ATP Houston Wednesday: Anderson serves up a win over Delbonis, Querrey wins battle of the Yanks with Johnson
Jeff McMillan, Tennis Atlantic
Today began my coverage of the 2015 US Men’s Clay Court Championships ATP 250 event in Houston, TX. The event is held at the pristine River Oaks Country Club right near the heart of the 4th most populous city in the United States. The canopy and hedging provide a nice relaxing atmosphere for the Har-Tru clay center court.
I arrived just in time to see Jeremy Chardy finish off Go Soeda 6-3 6-3. Chardy looked to be in complete control, really dictating each point with his forehand. He was not missing and was dragging Soeda all over the place. Chardy had a minor blip while serving for the match at 6-3 5-2 as he was broken after a few errors caused by a last gasp effort by Soeda. But the Frenchman did not allow that to derail his plans of winning in routine fashion as he promptly broke Soeda right back to clinch a date in the quarterfinals. After the match Chardy was asked by the on-court reporter what it was like to be ranked inside the top 40 in the world but only the 6th best player in your own country. Chardy remarked that “I am never able to play Davis Cup” with a slight laugh to indicate the difficulty of being a standout when one is a French tennis player.
The next match on Center Court was Kevin Anderson vs Federico Delbonis. This was an interesting matchup and effectively a 50/50 match. Anderson being the much higher ranked player but Delbonis having more clout on clay.
The first set began in a shaky manner. Each player donated a break to the other very early in the set. Anderson looked off balance for much of the first few games, constantly hitting shots flat-footed, which caused several rather routine errors. Delbonis donated many of his own errors, which did not allow him to take advantage of Anderson’s sow start. At 3-4 in the first set with Anderson serving things got interesting. Down 15-30 in his service game, Anderson reared back and cranked his biggest serve of the match to that point at 140 mph. That immediately shifted some momentum to the side of the South African as he played a few strong points after that to even the set at 4-4. Delbonis felt the momentum going against him and tightened up a bit, making a few errors to give Anderson a break and a 5-4 lead. After a shaky start Anderson appeared to have righted the ship, as one would expect a top 20 player to do and looked poised to serve out the first set. However that assumption would turn out to be very wrong. Anderson played by far his weakest game of the match. He made three unforced errors and threw in a double fault for good measure to give away his chance to take the 1st set. Delbonis then held easily to go up 6-5. Anderson punched back yet again by serving four unreturned bombs to send the 1st set to a tiebreak, with momentum being effectively even.
In the tiebreak Delbonis would take his game up a notch. He found his forehand and painted the lines on a few occasions. Anderson double faulted once and started making backhand errors. Delbonis hit two great forehand winners from 5-4 up to tae the tiebreak 7-4.
Early in the 2nd set Anderson looked rigid and continued his double fault woes. However he managed to hold to start the set and that seemed to relax him as he then started playing some very solid points, dictating play from all around the court and was rewarded with an early break to go up in the set. Delbonis’s level was clearly dropping and he began to checkout of rallies, often dumping a backhand into the net on a seemingly routine balls. Anderson capped off the set with a break at love to give him his first 6-0 set win since 2011 (thanks to Jared Pine for this stat) ad to a 3rd set we would go.
Delbonis came out of the gates firing in the 3rd set, quickly taking a 30-0 lead on Anderson’s serve, knowing that a break would be massive for him to start the decisive set. However; missed service returns doomed him in his attempt to break. Anderson would go on to break Delbonis at love to go up 3-1 and it looked like it was the South African’s match to take. Anderson was sensing blood in the water and dropped two 141 mph serves in his service game as he attempted to consolidate the break. However; the big serves would not be of any consequence as Delbonis somehow found his backhand and hit a laser beam winner past Anderson to set up a break point which he would convert on his first attempt. The players would exchange service holds to make it 4-3 to Kevin Anderson. Delbonis would go up 30-0 in his service game but that’s when the wheels would fall off. Two consecutive double faults and a bad forehand error gave Anderson a break point, which Delbonis saved but could not save the game on Anderson’s 3rd break point. Serving at 5-3 up Anderson closed out the match in definitive fashion determined to not allow Delbonis yet another breath of life. Game set match Kevin Anderson 6-7(4) 6-0 6-3.
After the match I caught up with Delbonis for a brief interview. . He appears to be taking it easy this clay season, just hoping to get his game back on track and hopefully build for the future in this rebuilding phase of his career.
Anderson goes on to the quarterfinals where he will face off with Chardy.
The 3rd match of the day featured two well-known Americans, Sam Querrey vs. Steve Johnson. Querrey came out very solid, sticking to his game and being consistent with his shots. Johnson however came out very rocky, missing a lot of backhands and his usually reliable forehand was missing more often than not. Visibly frustrated, Johnson went for big shots late in the 1st set, apparently biding his time for the 2nd set. In the 2nd set Johnson fought through his struggles and began to play better. The players each held serve with relative ease until Johnson broke Querrey to go up 5-3. Serving for the set, Johnson cracked, reverting back to 1st set form he made errors and an unlucky net cord sealed the break for Querrey. In a surprise twist of fate Johnson dug deep and stole a break from Querrey to sneak out the set 6-4 against the tide of momentum.
The 3rd set would be an even more lopsided version of the first set. Johnson managed to win just 6 points in the entire set, the plot completely lost while Querrey just stayed the course. In this particular match Querrey appeared to be more poised and steady and in the end he was rewarded with his first career ATP win over Johnson (had been 0-4 in total sets previously) 6-1 4-6 6-0.
Talking to other media after the match Querrey said he is improving his play this year and is starting to “play good 2 out of every 3 weeks instead of only 1 out of every 3 weeks”. The next few days will show just how good this week will be for Querrey as he will face Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals who is coming off of a routine 6-3 6-3 dusting of Sam Groth.
The double scores were Brunstrom/Young over Devvarman/Singh 6-3 6-1, Lindstedt/Melzer over Daniell/Giraldo 6-4 6-1, Frystenberg/Gonzalez over Estrella/Souza 6-3 6-1, and the Bryan brothers over Tipsarevic/Petzschner in a thriller 5-7 6-2 13-11.
Check back tomorrow through twitter @tennisatlantic for more live updates, pictures, videos and even more interviews as the other 2nd round matches get underway!