Vasek Pospisil and Julien Benneteau earned places in the Cincinnati second round on Tuesday after being one point from elimination. American wild cards Robby Ginepri and Steve Johnson joined compatriots John Isner and Sam Querrey in the last 32.
Tuesday began with Vasek Pospisil facing Radek Stepanek on Court 4, too small of a court for that good of a match. It did not disappoint, either. After losing the first, Pospisil caught fire in the second and both men played well in the third–setting up a decisive tiebreaker that did not come prior to some serious drama. Serving to stay in the match late in the third, Pospisil had to save three match points. He managed to do it and got plenty of help in the process, as he survived one with a backhand winner off the net cord. Given new life, Pospisil took the ‘breaker seven points to four for a 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(4). Awesome match.
The top of Court 3 is a great spot because you can see all of two courts (and most of a third court). Taking place simultaneously with the Pospisil-Stepanek match–on Court 4–was James Ward vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The Spaniard played well in the second, but he was off the rails in both the first and the third. Ward remained steady throughout to snag a huge win, especially for someone ranked 148th in the world.
Back-to-back matches on Court 3 featured coach Gunter Bresnik’s two charges, who posted mixed results. Dominic Thiem lost to Robby Ginepri in three sets before Ernests Gulbis posted a ‘W’ by holding off Ivan Dodig in two tiebreakers.
Thiem at least managed to make his match interesting after it looked like it would be one-way traffic for Ginepri, who led by a set and a break. The 20-year-old Austrian took the second and pushed the third to 5-5, but a break for Ginepri in the 11th game proved to be the difference. Ginepri likely needed somewhat off an off day from Thiem to win this one, and he got it. At the same time, the American played extremely well, himself. It’s looking like this could be a resurgent summer for the 31-year-old ranked No. 232 in the world.
Gulbis threw away leads in both sets but held it together mentally to get past Dodig 7-6(8), 7-6(4). He blew multiple set points in three different games (including the tiebreaker) in the first set but also saved a Dodig set point with a slick serve-and-volley play. Gulbis also gave back a break in the second, but once again he displayed some impressive (and rare prior to this year) mental strength in a ‘breaker.
A late afternoon match on Court 4 saw Roberto Bautista Agut edge Martin Klizan 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. Klizan was absolutely bludgeoning his lefty forehand, but he got tight while serving to stay in the match at 5-6 in the third after having previously delivered a clutch hold at 4-5. It was an entertaining baseline battle with plenty of emotion.
No match was more intense, competitive, or had a better atmosphere than Julien Benneteau vs. Blaz Rola on Court 9. Rola may be from Slovenia, but he played college tennis at nearby Ohio State so this might as well have been a home match for him. Benneteau served for the match at 6-5 in the third only to double-fault on match point and get broken. An nail-biting, back-and-forth final-set tiebreaker saw both men have at least one match point. Rola gave himself one with a huge forehand pass, but he missed it with a forehand error. In the end, Benneteau was just too solid and deprived his inexperienced opponent of what would have been the biggest win of his young career. The fans went home disappointed, but appreciative.
Fittingly, the day ended with one more three-setter. Novak Djokovic had a set and a break lead on Gilles Simon but threw away his chance to score a routine victory. One break in the third was enough for Djokovic to survive despite playing an overall poor match by his standards. Simon, though, played well and in trademark fashion lured his opponent into long, relatively uneventful rallies. The Frenchman won almost all of them throughout the second half of the match, but a few loose errors in one service game by Simon were enough to turn the tide in Djokovic’s favor.
“I don’t enjoy playing bad,” Djokovic said matter-of-factly in his post-match press conference, although he assured that he was glad just to come away with a ‘W.’ It was one of those days from start to finish, where a ‘W’ was not easy to come by for anyone on any court.