By Dave Gertler
(January 15, 2015) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Two-time finalist, Australian Bernard Tomic, has failed to reach the semi-final of the 2015 Apia International, bowing out to world No.45 Gilles Muller in their quarter-final on Thursday.
The big-serving lefty from Luxembourg fired off 25 aces to Tomic’s 15 in their two sets on Ken Rosewall Arena, and was the better player in both tie-breaks, particularly in the marathon second-set tie-break which he won 15-13 to seal the match against the hometown favorite and 2013 Sydney champion.
“He served really well,” said Tomic, “I knew it was going to be difficult. This is a player that has been in the last eight at majors I think four or five years back at the US Open. It was very difficult playing him. That serve is probably one of the best serves out there now that’s left handed. Not a lot of guys that can play like him.”
Muller has needed to play his best tennis so far at the Apia International, exacting tight wins over Sam Groth and Jeremy Chardy on his way to the quarters, and will now need to continue elevating his game if he’s to make it past an on-fire Viktor Troicki, back with a vengeance from his suspension, and seemingly attempting to make up for lost time.
While Tomic and Muller were on main court on Thursday evening, Troicki and Italian Simone Bolelli were battling it out on an outside show court. Although currently outside the top 50, 29-year-old Bolelli came back from a set down against Troicki by playing flawless top-20 quality tennis. After losing the first set 3-6, Bolelli manoeuvred himself into a winning position, taking the second set 6-3, and leading by a break late in the final set before Troicki’s relentless defense proved a deciding factor, allowing the Serb back into the final set, which he would win 7-5, along with the match.
“I was expecting pretty tough match,” said Troicki, who served 16 aces to Bolelli’s two during the 2-hour, 8-minute-long match, “I had few tough battles with Simone, who’s a good friend. I think he played great. He was unlucky at the end to lose. But I think we both played good. I was defending a lot because he was really aggressive. Yeah, I had bit more luck in the end and played some good points, played some big points pretty good. So I was happy with that. I also served well. So I’m really satisfied with the win today and happy with the result.”
Troicki, who lost to Gilles Simon in the 2011 Sydney final, the same year he reached his highest rank of world No. 12, is seemingly playing with a new lease on life after returning from a doping ban which left him sidelined for a year.
“Well, I experienced something that most of the guys don’t experience,” said Troicki, who had to play through qualifying this year, “I’ve been banned, yeah, from playing. When you cannot do something that you love and when you’re not doing it for a while you see how much you miss it and love it. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about this, playing, competing, doing something that I love. I really love playing tennis. So I enjoy on the court much more than I used to. Yeah, it’s fun being back. All my life I was looking forward to this. I enjoy it more on the court, as I said. It’s more fun and more enjoyment on the court.”
An all-journeyman semi-finals has been set for Friday – Viktor Troicki versus Gilles Muller, and Leonardo Mayer versus Mikhail Kukushkin – and the Apia International will have a new men’s champion crowned on Saturday.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney and is covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .