Korean star Hyeon Chung returned to the ATP tour with a second round victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open over Taylor Fritz 6-4 7-6. In a hard fought afternoon match the two next gen stars traded winners, with Chung overcoming 16 Fritz aces to win in straights.
The match opened with Fritz and Chung both saving break points before Fritz was broken at 30 in the 9th game of the match. Chung went on to hold his serve to take the set. In set 2 Chung broke right away and pressured Fritz in two more service games getting to 4-3 with relative ease. However Fritz turned things around yet again breaking a weary looking Chung to get things back on serve. From there it went to a tiebreak where from 5-5 Chung won the final two points to secure victory.
Joining Chung in the quarterfinals are John Isner, Ryan Harrison, and Mischa Zverev the singles winners on Wednesday.
Isner is looking to extend his semifinal streak in Atlanta and he moved a match closer with a 6-3 6-2 victory in just over an hour against Alex De Minaur. Showing no signs of fatigue from his run at Wimbledon Isner fired 15 aces and faced no break points, breaking De Minaur two times and avoiding even a tiebreak.
Isner’s opponent in last year’s final Ryan Harrison got past Lukas Lacko 2-6 6-2 6-3. Harrison played a poor first set as Lacko got off to a hot start on the fast Atlanta stadium court. Harrison regained his composure though. From a set down he saved three break points on his serve at 2-2 in the second set and from there he turned the amtch around. He broke Lacko twice in the second then recovered from a break down in the third to save a break point and break twice then serve out the match.
Mischa Zverev defeated a soon to be retired Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-2 in just over an hour. Youzhny didn’t move closer to 500 match wins as Zverev got the first break and three more over the course of two sets to win with relative ease.
The conclusion of the opening round of the main draw at the BB&T Atlanta Open 2018 saw five Americans advance into the round of 16, highlighted by local favorite Donald Young. Young recovered from a set down on Monday to win the second and third sets on Tuesday, saving a match point in the third, and also recovering from a break down in the third to prevail 2-6 7-6 7-6 against the veteran Croat. Karlovic’s normally steady serve failed him in the deciding set while Young was clutch to win just his second ATP match of the year.
Ryan Harrison also completed a comeback winning 4-6 7-6 6-1 over James Duckworth. With his wife cheering him on from the sidelines Harrison played a tough second set and a smooth third after struggling in the first, as Duckworth’s game melted in the heat. Taylor Fritz joins Harrison in the round of 16 after a routine 6-4 6-4 victory against Ramkumar Ramanathan. A tired Ramanathan generated no break point chances and struggled with his second serve.
Noah Rubin and Frances Tiafoe were the other Americans to win in straights. Rubin 6-3 6-4 over Thanasi Kokkinakis and Tiafoe 6-4 6-4 over Marius Copil. Neither Copil nor Kokkinakis generated a break in the match, as Rubin saved all three break points he faced.
In the other Tuesday singles matches, Cam Norrie ran away from a frustrated Malek Jaziri 7-5 6-0, Jeremy Chardy was too steady on serve against Ricardas Berankis winning 6-4 6-3. ATP veterans Marcos Baghdatis (6-4 6-1 against Alex Bolt), Mikhail Youzhny (6-2 6-0 against Emil Reinberg) and Mischa Zverev completed the R16 singles field. Zverev had match points in the second set tiebreak vs. Tim Smyczek but had to prevail in 3 sets 6-3 6-7 6-3 with his serve and volley game in a match that lasted over 2 and a half hours.
In doubles Donald Young and Chris Eubanks advanced in a third set tiebreak while Tiafoe/Bryan won in straights.
Tomorrow in singles it will be defending champion John Isner against Alex De Minaur, Hyeon Chung returning from injury against Fritz, Harrison against Lukas Lacko and veterans Youzhny and Zverev squaring off.
2017 ATP Stuttgart and Rosmalen Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2017 ATP grass court season starts this week with two European tour stops that are on the 250 level of the tour. Clay season is over, so get ready for fast paced action on the green grass of Stuttgart and Den Bosch.
ATP World Tour 250
June 12-18, 2017
Prize Money: €630,785
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (5)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (12)
3: Tomas Berdych (14)
4: Lucas Pouille (16)
Stuttgart has a great field this week, highlighted by one of the best grass court players of all time, Roger Federer, along with a core group of solid tour players for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. (WC)Tommy Haas
A battle between solid grass court players, the 39 year old Haas has lost more than a step, but he’s a very crafty player at his age, and will give the big server Herbert plenty of trouble. Herbert has not been able to consistently compete at the tour level in singles, and Haas should get the win in his German homeland.
Florian Mayer vs. Jeremy Chardy
The unorthodox shotmaking of Mayer is a good fit for grass, and he’s the favorite in Germany against the higher ranked Chardy, who hits the ball hard and plays aggressively, but often racks up a high error count in the process. Mayer should find form and notch the win.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. Feliciano Lopez
Lopez has won both meetings these veterans have played on grass, Simon is in poor form, and Lopez, happy to be off of the slow, high bouncing clay, should be able to whip his serve in and advance forward enough to get the win and reach round 2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Baghdatis has been in terrible form and hasn’t won a match since January, but he’s been good on grass against the German, who for his part has lost three straight matches and isn’t in the best form himself. Baghdatis badly needs this win, but in Germany, Kohlschreiber is a sensible favorite.
Roger Federer, the heavy favorite this tournament, will open his bid against the Haas/Herbert winner, look for Roger to tune up and get the win, before doing the same against serve and volleyer Mischa Zverev, who is happy to be off of clay, and should beat Malek Jaziri and either Yannick Hanfmann or Marton Fucsovics in round 2.
Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez should contest the other quarterfinal in the top half, Lopez will face Mayer/Chardy in round 2, and should be the favorite in that match, if he defeats Simon. Berdych will get a dangerous contest against Bernard Tomic for his first match, presuming Tomic puts away the ageless Stephane Robert. Given Tomic’s awful form (four straight defeats), Berdych should make it to the quarters, where I have him knocking off Lopez to reach the semis. Berdych and Lopez have split the h2h 6-6.
Grigor Dimitrov will face Andrey Kuznetsov or Jerzy Janowicz in round 2, Janowicz is far removed from his success on grass, although he still has plenty of power. Kuznetsov has had a good season, but Dimitrov is a favorite in this section for a reason, having found a bit of form at Roland Garros. Viktor Troicki should beat Benoit Paire and Nikoloz Basilashvili/Peter Gojowczyk to reach the quarters. Dimitrov will be the favorite whether it’s Troicki or someone else in the quarters.
Lucas Pouille begins his tournament against either Jan-Lennard Struff or Lukas Lacko. Pouille isn’t perfect on grass by any measure but he should be good enough to reach the quarters before falling to Steve Johnson. The in-form American Johnson faces Max Marterer first up, then the Kohlschreiber/Baghdatis winner, a difficult but winnable path. Johnson’s game is built for fast surfaces.
Dark Horse: Feliciano Lopez
The unseeded Spaniard has every shot to at least make the quarters, and will have a punchers chance against Berdych. Federer is probably too much in the semis, but after a rough few months, Lopez could be back in winning form on grass.
Semis Federer d. Berdych
Dimitrov d. Johnson
Final Federer d. Dimitrov
Nothing suggests Federer will not win in Stuttgart, he should be fresh and focused, while Dimitrov looks to be solid enough to make the final with his all-court game.
ATP World Tour 250
S-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
June 12-18, 2017
Prize Money: €589,185
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (7)
2: Alexander Zverev (10)
3: Ivo Karlovic (24)
4: Gilles Muller (28)
First round matchups to watch:
Yuichi Sugita vs. Janko Tipsarevic
Sugita has found form this year and just won a challenger on grass. Tipsarevic is a steady veteran who has a h2h win this matchup, but has yet to return to his tour level form. Fatigue may be an issue for Sugita, but it’s sensible that he’d be able to defeat Tipsarevic on grass.
(5)Steve Darcis vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
Two shotmaking specialists, Dolgo has a only won one out of three meetings against the Belgian veteran, but he’s still the favorite in this match. The serve and volleyer Darcis is my pick though, he’s had a great season and that should continue on grass.
Dustin Brown vs. (WC)Stefan Kozlov
Brown is a dangerous serve and volleyer and should teach the young Kozlov a thing or two on grass. Kozlov has the game to compete on this surface but he still has plenty to learn, and Brown should have too crisp of a performance to suffer a defeat in this one.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
The veteran Youzhny has a great history on grass, but at 34 his game has declined from its peak by a large margin. Kokkinakis is just getting his feet wet on tour after injury, he’s immensely talented but Youzhny should find a way to scrape through for a much needed win to further enhance his grass court record.
Jordan Thompson vs. Adrian Mannarino
Another battle between players who enjoy grass court tennis, Thompson comes off of a challenger final on the surface, and although Mannarino should challenge him, look for Thompson’s fast developing game to show out and get the win.
Marin Cilic is in good form after reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and should beat the Sugita/Tipsarevic winner, and then Darcis/Dolgopolov in the quarterfinals. Cilic didn’t drop a set in his Paris victories and looks setup to continue that trend on grass. The Darcis/Dolgopolov winner will face Vasek Pospisil or local wild card Tallon Griekspoor in round 2.
Ivo Karlovic‘s serve is a threat on grass, and he should defeat Brown/Kozlov, before facing Youzhny in the quarters. Youzhny faces Robin Haase or Daniil Medvedev in round 2 and has a winnable path to the quarters, although Haase is a competitive opponent. Karlovic should be solid enough to reach the semis on this surface.
11-6 in his career on grass, Alexander Zverev is a contender for this title, after breaking through on tour this season with a 27-10 record on the year. Zverev struggled at Roland Garros, but moving to grass may bring a refreshing change for him. Zverev should defeat Thompson/Mannarino to reach the quarters, Nicolas Mahut has won three Den Bosch titles and should defeat him there. Mahut opens with Dennis Novikov and then faces Rendy Lu/Evgeny Donskoy. Look for Mahut to show off his talents and reach at least the semifinals.
Gilles Muller also looks set for success, he’s had a great season and grass is perhaps his best surface. Muller should defeat Andreas Seppi/Tatsuma Ito, and then either Aljaz Bedene or Denis Istomin in the quarters. Rising young gun Hyeon Chung and improving American Ernesto Escobedo are also here in this section, and Chung could rise up and secure it. I have it Muller over Bedene, two players who have had good seasons, in the quarterfinals.
Dark Horse: Mikhail Youzhny
There are plenty of seeds with a shot at this title, but don’t count out Youzhny. The veteran still has enough game to find form for a week and take a title. In the very least, he should make the quarterfinals, with a good chance at beating Karlovic.
Semis Cilic d. Karlovic
Muller d. Mahut
Final Cilic d. Muller
Cilic should be the clear favorite to take the title this week. I’ll back Muller’s form over all of his opponents to make the final, and he could take the title as well.
2016 ATP St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour heads back to Europe for indoor hard court action post US Open, and the ATP 250 stop in St. Petersburg, Russia is next on the calendar. Here is a look at the field, with predictions.
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 19-25, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: $923,550
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Stan Wawrinka (3)
2: Milos Raonic (6)
3: Tomas Berdych (9)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
The US Open champ Wawrinka, and two more ATP top 10 players are playing in St. Petersburg, making it a strong ATP 250.
Russia and Kazakhstan just played in Davis Cup action, and Rublev and Kukushkin represented their nations, although they didn’t play each other in a match. The young Rublev should be boosted by team Russia’s victory in that tie, and playing on home courts. Kukushkin is a steady ATP veteran, the rising young gun Rublev could use this quality win.
(5)Alexander Zverev vs. Karen Khachanov
Despite playing well in Washington, Zverev was disappointing this summer and needs to a reset for the Fall season. Khachanov is still an intriguing talent in his own right, and comes off qualifying for the US Open. Zverev is the favorite for a reason, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me.
The US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, presuming he’s fit and serious about playing hard in St. Petersburg, should dispatch Lukas Rosol or Diego Schwartzman, then either Viktor Troicki or Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Verdasco opens with Dusan Lajovic, while Troicki will face Gastao Elias. Verdasco has a recent h2h win over Lajovic, while Troicki should beat Elias. I have him defeating Verdasco given the Spaniard hasn’t been in great form all year. Troicki reached the semis in Winston-Salem, and he should fall to Wawrinka in the St. Petersburg quarters.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Joao Sousa look set to face off in the quarters, RBA is 27-10 on hard courts this year, and with the only player standing in his way either the out of form Adrian Mannarino or the struggling Ricardas Berankis, he should make the quarters. Sousa opens with a qualifier, and then will face the Rublev/Kukushkin winner. Rublev is a young gun, and Sousa has been poor this year, but he won a pair of matches in New York, and that makes him the favorite. RBA over Sousa is my pick in the quarters.
Milos Raonic will face either fan favorite Mikhail Youzhny or the rejuvenated Janko Tisparevic in his first match. Raonic was poor at the US Open, but on a quick indoor hard court there is no reason to believe his serve won’t allow him to get past most likely Tipsarevic, as Youzhny hasn’t been healthy, and then beat either Zverev or Khachanov. The winner of that match faces Alexander Bublik or a qualifier in round 2. The 19 year old Bublik is a promising Russian talent making his ATP debut. I don’t think Zverev will be able to handle Raonic’s serve.
The weakest section of the draw belongs to Tomas Berdych, who is recovering from appendix removal, and missed the US Open. The Czech is 19-9 on hard courts this year and will probably face home favorite Andrey Kuznetsov, presuming Kuznetsov beats his Davis Cup teammate Evgeny Donskoy in round 1. The other seed here is Albert Ramos, who prefers clay and is just 5-9 on hard courts this year. Ramos opens with a qualifier, and then will face fellow clay courter Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier in round 2. Lorenzi has had a career best season, but Ramos should fall to Berdych in the quarters.
Kuznetsov is 25, so he’s matured beyond the prospect stage, and as a result doesn’t get near as much fanfare as Rublev in terms of Russian players. However, Kuznetsov is the best Russian player right now, at #47 in the world, and has gone 26-17 this year. His massive improvements this year are clear, and he could upset Berdych and make a run in a home tournament.
Wawrinka d. Bautista Agut
Raonic d. Berdych
There is no reason to believe the top two seeds won’t make the final unless Wawrinka isn’t focused, or Raonic isn’t healthy.
Raonic d. Wawrinka
I’m calling an upset in the final, Wawrinka has less to play for than Raonic, who wants to secure a spot in the year end World Tour finals. The Canadian badly needs the boost of a top 5 win, and I’m not sure Wawrinka will be 100% committed this tournament.
Heading the 16-player field was Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The former world No.8 has climbed 49 places in the rankings this year after winning three consecutive Challenger titles across Asia (two in Bangkok and one in Manila). Youzhny, who reached the final of the tournament in 2007, kicked-off his campaign against Ireland’s Sam Barry. The Irishman is currently ranked 399th in the world and recently won a Futures title in Sunderland, Great Britain. Barry was no match for Youzhny as the world No.78 overcame a close opening set to win 7-6(1), 6-2.
Awaiting the Russian in the final qualifying round was Georgian fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Belgium’s Yannick Mertens in straight sets during his opening round. Despite struggling with his first serve, the top seed booked in place in the main draw with a 6-2, 6-4, win. Getting 43% of his first serves in, Youzhny claimed 69% of his service points to extend his 2016 winning streak to 17.
Speaking about Youzhny performance, tournament vice-chairman Colm McLoughlin spoke of his delight for the Russian.
“We are delighted that Mikhail Youzhny has successfully negotiated the qualifying rounds here, and he did so without the loss of a set to emphasise that he is very much back in form after a disappointing season last year,” McLoughlin said.
Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano produced a surprise win to reach the first round in Dubai. Starting against Turkish wildcard Cem İlkel, the world No.142 endured a second set scare before winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The reward for the Fabbiano was a meeting with second seed Ivan Dodig. During their marathon encounter, which lasted 13 minutes short of three hours, Fabbiano converted 6/10 break points to win 6-7(1), 6-4,6-2. The Italian will now play in his third ATP main draw this year.
Kyle Edmund’s hopes of continuing his strong start to the year was ended by unseeded Croat Franko Skugor. The Brit reached his first ATP quarterfinal at the start of the year in the Doha Open and claimed his fourth Challenger title in Dallas, USA. Edmund began his Dubai quest with a 6-3, 6-4, win over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek. Meanwhile, Skugor defeated eighth seed James Ward 6-3, 6-4.
Despite there being over 100 places separating Edmund and Skugor, the Croat saved 5/5 break points to seal a straight sets victory (6-4, 6-2). The score appears one-sided, however, Skugor won just 11 points more than his opponent (63 to 52).
Finally, Lucas Pouille dropped just six games in his successful qualifying campaign. In his first match the Frenchman played a little-known Dutch wildcard Roy de Valk, winning 6-1,6-0, in less than 40 minutes. After his easy opening match, Pouille faced fifth seed Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian was forced to dig deep in his three sets win over Mischa Zverev in the first round. The first round efforts invested by the fifth seed had an effect on him during his match against Pouille. The world no. 91 fired 7 aces and faced no break points during his 6-2, 6-3, triumph.
Brazilian joy for Facundo Bagnis and Gastão Elias in Sao Paulo Qualifying
After the trials and tribulations of the Rio Open, the focus remains in Brazil at this week’s ATP 250 tournament in Sao Paulo. Headlined by France’s Benoit Paire, the tournament will feature six top 50 players. Prior to the main draw getting underway, a series of epic matches occurred during the qualifying draw for the tournament.
Top seed Facundo Bagnis secure his place in the main draw with a duo of wins over fellow Argentine players. Four Argentine players featured in the qualifying draw, three of which was drawn in the same section as Bagnis. In his first round he faced world No. 156 Nicolas Kicker. Kicker recently came close to winning his first Challenger title after reaching the final at the San Domingo Challenger. His recent form continued in São Paulo after taking the first set against Bagnis before the top seed battled back to win 5-7,6-4,6-2.
The next Argentine for Bagnis was fifth seed Facundo Arguello. Arguello defeated Brazil’s Orlando Luz 6-4,6-2, in his opening match. Converting 4/9 breaks point against Arguello, Bagnis eased to a 6-3,6-3 victory.
Portuguese sixth seed Gastao Elias endured two three-set battles to reach the main stage of the tournament. At last week’s Rio Open the world No.141 qualified for the main draw before losing to surprised finalist Guido Pella.
Elias’ second Brazilian qualifying campaign started with a tough 3-6,6-3,6-2, triumph over wildcard Jose Pereira. Impressively the sixth seed won 80% of his service points during the first round. Next up for Elias was Chile’s Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who stunned second seed Rugerio Dutra Silva in the first round. In a three-hour marathon, Elias edged past the Chilean player 7-6(5), 5-7,6-2.
Another Argentine success occurred for eight seed Maximo Gonzalez. His opening match against Italy’s Filippo Volandri came to an unfortunate end. After over two hours of play, the Italian retired at 5-5 in the final set due to an abdominal tear. Awaiting Gonzalez in the final round was Spanish third seed Roberto Carballes Baena. Baena produced a three sets win over Brazil’s Joao Souza in the first round. After dropping the first set, Gonzalez converted 5/7 break points to stun the third seed 4-6,6-3,6-3 to progress to the main draw. There was some consultation for Baena after he received a lucky loser position in the main draw following Guido Pella’s withdrawal.
Completing the quartet of qualifiers is seventh seed Blaz Rola. The Slovakian was four points away from losing in the first round before he achieved his marathon win over local talent Andre Ghem – 7-6(4),4-6,7-6(3). In the next round he played world No.218 Gianluca Nasco, who upset fourth seed Andrej Martin. Nasco won six Futures titles on clay last year. The Italian was on course to producing another surprise win after taking the opening set against Rola. Despite the promising start, Rola recovered to seal the win 3-6,6-0,6-4.
Donald Young, Mikhail Youzhny Ease Into Japan Open Main Draw Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Donald Young (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
16 players battled against each other for four spots into the main draw of the 42nd Japan Open. This year’s main draw is headlined by French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and defending champion Kei Nishikori.
Top seed Donald Young continued his recent spat of impressive form by producing two straight sets wins during the qualifying competition. The world No. 50 is playing in his first tournament since the US Open where he stunned Viktor Troicki to reach the last sixteen of the tournament for the first time since 2011. In the first round, he beat Poland’s Michał Przysiężny 6-1, 7-6 (1). The Pole hasn’t played in the main draw of an ATP tournament since last year’s Japan Open. In the second round Young played Japan’s Hiroki Moriya, who knocked out 8th seed Yūichi Sugita in the first round. Young eased his way to the 6-1, 6-4, win after seventy-two minutes on the court.
In the main draw Young will play sixth seed Marin Cilic. It will be the first time that they have played each other since 2011. Their first meeting was in the quarterfinal of the 2005 Australian Open boys competition.
Young wasn’t the only American triumph during the competition. 7th seed Austin Krajicek stunned second seed Nicolas Mahut. The distant cousin of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek breezed past wild card Shuichi Sekiguchi in the first round to set up a showdown with the Frenchman. The American was in impressive form, dropping just one point on his serve during the first set. Two breaks during the early-mid stages of both sets was enough to enable Krajicek to take the match 6-4, 6-4.
In the main draw Krajicek will play another qualifier, Matthew Ebden. Ebden’s route to the final was the most impressive performance with the Australian defeating the fourth and sixth seed. In the first round, he beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6 (5), 6-0. In the final round, he had a tough test against Japan’s Go Soeda. During the match, which lasted over two hours, Ebden recovered from a 0-3 deficit in the final set to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. It is the second time that Ebden has beaten Soeda on Japanese soil. The first was at the 2013 Yokohama Challenger.
The final qualifier was former world No.8 Mikhail Youzhny. In the first round he played veteran Finnish player Jarkko Nieminen, who is retiring at the end of the season. After a close first set, the Russian took the match 7-6 (3), 6-3. In the final round, he endured another close match against US Open doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Youzhny saved a set point in the first break before taking the tie-breaker 9-7. The second set was also on course for another tie-break until Youzhny broke Herbert’s serve for the third time of the match to win 7-6 (7), 6-4.
The reward for Youzhny’s efforts will be a first round clash with France’s Gilles Simon. Youzhny currently boasts a head-to-head lead of 8-3 against the Frenchman. Their last meeting was at the Canadian Open earlier this year where Youzhny won the match 6-1, 6-4.
A diverse field of qualifiers claimed their sports in the 2015 ATP Montreal, Rogers Cup main draw this weekend in what was a competitive qualifying tournament. The headliner was Ernests Gulbis, who may be coming out of what has been a season long slump, and beat both Blaz Rola and top qualifying seed Nicolas Mahut, the latter in a close three sets, to qualify. Gulbis was ranked as high as #10 in the world last year, and has six ATP titles, but he’s endured a dreadful season, and perhaps the summer will help regenerate him and his focus.
Along with Gulbis, young gun Hyeon Chung also made the main draw. The 19 year old Korean with a whippy backhand is in great form on the US Open Series thus far (3-1), and dominated both of his matches, the first against Kelsey Stevenson, and the second against Alejandro Gonzalez. Chung has a bright future ahead and we are likely to see him in many Masters main draws to come.
Like Gulbis, Alexandr Dolgopolov has endured a poor season, but the perpetual top 20 talent, who has now been on tour for a while, won a pair of tough matches over Dudi Sela and Alejandro Falla to qualify. Dolgopolov is 4-1 in his last five matches, and should serve as a dark horse threat on hard courts in the Montreal draw. He has two ATP quarterfinals on hard courts this year and also reached the round of 16 in Miami, pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets.
Two other veteran presences on tour also qualified, Yen-Hsun Lu used his baseline ball striking talents to easily dispatch David Volfson and Brayden Schnur, dropping jut three games in four sets of tennis. Mikhail Youzhny snapped a long losing streak, as the Russian surprisingly found form and whipped his one handed backhand to wins over J.P. Smith and Pierre-Hugues Herbert without dropping a set.
Lastly, two Americans qualified north of the border in Quebec as Donald Young snapped a cold streak and beat Rajeev Ram with ease after slipping past Edouard Roger-Vasselin in three sets. He will face off with his countryman Denis Kudla, who continued his fantastic form with routine wins over Ryan Harrison and James Duckworth, both of whom were challenging opponents on paper. Young is 6-1 against Kudla in the h2h, but Kudla clearly has an edge in form.
In the main draw Dolgopolov will have a punchers chance at an upset against Grigor Dimitrov, a fellow shotmaker, Gulbis faces one of his best friends on tour Dominic Thiem, Lu will have a chance to avenge his defeat to Vasek Pospisil in Atlanta and Youzhny faces a struggling Viktor Troicki in a winnable match.
Kokkinakis qualifies, Golubev, Bellucci advance to round 2 at the ATP Istanbul Open Monday Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Today at the Istanbul Open, the qualifying tournament was concluded and the main draw started with two matches. On qualifying side, after 6/8 seeds made the final round, the top 4 seeds advanced to the main draw. Blaz Kavcic (d. Marton Fuscovics 6-0 6-1) has been drawn against Argentinian youngster Diego Schwartzman, Teymuraz Gabashvili (d. Radu Albot 7-5 6-2) will face countryman Andrey Kuznetsov, Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis (d. Lorenzi Giustino 6-0 1-0 ret.) will face Serbian Dusan Lajovic, and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (d. Evgeny Donskoy 6-7 7-5 6-3) will be up against another countryman Mikhail Kukushkin for a place in the second round of the Istanbul Open.
Two of the qualifiers escaped from the seeds and got kind draws, while the others have 6th and 8th seed to beat to go further.
For the main draw action, there was no suprise, even with the seed losing. The first match on center court, Andrey Golubev and Wildcard Nikoloz Basilashvili played a very dull match. Basilashvili played poorly and proved that he is not ready for the ATP Tour main draws yet. The Georgian made many unforced errors during the whole match which was barely more than a hour. Also 27 year old Kazakh escaped from all BPs with quality serves and winning approaches on his first serve.The more solid player and the one with better clay game won the match comfortably. A crowd of around 300 did not seem particularly pleased with the quality of the contest.
Golubev was far superior on the day (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the second ATP main draw match of the day, no:74 Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci. playing on his best surface, beat the out of form 7th seed Russian Mikhail Youzhny, recording his second clay win against the veteran. Youzhny started to match surprisingly well, his caused was helped by Bellucci’s careless play early in the set. The Russian was leading 5-3 with the only break in the set, but eventually lost the advantage with some crucial errors. There was a huge scream from Bellucci after his maiden break of the match, then, both players won their service games, and the tiebreak decided the set. Belluci got the first mini-break with impossible winner down the line, only to lose it with an UE next point. At 6-5 in the TB, Brazilian capitalised his set point in his first attempt. Second set was much comfortable for the lefty, who used his powerful FH and grinded through the victory. It was an hardly upset in the end.
Bellucci stormed past Youzhny (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Tomorrow, the first match on Center Court will be the all-Kazakh matchup. 6th seed Mikhail Kukushkin, will take on Aleksandr Nedovyesov who he beat in their only clay meeting, in 3 sets last year. I expect a similar scenario between the two, anything other than Kukushkin win, would be a suprise, after the Nedovyesov’s not impressive performances in last 3 days.Then, two Turkish players will be in action on Center Court. 19 year old Cem Ilkel takes on Casablanca finalist, and Bucharest semi finalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, while the Spaniard is the obvious favorite, he may be a bit tired after a large number of matches over the past weeks, and his inconsistency generally may be an advantage for the youngster to keep it close.
Nedovyesov will face Kukushkin (photo credit :Ahmet Fevzi Guclu
Marsel Ilhan on the other hand, home favourite and Turkey’s best player ever, will start his campaign against the veteran Jarkko Nieminen, who hasn’t played since an early exit in Monte Carlo. Following the loss against Feliciano Lopez in the second round of Barcelona, the Turk will be motivated to get back his good form on home soil. Their close ranking, also suggests quite a battle. Still, with the experience on his side, the Finnish will be the slight favourite, to make the second round. Ilhan will desperately need the crowd support tomorrow to be able win and setup a marquee match against Roger Federer in round 2. The final match on Center Court willl be the rematch of Bucharest first round, 5th seed Andreas Haider-Maurer will be again the favourite, though Dodig’s victory after a tough fight shouldn’t suprise anyone. Also the Austrian played a lot lately so his body may let him down, an unpredictable match lies ahead.
On the outside courts, some good matches are scheduled. Suprise kid of Barcelona, young Russian prospect Andrey Rublev, who just beat Fernando Verdasco last week, will be looking to keep his momentum going against the Bosnian hope Damir Dzumhur. This will be really close, but another solid performance from Rublev following week, wouldn’t be that easy. I’d go with 3 sets win for the Bosnian.
Next match on Court 1, Jurgen Melzer will play against Steve Darcis, both have bad reputations as of late on clay, it will be a toss-up, while Darcis win is much likely in the end. Last match on Court 1, Andrey Kuznetsov will be fighting against Teymuraz Gabashvili for a place in the second round of Istanbul Open. Despite the fact that Gabashvili being a qualifier, he has the better ranking and clay game, making him the favorite to advance.
Blaz Kavcic and Diego Schwartzman will open the Court 2 tomorrow, an easy win for the Argentinian should be the safe pick, The latter is the far better clay courter, and Slovenian always has had some trouble on the dirt. The following match on this court, will be between Denis Istomin and Benoit Paire. Uzbek is having bad clay season, and the young Frenchman came back from injury with good wins on his belt, the most recent one was against ErnestsGulbis in Barcelona. Paire has really a good clay game and may be a dangerous player on the day, if he wants. The momentum is on his side, hence is the obvious favorite of this meeting.
Finally the last match on Court 2, impressive Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis will face Dusan Lajovic, though Kokkinakis is not tested here against important names yet, he has the clay game needed to beat the Serbian. Lajovic beat the 19 years old in Acapulco in 2 sets two months ago on hard, but the fate of popular youngster may change this time, if he shows his best against a very mediocre player like Lajovic.
Tsonga wins comeback match, Dolgopolov, Djokovic thrill in Miami (Saturday Day 5 Miami OpenRecap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
The ATP side of the draw provided the primary highlights on an action packed Saturday at the 2015 Miami Open. Most of the top players advanced, as upsets were few and far between, meaning the fans will get the big name tennis that they wanted in the later rounds. With so many matches around the grounds, here is a handy synopsis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Tim Smyczek 6-4 3-6 6-3
The crowd gathered in anticipation in the main stadium to witness the return of the always entertaining Tsonga to the courts following his injury lay-off. This would be his first match in 2015, his last match was back in November of 2014 in the Davis Cup final when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in 4 sets. Tim Smyczek became a popular player this year after the amazing fight he put up against Rafael Nadal back in the Australian Open, especially related to the incredible moment of sportsmanship he displayed in a pivotal point during that match. Regardless it’s an opponent Jo would expect to beat, but of course after 4 months of not playing competitive tennis anything could happen, as the two fan favorite players met on Stadium court.
The Frenchman didn’t look rusty at all as he held with ease at the start, backed by an impressive serve that flummoxed Smyczek. Tim on the other hand didn’t look like he was dealing with pace of Tsonga’s groundstrokes very well, but regardless he would be able to hold serve the first few games. The first break would come at 3-3 in the 1st. Tim failed to keep up with the powerful Tsonga who was overpowering him in the rallies, and would get broken at 3-3. The Frenchman would continue his excellent serving as he consolidated the break to go up 5-4. A funny moment would present itself when Jo was serving for the set. the Frenchman would completely whiff a forehand on a short ball. Tsonga would then joke with the crowd as he pretended to not be able to catch the ball handed to him by the ballboy, he was in good spirits out there. The world # 13 would close out the set in style blasting a DTL backhand which Tim can only watch fly past him. The set was Tsonga’s 6-4.
Tsonga moved well in his return (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
The crowd would start to sense that Jo would continue to steamroll past the American in the 2nd, and with the way the Frenchman was serving it seemed so. The 2nd set began with both players holding serve, but Tim still didn’t look comfortable out there, as errors were flying off his racquet. He would appear to threaten Jo’s serve with a brilliant backhand pass only to follow it up with a silly unforced error, the story of the match for him at this point, all square at 2-2 in the second. Tim despite his inconsistent play was holding serve rather comfortably, he was hanging around and you could sense he just needed Jo to blink to turn things around. That’s exactly what would happen as Jo was serving at 3-2, the Frenchman would make a couple of unforced errors and just like that American would go up 4-2. At this point the pendulum was truly swinging as Tsonga was starting to lose focus and miss routine shots. Tim would hold at ease and go up 5-2, Jo was now serving to stay in the 2nd. The two players were starting to play some incredible points putting on a show in the main stadium, Tim’s lob would sail long forcing him to serve out the set himself. Jo would get a little help from the net-cord to generate a break point but Tim would save it. Jo was now uncharacteristically slicing everything back waiting for the American to make the mistake, however Tim would keep his composure and take the set at 6-3.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Tsonga would come out in the 3rd with a more intensity right off the bat, beautifully mixing up a cheeky drop shot with a forehand winner to the delight of the Miami crowd. The condition were unusual for Miami this time of year, relatively cold temperatures with a little bit of wind to spice things up. Both players would hold, 1-2 3rd set. Jo was definitely back to his 1st set form, playing a beauty of a cross court pass ending a marathon of a game to draw blood first in the 3rd, Tim meanwhile would let the wall behind him know how frustrated he was. Tsonga would continue serving efficiently to consolidate and go up 4-1 in the decider. At this point you got the feeling that it was all going to happen on the Frenchman’s racket, there was little Tim could do about it. Brimming with confidence, Tsonga would break again to get to just one game away from his first win in 2015. Jo would show no nerves as he serves out the match. The Frenchman was elated, jumping around waving to the crowd as the winner was announced. Even with rust, Tsonga had more raw talent than Smyczek and his serve, mixed with variety from the ground, were very effective weapons on the day.
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Tommy Robredo 6-7(1) 6-3 7-5
Last year’s quarterfinalist in Miami, Alex Dolgopolov put on a spectacular showcase in his second round match with baselining, veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Dolgo’s speed, shotmaking, and variation was on full display as he fired 33 winners and broke Robredo 6 times over the course of three long, and competitive sets. Dolgo got off to a fast start, breaking 2-0, but he couldn’t maintain the break, and likewise, Robredo failed to serve out the set 5-4 in the first, as he was broken back himself. At 6-5 Dolgo had a lone set point that he failed to convert, and then Robredo rose up, battling hard from the ground to take the first set tiebreak 7-1.
In the second, Dolgopolov recovered, securing a double break to take it 6-3, as he closed out the set with a break, something he had failed to do in the third set. The match was incredibly high quality, and positively intense throughout, as both players delighted spectators both in person, and in front of their video screens. The third set however, was something else, as both players rose to a level that made this match, the match of the tournament thus far. Similar to the previous two sets, an early break was found, as Robredo generated it and converted, but again, Dolgo would break back, and they would hold serve all the way to 4-4, as Robredo saved a lone break point to hold. The tennis from 4-4 in the third was magical, and defined everything great about the ATP game, and the sport itself. Dolgopolov committed himself to using athleticism to overcome the crafty Robredo, showing off his wheels, and his ability to create shots from all variety of court positions, as the highlight video below demonstrates. The tennis in this match was jaw dropping, and Dolgopolov broke in the final game for a 7-5 third set. It took him three match points, and on the final one, he drilled the ball from the whipping forehand side directly at Robredo who was approaching the net, drawing the error, and a match victory. These two fan favorite players were a delight to watch, and it was a must witness match.
Fans were treated to all shades of both Novak Djokovic and Martin Klizan, in their stadium court, night session clash. Djokovic got off to a fast start with the bagel, though Klizan was still showing signs of life, as none of the games within the set were love games, and he was hitting his forehand crisply. Even still, given the bakery products, it seemed Klizan might have thrown in the towel going into set 2, however, that was not the case as the Slovak recommitted himself. Klizan broke in the opening game to show he had his head in the game, and though Novak would break twice to go up 6-0 5-3, Kizan hit an amazing drop shot, and utillized power to break back at 15 against the world number 1. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, as they wanted to get more bang their buck, and though they appreciated Novak, it was clear most in the stadium wanted to see a third set.
Klizan, and Novak would give the crowd what they paid to see, as Klizan broke late, and then held, after saving two break points, for a 7-5 second set. It seemed Novak had gotten tense late in the second, and had taken his foot off the throat of his streaky opponent, who previously had beaten Rafael Nadal last fall in Beijing. Klian couldn’t conjure up that magic though, as Novak righted the ship, and was simply too firm from the baseline, redirecting the shots that Klizan wacked his way. Djokovic notched his second bakery product of the evening, taking the third 6-1, and he was pleased to have avoided a crisis in his opening match from Crandon Park.
Grigor Dimitrov d. Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2
Dimitrov won easily (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Dimitrov was coming off a rather disappointing early exit in Indian Wells, and clearly had the desire to make a deep run down in Miami. He would play the Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who has presently failed to matriculate into the player that many thought he could be. The 24 year olds would clash on the Stadium court, and Grigor would not waste anytime breaking the Canadian right out the gate, the Bulgarian looked like he was on a mission. He would jump to a 2-1 lead in the 1st, Pospisil meanwhile looked shaken up. Dimitov would continue putting in an efficient display of tennis with a stunning DTL backhand winner to get the 2nd break going up 4-1. As good as the Dimitrov was today Vasek looked completely out of sorts, his timing seemed to be off. Grigor would have a minor hiccup after sloppy start to the next game but would eventually string 4 points in a row to save double break point and consolidate the 2nd break. The world #11 would comfortably continue on to take the 1st set 6-2. The crowd was in a bit of lull, due to the lack of competitiveness in the match.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Vasek would start off the 2nd set looking just as shaky but eventually regain his composure to avoid getting broken right away. Pospisil was starting to play a bit better now but still not putting any sort of pressure on Grigor’s serve. Dimitrov was in the zone today, he was simply too good for the Canadian breaking him at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. That seemed to be the one that finally knocke all the fight out of Pospisil. It was one way traffic from there-on, with the Bulgarian winning all the remaining games to wrap up a convincing 6-2, 6-2 domination of VasekPospisil. He will be facing the big serving John Isner in the 3rd round which should prove to be a tougher test for him.
We caught up with Grigor after the match, he would speak about facing Isner the next round and talk candidly about the constant pressure he faces on tour.
Kei Nishikori d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-1
Kei blitzed the Colonel (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Day 6, in fact kicked off with a matchup between two players with quite contrasting career trajectories. Fans gathered in the Grandstand to watch the Japanese shotmaker Kei Nishikoti take on the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Nishikori is coming off an underwhelming performance in Indian Wells and looking to at least replicate the deep run he made here in Miami in 2014 which included beating Roger Federer before withdrawing due to injury. Meanwhile, the wheels on Youzhny’s career were rusting, as he only had two wins in 2015 coming into this one.
The very first game was a sign of things to come in this encounter as Youzhny struggled to hold serve right off the bat. He would face a break point before winning 3 straight points to get avoid the early break. In contrast, Nishikori would hold easily as the Russian was struggling to hit his spots sailing a couple of forehands long. Kei would pounce quickly. Youzhny’s groundstrokes weren’t on the same level as the Japanese, he would find himself facing triple break point. The veteran would stick a volley into the net to give Kei his first break as he stared up into the bright, Miami, sun. Nishikori would once again hold easily to consolidate and go up 3-1. Mikhail would finally start serving better, to hold, and keep the lead at a single break. Nishikori’s groundstrokes were looking as good as ever, bringing back memories of the match he played against Dimitrov in this same stadium a year ago. Youzhny still wouldn’t be able to find his rhythm as he continued making silly mistakes. This time it was an ill-advised poorly executed drop shot that would open up a double break opportunity for Kei. The Japanese was in unforgiving form as he converted the break points to take a 2 break lead 5-2. Youzhny with his back to the wall would take Kei to deuce but it would prove to be a futile attempt, the latter would hold his nerve, and take the set 6-2.
The match so far has been one-sided and even though the crowd was trying to urge Mikhail on, the Russian wasn’t responding. In fact he would kick off the 2nd set with back to back double faults. Mikhail would continue making unforced errors to give Kei 2 break points, causing him to yell something to himself in Russian, seeminly not of the positive sort. Kei on the other hand would fist pump as he converted the break point to take the lead right away. Youzhny would follow that game with probably his best tennis of the match, pushing Nishikori to 4 deuces on his service game. However even that effort wouldn’t be enough to break through.
Mikhail would eventually commit a couple of unforced errors as Kei hed and consolidated the break to go up 2-0. The crowd wanted to see a more competitive match but they were starting to feel this was going to be one way traffic. Nishikori would win 4 straight points on Youzhny’s serve to take go up 2 breaks, 4-1 in the 2nd set. The outcome was inevitable when Kei hit a couple of aces to consolidate the 2nd break and go up 5-1. The final game would actually prove to be entertaining marathon of 6 deuces but just like the rest of the match the Japanese would come out on top as he break for a 3rd time and claim the victory. Nishikori won it in straight sets in just over an hour.
We caught up with Kei after the match to give his insight on how he deals with the increasing number of defensive player on tour.
Americans Sock, and Isner, Frenchmen Simon, Monfils, and Chardy score successes in ATP singles, Bellucci wins late night thriller
American and French players both had good results in second round singles action on Saturday. Jack Sock continued his good form, winning a competitive first set over slumping Italian Fabio Fognini, before, as is almost expected at this point, Fognini tanked hard in the second, as the match ended 7-6 6-1 in anti-climatic fashion. John Isner dominated the Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4, as Rublev had zero familiarity with Big John’s serve. He struggled to even get a racquet on the second serve of the American #1, and thus the result was never in question. Gilles Simon played graceful tennis in the third set and took out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 6-0, Kukushkin lost momentum early in the third, but Simon was brilliant from both the baseline, and the net, having lulled his opponent into a poor course of play. Jeremy Chardy won all but two games from 0-4 down in his match against Jurgen Melzer, as the Austrian may have injured himself, the final scoreline 6-4 6-1. Gael Monfils won a thriller against underdog Filip Krajinovic, 3-6 6-2 7-6. Monfils failed to convert four match point chances in the third set, but finally won the tiebreak to take out the pesky Serb.
After the match Monfils was asked about having to play his good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3.
Thomaz Bellucci won a late night thriller over Pablo Cuevas 2-6 6-2 7-5. The grandstand court was packed with fans of the Brazilian veteran, and though he got off to a slow start, 1-4 down in a short span of time, his passion showed as he battled back to make it a match against the higher ranked Cuevas. Bellucci took a nasty fall early in the second set, twisting his ankle, and was visibly grimacing in pain as he received a medical timeout and treatment for his fall, which primarily involved stretching and testing his ankle. However, instead of retiring, he was capable of continuing, and rather than merely dragging himself the rest of the way through, he rose up and broke Cuevas to go 2-1 up. This outraged a frustrated Cuevas, who yelled at him when they were crossing sides during the changeover, with some harsh words (in Spanish or Portuguese I’m not certain). As a result of this outburst, the fans really got behind Bellucci, and started to get into Cuevas head. Bellucci broke twice more in the second to force a third as things got messy for Cuevas.
In the third set, both players battled on serve to 5-5, and then Bellucci would score a crucial break, as his heavy hitting, primarily from the forehand side with spin, was pushing Cuevas back and putting him into an uncomfortable position to generate angles with his one-handed backhand. Serving for the match at 6-5, Bellucci got tight and went 0-30 down, but he played amazingly from that point, with two go for broke forehands that just about broke the sound barrier, and two untouchable serves to convert his lone match point opportunity of the long battle. The hitting was heavy, and though both players got tight and weren’t the most accurate, Bellucci was hitting the ball, perhaps the hardest I’ve ever seen from him, as the fans danced and cheered in the stands, having traveled to Crandon Park to see their national hero play against a fellow South American.
Other mens second round winners on the day, in straight sets, included David Ferrer, who didn’t mess around today, winning 6-1 6-1 over Federico Delbonis, Lukas Rosol, who continued his uptick in recent form with a 7-6 6-3 win over Alex Zverev, Alejandro Falla, who upset Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-2 as the Croat didn’t have much game on the day, Milos Raonic, who comfortably rode his serve to a 6-1 6-4 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, David Goffin, who shellacked Borna Coric 6-0 6-4, in a surprising scoreline, the Croat having a poor tournament this time out, and Juan Monaco, who extended the terrible form of Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4.
The winners in three sets in mens singles were Fernando Verdasco, who eased past James Duckworth 4-6 6-2 6-1, Adrian Mannarino, who won the continuation match with Albert Ramos 6-4 3-6 6-2, Viktor Troicki, who grinded past Simone Bolelli 7-5 3-6 6-4, Steve Darcis, who upset Gilles Muller 6-4 6-7 6-3, and Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut and his injured eye, 6-1 1-6 6-4. The win is the best for Janowicz in quite some time as he was in poor form coming into Miami but is now into the third round.
Wozniacki, Radwanska and Williams sisters win, Bouchard upset
Caroline Wozniacki survived Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-1 6-3, Aga Radwanska fended off a challenge from Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 4-6 6-2, and the Williams sisters scored routine wins, Serena beat the junkballer Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1, and Venus beat Sam Stosur 6-4 7-6. Fan favorite Eugenie Bouchard was not as lucky, she was listless in a shocking upset loss to German qualifier Tatjana Maria, who is ranked outside of the top 100, as Bouchard had a disappointing third round exit.
Ekaterina Makarova beat Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour, Carla Suarez Navarro beat Alize Cornet by the same 6-0 6-4 scoreline, Karolina Pliskova beat Paula Bedosa Gibert 7-5 6-1, Andrea Petkovic, who was enjoying the Cuevas-Bellucci match on twitter last night, earlier in the day had beaten Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-0 6-2 blowout. Angelique Kerber won the most competitive WTA match of the day over Heather Watson 7-5 3-6 6-4, Sara Errani beat Ana Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 7-6, and Daria Gavrilova followed up her massive win over Sharapova with a 6-0 7-6 win over Kurumi Nara.
Doubles specialists score victories
The Bryans beat Becker/Lipsky 6-2 7-6 in men’s doubles, and two other doubles specialists pairings on the men side also won. Rojer/Tecau 6-4 6-2 over Inglot/Mergea, and Cabal/Farah 7-6 6-3 over Lopez/Mirnyi. Bolelli/Fognini continued their remarkable form in doubles with a 6-4 6-2 win over the quality pairing of Klaasen/Paes, and Americans Harrison/Ram beat Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-5 7-6.
Chan/Jankovic beat Parra-Santonja/Soler-Espinosa 7-5 6-4, Dushevina/Martinez Sanchez beat Goerges/Groenefeld 7-6 3-6 10-7 in a battle, Hantuchova/Knapp beat Dulgheru/Halep 7-5 6-3, Niculescu/Panova beat the veteran pairing of Lisa Raymond/Sam Stosur 6-2 6-3. Hsieh/Pennetta won 6-1 6-3 over Cornet/Svitolina, Garcia/Srebotnik beat Puig/Watson 6-3 6-3, Jans-Ignacik/Klepac beat Bertens/Maria 7-5 6-4, and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro beat Savchuk/Torro-flor 6-3 6-2.
Monfils-Tsonga headlines Miami Sunday
With action already underway in Miami on Sunday, Gael Monfils will take on good buddy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Rafa Nadal will renew their rivalry, 15 year old Cici Bellis will take on Serena, and Sabine Lisicki will battle against Ana Ivanovic in some of the big matches on the day.
Day 3 at the Miami Open featured a diverse offering of upsets, and none was bigger than 21 year old Daria Gavrilova’s shocking upset over world number 2 Maria Sharapova, a five time Miami Open finalist, who had never exited this early in the tournament before. The crowd was shocked and thrilled by the play of the young Russian with Australian ties, and here is a recap of that.
Daria Gavrilova d. Maria Sharapova 7-6(4) 6-3
The night session kicked off with an all-Russian duel between Maria Sharapova and her young up and coming compatriot Daria Gavrilova, in a match that would become a memorable first meeting for the pair. There was some intrigue to this matchup given the stark contrast between the 2 players. Sharapova standing at 6’2’’ tall towered over Daria at 5’5’’, the gulf of experience gap, and the contrasting strengths and weaknesses in their games, all recipes for an interesting tennis match…or of course a blowout as some had predicted. The result however, would be quite shocking.
Sharapova slumped in defeat (photo credit Esam Taha)
At first it felt like it might indeed be a blowout as Maria powered her way to a love hold as if Daria was still back at the hotel, but Gavrilova quickly responded with a comfortable hold of her own much to the crowd’s delight, as they love themselves an underdog. The next game would set the tone for the match. Sharapova would eventually save breakpoints but not before Daria displayed some breath-taking defense coupled with sharp forehands to which the crowd loudly responded, at that point you got the sense that this might not be so routine for the veteran. Gavrilova was impressively able to hold with relative comfort despite her lack of a big serve, but that was mainly due to some absolutely blistering groundstrokes that made Maria uncomfortable. It felt like once the rally got going Daria had a good chance of winning the point. The break would eventually come for the young Russian as she took a 3-2 lead, bringing the crowd to their feet.
However, Sharapova wasn’t going to rollover that easily, with a little help from the netcord she would break right back to even things up at 3-3. Daria wasn’t done. Her incredible ability to get to seemingly every ball would frustrate Maria forcing her to go for even tougher angles and riskier shots. Gavrilova broke Maria back and produced another fist pump as she has been all night, all positive body language from the 21 year old. At this point Maria was starting to rack up the unforced errors, but you could argue that some of them were forced in the sense that Daria was forcing her to go for tougher shots. Sharapova would successfully serve to stay in the set forcing Gavrilova to close it out herself, always a tricky position for young players. The veteran showed why she is regarded as one of the clutch-iest players in tennis, getting the timely break and evening things up at 5-5. The set would go to a tiebreak, with the crowd fully engaged. Gavrilova would draw first blood as she earned a pair of mini-breaks and jumped to a 4-2 lead in the breaker. Daria would then hit an ace down the T. Even Sharapova couldn’t believe it and had to unsuccessfully challenge the call while the former produced a series of fist pumps. Maria was rattled, she would commit a couple of silly unforced errors to lose the tiebreak and the 1st set to Gavrilova, setting the Miami crowd into eruption.
Gavrilova would waste no time carrying the momentum over to the 2nd set while Maria’s level seemed to continue to decline as the match wore out. Sharapova would double fault giving Daria an opening, which she took full advantage of and broke right away to open the set. Gavrilova would consolidate the break as she continued to display excellent court coverage and sharp groundstrokes, she went up 4-2 at this point. Maria was truly on the ropes now.
The next game would be a tricky one for the youngster, she misses a routine overhead smash and follows it with a poorly executed drop shot to gift the game away to Sharapova, a game she desperately needed. However once again, Gavrilova would reset and go right after Maria the next game, quickly generating a triple break point. The next point summed up the match as Daria went for the jugular with a blistering DTL backhand winner to seal the break and bring the crowds out of their seats. She’s been in the same position in the 1st set, but this time Daria would show better composure to generate a match-point at 40-30. Maria known to go for her shots when the stakes are highest, would try to do the same here but this was not her night. The return sailed long as Daria jumps up in joy to complete the huge upset over the world number 2.
Gavrilova held her nerve in the match (photo credit Esam Taha)
Prior to that thrilling match, a fun doubles match took place between Marin Draganja/Henri Kontinen, and the fan favorite doubles pairing of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, who were both seeking to tune up their games after absences.
Marin Draganja/Henri Kontinen d. Gael Monfils/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-3 10-5
The French duo were both returning from injuries as they took the court for this one, Tsonga particularly a lengthy one, as they were teaming up in doubles to shake some of that rust off, and perhaps give themselves more practice for Davis Cup play or similar. Whenever Monfils or Tsonga is on court the crowd knows they’re in for a good show, thusly, court 1 was packed as fans were lining up in big numbers to catch a glimpse of the match. Marin and Henri, both doubles specialists, were the clear favorites going with their doubles experience, however the match would prove to be much tighter than expected.
Monfils and Tsonga were looking to knock off rust (photo credit Esam Taha)
From the start, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that the Frenchmen were returning from injury as their athleticism was on full display. Monfils was flying around and Tsonga wasn’t holding back, there was rust here and there from a technical perspective, but physically they were in good shape. The French duo would be pushed a few times on their serves midway through the set but they had no problem saving multiple break points. In contrast, Monfils and Tsonga would jump on the first break opportunity they get later in the set and convert to claim the 1st.
Photo credit Esam Taha
The rust started to show a bit in the 2nd. In terms of pure talent alone the French were clearly ahead of the Marin/Henri but the latter relied on their experience to force the former into errors. Tsonga especially would make several key errors which included a costly double fault on break point. Monfils always kept things positive, the attitude was generally light-hearted, as it was clear the French team intended to enjoy their time on court and have fun. Marin/Henri would not look back after grabbing the break, they wouldn’t face a single break point in the 2nd. They would carry that same momentum into the 3rd set super tie-break.
Tsonga would commit another double fault and a couple of errors while Marin/Henri kept their composure to finish the French. Regardless, Gael and Jo most likely achieved their primary purpose of participating in doubles, knock off some rust from the injury layoff, get a feel for the courts and heat during match-play, and of course put on an entertaining show for the crowd.
Steve Darcis d. Malek Jaziri 2-6 7-5 7-5
A couple of veterans faced off in the 1st round, Malek Jaziri would take on Steve Darcis for the right to face Giles Muller in the 2nd round. Jaziri hasn’t been able to get any serious momentum going this year, his best showing so far is making it to the 3rd round in the Australian Open. Meanwhile Darcis made a little run in Montpellier only to lose to Monfils in the quarters. At first it seemed like this was going to be a routine win for the Tunisian as he quickly took the 1st set 6-2 and was up a break on the 2nd, serving for the match at 5-3. Everything that could’ve went wrong for Jaziri at that point, did. It started with a couple of calls Jaziri didn’t like, after which he just seemed to completely go of the rails racking up unforced errors at an alarming rate. He would get broken at 5-3 and Darcis,, a qualifier, would win 4 consecutive games to take the 2nd. Meanwhile Jaziri also seemed to be affected by the scorching Miami sun as he continued to pile ice packs during changeovers, to the point where the umpire would issue a time violation.
Jaziri lost his nerve in the match (photo credit Esam Taha)
Things seemed to follow a similar trend early in the 3rd as the wise veteran Darcis would make it 6 games in a row as he broke Jaziri again and jumped to a 2-1 lead. Jaziri however started to regain his composure at that point and was adding some pop to his forehands, he was also defending much better. The Tunisian would continue to hold but still couldn’t find that opening for the break. At 5-4, Steve had a chance to serve out the match, only for Malek to step it up one more notch and keep himself in the match, 5-5.
Just as you’d expect the pendulum to swing the other way, with one point changing everything. Malek constructed a point beautifully only to hit a routine volley just wide. That crowd gasped as they knew this one was going cost him, and surely he would get broken again. This time Darcis would keep his composure and comfortably serve out the match to conclude quite the rollercoaster of a 1st round clash. Jaziri was visibly disheartened, he knew he let one get away, but credit to Steve for outplaying Jaziri the 2nd half of the match.
Darcis a calm winner (photo credit Esam Taha)
Coric and Bellucci outlast their opponents, Kukushkin upsets Johnson in ATP round 1 singles action
young gun Borna Coric nearly fell Andreas Haider-Maurer, as he was 0-3 down in the third set, but the Croat would survive, as he faced a much tougher task against AHM than he had previously in their Indian Wells match. Haider-Maurer got off to a spirited start firing winners for a 6-1 lead, Coric would recover from the shock and break AHM in his opening service game in the second set, holding serve the rest of the way to force a third. In that third, Coric had to call the trainer 0-3 down, looking wasted in the heat but what the trainer did seemed to help him as he pulled it all the way back to 5-5, at which point AHM started to cramp, and though Coric couldn’t serve it out at 6-5, he had a major advantage in the third set tiebreak and got the job done.
Thomaz Bellucci also had to survive in advance in the late match against Lleyton Hewitt. The gritty former world number one refused to go away in a three hour match that went past midnight local time. Both players racked up a horrendous W/UE ratio as Bellucci was 39/71 in his 7-5 6-7 6-4 victory, compared to Hewitt’s 23/61 ratio. Hewitt was a miserable 3/15 on break points, and by the time the third set came both players seemed exhausted. Hewitt didn’t have as much pop as Bellucci did from the ground, and his serving also didn’t do him many favors, as with consistency lacking, the grinder struggled and went down 4-2 in the third. Bellucci would let him back in the match for 4-4 in the third, but would win the next two games from that point to finish the match off.
Mikhail Kukushkin demonstrated his good form had returned with a 6-4 3-6 6-2 victory over favored American Steve Johnson. He went 4/5 on break points and was superior overall to Stevie who posted 5 double faults.
Vasek Pospisil won 6-4 7-6 over the returning Juan Martin Del Potro. The tower of Tandil was rusty as expected, he put up just 8 winners compared to 25 errors in the match, and also had more double faults (7) than aces (6). He was rather passive throughout the match as his backhand was poor, and Pospisil, though he was shaky for parts, was able to escape in straights from 2-4 down in the second set, as he fought back and played a solid tiebreak.
Other men advancing into round 2 include Mikhail Youzhny 4-6 6-2 6-3 over Andrey Golubev, as the veteran recovered from a slow start, and qualifier Alejandro Falla who beat Michael Berrer 6-7 6-4 6-4 in a close contest. Teymuraz Gabashvili and Federico Delbonis both won 3 set matches, Gabashvili 0-6 7-6 6-3 over Pablo Andujar for his first win of the year at the ATP level, and Delbonis 7-6 3-6 7-5 over a slumping Jiri Vesely, who has been in awful form since his maiden ATP title in January. Young guns Andrey Rublev and Alex Zverev, played well in their matches. Rublev beat Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6 6-1 6-4 as he maintained his composure after a poor start, and Zverev survived the massive serves of Sam Groth 7-5 6-7 6-4, as he did well to play only one tiebreak.
Martin Klizan (6-3 6-4 over Paolo Lorenzi), Jurgen Melzer (7-6 6-4 over Ryan Harrison), and Alex Dolgopolov (6-4 6-1 over Ricardas Berankis) rolled in their matches. Jerzy Janowicz won yet again over Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-2, and Simone Bolelli drubbed a listless Marcos Baghdatis 6-2 6-2 in a minor upset.
Svitolina, Pliskova continue momentum in WTA singles
Elina Svitolina, a rising 20 year old Ukrainian, and Karolina Pliskova,a rising 23 year old Czech, were both winners and booked their spot in the third round on Thursday. Svitolina beat Bojana Jovanovski 6-3 7-6, and Pliskova beat Annika Beck 2-6 6-3 6-4, as both players struggled on serve in that match.
Agnieszka Radwanska (6-4 7-5 over Anna Schmiedlova), Venus Williams (6-3 6-2 over Aga’s sister Urszula), Caroline Wozniacki (6-0 6-1 over Madison Brengle), Andrea Petkovic (6-2 6-2 over Christina McHale), Ekaterina Makarova (6-1 6-3 over Karin Knapp), Carla Suarez Navarro (6-3 6-1 over Stefanie Voegele) , and Sam Stosur (6-1 3-6 6-0 over Pauline Parmentier) were all winning seeds in the second round on the WTA side.
Seeds Varvara Lepchenko (6-2 6-4 to Kaia Kanepi), Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (7-5 6-2 to Kristina Mladenovic), and 21 year old Caroline Garcia, who had her momentum halted with an opening match loss (6-3 7-6 to Kurumi Nara, a 23 year old), were not as lucky however as they were bounced in their opening matches.
The other round 2 winners on the day were 17 year old wild card Paula Badosa Gibert (6-1 7-5 over Saisai Zheng), Alize Cornet (6-4 6-1 over Elena Vesnina) and Irina-Camelia Begu (5-7 6-4 6-4 over Tereza Smitkova in one of the rare 3 setters on the WTA side on the day).
Jamie Murray/John Peers, Rodionova sisters lead doubles winners on the day
The doubles action got underway at the Miami Open on the outer courts, and John Peers and Jamie Murray got off to a good start 6-3 6-2 over Lukas Rosol and Dominic Thiem. They were joined on the mens doubles side as winners by Quisner (John Isner and Sam Querrey), who upset Rohan Bopanna/Daniel Nestor 6-3 7-6, Andre Begemann and Ernests Gulbis, who recovered from an atrocious start to topple David Marrero/Pablo Cuevas 1-6 6-4 10-7, Nicolas Almagro/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, an all-Spanish pairing who beat the French pair of Gilles Simon/Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-2, and Kevin Anderson/Jeremy Chardy, who upset Marcin Matkowski/Nenad Zimonjic 6-3 6-3.
In WTA doubles, the feisty pairing of Anastasia and Arina Rodionova beat Casey Dellacqua/Darija Jurak 6-3 7-6, German pairing Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld beat Magdalena Rybarikova/Saisai Zheng 7-6 4-6 10-8, Vera Dushevina and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat American pairing Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones 2-6 6-3 10-2 and Alla Kudryatseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Klara Koukalova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2 6-0.
Andy Murray, Simona Halep, Rafa Nadal, Serena Williams, and the return of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all highlights on day 4, along with Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils looking to return to form, and the return of Janko Tipsarevic to pro tennis, as he will play doubles with Novak Djokovic.