By Brad Hunter
(February 10, 2014) MEMPHIS – I have not been to the Memphis tournament since 2012, and the tournament has gone through some changes: it was an ATP 500 event combined with a WTA event, and now it’s an ATP 250 event without the WTA event. I do miss the ladies and love combined events, but Memphis has been able to create a more focused atmosphere utilizing these changes and the change in ATP points doesn’t appear to have affected the quality of the draw. The near-to-the-players intimacy of the event is huge: all stadium court and grandstand court seating feels like you’re 15-20 feet away from the action and usually you are but even when it’s further, it still feel closer. If you want to see professional players strolling halls, watching matches, practicing and doing other fun (and often charitable) things AND see world class tennis action, this is the tournament for you. I am a fan of tennis as well as player, I play 5-6 times per week, so I love that I can study the way the players are moving, how they’re preparing for their shots, what their follow-throughs look like, how they construct points, what mistakes they’re making, etc.
First up on stadium court today was a final round of qualifying match between two players who have been playing mostly challengers this year, Denis Kudla and Gastao Elias. I was curious to see where Kudla’s game was after his recent run through qualifying and into the main draw at the Australian Open. Both players had loads of break point chances: Kudla went 2 for 12 and Elias went 1 for 7. Double handed backhand to double handed backhand, the two men appeared equal. Elias was hitting his forehand bigger with more depth and spin, but Kudla was able to extend baseline rallies enough to rattle Elias on important points. Kudla also came up with 5 or 6 stunning passing shots from either way behind the baseline or in extremely defensive positions and flexibility and agility helped him win this match 7-6 (1), 6-4.
The next match I watched on stadium court was also the first main draw singles match of the tournament, between No. 5 seed Marinko Matosevic and Jiri Vesely. From the get go, the lefty Vesely was ultra intense and loudly cheering himself on. Matosevic started well and stayed with Vesely early, but once he went down that first break his game unraveled. He began missing from everywhere: forehands, backhands, volleys. By the time the 2nd set rolled around he was shooting lost looks and smirks and a “what’s the point?” at Mark Woodforde, who was sitting in his player’s box. To further illustrate how much today was not his day, towards the end of the match, on a changeover, Matosevic missed his mouth and squirted his red gel/liquid he was drinking on his bright yellow shirt… Vesely won the match 6-3, 6-2 and moves on to play the winner of Jack Sock and Adrian Mannarino.
Then I moved over to the grandstand court and caught the end of set 3 of another final round of qualifying match between Rajeev Ram and Victor Estrella Burgos. I sat on the top row so I could also twist around and watch Sam Querrey hit on the adjacent court with the Memphis Grizzlies coach, David Joerger. Joerger appears to be a solid 4.0 player and held his own with Sam and everyone involved looked like they were having fun. The noise from that was pretty loud, but it didn’t seem to faze Ram who took the match with his usual mix of clean, aggressive tennis winning 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4. As Ram was leaving the court he said “thanks everyone” to the stands and then stopped to sign some autographs and pose for pics with some boys who asked him.
The next match on grandstand was Australian Open doubles finalists Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen versus Jack Sock and Donald Young. The teams were evenly matched throughout the first set with Klaasen and Butorac struggling a bit with the power coming off the Sock forehand. Sock and Young hit several clean winners from the baseline, but the doubles specialists kept pushing forward and the strategy worked when they needed it to. Sock and Young found themselves up 4-1 in the first set tiebreaker and looking like they would run away with the set and then Butorac/Klaasen turned the momentum around and won 6 straight points and the set. Butorac and Klaasen closed out the final set 6-4 for the win. Butorac and Klaasen are the No. 2 seeds in the doubles draw, the top seeds are the Bryan brothers. If they meet in the final it will be a rematch of their recent Australian Open match, where Butorac and Klassen upset the Bryans.
RESULTS – MONDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2014
Singles – First Round
J Vesely (CZE) d  M Matosevic (AUS) 63 62
M Russell (USA) d  M Przysiezny (POL) 36 63 61
T Smyczek (USA) d [WC] N Kyrgios (AUS) 67(5) 64 63
Doubles – First Round
 E Butorac (USA) / R Klaasen (RSA) d J Sock (USA) / D Young (USA) 76(4) 64
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d B Becker (GER) / Y Lu (TPE) 75 16 10-4
SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2014
STADIUM start 11:00 am
M Ebden (AUS) vs I Karlovic (CRO)
[WC] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs [Q] R Ram (USA)
J Sock (USA) vs A Mannarino (FRA)
B Phau (GER) vs R Harrison (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
T Bednarek (POL) / I Karlovic (CRO) vs C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS)
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) vs  S Querrey (USA)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
 M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs T Gabashvili (RUS)
L Lacko (SVK) vs B Becker (GER)
[Q] A Kuznetsov (USA) vs [Q] D Goffin (BEL)
Not Before 5:00 pm
Possible Court Change – F Cermak (CZE) / M Elgin (RUS) vs  S Groth (AUS) / M Mirnyi (BLR)