, and started to get into Cuevas head. Bellucci broke twice more in the second to force a third as things got messy for Cuevas.
In the third set, both players battled on serve to 5-5, and then Bellucci would score a crucial break, as his heavy hitting, primarily from the forehand side with spin, was pushing Cuevas back and putting him into an uncomfortable position to generate angles with his one-handed backhand. Serving for the match at 6-5, Bellucci got tight and went 0-30 down, but he played amazingly from that point, with two go for broke forehands that just about broke the sound barrier, and two untouchable serves to convert his lone match point opportunity of the long battle. The hitting was heavy, and though both players got tight and weren’t the most accurate, Bellucci was hitting the ball, perhaps the hardest I’ve ever seen from him, as the fans danced and cheered in the stands, having traveled to Crandon Park to see their national hero play against a fellow South American.
Other mens second round winners on the day, in straight sets, included David Ferrer, who didn’t mess around today, winning 6-1 6-1 over Federico Delbonis, Lukas Rosol, who continued his uptick in recent form with a 7-6 6-3 win over Alex Zverev, Alejandro Falla, who upset Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-2 as the Croat didn’t have much game on the day, Milos Raonic, who comfortably rode his serve to a 6-1 6-4 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, David Goffin, who shellacked Borna Coric 6-0 6-4, in a surprising scoreline, the Croat having a poor tournament this time out, and Juan Monaco, who extended the terrible form of Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4.
The winners in three sets in mens singles were Fernando Verdasco, who eased past James Duckworth 4-6 6-2 6-1, Adrian Mannarino, who won the continuation match with Albert Ramos 6-4 3-6 6-2, Viktor Troicki, who grinded past Simone Bolelli 7-5 3-6 6-4, Steve Darcis, who upset Gilles Muller 6-4 6-7 6-3, and Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut and his injured eye, 6-1 1-6 6-4. The win is the best for Janowicz in quite some time as he was in poor form coming into Miami but is now into the third round.
Wozniacki, Radwanska and Williams sisters win, Bouchard upset
Caroline Wozniacki survived Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-1 6-3, Aga Radwanska fended off a challenge from Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 4-6 6-2, and the Williams sisters scored routine wins, Serena beat the junkballer Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1, and Venus beat Sam Stosur 6-4 7-6. Fan favorite Eugenie Bouchard was not as lucky, she was listless in a shocking upset loss to German qualifier Tatjana Maria, who is ranked outside of the top 100, as Bouchard had a disappointing third round exit.
Ekaterina Makarova beat Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour, Carla Suarez Navarro beat Alize Cornet by the same 6-0 6-4 scoreline, Karolina Pliskova beat Paula Bedosa Gibert 7-5 6-1, Andrea Petkovic, who was enjoying the Cuevas-Bellucci match on twitter last night, earlier in the day had beaten Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-0 6-2 blowout. Angelique Kerber won the most competitive WTA match of the day over Heather Watson 7-5 3-6 6-4, Sara Errani beat Ana Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 7-6, and Daria Gavrilova followed up her massive win over Sharapova with a 6-0 7-6 win over Kurumi Nara.
Doubles specialists score victories
The Bryans beat Becker/Lipsky 6-2 7-6 in men’s doubles, and two other doubles specialists pairings on the men side also won. Rojer/Tecau 6-4 6-2 over Inglot/Mergea, and Cabal/Farah 7-6 6-3 over Lopez/Mirnyi. Bolelli/Fognini continued their remarkable form in doubles with a 6-4 6-2 win over the quality pairing of Klaasen/Paes, and Americans Harrison/Ram beat Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-5 7-6.
Chan/Jankovic beat Parra-Santonja/Soler-Espinosa 7-5 6-4, Dushevina/Martinez Sanchez beat Goerges/Groenefeld 7-6 3-6 10-7 in a battle, Hantuchova/Knapp beat Dulgheru/Halep 7-5 6-3, Niculescu/Panova beat the veteran pairing of Lisa Raymond/Sam Stosur 6-2 6-3. Hsieh/Pennetta won 6-1 6-3 over Cornet/Svitolina, Garcia/Srebotnik beat Puig/Watson 6-3 6-3, Jans-Ignacik/Klepac beat Bertens/Maria 7-5 6-4, and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro beat Savchuk/Torro-flor 6-3 6-2.
Monfils-Tsonga headlines Miami Sunday
With action already underway in Miami on Sunday, Gael Monfils will take on good buddy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Rafa Nadal will renew their rivalry, 15 year old Cici Bellis will take on Serena, and Sabine Lisicki will battle against Ana Ivanovic in some of the big matches on the day.