(July 22, 2014) ATLANTA – It was college night here at Atlantic Station! There were Panthers, Owls, Yellow Jackets, and Bulldogs – Oh My! At the USTA Family Zone, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State, and Georgia Tech mascots all helped to promote tennis this afternoon with some fun and games for fans. The University of Georgia Pep Band serenaded the crowd with some tunes and tried to fire them up for the evening.
Speaking of UGA, in his news conference this afternoon, former Bulldog John Isner elaborated on his college experience; “I wouldn’t be where I am today. Coach Diaz was so instrumental to me! It was perfect. There’s no hurry at 17, 18 years old to get out on the tour.” He feels that almost every young player could benefit from the experience of playing in college and being part of a team experience. When asked about multiple withdrawals and the pressure of being the marquee name in the tournament, Isner said, “It’s disappointing not to have those guys in the field this year. It’s a very tough field. I hope the fans come out as they always do.” He went on to talk often being the last American standing in tournaments and that he doesn’t he feel any special pressure. “It’d be better if we had more guys with more success.” He’s really looking forward to the hard court season and indicated it was critical to his year. Atlanta gets that all started in a place where he likes the surface and it is just an hour down the road from Athens where he spent four great years. He will take on another tour veteran in his second round match. It will be a match with lots of local interest, as local Robby Ginepri came through in three sets today.
Ginepri took on Sergiy Stakhovsky. The first set was a tight affair, as Ginepri let a few nerves help Stakhovsky earn a break at two all. He had a few chances to break back, as Stakhovsky had six double faults, most to the ad court in the opening set alone, but Ginepri finally drew even and earned his way into a tie break. He owned the breaker, closing it out 7-3.
Ginepri served to open the second set and was broken early. Stakhovsky ran out to a 4-0 lead with another break and it looked like Ginepri was ready to concede the set when Stakhovsky got a little loose and Ginepri got one of the breaks back. It almost looked as if Stakhovsky was trying to extend the set to tire Ginepri, though he finally hung on to force the third set.
Turned out it was Ginepri who was saving himself. He called on his veteran poise and settled in, winning all of the points on his first serve in the deciding set. He never faced a break point. It did not hurt that he converted all of his break points and 9 of Stakhovsky’s 10 second serve points.
The feature match was a decidedly collegiate affair. A few players from Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, and Georgia Tech tossed a few shirts into the crowd to get everyone fired up. After some loud barking, University of Georgia great and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker came out to do the coin toss for the Lukas Lacko v Nathan Pasha match. Pasha is a player for Coach Manuel Diaz at Georgia. He had a very good year, but had been taking some time off to rest and only got word four days ago that he had a wild card. Despite some nerves, Pasha came out serving hard with a 135 MPH ace in the first game. Unfortunately, he was soon broken and the set was Lacko’s, 6-2. The second set was a much more even affair until Pasha earned a break to put him up 5-3, serving for the set. Four double faults undid what he had earned and Lacko got a firm handle on the doorknob that Pasha could not find and slammed the door shut for a 6-2, 7-5 win. Pasha showed lots of game and lots of promise.
In other action, Ryan Harrison fell to Tim Smyczek 6-0, 6-2. Harrison was broken on his first two service games and never got on track. Reports indicate he is dealing with some sort of foot injury. Blisters, a stress fracture, and a broken foot have all been speculated, though no confirmation on any of those was available. He has partnered with Robby Ginepri and they already completed their first round match, so a withdrawal would certainly be another disappointment for the tournament.
In other first round action, Marinko Matosevic made short work of Victor Estrella Burgos 6-0, 6-2. John Patrick Smith fell to Illya Marchenko 6-4, 6-4. Jack Sock beat Alejandro Gonzalez for the first time of the day 6-2, 6-4. Rajeev Ram lost to Denis Istomin 6-1,6-4 and Benjamin Becker beat Mattew Ebden 6-4, 6-2.
The evening concluded with an entertaining doubles match on stadium court. Colombians Alejandro Conzalez and Juan-Carlos Spir took on Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he couldn’t take advantage of the second chance. Sock earned an early break with an outlandish overhead off a smash. Yes, an overhead off of a smash – the ball was slammed into the court so hard it came down like a lob and Sock timed it right back forcing a volley error. That was all they needed to claim the set, as the only other break point was saved by Pospisil/Sock. The second set only had 4 break points, with Pospisil/Sock saving both of theirs while converting one of the Colombians’ pair. The final point of the match had a short delay, as a ball girl was the recipient of a rather hard Sock service fault. It was one very well earned tattoo and rewarded with the ball autographed. Sock apologized profusely, but play continued and they closed it out 6-4, 6-4.
Wednesday’s play will feature Sam Querrey facing Dudi Sela for the 7 PM match. Here is the rest of the order of play:
ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JULY 23, 2014
STADIUM start 2:00 pm
 C Guccione (AUS) / J Smith (AUS) vs J Erlich (ISR) / R Ram (USA)
[Q] M Venus (NZL) vs J Sock (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
 S Querrey (USA) vs D Sela (ISR)
YACHT ROCK REVUE CONCERT
AJC GRANDSTAND start 2:00 pm
N Barrientos (COL) / V Estrella Burgos (DOM) vs S Ratiwatana (THA) / S Ratiwatana (THA)
[Q] I Marchenko (UKR) vs  V Pospisil (CAN)
After Suitable Rest – M Ebden (AUS) / Y Lu (TPE) vs  S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA)
COURT 3 start 3:00 pm
 Y Lu (TPE) vs [LL] A Kuznetsov (USA)
L Lacko (SVK) or [WC] N Pasha (USA) vs  D Istomin (UZB)