Soeda Upsets Dolgopolov, Muller Crushes Young 2015 @BBTAtlantaOpen Monday Recap
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Another scorching day in Atlanta was interrupted by afternoon rain showers, but they passed, and before 9 P.M. main draw singles and doubles play was completed, additionally final round qualies were completed and the qualifiers were placed into the bracket, setting up an exciting batch of matches for Tuesday.
Three main draw singles matches were complete on the day, the biggest of which was Go Soeda‘s 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over fan favorite Alex Dolgopolov. The match was interrupted by the rain in the first set, and after a lengthy delay after a pair of breaks of serve, both players returned to court and began holding their serves relatively easily.
Soeda, a defensive baseliner who feeds his opponents a steady diet of groundstrokes, lacked the weapons to bother Dolgopolov with his quick footwork, but Dolgopolov was struggling to keep his error count down, as he often does, and eventually on serve it went to 5-5. Dolgopolov would then save a key break point chance for Soeda and go up 6-5, and in the next game he broke on his second chance to do so in the game, and took the first set with a running start. .
Even up a set Dolgopolov’s body language didn’t seem confident or promising at this point, and it was visible he may have been struggling in the hot conditions. Soeda was a bit of a brick wall, and generally is hard to break down as he returned ball after ball side to side. Dolgopolov had more shotmaking prowess, especially with running forehand winners but the second set held true to form, Soeda saving a lone break point serving 1-2 as it went all the way to a tiebreak without another break point dangled before either player. Soeda was under pressure having to serve behind all set, and Dolgopolov at times looked like he might put the match away, but when it got to the tiebreak Soeda was the steadier player and took it 7-5, even after Dolgopolov hit a fantastic winner 4-6 down in the breaker.
Soeda had the momentum at this point and remained unfazed and unrattled as Dolgopolov began to slow down. The Ukranian’s quick strike serve generated more aces, but Soeda eventually read Dolgo’s shots and angles, forcing his opponent to become increasingly reckless. The break came for 3-1 in set 3, and Soeda never looked back, Dolgo had to save another break point serving 1-4, and Soeda held on with relative ease for a 6-3 3rd set. It’s the first ATP main draw win for Soeda since April, as Dolgopolov again demonstrated why his ranking has fallen out of the top 70. He has the talent but mentally and physically he struggles to maintain a consistent level throughout an entire match.
Joning Soeda in round 2 is another player who has always enjoyed playing in Atlanta, Gilles Muller. Muller was totally dominant as Donald Young continued to struggle, slumping to a 6-2 6-1 defeat. The loss was particularly bad as the match only last an hour and Muller is normally a player who struggles to break his opponents serve. DY was plainly flat while Muller was happy to work quickly in the heat.
Yen-Hsun (Rendy) Lu had an interesting time of it against Malek Jaziri in the first main draw match, winning it 6-1 7-6(12). Jaziri stumbled badly out of the gate, and appeared listless. His serve and his groundstrokes weren’t effective at all, and he appeared totally out of shape. Lu, a steady counterpunching baseliner who is solid from both wings was happy to let Jaziri stumble through a breadstick in 24 minutes, but the Tunisian didn’t give up so easily in the second set.
Jaziri went up a break 3-2, and served for a third set at 5-4, but plainly choked, getting broken at love under the pressure. From 5 all they held serve and went into a tiebreak where Jaziri had six set points and couldn’t convert a single one, including from 6-4 up. Lu needed three match points, but finally he got into round 2, escaping his streaky opponent in the nick of time, as Jaziri clearly let his nerves get the best of him against such a steady opponent.
Americans Krajicek, Donaldson, and Kudla qualify for the main draw
All four final round qualifying matchups were rather routine affairs as the heat seemed to be limiting many of the player’s fighting spirit after they fell behind. Austin Krajicek blitzed Yuichi Sugita 6-2 6-1, as Sugita played much worse than expected. Denis Kudla sent the slumping Marinko Matosevic packing 7-5 6-2. Matosevic continues to struggle to return to ATP quality form, while Kudla extended his positive momentum from Wimbledon.
Jared Donaldson beat Guido Pella as the young gun American has made another ATP main draw as a teenager, Pella’s 6-2 7-6(6) defeat demonstrated why he prefers clay as the more aggressive Donaldson was able to rattle him. Indian Veteran Somdev Devvarman also reached the main draw with a 6-3 6-3 over Shuichi Sekiguchi in just under an hour and a half. Devvarman is also showing good form and all of the qualifiers certainly deserve their spots in the draw.
Those spots are Kudla against Ryan Harrison in an All-American battle where he should be the favorite, the winner to face American Jack Sock, the #3 seed, the veteran Devvarman against the teenager Donaldson, and Krajicek against the veteran Marcos Baghdatis as he will look to pull off a big win against the formerly top 10 #5 seed.
Tiafoe, Fish Highlight Tuesday Order of Play
Tuesday in Atlanta will feature one of the retiring greats of American men’s tennis, Mardy Fish, in a night session match against defending finalist Dudi Sela, and prior to that, one of the most promising American teenagers Frances Tiafoe against the big serving Sam Groth as American players will have the spotlight put on them. Tiafoe played a Monday night exhibition against the retired Andy Roddick and lost 6-3 6-4, Roddick’s big serve, even as a retiree, foiled hm, and Groth is even better at those same tactics.
Besides those late matches, the aforementioned Baghdatis-Krajicek match will take place, as it will be interesting to see how Baghdatis adapts to the 90+ degree noontime conditions, given that his fitness has previously been in question throughout his career. At the same time Lukas Lacko will face Steve Johnson, with Kudla vs. Harrison, Devvarman vs. Donaldson, and also an all-German veteran battle between Michael Berrer and Benjamin Becker completing the schedule for singles.
In doubles the marquee nightcap on Stadium is Mate Pavic/Michael Venus against Atlanta’s Donald Young and Christopher Eubanks. Additionally, Matt Ebden/Adrian Mannarino will face Eric Butorac/Artem Sitak and prior to that the defending champion pairing of Vasek Pospisil/Jack Sock will face Colin Fleming and the in-form Gilles Muller.
Look for a report on those matches after Tuesday night or Wednesday morning!