A plethora of intriguing encounters awaits audiences as the third round begins at the Australian Open. Foremost among them are two in the women’s draw, which we include in our latest preview.
Kerber vs. Keys (Rod Laver Arena): Long hovering on the horizon, the 17-year-old Madison Keys has soared into the consciousness of the tennis world by winning four main-draw matches in the last two weeks. Moreover, she has won most of them decisively, including routs of top-20 opponent Safarova in Sydney and the 30th-seeded Paszek here. The teenager’s serve could prove a crucial weapon against Kerber, whose superior steadiness and experience should prevail in rallies unless Keys can find a way to unsettle her, which she could with a strong start. Featured on the show court of a major for the first time, she seems more likely to rise to the occasion than crumble under the weight of the moment.
Li vs. Cirstea (RLA): Familiar with both rising and crumbling in spectacular style, the 2011 Australian Open runner-up split her two meetings with Cirstea at majors last year. Li defeated the heavy-hitting Romanian at Roland Garros but lost to her at Wimbledon before battling past her in a Cincinnati three-setter, so she will know what to expect. While Cirstea defeated Stosur in the first round here last year and can hope to capture that magic again, the moderately paced hard court in Australia would seem to favor Li’s more balanced game.
Sharapova vs. Williams (RLA): Scanning the WTA elite, one might not find two champions more similar in playing style than these two legends of first-strike tennis. Both Sharapova and Venus can hammer lethal missiles from both groundstroke wings, and both compete with the ferocity of women whose lungs illustrate their loathing for losing. Both have the ability to win free points in bunches with their serves, but both also can lose control of that shot beyond repair amidst cascades of double faults. Both have survived significant bouts of adversity, Sharapova by battling back from a career-threatening shoulder surgery and Venus by battling back from a career-threatening illness. While the American has accumulated a richer title haul, the Russian owns the more balanced resume.
Their record reflects much of the above, neatly balanced at 4-3 in Sharapova’s favor but skewed 4-1 in her favor away from Wimbledon, where Venus has claimed her greatest achievements. Not dropping a single game through her first two matches, Maria can expect a steep elevation in her opponent’s quality and must come as prepared to elevate her own quality as she did five years ago here against Davenport. Like her sister, Venus has produced some of her most dazzling surges when least expected, and she has looked quietly impressive if less overtly overpowering so far.
Ivanovic vs. Jankovic (Hisense): Those who appreciate tennis largely from an aesthetic perspective may wish to cover their eyes in a pairing of two women who sprayed disheveled errors to every corner of the court in their previous matches. Meanwhile, those who fancy their tennis served (or double-faulted) with a dollop of drama should enjoy this battle between two countrywomen who have feuded chronically but bitterly. The superior player by most measures, Ivanovic has dominated their head-to-head as her versatile forehand has hit through Jankovic’s baseline defense. So high do the emotions run in these matches, though, that one never knows what to expect from one point to the next.
Djokovic vs. Stepanek (RLA): In addition to their five-set epic at the 2007 US Open, Stepanek has troubled the Serb on two other occasions. He won a set from him at Wimbledon last year by using his idiosyncratic style to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm. Even as his career has faded, Stepanek continues to revel in the spotlight and ended 2012 on a high note by winning the decisive match in Davis Cup. That momentum probably cannot lift him high enough to disturb Djokovic in Australia, where he looks as dominant as ever in all facets of his game.
Ferrer vs. Baghdatis (RLA): The fourth seed in Nadal’s absence, Ferrer can falter at times with the distractions caused by partisan crowds. Supported vociferously by Melbourne legions of Greeks and Cypriots, Baghdatis hopes to revive the memories of his charge to the 2006 final. At this tournament two years ago, he became the first man ever to win after losing the first two sets to Ferrer at a major, surprising in view of their relative fitness. The fourth seed looked vulnerable in stretches against an overmatched opponent in the last round, while Baghdatis did likewise in another mismatch. His flat, net-skimming groundstrokes should offer an intriguing contrast to Ferrer’s safer topspin.
Anderson vs. Verdasco (Hisense): Reprising their meeting at the Hopman Cup this month, this match pits a rising against a fading star. Like Baghdatis, Verdasco has failed to duplicate his breakthrough performance in Melbourne (a 2009 semifinal), and he should count himself fortunate to escape a five-setter to start the tournament. On the other hand, Anderson followed his strong results in Perth with a final in Sydney, where he showed poise under pressure. Expect plenty of quick holds as each man struggles to crack the other’s serve.
Benneteau vs. Tipsarevic (MCA): Which Tipsarevic will show up here? The man who fired his way past Hewitt with a blizzard of electric shot-making, or the man who barely edged past Lacko in an unimaginative performance? Tipsarevic looked a bit drained after the heroics of his opener, and he may pay the price if he enters this match flat, for Benneteau rolled past trendy dark horse pick Dimitrov in the first round. Although streaky, the Frenchman represents a clear notch upward in quality from Lacko.
Querrey vs. Wawrinka (MCA): The lanky American with the casual power got a little too casual early in each of his first two matches, dropping the opening sets in both. Against Wawrinka, a natural grinder who thrives on long rallies, Querrey should discipline himself to eliminate such gifts. Having lost both of his previous meetings to the Swiss, including a US Open five-setter, he will need to maintain a higher first-serve percentage this time and aim to end points more efficiently.
Almagro vs. Janowicz (Court 3): In the wake of a bizarre five-set comeback against Devvarman, one wondered whether to praise Janowicz for his tenacity in roaring back after losing the first two sets, or to linger on his immaturity for letting his emotions run astray early in the match. Without that costly burst of petulance, the match likely would not have lasted as long as it did. Similarly, Almagro needed much longer than expected to dismiss American neophyte Steve Johnson in another five-setter. Between the Spaniard’s backhand and the Pole’s forehand, fans should see risky, flamboyant shot-making as each man hopes to exploit a weak section of the draw.
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
There are two things that we always need to keep in mind while watching these tournaments right before the Slams. The first is that there is a ton that we can learn about who is ready and who isn’t; the second is that it is very easy to overreact to results. Also, every match is a tale of two players. You can’t just look at a scoreline to determine how well or poorly a player is playing.
The most glaring result from the first week of the year was the Doha semifinal, where Nikolay Davydenko beat World No. 5 David Ferrer in straight sets. It was Davydenko’s first win over a top 5 player since the Doha semifinals in 2011, where he beat Rafael Nadal. So what does this match teach us and how much does that mean? First of all, it really doesn’t say anything bad about Ferrer. Ferrer plays a very strong counterattacking defensive style, which is prone to get beaten down by heavy hitters. He played his game and did not play badly. He was just not the better player on court that day and that’s okay. It doesn’t say anything bad about Ferrer’s chances of going deep in Melbourne next week.
Davydenko, on the other hand, looked incredible. He played at a level that we haven’t seen from him in years. He was striking the ball hard and true and would have troubled even Federer or Djokovic with that level of play. He really looked like a player that could challenge to win the Australian Open, something that we haven’t been able to say about him since 2010, really. This, however, is where we need to keep in mind not to overreact to individual results. Davydenko showed a sustained high level for an entire match for the first time in a long time. He seemed to sustain it also for a while against Richard Gasquet in the final until an injury surfaced. He is definitely one to keep an eye on in Melbourne (assuming he’s healthy), but we have to be careful not to expect too much at this point. A little more than one good match does not indicate the ability to sustain success, but it definitely would be nice to see if he could do it.
The runner-up in Chennai also deserves for us to take a look at. Roberto Bautista-Agut played the best tournament of his life so far (well, at the World Tour level), upsetting Tomas Berdych and reaching the final. This result, also, is something that we should not overreact to. Bautista-Agut played well and scrapped his way to winning those matches, but those wins came over players who were not playing at their best. Bautista-Agut has good upside, but he is not quite a top tour-level player yet. If he fights just as hard in Melbourne he could get a few wins with a favorable draw, but don’t expect this Chennai result to be indicative of future performance.
The final two players I want to look at heading into the Australian Open are two who met in the semifinals in Brisbane—Marcos Baghdatis and Grigor Dimitrov. Baghdatis is a former Australian Open runner-up who peaked in his third year on tour and hasn’t really done much since. He reached the Australian Open final and Wimbledon semifinal in 2006 but has only been past the fourth round of a Slam once afterwards (quarterfinalist in 2007 Wimbledon). Baghdatis has shown flashes of that old brilliance since then but has never really kept it up. He showed flashes once again in Brisbane, so maybe he can gain some confidence and momentum going into the Australian Open and make a nice run. Until then, though, he will still be more famous for his racket-smashing than his performance on the court.
Dimitrov is a player that a lot of fans have been waiting to see come out of his shell for a long time. Once known as “Baby Fed”, due to a perceived similarity in talent and playing style, Dimitrov is often mentioned along with Ryan Harrison as an undeveloped talent. He is not at the top mentally yet, but the more I see him play the more impressed I am. Yes, he still loses bad matches. But he is clearly developing and clearly has incredible potential, and seems to get more consistent as time goes on. I think he learned a lot from playing Andy Murray in the final and he, more than anyone else mentioned here, has the potential to do something special in Melbourne. A real test will be if he can keep this good form in Sydney this week as well. You don’t want to see him playing too much so that he isn’t too fatigued heading into Melbourne, but you want to see him at least have good showings. A lot depends on the draw, obviously, but if Dimitrov can continue this form, I expect to start seeing the big things that we all know he is capable of very soon.
by James A. Crabtree
What we have learned Down Under, so far…
The Hopman Cup got the new tennis year started, even before the New Year had arrived.
Perth, the worlds most isolated city welcomed Tomic the Tank Engine who quickly became Saint Bernie after an impressive victory over a jet-lagged Djokovic. Still, it was a memorable enough performance by Bernard Tomic to inspire a tennis rich nation, starved of a real contender, to put their hopes in someone for the month of January.
John Isner looked rusty before he pulled out with an injury. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looked confident and played aggressive focused tennis that would have pleased new coach Roger Rasheed. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas both displayed improved physiques, sculptured during the off-season although they both may need a few matches until they find some form.
Surprisingly Spain took the spoils that included a diamond encrusted ball, much in part thanks to Anabel Medina Garrigues who only lost one match, that being in a dead group match versus Venus Williams.
Praise should be bestowed on Djokoic and Ivanovic who won the hearts of the Perth crowd, for their lighthearted manor and their attempt at Gangnam Style.
Meanwhile the Brisbane Open had been playing out over on the other side of the country. This turned out to be a relative disaster for the home nation. Every Aussie player fell by the second round. Only qualifier John Millman, in his second round loss, showed true guts with a three set thriller against eventual champion Andy Murray.
Over on the women’s side Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig turned heads with the sort of hard hitting not seen since Seles. Although she lost to Angelique Kerber she is most certainly a player for the future.
Serena Williams won the women’s event in typically devastating fashion that we have come to expect from the most dominant woman on tour. She wasn’t however seen supporting her rumoured boyfriend of last year, and young riser….
‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, who is on the verge of getting a new nickname that has no reference to anybody but himself. His play this past week has been sensational, capped off by clear cut victories over Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Jurgen Melzer.
In truth the final versus defending champion Andy Murray could have been a very different story after Grig-er Dimit-ederer (ok so that’s a poor nickname, help me here!) punished with his inside out forehand and his new and improved serve. The young Bulgarian took a 5-2 lead in the first set and had breaks in the second as we all wondered if we were witnessing the second coming of Fed.
Murray, who is wearing the tightest shirts seen since Borg this year, staged his usual counter-punching comeback every time he was counted out. Regardless, place a bet on Grigs the Great to be a top twenty player by the end of this year.
Up next is Sydney which was won last year by Victoria Azarenka and surprise winner Jarkko Nieminen. Oh yes midway through next week is the invitational AAMI Classic at Kooyong, where there is a strong rumour ol’ Mr Federer will be appearing for the first time since 2009.
By James Crabtree
A tour round Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park will lead you to the player changing and locker rooms, where some interesting stories are revealed.
First up, only the top 87 players are entitled to a locker. So bad luck Filippo Volandri who currently stands at 88 in the world rankings.
A certain number of superstitions exist for those who pick their locker. For starters, Roger Federer will have locker number 5, because he is going for his fifth title. No surprise which locker he will have the following year if he wins.
Marcos Baghdatis always has locker 83, because Andre Agassi had it prior and, of course, considerable success at the Open. How many racquets Marcos will bring to Melbourne this year is still to be determined, but let’s hope he brings enough, especially after last year’s antics…
Novak Djokovic will have 86, because it is next to a mirror. Novak is also known to play lots of practical jokes in the locker room to kill time.
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray always wait for Djokovic and Federer to pick their locker, so they can locker-up on the opposite side away from their rivals.
Out on the courts, the play for the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs has been exceptional and the weather has been four seasons of “hot.” Yellow Card devotee Matthew Barton dodged a bullet in reaching the semi-final on a court you could have cooked an egg on. Youngster Nicholas Kyrgios led 4-1 in the fifth set only to start grabbing his legs with some suspected Andy Murrayitis — you know an injury that isn’t an injury but always gets the commentators worried. Devastatingly for Kyrgios, it was severe cramp. After brief reprisal and two injury timeouts Krygios retired from the match sending Barton through after three hours and forty four minutes on court, and a score of 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 3-4.
Ben Mitchell whose brother is actor Luke Mitchell aka Romeo Smith from Home and Away, will meet Barton in the next round. The unassuming second seed John-Patrick Smith rounds out the draw against former Bollettieri attendee Matt Reid.
(James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park for the December Showdown and giving us the scoop on all the latest news surrounding the Australian Open. Make sure to heck out his first and second installments of “Sights and Sounds.”)
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.
The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.
The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.
In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.
Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.
The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.
Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.
It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.
At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.
Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.
There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.
After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!
By Kelyn Soong
Brian Baker’s biggest win on the ATP World Tour occurred in the first round of the 2005 U.S. Open, where he upset ninth-seeded Gaston Gaudio.
It would be more than six years and five major surgeries later before Baker would earn another ATP main draw victory.
After breezing through the qualifying rounds, the 27-year-old Baker defeated world No. 84 Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round of the Nice Open in France and will meet fourth seeded Gael Monfils next.
The win continues the comeback story of the former junior phenom, who earned a USTA wild card into the 2012 French Open by winning the Savannah Challenger in Georgia last month. For Baker, it will be a return to the scene he once commanded.
Back in 2003, Baker reached the Boys’ Singles final at Roland Garros – losing to former top 10 player Stanislas Wawrinka. En route he defeated 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals and current world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. The tennis world had its eyes on the tall, powerful American.
But injuries and surgeries – left hip, sports hernia, right hip, left hip again and a Tommy John elbow procedure – would rear its ugly head.
By the time Baker was 23, the Nashville, Tenn. native returned home and enrolled at nearby Belmont University, where he worked as an assistant tennis coach. He was majoring in business with a finance concentration and still has one more year to complete.
The degree may have to wait a little longer than planned.
Now world No. 216 and not far off from his career best of No. 172 from November 2004, Baker has jumped more than 200 spots since the beginning of the year.
In a career full of twists and turns, Baker now has the chance to make the biggest splash of them all – mounting a comeback that no one expected.
(Photo of Brian Baker by Kathy Willens, AP)
Things are heating up in Indian Wells—at least for those players that are still healthy. Nikolay Davydenko pulled out this morning, paving the way for Thomasz Belluci to make it into the round of 16.
Fernando Verdasco and Juan Martin Del Potro started things off on center court. Del Potro began well, taking the first set 6-2. Clearly, Verdasco’s neon yellow and orange outfit wasn’t too distracting for him. Verdasco turned on his forehand in the second set and took the match to a tiebreak, but Del Potro managed to eke out a win. Both players did well. Unfortunately, it just came too late for Verdasco.
In the doubles world, John Isner and Sam Querry faced Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. The trouble for the fourth-seeded doubles team started on Lindstedt’s serve as a mix of errors and strong play from Quisner forced a break much to the delight of the very pro-American crowd. Lindstedt and Tecau fought back for a super breaker but ultimately failed to do much with it, losing 10-5.
On center court, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova both pulled out convincing wins. I’m hoping for a replay of the Australian Open final this weekend at the BNP Paribas Open.
My favorite match of the day was Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Radek Stepanek. Stepanek fought hard in the first set and managed to win the tiebreaker with surprising ease. The second set was a different story, though. Stepanek played well, but Tsonga came back strong in the second and third and proved to be too tough for the Czech.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Marcos Baghdatis were up next and continued the theme of neon orange. It’s great to see the Cypriot back in action. He gave Dolgopolov some trouble, but in the end, Baghdatis couldn’t do enough.
Center court was packed again when Rafael Nadal took on countryman, Marcel Granollers. Granollers wasn’t able to throw too much at Nadal, who got through the match quite comfortably. He made very few errors in the first set, but Nadal tightened up in the second and looked a bit shaky, making several mistakes. He did enough, though, to see off Granollers.
The night session started on time tonight with Roger Federer playing Milos Raonic, which proved to be an interesting match. Check out Andrea Lubinsky’s article for analysis of the match. It certainly set a great atmosphere for Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic.
On the outside courts, men’s doubles with the Murray brother against Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor as well as Richard Gasquet and Paul Hanley facing Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya while Marion Bartoli closed out the night by winning against Lucie Safarova on court two.
Check in with us tomorrow for more coverage!
The seeds had no trouble advancing to the quarterfinals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam today, as Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Viktor Troicki and Richard Gasquet all dispatched of their opponents, and Roger Federer was involved in an entertaining exhibition match for fans.
Second seed Berdych advanced to the next round after only 19 minutes on court as Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire due to a left foot injury.
Del Potro had to overcome not only his opponent in another battle, but a slightly bloody nose near the beginning that required a medical timeout. He eventually prevailed over qualifier Karol Beck 6-4, 7-5.
“He played so fast and hits with such a low bounce, I really had to keep up,” said Del Potro of Beck. “It was tough. But I focused in the last game on trying to get an ace. I got one and I’m just glad that I’m through.”
Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded fifth, continued his steady progress at his second tournament appearance by defeating Alex Bogomolov, 6-3 6-2, while Andreas Seppi dispatched German Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4 6-2. Viktor Troicki also defeated wildcard Jesse Huta Galung, 7-6(2), 6-3, but not before the match’s second game lasted a brutal 17 minutes.
Finally, what was supposed to be only a super tiebreaker between Roger Federer and Igor Sijsling turned out into an all-out battle, but with plenty of smiles from both players. Federer was given a place in the quarterfinals after his second-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny had to withdraw the day previously. Federer finally prevailed 6-7(2), 6-4, 11-9.
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes not only day three action, but a behind-the-scenes look at Ahoy Rotterdam, the indoor arena the tournament is held in.
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
It was a thrilling day in Rotterdam as the top three seeds, including Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro all claimed a spot in the second round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament, including a first ever win for del Potro at this event – but not without some drama.
Top seed Roger Federer picked up where he left off seven years ago, as the 2005 champion won 13 of the last 14 points with his win over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 6-4. Federer’s expected second round opponent Mikhail Youzhny withdrew with a foot problem sending the Swiss straight into the quarterfinals on Friday against Jarkko Nieminen, who beat Lukasz Kubot earlier in the day.
“Any win is a good win,” stated Federer. “Frankly I’m glad to be in the quarterfinals. It’s always tough to make the change from clay but after losing my last two singles matches [for Davis Cup], a win is great.”
For more exclusive Roger Federer content on his top three grand slam wins, mental strength, his toughest opponent, and thoughts on retirement, go here.
Second seed Tomas Berdych also had a routine win over fellow Czech countryman Lukas Rosol, 6-4, 6-2. Berdych also didn’t shy away from admitting it was “a tough transition from Davis Cup. Our court was much faster with lower bounce. I didn’t really have much time to train, but I coped with it pretty well. I was able to find my rhythm quite fast and was able to play my game.”
Juan Martin del Potro struggled to close out the second set in a tiebreaker and was forced to win in three, against 2008 champion Michael Llodra, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4. “I was really nervous, especially in the last game, so it was nice”, Del Potro said durin his interview. He underlined that he was very pleased to be in Rotterdam and to see so many people coming out to support him.
Cheerful Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (looking surprisingly great in Adidas’ lastest fireball orange and blue kits, below) defeated qualifier Matthias Bachinger, 7-6(2), 6-2.
Nikolay Davydenko was also take to three sets before overcoming the “comeback kid” Paul-Henri Mathieu who had received a wildcard into the qualifying. After two-and-a-half hours of play into the evening hours, Davydenko prevailed, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-1.
But another qualifier, Karol Beck, made a commotion as he took out Philipp Petzschner, 7-6(3), 6-3.
Alex Bogomolov, Jr. won when Sergiy Stakhovsky was forced to retire.
In doubles action, top seed Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor were ousted by Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, while the tandem of Richard Gasquet and Ivan Ljubicic were defeated, as was the duo of Viktor Troicki and Jarkko Nieminen.
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes day three action, and the Davydenko-Mathieu match was shot with a 200mm f/2 lens Canon Nederland provided to our photographe Rick for the match. The photos are of the highest quality. Thank you, Canon!
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
After a hectic two weeks of Grand-Slam action from Melbourne, life returns to normal on the ATP World Tour. There are three 250-level tournaments this week and while the pace will be perhaps less enthralling than what we’ve just witnessed in Australia, here are some of the big names we can look forward to watching.
Open Sud de France
Formerly held in Lyon in October of each year, the Open Sud de France has now relocated to Montpelier at an earlier date within the tennis season.
Tomas Berdych is the number one seed and will try to win his first ATP title since his victory in Beijing this past October. That was the only title the Czech won in 2011, but he had an incredibly solid year reaching the semi-finals of eight tournaments and the quarter-finals of seven others. That type of consistency has made Berdych a main-stay in the top-ten in recent years but success at the Masters 1000 and Grand Slam level have still mostly eluded him with the exception of his win at the Paris Masters in 2005 and his Wimbledon final in 2010.
Berdych has a very manageable quarter of the tournament with no major obstacles in his way and a first-round bye to ease him into the draw.
Richard Gasquet is the fourth seed and is also in the top-half of the draw and he will likely face Nikolay Davydenko in the second round. Despite Davydenko’s rapid drop in play these past two years, the Russian will still give Gasquet a good challenge and provide fans with an entertaining early round match.
In the bottom half of the draw, look for two Frenchman to navigate their way through to the semi-finals. Both Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon are the highest two seeds and also the most likely to ride the support of the French fans to a solid showing.
Canadian number-two singles player Vasek Pospisil will undoubtedly be keeping his eye on the French, as Canada is scheduled to host the French in the first round of the Davis Cup on February 10th in Vancouver. Pospisil opens against French wildcard Guillaume Rufin.
PBZ Zagreb Indoors – Croatia
It was a moment for Croatian tennis fans to relish a year ago in Zagreb when Ivan Dodig captured his first ATP title against Michael Berrer. While the chances of Dodig repeating are not necessarily favored, he is one of three Croats who could lift the trophy on the final Sunday.
Veteran Ivan Ljubicic holds the top seed and opens against Karol Beck. Ljubicic has won the event before and has the best chance of emerging from his quarter of the draw.
Beneath him can be found monster-server Ivo Karlovic who will also receive plenty of home-country support. Mikhail Youzhny will try to bounce back from a disappointing first round loss in Melbourne as he holds the third seed and is my pick to emerge from the top-half of the draw.
In the bottom half, we have Marcos Baghdatis and the previously mentioned Dodig in one quarter. In the final section of the draw, Alex Bogomolov Jr. is the surprised second seed and leads the weakest section of the tournament. In other words, look for Baghdatis or possibly Dodig to have a good route to the finals.
VTR Open – Chile
Providing some contrast to the two hard-court tournaments this week, we have the VTR Open which is played on red clay. Last year’s champion in Vina del Mar is Tommy Robredo but he is not entered in this year’s edition. Meanwhile Fernando Gonzalez holds the most career titles at the event with four. Gonzalez has taken a wildcard into the main draw as he has struggled since returning to the tour last year from hip and knee injuries he sustained in 2010.
Clay court expert Juan Monaco takes the pole position this year and opens with a first round bye. Albert Montanes who is seeded fifth will likely be Monaco’s main source of opposition in the top-half of the draw.
In the bottom section look for Thomaz Bellucci, who won the event in 2010, to challenge once again for the title and for second seeded Juan Ignacio Chela to advance into the draw as well.
Don’t feel bad if you are feeling the effects of a tennis-hangover as these smaller events begin. Nothing can really compare to two weeks of elite level tennis like we have just experienced. There is a lot to look forward to however, with the first round of Davis Cup action just two weeks away and then a month after that we will enjoy back-to-back Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.