Thunderstorms held off for the most part on Monday in Cincinnati, with just an hour delay in the early evening. That allowed Philipp Kohlschreiber, John Isner, and Fabio Fognini–among many others–to book spots in the second round.
Wild three-setters were the story of the day–a day that seemed to be in line for a partial if not total washout given the initial weather forecast. The Cincinnati faithful benefited from clear skies, whereas hard-luck losers like Chase Buchanan and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were left wishing the day’s action had been postponed.
Among a handful of three-setters on Monday were Buchanan’s loss to Joao Sousa and Roger Vasselin’s setback against Fabio Fognini. Both men served for the match at 6-5 in the decider only to get broken back, pushed to a tiebreaker, and lose.
Playing in the second main-draw match of his career at the ATP level, Buchanan gave an impressive account of himself and nearly got all the way across the finish line. With great crowd support on an intimate Court 9, the former Ohio State University star took the first set, pushed the second to a tiebreaker, and later served for victory at 6-5 in the third. Even after faltering with the match on his racket, Buchanan eventually led 5-4 with a mini-break in the third-set tiebreaker. Ultimately, though, the 23-year-old’s inexperience showed and Sousa–possibly in line for a U.S. Open seed–got the job done amidst a flurry of long rallies and extremely close line calls (no challenge system on Court 9) in the ‘breaker.
Fognini was his typical self in the night-session match on the Grandstand. At times he would look disinterested. Other times he would have outbursts of emotion–good and bad (he decimated a racket in the second set, separating the handle from the body). There were instances in which he got broken at love in less than a minute. On other occasions he played like a top-10 player. In the end, the Italian saved two match points on his opponent’s serve–one with a ripped backhand winner and the second when Roger-Vasselin had a down-the-line backhand lined up and what would have been a clean winner found the tape. Fognini eventually broke to force a decisive ‘breaker and from there he did not look back. Awesome entertainment.
Fognini’s racket, or what’s left of it:
The shoe tells who it is:
The day began with a third set on the Grandstand, although Philipp Kohlschreiber at least managed to avoid a final tiebreaker. It was a mostly high-quality encounter in which serving (generally an aspect that would favor Chardy) proved to be the difference. Kohlschreiber fired 11 aces compared to just one double-fault, while Chardy struck seven aces and doubled nine times.
An all-Spanish affair followed suit, with Fernando Verdasco going up against Marcel Granollers. It evoked memories of the infamous Verdasco vs. Rafael Nadal match at the 2011 Cincinnati event, won by Nadal 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(9) in three hours and 38 minutes. Granollers played his way into a third-set tiebreaker despite striking only 15 winners in the entire match. Verdasco finished with 8 winners, 74 unforced errors, and a ridiculous 16 double-faults.
The day on Stadium court was bookended with Americans, who came away with much different results. Jack Sock led Tommy Robredo 5-2 in the first-set tiebreaker but dropped five points in a row to lose it 7-5. Clearly not feeling well and also dealing with what looked like a sore right arm, Sock went away quietly in the second.
In much more need of a win than Sock, Isner delivered the goods on Monday night with a surprisingly routine 6-3, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson. Isner broke right away in the first and again early in the second to take complete control over an opponent who could not recover from an epic collapse in last week’s Toronto quarterfinals against Grigor Dimitrov.
There will be no Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut rematch, because the Frenchman went down to Marinko Matosevic in two hard-fought sets. Furious with the chair umpire over a host of perceived bad line calls, Matosevic went borderline ballistic with rage after the match even though he had won. Isner vs. Matosevic will be a rematch of a recent Atlanta quarterfinal showdown.
In between Sock and Isner, Gael Monfils and Federico Delbonis added to the three-set count. Monfils was up to his usual antics of not caring at times, but also displaying his incredible athleticism at other moments. As usual, he ended up on the ground more than a few times. For the most part it seemed like Monfils was bored during a match he knew he would ultimately win–and he did, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
After a one-hour rain delay, Gilles Simon and Bernard Tomic were moved from Court 9 to the much smaller Court 10. Simon looked like the Simon of 2008-2009 in a clinical performance that lasted exactly one hour. The Frenchman did not face a single break point en route to a second-round date with Novak Djokovic.
Away from the match court, Stan Wawrinka practiced with David Ferrer, Toronto semifinalist Feliciano Lopez practiced with Roberto Bautista Agut, Ernests Gulbis practiced with Dominic Thiem before the heavens opened up to interrupt their session, and Genie Bouchard held a fun Q&A session.
The Gulbis forehand:
Gulbis may have missed the memo that this is 2014: