Fritz, Opelka, and Young Score Comeback Wins at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic\
Three of the four ATP main draw matches at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open on Wednesday featured comeback wins, and all four matches featured American winners advancing to the quarterfinals.
Taylor Fritz struggled with shoulder pain early in his match against Bjorn Fratangelo, and the underdog Fratangelo was able to pounce on him, taking the first set 6-4. Fritz came back however, winning the match 4-6 6-3 6-2, as in the end, his superior power and groundstrokes outpaced a dogged Fratangelo. Fritz had to save break points serving for the second set and he dropped serve once in the third, as his serve was never strong in the match, something that is a cause for concern going forward.
Fritz’s best man at his wedding, Reilly Opelka, scored the best win of his career on Wednesday afternoon over Kevin Anderson 6-7 6-3 7-5 in comeback fashion. The matchup with Anderson was like playing a more experienced copy of himself for Opelka. Both players were confident in their powerful serving given their height, and their movement, and forehand were also solid for men of their size, despite not being elite movers or baseline battlers. Opelka has made huge strides this season and he’s into his first ATP quarterfinal.
Anderson was shaky on the day, as he has been all season, and perhaps not feeling 100%, as he took a medical timeout in the first set after saving four break points in the game after he was broken back after an early break. Opelka had to save two set points in the first set and then force a tiebreak, Anderson’s superior experience showed in the tiebreak as he took it.
Opelka was determined to not end up in another tiebreak. After getting frustrated at a perceived delay in the match by Anderson, Opelka channeled that frustration to get an early break, and despite going 0-40 down serving 4-2, the American dug out a hold, and went on to take the second set and force a third in routine fashion.
In the third it looked like Anderson would pull away and take the match as expected, he got a break after saving three break points on his serve, and he was 5-2, and eventually 5-4 up, as Opelka held the next game at love. However, Anderson got tight, and after missing two match points on his own serve, he surrendered the game on Opelka’s fourth break point chance. His consistency was lacking, and he couldn’t connect on an ace serve when it counted. A disappointed Anderson was broken in his next service game, and Opelka had a routine hold to capture the big win in three long sets.
Donald Young earned yet another comeback win, as he beat Tim Smyczek in a close battle 4-6 7-6 6-3. Smyczek had every chance to close out the match, but failed to do so. The first two sets saw seven breaks of serve in total, and Smyczek looked to be in the drivers seat, a set and 3-1 up, but Young fought back, and when it mattered he found another level in the tiebreak, taking it 7-1. In the third set, Smyczek went away, as Atlanta’s Young dominated proceedings, winning most of the baseline rallies to get a break, and force more pressure on Smyczek’s serve later in the set. Smyczek never challenged Young in the third set, and it’s Young in the quarterfinals as a result.
John Isner, the top seed, was the only player to have it easy on Wednesday. He rolled past a frustrated Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-0. Mannarino pushed hard early, and got a break against Isner, who perhaps looked destined for a three set battle, but the Frenchman would concede the break under pressure from Isner, and then get broken in his next service game to drop the set. At this point Mannarino looked at a loss in terms of what to do with Isner’s serve, and after failing to convert three break point chances, and getting broken in the next game, Mannarino gave up the match,winning just three more points from 2-0 down in the second, as he gave Isner a surprising bagel. From 4-2 down, Isner won eight straight games to put Mannarino to bed.
ATP Doubles Recap
The doubles winners on the day were Molteni/Zeballos, Brunstrom/Siljestrom, Raja/Sharan, Marray/Shamasdin, and Monroe/Sitak, as most of the doubles seeds, including the top seeded team, were upset.
The #2 and #4 seeds, Alex Dolgopolov, and Nick Kyrgios, will make their start in Atlanta on Thursday. Dolgopolov faces a tricky opponent in Yoshihito Nishioka, in a match that should feature some great movers. Kyrgios gets the late match against popular American Jared Donaldson, who is also upset minded.
Fernando Verdasco faces fellow veteran Julien Benneteau, and Horacio Zeballos will look to keep his good form going against Tobias Kamke in the two other singles matches. In doubles, Dolgopolov and Sergiy Stakhovsky will face Raja/Sharan, while Marray/Shamasdin face Demoliner/Garcia-Lopez.