Garcia-Lopez Upset, Verdasco Advances, Tuesday at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic\
The Spaniards at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco had mixed results on Tuesday when both were in action on stadium court. A lengthy rain delay made the match between Garcia-Lopez and Horacio Zeballos take most of the afternoon, as Zeballos prevailed in an upset victory 6-3 6-7 6-4 over the Spaniard in two and a half hours of match play.
Both players got off to a shaky start, but were able to hold their serves until the eight game of the match, where Zeballos broke Garcia-Lopez, and held the next game at love to capture the first set. Garcia-Lopez struggled mightily with his serve all match, his first serve percentage was under 50%, and the quality of his serves was lacking. Both players also hit a number of slow, and high spinners from their backhand side, as they didn’t seem entirely comfortable on hard court compared to clay. The hot conditions also took their toll on the volunteers, as well as the players, as a ball girl passed out in the first set, causing a delay.
Despite his troubles on serve, Garcia-Lopez didn’t waver in the second set, saving a break point in his opening service game, and breaking Zeballos, who also served poorly, but methodically, to go up 3-1. Zeballos would break back, but had to save four set points to send the match into a second set tiebreak. Zeballos lost three straight points from 5-4 up in the tiebreak, and the match was sent into a third set.
Garcia-Lopez played a poor third set however, as he was broken at love with a miserable game serving 1-2, and Zeballos would go 5-4 up, before rain came, and the Argentine had to wait over an hour to try to serve the match out. He was broken easily when the players returned to court, and Garcia-Lopez was given a second life, however, he was broken and lost the match in the next game serving 4-5, as Zeballos converted his second match point/break point opportunity. The frustrated Garcia-Lopez slammed his racquet on the ground, as Zeballos let out a roar of excitement. It was just not to be for GGL on the day. The win improves Zeballos to 11-5 in hard court matches this season, and he has reached the second round of an ATP main draw for the second tournament in a row.
Fernando Verdasco had better luck on the day against Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6 6-4. A cagey match saw neither player earning a break point chance early and the first set going to a tiebreak. Verdasco took the initiative when needed, and then broke Lajovic midway through the second set, and held serve after facing two break points in the next game to go up 4-2. Lajovic was nearly ousted quicker than he was as he could have went down a double break, but he saved three break points to hold, and Verdasco went on to serve it out 6-4. Verdasco’s forehand was all he needed to dictate play on a hard court and smack winners when needed.
French veteran Julien Benneteau played his best match of the season to earn a 6-4 6-2 win over J.P. Smith. Benneteau has just two ATP main draw wins this year now, but his game has clearly picked up. Benny didn’t face a single break point, as Smith meekly conceded three breaks in total and was wiped off the court.
Lucky loser Tobias Kamke made the best of his luck after the withdrawal of Ivan Dodig, upsetting Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 7-6 to reach the round of 16 in two hours. Stako blew two set point chances in the first set tiebreak, and he faced pressure on his serve most of the day, as his serve and volley skills were lacking consistency, while Kamke was more consistent with his groundstrokes on the day. Stako’s struggles this season continued as his high risk style of play saw him getting passed at the net when it mattered. Stako was playing better in the second set and went up 4-2, looking prepared to force a third set, but he was broken back in the next game, and had to save break points serving 4-4 and 5-5 to eventually force a second set tiebreak. Kamke dominated that tiebreak, going 5-0 up, and he would eventually take it 7-2.
Yoshihito Nishioka showed signs of improvement in dealing with American heat, as he got past Dan Evans 6-2 6-7 7-6 in a match that also saw a lengthy rain delay late in the third set that paused play for over an hour. In Washington, Nishioka wilted in the hot conditions, but this time it was Evans struggling with his fitness, as the British man earned no break point chances in the first set, and was broken twice with relative ease, including at love serving 2-5. Evans went down a set and a break twice in the second set, and looked ready to hit the showers when he was 4-2, and 5-3 down.
Nishioka got tight serving the match out and after having to save three break point chances against Evans, he found himself dominated in the second tiebreak, going down 4-0, and losing it 7-2. Nishioka had two more bp chances early in the third, and rain came at 4-3 in the third. Nishioka found himself broken when he returned to court, and Evans had three match point chances from 40-15 up in the next game. However, Nishioka’s speed got him back into the match, and after saving a fourth match point chance in his next service game, Nishioka converted his second match point chance to take the victory in three hard fought sets to the delight of a few local Japanese fans.
Last, but certainly not least, Americans Taylor Fritz and Bjorn Fratangelo were big winners on the day. Fritz dominated college standout Austin Smith 6-2 6-2, despite loud chants for Smith throughout the match. The young American’s power from the baseline was too much for the Georgia Bulldog. Fratangelo rolled past Igor Sijsling 6-1 7-6. Early in the first he broke, and had to save six break point chances in an extremely long first service game, but Sijsling wilted from there. Fratangelo went a set and a break up, although he couldn’t serve it out, the Dutchman never really got a shot at a third set, as the American had the match in hand.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Chris Eubanks and Zack Kennedy upset Thiago Monteiro and Nishioka in a narrowly fought third set tiebreak, as the pairing of local NCAA players produce some late magic to stay in the tournament.
Americans will feature in all of the four singles matches that are set to take place today at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Big men Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka will battle with their big serves, while Tim Smyczek and Donald Young fight it out for a much needed quarterfinal berth after that. In the night session, John Isner starts his quest for a fourth ATP Atlanta title against Adrian Mannarino, and Fritz will face Fratangelo in a battle of young Americans. Five ATP doubles matches will take place as well.