Kohlschreiber Wins with ease at Mercedes Cup, Kraijinovic Displeased, Sugita Couldn’t Handle the Breeze, ATP Stuttgart 2015 Monday Report
Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Rain Hampered Monday’s Schedule in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
We expected the first day of the main draw matches and qualifying’s last round today, Monday, but what did we get? Of course, rain! Either drizzling or heavy rain, it never stopped. It thundered Sunday evening, so bad weather was already approaching and the last hours showed signs of constant rain. All journalists hid in the press center and talked about anything and everything. Players who were scheduled to play today were hidden like us in the players’ lounge. My heart went out to the fans and spectators who stood outside. Everybody had to wait five and a half hours to see the first ball struck, so I decided to explore what’s outside of the venue before the games started.
Rafael Nadal’s press conference
For starters, a press conference with Rafael Nadal was routine, standard questions and standard answers. However, one question was interesting: Asked if he watched the Roland Garros’ final this year. His answer was he had to train (in the center court at 5 pm), journalists guffawed. Even though it wasn’t asked, he talked about Stan’s success and said he’s a great player, ‘playing well’. Stan has very good strokes “hits the ball with the most power on the tour”, so he can dictate the game ‘everywhere’.
Another interesting thing he said is he doesn’t like to play down tournaments like Stuttgart or Halle as preparation tournaments for Grand Slams. Grand Slams matter, but not in the fashion of other tournaments being unimportant. What does he aim at in the next months? “Trying to be healthy, trying to finish inside the top 8 to compete at the World Tour Finals” and “to get self-confidence for next season”. It seems he still doesn’t have the confidence of previous years, and it serves as an explanation for why he lost to Djokovic at the French in straights (and talked this defeat down). He’s still not there, where he wants to be, but still wants to compete to raise his current level and reach his prior world beater status. A big step forward would be to win this year’s grass tournament in Stuttgart, his last title on grass was the Wimbledon Championship against Berdych in 2010.
Monday Final Round Qualifying
As I mentioned earlier, it took a very long time to see a tennis match. Ten matches should have been played today, among others Nadal and Feliciano Lopez in doubles against an alternate, since Radek Stepanek withdrew due to a back injury (He could neither move nor serve well during practice on Saturday). In the end five matches took place, the last four qualifying-matches and Philipp Kohlschreiber against Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The surface of the courts got really wet, so preparation took even longer than it normally does and it even took longer on the non-center court. Hence the match between the two Germans Dustin Brown and Michael Berrer was the first one on Center Court. Brown loves playing on the main stage, and he displayed why today, hitting some awesome winners and lobs. Besides that, he found his serve and offered some great volley winners in the first set, except his second service game, when Berrer didn’t convert two break points.
Berrer served very well in the first set till his last service game. The hometown boy lead 30-0, but still managed to lose the control after three wonderful winners Brown hit. The first one was a smash winner at the net, the second one a lob winner as Berrer played serve and volley and he got his first break point over a volley winner after chip & charge. The Stuttgart home player got too passive and lost his serve finally, as he was at the end overchallenged by Brown and committed some risky shots which went out.
Brown’s problem in the second was inconsistency on break point chances against Berrer, he knew how to extort him and didn’t apply his abilities to their potential. Berrer got more confident and hit some great shots too, whereas Dreddy lost his focus and even almost lost his serve before tiebreaker. A serve winner and a volley winner closed his service game. Like the second set, the tiebreaker was very even with neither player taking an advantage. Berrer served at 7-7, but committed a very easy forehand cross UE after a moderate return, so the North-German could close the match with a serve winner again with the scoreline 6-4, 7-6(7). “It’s never easy to play against Dustin” Berrer said after the match at the on-court-interview. Berrer played well enough to snatch a set but it was not to be.Bachinger against Mischa Zverev was the next match between two German qualifiers. They had to wait a while for their match, since the chair umpire wasn’t pleased about the grass condition and wanted to have the surface dry. Both looked a bit tense before the match, perhaps the rain delaying adding to their nerves. First set was very even at the beginning, suddenly Bachinger lost his service game to love. He didn’t well at this point, had a taped knee, and he was surely tired because of the two matches played over this very hot weekend.
Zverev looked fresher, but as he won the break, he also suddenly lost his serve, though he had two game points. His younger brother Alex (Sascha) Zverev was in the stands to motivate him, both held their serves with ease. Even the tiebreaker was very even, till Bachinger lost twice his service and Zverev didn’t miss. Zverev moved on with his flow, didn’t give Bachinger any break chance and the Bavarian struggled every time with his serves. Zverev broke him again to love at 3-4 and served the match out (7-6(3), 6-3). Bachinger looked very disappointed, yet he’s still as Lucky Loser in the tournament and will face another German qualifier.
Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated the human highlight reel from Ukraine Alex Dolgopolov in routine fashion 6-3, 6-3. Dolgopolov, who has been very inconsistent this season, hit his typical slice shots and played his exciting varied game, but again lacked the consistency to beat the sixth seeded Kohlschreiber. Inspired by the crowd he posted a solid showing and can now save his energy for later stages in the tournament.
Dolgopolov was broken just twice on his serve and one of these he lost with two double faults. Though he came back again, served to love and reached almost a re-break point, Kohlschreiber couldn’t close so easily he did it in the first for the set. After a beautiful volley winner on the line, he hit another forehand cross winner like in good old days. However, reality overcame him, returned twice poorly and the German closed the match with a beautiful forehand down-the-line winner past another poorly played slice. So no problem for Kohlschreiber who can have a deep run here, though Dologpolov’s form is currently poor.
Another one who could feel pain is definitely Filip Krajinovic. He played very well in the first two qualifying rounds, but he was very annoyed by the rain and the delay. He began very poorly, losing his second service game to love, since he couldn’t hit any heavy first serves. The Serb committed many forehand errors, and couldn’t manage the wind. His opponent Peter Gojowczyk knew Krajinovic’s flaws well. When he was inattentive, the Krajinovic failed to conver his two break point chances. He didn’t grasp how he blew them, and his mind overwhelmed him with doubts, he grew very passive and Gojowczyk could do what he wanted. Except for that service game, it was a lop-sided set, the cooler player won the set.
Second set was a bit more even, though the German led with an invisible small edge, as he played the better tennis. Krajinovic still complained about weather or the rain delay, but in especially about himself and never stopped committing unforced errors. Gojowczyk started even to serve aces and it got more and more superior, until he had three match points on Krajinovic’s serve. The first one was saved due to a serve-winner, the next one was a return unforced error and the last one was very clutch by Krajinovic, he played a very strong forehand down-the-line and Gojo’s backhand slice not good enough. Diego Nargiso’s charge could hold finally hold his serve and raised his level to get three break points, when Gojowczyk served for the match. It seemed to be the turning point, the German was very nervous. His serve wasn’t good, but Filip’s return was even poorer, and Gojo saved the first match point with a strong forehand winner. The next ones were saved again with serve winners and Gojowczyk converted his first match point with a classy ace.
Gojowczyk a winner on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Besides these two service games Gojowczyk had always the control of the match and though it was lop-sided, the last service game was the only one with drama. Krajinovic was irritated off the wall, and couldn’t keep cool at the interview I conducted. He responded to a question ‘I don’t know, I really don’t know, why do you ask me? Why do you ask me?’. He was very emotional and almost ran to the players’ restaurant. The final scoreline was 6-2 6-4.As for the last match of the day, I chatted a bit with Yuichi Sugita’s coach. “Mate Pavic can play very good on grass” he said and expected a good match from both. Yuichi has to play “with big strokes and good serves” because “these will be the keys for today”. He performed well in regards to those factors, frustrating the Croatian talent who dropped his racket and went to the umpire to chat, twice during the first set.
The umpire was a young German guy who was gentle towards him and the crowd here in Stuttgart had empathy, he didn’t face a reign of boos as he might have in Paris. Anyway, Sugita got very tired after the first set was decided in the tiebreaker and Pavic began to serve way better than Sugita, reversing the result of the first set tiebreak to win the second set tiebreak and force a third set.
It was the last match, and thus all the tennis fans remaining in the venue started to watch this match. The winds became stronger and darkness loomed. Sugita committed so many unforced errors in the decider, baseline shots were a lottery. The Croat managed it, broke him and served for the match at 5-3. Amusingly the Japanese started to goat and hit some unreal passing shots, a very big difference compared with his last service game, when his lob hit the linesman’s seat or Pavic was behind the baseline and Sugita tried to aim the crowd with his volley. Pavic’s serve and volleys were practically unbreakable before.
At the end of the match, Sugita converted to the erratic player he was before his break and lost four points in a row. The match point was a hard fought rally with a beautiful smash winner at the end. Both played wonderful and entertaining tennis and in the end Pavic won 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-4.