By Brad Hunter
MEMPHIS – The first Wednesday match on stadium court was between two Americans playing for a spot in the quarterfinals, Tim Smyczek and Michael Russell. In the previous round, Smyczek had defeated the up-and-coming Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3. Kyrgios was coming off his splashy debut at the Australian Open this year, where he made the 2nd round and then lost an exciting 5-set match against Benoit Paire after being up 2 sets to love.
Smyczek most recently had made the semi-finals in the Maui challenger event. Michael Russell defeated the No. 7 seed Michal Pryzysiezny in the first round, 3-6, 6-3. 6-1.
From the get go, Russell assumed dominance in the rallies and in the match and moved to a 4-1 lead in the first set. Russell continually extended points with his defense and hit the ball with steady intensity. Another thing I noticed about Russell was his habit of thanking the ballkids for giving him balls. Smyczek looked out of sorts early, making several off balance groundstroke errors where the balls he hit flew many feet beyond the baseline. It appeared that Smyczek was struggling to focus or struggling with his rhythm and he wasn’t able to keep up with Russell’s heavy hitting. Russell won the first set 6-2, winning 86% of his first serve points and 2 of his 3 break points.
The second set saw a refocused Smyczek, and he began finding success against Russell by attacking short balls and following them in to knock off volley winners. Smyczek dug deep in the second set and looked like he was trying his hardest to focus: a couple of times during the second set, Smyczek spoke to the chair umpire about the noise coming from the stadium entry way, saying once “you can hear a pin drop”. Smyczek and Russell had their longest baseline exchange of the match on break point against Smyczek’s serve at 5 games all, with Russell winning the point on a perfect topspin lob that left Smyczek staring (and the crowd cheering).
Russell lost his serve when he served for the match up 6-5, after losing his first 2 match points with forehand errors. At this point in the match, in the tiebreak, things looked like they were starting to go Smyczek’s way, and he built a 4-1 lead. Russell came back to to win 6 of the next 7 points and the match, final score 6-2. 7-6(5). Michael Russell moves on to play the winner of Lleyton Hewitt (who was in attendance for most of the first set of this match) and Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals.
RESULTS – WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2014
Singles – Second Round
 [WC] K Nishikori (JPN) d B Becker (GER) 64 64
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) d R Harrison (USA) 63 26 62
M Russell (USA) d T Smyczek (USA) 62 76(5)
J Sock (USA) d J Vesely (CZE) 62 61
Singles – First Round
[Q] D Kudla (USA) d D Young (USA) 61 61
Doubles – First Round
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [WC] D O’hare (IRL) / J Salisbury (GBR) 64 63
 S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) d M Ebden (AUS) / R Ram (USA) 62 64
R Junaid (AUS) / P Marx (GER) d [Alt] A Mannarino (FRA) / M Russell (USA) 75 63
T Gabashvili (RUS) / M Kukushkin (KAZ) d M Matosevic (AUS) / F Moser (GER) 75 26 10-6
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2014
STADIUM start 11:00 am
 S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) vs R Junaid (AUS) / P Marx (GER)
 M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs [Q] A Kuznetsov (USA)
[Q] D Kudla (USA) vs  Y Lu (TPE)
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs F Cermak (CZE) / M Elgin (RUS)
 L Hewitt (AUS) vs [WC] M Baghdatis (CYP)
I Karlovic (CRO) vs  F Lopez (ESP)
GRANDSTAND start 5:00 pm
Not before 5:00 pm
Possible Court Change – T Gabashvili (RUS) / M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs  E Butorac (USA) / R Klaasen (RSA)