Kei Nishikori took care of business in Memphis yesterday, blitzing Marin Cilic 6-4 6-2 to reach his 2nd ATP semi this year. In his first tournament back since Australia, the top man from Japan has been dominating his opponents all week.
Nishikori will next face Marinko Matosevic, who won 6-7 6-2 6-4 over a still off form Alexandr Dolgopolov who struggled to handle Matosevic’s heavy serve. The win will help take some pressure off Matosevic who had previously only won 1 ATP match this year as he looks ahead to defend his ranking points from making the finals in Delray last year.
Feliciano Lopez, another player who has found renewed success in Memphis, dispatched Jack Sock 6-4 6-3, in a match where Sock couldn’t hold his serve at key times and had to call the trainer as well. Feli was clutch on serve himself. Lopez will get dynamite Denis Istomin in the other men’s semi. Istomin was too much for Michael Russell, winning 6-4 7-6 in a bit of a topsy tursy match. Istomin has also been striking the ball well this week and was able to keep Russell from threatening him on the return side even if he wasn’t that sharp breaking Russell’s serve.
Denis in Memphis
In the men’s doubles the Bryans beat Gonzalez/Lipsky and will take on Peya/Soares, while Kubot/Nestor will play Blake/Sock.
While in Memphis, I had the opportunity to interview the one they call Dolgo, Alexandr Dolgopolov, the 24 year old Ukranian ranked just outside the top 20 with a career high of world 13. His most notable showing was probably the quarterfinals of the 2011 Australian Open, along with ATP titles in Umag and last year in Washington D.C. He also made 2 ATP finals last year in Brisbane and Valencia.
Dolgopolov was coming off a 1st round win against Bjorn Phau, his first match back since playing Davis Cup for Ukraine against Slovakia two weeks prior, and he was coming off some injury issues. As you can see from the interview, he comes across as a good natured fun spirit who is also very humble and has a calm demeanor about him. This is in many ways the opposite of his style on the tennis court, which is rabid and fast, known for his “bunny hop” quick jump serve motion and his tendency to almost slap at the ball with his slap chop looking forehand and backhand. He has a penchant for dropshots and is fast on his feet when healthy, darting about and trying to slap the ball for a winner. In short, he is the “humble highlight reel”, and win or lose, he goes for every shot and always produces some great highlights.
Off the court, he is probably most known for an impromptu karaoke performance of “Love the way you lie” during the 2012 Umag which I brought up in the interview. Among notable moments from the interview, he seems to have resolved his dispute with the Ukranian Tennis Federation, which had prevented him from playing Davis Cup, and he enjoys playing in the US on the hard courts. He formerly worked with British coach Jack Reader, but split with him last year and is back working with his father, Oleksandr, a former ATP pro himself who helped mold his game at a young age. Dolgo was seen practicing with Denis Istomin at the tournament.
Dolgo was a really nice guy and a good sport, and as one of my favorite players before and after meeting him, I wish him the best of luck in the future.
Dolgo’s Family and his Girlfriend in Memphis