By Florian Heer
(July 11, 2014) STUTTGART – Seven of the top eight seeds advanced to the quarterfinals of the Mercedes Cup, only the tournament’s number five and local hope Philipp Kohlschreiber lost to Lukas Rosol on Thursday in straight sets. The remaining favorites were all in action on Friday in Stuttgart.
One of the most improved players on the ATP World Tour, Roberto Bautista-Agut, who climbed from No. 59 at the end of 2013 to a career high No. 23 after winning his maiden title in s’Hertogenbosch in June, took on fellow countryman Guillermo Garcia-López for the first time in the opening match on Centre Court. The latter also represents one of five remaining players in Stuttgart, who have already won a title in 2014 by taking the trophy in Casablanca in April. Garcia-López also had the better start into today’s encounter with a solid baseline game taking the opening set in the ninth game. Yet, the longer the match lasted, the more solid became Bautista-Agut. The 26-year-old from Castellón broke serve in the ninth game of the second set and eventually took the tie-break in the final frame winning 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after two hours and 38 minutes. The third-seeded Spaniard reached his second semi-final in Stuttgart after his debut here last year.
Fabio Fognini, another 2014 ATP World Tour tournament champion with a victory in Viňa del Mar, who opened his title defence in Stuttgart was through with a comfortable win over Andrej Golubev in straight sets on Thursday to face Santiago Giraldo in the quarterfinal. The 26-year-old Colombian, who has had his season highlighted by reaching the final in Barcelona, defeated with Mate Delic and Philipp Davydenko two qualifiers in the opening rounds before meeting the Italian. Fognini lost two out of the last three meetings with Giraldo but was the more efficient player today. The top-seed from San Remo emerged victorious against the Columbian, who was moaning a lot on Centre Court today, winning 6-4, 6-3 in eighty minutes.
“It was a very tough match, especially in the beginning and I’m happy to be in the semi-finals in Stuttgart for another time. The same constellation as last year and I also hope with the same result. Nonetheless, it will not be easy. Roberto improved his game a lot and won his first title on grass a few weeks ago,” the defending champion said afterwards. “When I was world No. 13 a few months ago, I had the target to break into the top-ten. Maybe I was thinking too much about this goal at that time and I was trying too hard. I think this was a mistake and at the moment I’m pretty calm. I know my tennis. I know my body better than anyone. I still have two or three years to improve my tennis as well as my ranking and we will see,” the current world number 15 told about his goals and also disclosed the secret what happened with the Mercedes he won last year. “I used it a few month and then my father sold it to a friend. It was too fast,” Fognini laughed.
Eastbourne champion Feliciano López, who overcame compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver in three sets the round before, faced Lukas Rosol for the first time. The 28-year-old Czech advanced to his third quarterfinal of the season, reached the final in Bucharest and took the ATP Challenger title of the Prague Open just before starting his grass court campaign. Here in Stuttgart, Rosol took out 17-year-old German talent Alexander Zverev in the opening round before he upset fifth-seed Philipp Kohlschreiber. It wasn’t a surprise that today’s match was dominated by the first services and one break on each side in every set took the encounter the distance. In the tie-break of the third set, the 32-year-old Spaniard gained an early 4-1 lead, smelling victory already but did not make any further point from then on. Some shaky serves, a double fault and two unforced errors later and it was Rosol sealing victory after one hour and 55 minutes winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-7.
In the final match of the day, current Sao Paulo champion Federico Delbonis played against second-seeded Mikhail Youzhny. The 32-year-old Russian was in control of the tie-break in the first set, dominated the entire second frame and eventually served out winning 7-6, 6-2 in one hour and 40 minutes.
Earlier in the day, Toni Nadal talked to the media. The Spanish star’s coach is also in Stuttgart for a second edition of “The making of a Wimbledon Champion”, a project for young talented German players giving them the opportunity to practice in a professional atmosphere and maybe eventually bring them closer to the top. In co-operation with the Mercedes Cup, Toni supports the project and the winner of a small tournament taking place during this week will receive a Wild Card for the ATP event as well as will have the chance to practice with Toni’s famous nephew in Mallorca. Last year’s champion Alexander Marterer will be the first youngster to receive a spot in Stuttgart’s main draw next year.
“I think this is a good chance for the tennis in Germany. It is difficult but not impossible to really create a possible future Wimbledon champion,” Nadal told the media. “The quality of the grass courts here is great. The surface is very similar to the courts in Wimbledon, which is an important thing for the players in terms of preparation to the All England Championships. The courts in Halle this year were too fast. I will Rafa tell about these very good conditions here in Stuttgart and maybe there is a chance that he will come next year,” Toni said about Stuttgart’s transition to grass in 2015.
“We will talk to Rafael and his manager Carlos Costa about a possible start in 2015. For the case he’ll win Roland Garros, he will have the chance to play only on Thursday here. Of course we need to generate additional money but we’ll try to and maybe there is a chance that Rafa can take his third title in Stuttgart,” tournament director Edwin Weindorfer added.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit! Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.