Three-setters were the aberration instead of the rule on Wednesday in Cincinnati after a whole host of them had taken place one day earlier. But the day was not without drama, as David Ferrer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Vasek Pospisil can attest.
Wednesday was simply jam-packed at the Western & Southern Open. Here’s the order of play, and what my dad’s marked-up sheet would have looked like if he had been in attendance:
The most surprising result of the second round and perhaps the tournament came right away on Court 3, where Grigor Dimitrov faced Jerzy Janowicz. To say Janowicz has been ice cold this year would be an understatement, but he somehow got up for this one. It had to have been without question the best match Janowicz has played all season and it resulted in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 upset. The Pole pretty much celebrated as if he had won a Grand Slam, and why not? Also the hug between the two players at net was longest one I have seen in quite some time.
Another upset was delivered almost simultaneously on Court 9, with Yen-Hsun Lu avenging last week’s Toronto loss to Tomas Berdych. It would be fair to say that a somewhat out-of-form Berdych did not have his ‘A’-game, but Lu was on fire in the third set.
Mikhail Youzhny followed up his first-round defeat of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by taking care of Andreas Seppi in straight sets. Youzhny gave back a break in the second set, but he quickly regained it and served out the match at 5-4. It was a contest between similar players, with solid ball-striking. Youzhny showcased slightly more variety and came into net at the right times to finish points.
In doubles action, Australian Open runner-ups Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen rolled over Feliciano Lopez and Jurgen Melzer.
Fernando Verdasco watching Lopez play doubles:
Not surprisingly given John Isner’s history on American hard courts, especially in Cincinnati (runner-up last summer), his match against Marinko Matosevic was entirely straightforward. The second set went to a tiebreaker, but perhaps no tiebreak set has ever been more routine. Isner dominated on serve, had a few looks in the return game, then inevitably rolled through the ‘breaker seven points to one. A stellar performance from the big guy; not much Matosevic could do with the ball flying off Isner’s racket like that, as it always does at this event.
Roger Federer had no such easy day at the office–at least not for two sets. An in-form Vasek Pospisil held his serve the entire way through the first two frames of play, dropping the first in a tiebreaker before taking the second 7-5. Pospisil, though, has been plying a ton of tennis this summer (in both singles and doubles) and fatigue showed in the third. Federer broke at both 1-1 and 3-2 to take complete control before ultimately prevailing 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-2.
“I [was] nervous about not being ready for the conditions, like Jo (Tsonga) and (Grigor) Dimitrov and (Feliciano) Lopez,” Federer explained. “The transition is always a tough one. We don’t have enough days. We just hope to get through the first match in tough conditions. In the third set I sensed he was getting a bit tired. I was able to take advantage of that. I closed it out. So I’m happy things finished more positive in the end.”
The match of the day–and perhaps the week–came on Court 9. A big-match court that is small by the standards of the quality of players it generally hosts, it always features phenomenal atmospheres. It is a court built below ground level with stands on all sides in more of a circular shape than a rectangle (a bull ring, some might call it). Throw a hotly-contested match on it and electricity ensues. That was the case for David Ferrer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber, which featured three tiebreakers. Ferrer came back from a set and 5-2 down in the second and also saved two match points in the third before surviving 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4). Kohlschreiber also fought off a match point at 5-6 in the third with a slick serve-and-volley play off a second serve, but Ferrer was too solid in the ‘breaker.
The next match on Court 9 was anything but dramatic, which is often the case when Ernests Gulbis is involved. It was one of those days for Gulbis, of which he has had many since making a run to the French Open semifinals. Nothing went right for the Latvian and it did not help that he ran into a red-hot opponent in Steve Johnson. The American endured a brief hiccup near the finish line, but he still cruised 6-3, 6-4.
Either the slate of action was just too packed or there was just a major scheduling error when someone decided to put Pospisil and Jack Sock on Court 10. That’s just about the smallest court you can play on aside from far-away courts like 6 and 7, to which almost nobody of note is sent. As expected, Court 10 was a borderline fire hazard for Pospisil and Sock vs. Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.
Pospisil and Sock, who are now a perfect 12-0 playing with each other (including titles at Wimbledon and in Atlanta), were dominating with a set and break lead in hand. Out of nowhere, however, they cracked late in the second set and dropped serve twice in succession. Much to the delight of a pro-Popsocks crowd, they recovered to win the super-tiebreaker 10-8. Great atmosphere and the two rising stars showed their appreciation by staying late to sign autographs and take pictures with just about the entire state of Ohio.