Serve and Volleyer Groth Reaches Quarters @MercedesCup ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Groth volleys into quarters (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Wednesday in Stuttgart wasn’t as windy as the previous main draw days, yet almost as cold as we had yesterday, maybe a bit warmer. However, conditions weren’t relevant for the first time at this tournament and many players didn’t want to forfeit their chance to have some good practice on the practice courts.
Almost every player was practicing today, even those who lost their matches in singles and doubles. Grass season recently started and not everyone feels comfortable with the grass. Dominic Thiem for example practiced a lot with Lukas Rosol who was also his doubles partner. They were joking a lot and talked about tennis, while working on their forehands. Thiem’s forehand looks a bit better, backhand was a bit worrying though. Thiem really didn’t look happy with his progress at the beginning, but he cheered up with every backhand cross which went on the line. I reckon Rosol is a bit injured, since he didn’t move as well. Dustin Brown and Gilles Simon also practiced in front of fans. Just like Rosol and Thiem they laughed a lot and put on a show with some great shots.
Dreddy and Gillou (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Next to them on the same court were Alejandro Falla and Mikhail Kukushkin training, though the Colombian got defeated by Sugita on Sunday. Falla worked on sharpening his game on grass and his backhand got more effective now, he really displayed a much better tennis than he did on the weekend. Especially his backhand slice looks pretty good. Kukushkin on the other side wasn’t as inspiring as the Colombian and appeared frustrated.
Rafael Nadal was practicing today and expected his second doubles match. Unfortunately Robert Farah had wrist problems and had to call off (wish you a speedy recovery). His forehand was looking very solid with depth and power. However, his backhand didn’t improve a lot and he needs time to fix it.. He looked very pleased about his training and smiled, he really enjoys the grass-practice in Stuttgart. Francisco Roig looked happy too, as he watched Rafa’s down-the-line forehands land in again and again. Still, one has to admit the conditions made the grass courts very slow and the grass here doesn’t have a low bounce.
Marin Cilic got the biggest court to train on, Court 1! He hit many backhands at practice, trying to fix the shot that bedeviled him in doubles. His cross-court forehand looked to be a strong weapon, but he wasn’t clicking on down the line shots.
Cilic on the practice courts (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Wednesday Second Round Matches
Alexander Zverev was up in the first match against Viktor Troicki on Center Court and I’m certain that a member of his team watched Troicki’s match yesterday. Zverev employed a strategy more suited to clay than grass, but his gameplan was to stay in rallies and to attack Viktor’s flaws (his almost careless shot selection and his poor groundies). Though the scoreline would indicate otherwise, Viktor didn’t play great Tuesday against Borna Coric hitting many forehand unforced errors, so it wasn’t a bad idea to be more defensive for your second grass match ever if you’re Zverev.
Problem was his shots lacked depth and Troicki was able to dictate the rallies like he wanted. Zverev started very bad in the first set losing his serve and having many problems on his second serve. He didn’t find his rhythm at first, and by the time he did, the first set was in the books in favor of Troicki. Second set started similar, problems holding his serve and lost his service again. Troicki hit the balls very well and moved quickly on grass. He was very often at the net, Zverev almost never and he got too passive during rallies, the Serb toyed with him playing the balls back and forth. The young German couldn’t always yield an advantage of his serve today to be more competitive. Troicki served a bit better and returned very much better than Zverev who had problems anticipating the Troicki serve.
Troicki had a very good depth today, hence Zverev the younger had to move very often on the baseline and slipped and fell quite often. After a while Troicki lost his focus and was inattentive, he started to prefer the worst option and his shot selection was awful. He lost his two match points in the breaker due to this, and lost the second set with a stab volley right into the net. Once again, in the third set, Zverev had many problems with his serves as he didn’t aim to hit a winner and let Troicki dictate the game. This match was full of very long rallies, seemed to be more a clay event than a grass match in reality. Zverev failed to break Troicki again, and the Serb served it out though with some silly UEs 6-3 6-7 6-3.
Gael Monfils routined Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6(6), 7-6(5), a typical scoreline for a match on grass. Both served very well in the first set, Monfils couldn’t convert the first break point at the first game thanks to an ace the Austrian hit and Haider-Maurer couldn’t convert his break point (which was a set point too) because of a very strong forehand cross winner Monfils hit. Breaker had to decide the first set and the Austrian had a very rare problem: His two foot faults cost him greatly as he double faulted twice. Monfils couldn’t hold the edge with the first mini-break, but converted his next set point on his serve. Second set started like the first one with lots of service winners due too good serves. The Frenchman lost again his concentration and couldn’t break the Austrian. He put up on a show to amuse the crowd after he started to return well. Haider-Maurer had more problems returning, so Monfils didn’t have many problems with his serve apart from a service game. Just like Zverev before Haider-Maurer, a dirtballer, played like on clay, very defensive and cautious. He wasn’t as often at the net with serve-and-volley as Monfils was, but when he decided to take over the rally, he went forward and won it. In contrast to his rival who tried many hot shots and serve-and-volleys, some of them enchanting the crowd.
Monfils won in two tiebreaks (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Furthermore, both had problems volleying, since Haider-Maurer waits for these net approaches to pass Monfils and the Austrian went forward after a very harmless shot. Many volleys landed at the net. Gael played very well when he needed to and had an eye on the clear space for the winners. However, breaker had to decide the second set again and the Austrian led with a mini-break, but gifted it right back to Monfils. Then he again committed the first UE to lose his serve after a good return while the Austrian played serve-and-volley. Monfils closed the match of course with an ace. Monfils has promised his fitness trainer the new Mercedes-Benz car if he wins the title.
Against Feliciano Lopez, a grass court expert, big serving Aussie Sam Groth notched a huge win. After losing a service game in the first set in routine fashion, he didn’t lose another service game. His match would have been easier if he converted all the volleys and smash opportunities that Lopez offered up. Both were serving fantastically without any big problems they couldn’t handle. Lopez began suddenly to play less slice and more top-spin which helped the Australian a lot and his returns became less hazardous. The Spaniard lost his confidence as the match continued, whereupon Groth gained more confidence in his groundgame which got more threatening as the games went by. Lopez’ surprising slice shots vanished Groth’s rhythm during the second set and so it got very difficult to break him. The Spaniard’s usual return position was a few meters behind the baseline, His distance was even farther away from that line returning in the 2nd set.
This wasn’t the best approach against Groth, as Flopez’s passivity in the second set resulted in a losing result unlike in the first. When Lopez failed to get amazing return winners he was going for, Groth didn’t have any problem with his serve-and-volley to win the points on serve. Lopez hit slice and topspin body shots at Groth when the Australian went forward, but Lopez couldn’t repeat this strategy to success execution wise. The second set tiebreaker seemed to be very even for a long time, but after a very good return on the line and a long slice rally Groth hit a miraculous and lucky bh slice in front of Lopez’ feet. Furthermore the ball had a rare bounce, rendering it unreachable. Groth served fantastically well and Lopez didn’t have the ghost of a chance to break him. The third set tiebreaker was more of a nailbiter than even the second set tiebreak, and after Groth’s incredible forehand on the line Lopez’ backhand slice reached the net. Groth served it out without problems and won the match after losing first set 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6).
Philipp Kohlschreiber posted another routine win in round 2, defeating Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-4. Kohli played very well today and Janowicz couldn’t keep up the level he had in his match against Brown. Kohlschreiber moved very well and anticipated Janowicz’ shot selection well. As a contrast to the Pole, Kohli served with accuracy not just power. Kohlschreiber often played the ball in to stay in the rally, expecting an UE from Janowicz and JJ had no clue how to handle this approach. It was a very one-sided match as Kohlschreiber dominated the whole match and didn’t lose the control of it. Janowicz didn’t have his serve today, so his groundies were even worse, as he didn’t have much confidence during the match. He had a very negative body language as well.
Kohli served well (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The German did everything right: He stood a few meters behind the baseline to return weak Janowicz serves, and pulled surprising returns out of his hat. Jerzy, who moved poorly on the day, struggled with the fact Kohli didn’t give him a chance to gather rhythm. Kohli was able to trigger forehand and baseline shanks out of Janowicz. The Bavarian counter attacked with his power, very clever shot-selection and very good movement. A big quarterfinal match with Gael Monfils will be next for him.
Tomic Back in the Groove, Coric Shelled Tuesday at ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Tomic back in the groove (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It was the fourth day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart tournament and it was the coldest and windiest day yet. It’s always the worst what can happen here in Germany in terms of weather, with dark clouds, strong winds, and no rain: A winter day during summer. Many players had problems today, especially muscular problems. We witnessed the first retirement in a main draw match and many tennis players moving poorly. Conditions were a challenge today, but matches were completed in full.
Difficult wind created the highest amount of unforced errors per match today, yet very beautiful winners which were powered by the wind. Even in the press centre it was quite cold. In the cold, fans gathered around Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown seeking an interaction with their favorites. Nadal had to call the security team to get through the crowds, when he played doubles with Feliciano Lopez.
Main Draw Round 1
The schedule looked promising on Tuesday, especially for the German crowd. as German was featured in 8 out of 11 matches. Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki led off the day.
Borna Coric’s father was quite optimistic this could be the day he wins his first match on grass, before the match began. With Croatian journalists in the stands Borna just absolutely disappointed his countrymen and couldn’t end his negative run of four losses in a row on grass (0-4 career record). His first service game looked promising, though he had problems holding it. He still doesn’t know how to move on grass and gets too passive during rallies. Troicki was the way more aggressive player and hit some great winners, but some funny unforced errors. While the beginning of the first set was competitive, Borna lost his second serve with a fight, it seemed he wasn’t up for the match entirely. The second serve game he lost was on him and Troicki didn’t even have to play well.
The second set was just pathetic, Coric only won nine points out of 36 and just won a lone return point during the whole set. I stopped watching it after the first break which was very hard-fought (three times deuce) and Troicki won it a few minutes later. Troicki’s forehand didn’t look that bad at all, in contrary to Coric’s which can’t be even called a weapon. Given he’s a young gun, Coric will have the time to develop his game on grass, but in the present day Troicki rolled 6-2 6-0 in a blowout.
Jan-Lennard Struff struggled on the day, though he offered some great forehand-shots and even nicer volleys. Bernard Tomic was out of his league, he offered up great variation in his serve and delivered what he needed, to win, throwing in some great winners. The first set was very one-sided, Tomic won the very first game which was a break to love and broke him at the end of the first set again. However, like is often the case with his matches. Bernie wasn’t consistent enough to close out the match routinely, leading a set and a break ahead.
Struff started to hit one good return after another, and dictate the rallies – He almost always won the point at the net and almost always lost the points on longer rallies, as he hit many forehand unforced errors under pressure. After Tomic broke his serve with a fantastic forehand down-the-line winner, he immediately was broken bakc after serving two double faults and committing a very easy backhand ue after a poor return. The set built up its tension because of the fact both served very well till the second set breaker, when the Borussia Dortmund-fan suddenly led 3-0. Two long forehands later, and Tomic took a decisive advantage, eventually closing out the breaker 7-5 for a 6-3 7-6 victory. Tomic’s game looked quite sharp today, although there was room for improvement. Bernie has to face now another German he lost to in Halle three years ago, Tommy Haas.
Another German moving on here is Mischa Zverev who’s showing great grass tennis as a veteran. The underrated grass specialist had many problems at the beginning against Dominic Thiem and lost even his serve, but he managed to catch himself and rebroke, converting his first break point of the match. As the match progressed, both started to serve better and the breaker had to decide the set. After three consecutive mini-breaks Zverev held his serve to get set point and Thiem failed to save another set point, as he didn’t serve well under pressure. Zverev looked fresher, though he played every day in the last three days, and could break him again. Thiem broke himself with a lot of unnecessary errors. The German served well in set 2, broke Thiem again returning and moving very well to hit one forehand after another in his last service game to close the match 7-6 6-2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Lukas Rosol looked like a great match on paper, but Rosol played poorly on the outer court. Baghdatis lost the first game and his serve, but Rosol couldn’t maintain the advantage and ended up losing the first set with a double break. Rosol moved poorly and showed signs of rust. He didn’t have the fortune to trust in his first serve, it was either too long or into the net in big moments and Baghdatis even started to return well when given the chance. The veteran Baghdatis had very good and strong groundstrokes, made Rosol run, and in this way the Cypriot hit many winners. His form looked excellent, throwback in a way and could have some great results in the next week overall like today where he won 6-3 6-4. Depending on Rafael Nadal’s form on the day he could come even through in their match.
Baghdatis was smooth in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Benjamin Becker came back to Germany in good form after some wins at Roland Garros, and was excited to start the grass court season, his best surface, but unfortunately the shoulder-problem he had in Paris discomforted him again and he was in pain. Therefore he slumped in defeat against Andreas Seppi. After the first set he asked for a medical timeout and it went better afterwards. He held twice his serve, and he had signs of a comeback, but after Seppi served again his should flaired up once more. The German let the match slide and wants to focus now on getting completely recovered again. Wish you all the best, Benjamin, and a speedy recovery! Seppi defeated injured Becker 6-1, 6-2.
Similar to Becker Sergiy Stakhovsky had medical problems against Sam Groth. The first set Stakhovsky won with a classic grass court serve and volley game, often chipping and charging with brilliant volley winners. Groth, famous for his fastest serve ever recorded at a Challenger in South Korea, served again very well, but was too slow to reach Stakhovsky’s volleys. Especially the second serves were attacked by Stako, till the Australian let off steam and yelled
“he always gets my 2nd serve” after 0-30, *3-5 in the first set. Bit by bit Stakhovsky started to play more passively and gave Groth some opportunities at the net that he could approach.
Groth and Stakhovsky volleyed away (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Nothing changed in the second set and Stakhovsky’s serve lessened in effectiveness, he had to save seven break points in the second set alone, as Groth wasn’t always attentive at his chances. On the eight break point chance in set 2, a set point as well, Groth finally won it. Stako lost his serve at the beginning of the third set, and then retired 5-3 down in the third. At the end his serves were a shadow of the his serving in the 1st set, so Groth won it 4-6, 7-5, 5-3. Wish you a speedy recovery as well, Stako!
Matthias Bachinger again displayed great tennis against Peter Gojowczyk. Gojo dictated with his forehand in very good rallies and the Bavarian Bachinger ran left and right to get the balls. Both were serve-and-volleying very well and little things decided this match. One of these things was Bachinger’s fighting spirit, and his poison slices which were a hazard for Gojowczyk. He committed unforced errors and many forehands landed at the net after Bachinger’s slices.
Bachinger was very clutch on important points and didn’t give up any game. Gojowczyk was leading in his last service game in before a theoretical breaker 40-0, but many forehand unforced errors and an incredible forehand smash into the net after a long slice-rally and a well played lob gave Bachinger a break. The Bavarian served the match out, just like in the first set he did after winning the break and will face #2 seed Marin Cilic. Bachingers win was 7-5 7-5.
Alexander Zverev was the better player against Mate Pavic and deservedly won after losing the first set 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. It was a bad start at the beginning facing a break point, and he eventually got broken and lost the first set. In the second set the young German improved his serve on break points, and his forehand was very sharp against Pavic, who likes to attack at the net with his backhand volley. Zverev was aware of that and could read his serve-and-volleys, as he stood meters behind the baseline and didn’t give Pavic many free points.. All in all Zverev played with a very good strategy and kept his head cool, against a nervous Pavic. He finally won the match with a very strong forehand triggering a Pavic error.
Both Zverev brothers advanced on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The old German master Tommy Haas returned finally to the tour! His win over Mikhail Kukushkin was a graet match, based on good serve and offensive forehands. Kukushkin didn’t have any clue how to react and it says a lot about his tennis on grass when he gets dominated by the rusty Haas. In the second set Haas lost his rhythm and started to gift Kukushkin games he never would have been able to win. Giving that Kukushkin at the end couldn’t hold the break and Haas was able to raise his level again to finished it in two 6-4 7-5.
The last German who played today, Dustin Brown lost in three to Jerzy Janowicz. Both were rock solid on serve, and Brown lost some points due to easy unforced errors he hit. The first set went quickly as Dreddy took it in a tiebreak but Janowicz was able to break him in the second and third sets, while Brown wasn’t able to convert break points. Janowicz completed the comeback 6-7 6-4 6-3. It was still a successful tournament for Brown as he qualified for an ATP event for the first time since Munich.
Janowicz vs. Brown was a quick match (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the other singles match on the day, Andreas Haider-Maurer dashed the hopes of young German wild card Max Marterer 7-6 6-3.
Tuesday Doubles Scores
Lopez/Nadal d. Junaid/Shamasdin 7-6 6-2
Cabal/Farah d. Rosol/Thiem 7-6 7-6
Matkowski/Zimonjic d. Monfils/Simon 6-3 6-4
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.
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.