Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

John Isner-2

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

by Kevin Ware

Day Five Quarterfinal Results

[4] T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2

[2] J Isner (USA) d [8] Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [6] Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3

[3] Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5

Match Notes

Steve Johnson bemoaned his lack of aggression in losing to Tommy Haas in the first quarterfinal of the day, feeling that he let Haas take control too often at key moments.  For his part, Haas is feeling good and grateful to be playing some of his best tennis towards the end of his career.  He’s especially happy to be able to do so in front of his 2 year-old who’s here in San Jose with dad.  “I know she probably won’t remember watching me play today, but maybe I can continue on playing and she’ll get to be around a couple of these tournaments and see me play competitively at a high level.”

John Isner didn’t play his best tennis in his quarterfinal match against Xavier Malisse, but he raised his level when needed to get by an opponent who was more than capable of a big upset. This was especially true in the first set tiebreaker after Isner dug a 0-3 hole with a mini-break on the first point.  The tide turned with a monstrous return on a Malisse serve to level at 5-all. He closed out the tiebreak with some mad scrambling on the baseline before flicking one final running forehand winner that was netted by the Belgian. First set to Isner.  Malisse’s level dropped off quickly in the second set.  Isner, with the first set in his back pocket, kept up the pressure on the slumping Malisse to close out an uneventful second set for the win.

The quarterfinal match between Milos Raonic and Denis Istomin turned out to be almost a carbon copy of their match in last year’s SAP Open final. Both men held serve easily and played to their strengths for most of the first set, with Istomin looking to be the stronger from the back court.  But once again, the tiebreaker was the deciding factor with Raonic sweeping all seven points for the first set.  After that, Istomin’s resolve slipped and Raonic’s confidence soared, and it was only a matter of time until Raonic closed it out.

Sam Querrey‘s win over Alejandro Falla was easily the best match of the day! It looked to be on track for a routine straight sets win by Querrey after a 6-3 first set.  No one told that to Falla, however, as the Colombian left scrambled with even more intensity in the second set.  In tennis, anything can happen when you make your opponent hit “one more shot”, and that was the case for Falla. Querrey’s level dropped, and a few key misses gave the set to Falla.  The tension was high for both guys in the third set, with neither giving an inch until the eighth game when Falla broke Querrey for 4-all, then held serve for a 5-4 lead.

A straight-sets victory was a distant memory with Querry playing loose shots on the deuce court to find himself at match point, 30-40. A crucial 133mph ace out wide to Falla’s backhand saved the point, and lit the fire under Sam that he needed to hold serve, break Falla for a 6-5 lead, then serve out the match.   That’s not to say that Falla didn’t have his chances, because he did.  Two netted shots for a game point at 5-all could easily have put the pressure back on Querrey’s serve to stay in the match. But it was not meant to be for Falla, and a chance for a huge upset.

Semifinal Notes/Picks

[4] T Haas (GER) vs [2] J Isner (USA)

Head-to-head: Isner leads 3-1

Quick Keys to the match: Isner needs to start aggressive and keep Haas from feeling like he has a chance.  He must serve well to blunt Haas’ return opportunities, and keep the points short by coming forward as he’s done in other matches.  For Haas, if he can get a handle on the Isner serve and make this a running match, he will have the edge for Isner.

Pick: Sticking with Isner for the win.

[1] M Raonic (CAN) vs [3] S Querrey (USA)

Head-to-head: Querrey leads 2-0

Quick Keys to the match: Raonic is going to come out firing on all cylinders with high intensity.  Conversely, drops in his intensity level have been Querrey’s main issue in both of his previous matches. For Querrey to win this match against the two-time defending champion, there can be no drops.  He has to maintain focus, serve well, and stay strong on the baseline.  If Raonic can maintain focus and intensity from first point to last, something that Querrey typically can’t do, he’ll have the edge.

Pick: Sticking with Raonic for the win.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

All photos by David Sweet


Isner and Almagro Win on Day One of Miami Tennis Cup

John Isner

(November 30, 2012) Miami, FL – Attendance grew on stadium court at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL. on Friday evening, as tennis enthusiasts flocked to see some of the world’s best players perform during the night session on day one of the Miami Tennis Cup.

Alejadro Falla, Colombia’s top-ranked player, took to the court against Spain’s Nicolás Almagro, ranked No. 11 in the world. The first set was closer than expected, as Falla put up a hard fought battle from the baseline, after conceding the first set 6-4, lasting well over an hour. His first set spirit diminished during the second set that lasted only 35 minutes, as Almagro demonstrated why he was eleventh in the world, winning 6-1.

“It was tough because every match against Alejandro is complicated,” said Almagro about the left-handed Falla. “I’m quite happy with how I’m playing at the moment and I’m glad to be in the warmth of Miami for the first year of the Miami Tennis Cup. Hopefully the crowds were treated to an enjoyable game.”

Shortly after the tournament’s opening match, the top-ranked American, John Isner, squared away against the former number one player from Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Fans were treated to a thrilling first set that reached a tie-break, that was easily won by Isner 7-2. The second set was a close fought battle, but Isner stepped-up his game to take the second set 6-3.

“I’ve a pleasing 2012, and this is a nice way to round off the year,” said Isner during his post-match press conference. “I’m happy to be competing in the Miami Tennis Cup. It’s a good crowd with some top players competing. I’m looking forward to seeing Andy Roddick play Andy Murray and hope to meet one of them in Sunday’s final.”

Day two of the Miami Tennis Cup will feature the tournament’s headline match between the retired Andy Roddick and the reigning U.S Open and Olympic Champion, Andy Murray, currently ranked number three in the world. The match on Stadium Court starts at 5:00pm and is expected to draw a capacity crowd.

Photos courtesy of Miami Tennis Cup and Getty Images.


ESPN3 To Broadcast Miami Tennis Cup Featuring Murray and Roddick

(November 27, 2012) ESPN3 will broadcast live coverage of the inaugural Miami Tennis Cup with 12 hours of action Friday, November 30 through Sunday, December 2. Six players will participate in the exhibition tournament featuring recently retired Andy Roddick and reigning US Open champion Andy Murray, winner of the Olympic Gold Medal this summer.


The first day of action  will see John Inser, the top-ranked American, versus the recently retired Juan Carlos Ferrero and Nicolas Almagro against Alejandro Falla. The winners will meet Roddick and Murray on the second night with that night’s winners meeting for the championship on Sunday.  The event will take place at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, home of  the Sony Open.


ESPN3.com Schedule


Date Time (ET) Event Network
Fri, Nov 30 7 – 11 p.m. Miami Tennis Cup ESPN3
Sat, Dec 1 5 – 9 p.m. Miami Tennis Cup ESPN3
Sun, Dec 2 5 – 9 p.m. Miami Tennis Cup ESPN3



Isner Upset by Falla at Wimbledon

Eleventh seed, American John Isner in another five-set at Wimbledon lost to No. 73 Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-4, 6-7 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first round of Wimbledon on Monday.

Falla fought off a match point and 31 aces from the 6-foot-9 Isner in coming back from two sets to one down and surprisingly won 27 of 34 points at the net.

“I didn’t put my opponent away.  I had my chances, and I didn’t do it,” Isner said.  “It’s all on me.  Was just not great on my part.

“I had to take some time off after the French, and I was back and forth from North Carolina and Florida for family reasons.  But, no, I mean, I did what I normally do.  I felt fine coming into here.

“It’s just now I get out there sometimes, and lately it’s happening quite a lot, and I get out there in the match and I’m just so clouded.  I just can’t seem ‑‑ I just can’t seem to figure things out.  I’m my own worst enemy out there.  It’s all mental for me, and it’s pretty poor on my part.”

Isner added, “He was better than me today, and that’s what it comes down to.  You know, I had chances, and I didn’t take them.  So on my part, that’s my bad.


“So he deserved to win.  I don’t deserve to win that match at all.”

Isner said that the next tournament he’ll play is the Atlanta Tennis Championships.


Isner won the longest match in tennis history an 11-hour, 5-minute marathon in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010.


Djokovic Loves Miami; Murray Beats the Heat and Falla

Novak Djokovic is happy to be at the Sony Ericsson Open as Miami was the first “big” event he won, so it’s very special to him. It’s a city that offers so much to do besides tennis that it makes it a fun place to be. He is staying at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, which he likes because of the proximity to the event. The courts are nearby,” Djokovic said.  “You don’t need to be stuck in the traffic.  You don’t need to worry about that.

“Yeah, it’s very nice.  It’s beautiful, you know.  You can bike around; you can walk around; it’s very quiet and very private.

“Also the property is located on the beach, which he likes, and people can bike ride around, so it makes it all very pleasant.”

Djokovic is looking forward to the Olympics and considers mixed doubles one more chance to get a medal.

He feels that over the years has had good tennis, and this new generation of players are very supportive of each other, emotionally and of each other’s careers and achievements.

“It has been a few amazing years for Serbian tennis, “Djokovic said.  “You know, we didn’t have such a great tradition in this sport in our country.  We are still, I have to say, a nation of team sports.  We had lots of success and long history in basketball and volleyball, water polo, handball, these kind of sports.

“This is the first time that some individual sport stands out and delivers some world‑class tennis players, and it’s great, you know.  I grew up with all the tennis players that are coming from Serbia, especially with my Davis Cup colleagues.  We know each other really well, and we do get to share a lot of success and experiences, ups and downs, highs and lows, and try to help each other in every possible way with advices.

“We are always seeking to improve and get better.  I believe that our past that we had in our country, which was very turbulent, I have to say, helped us to, you know, discover that great desire for the success and, you know, to become one of the world’s best tennis players.

“This mentality, very, very strong mentality, is actually something that separates, I think, people from that region from any other.”

His fellow Serbs are good friends off the court as well. He feels that Serbia, having had such a turbulent past, is providing the world with top elite athletes in tennis, and more important first time to have athletes being successful in an individual sport.

Andy Murray beat the heat and Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-2, 6-3 in his first match at the Sony Ericsson Open.

I mean, he’s a tough player, Murray said of Falla. “He’s had some good wins, and he pushed Federer at Wimbledon very, very close.

“He beat Mardy(Fish), you know, at the Australian Open.  He’s a tough guy to play against, very different to how a lot of guys play nowadays.  He hits the ball ‑‑ you know, for the way a South America normally plays it’s pretty flat.

“He plays quite close to the baseline and doesn’t look like he’s doing that much with the ball.  But he changes direction of the ball pretty well, too.

“I was expecting it to be tricky, and started off that way and managed to play better.”

Falla felt that the humidity and heat took a toll on him. He did feel tired out there, the points were long, and he wished he had been more aggressive. However he understood that he lost to a player who is one of the best players at the moment and playing his best tennis. Murray mentioned that getting the break in the second set was very important as he continued putting pressure on Falla’s serve to get the breaks.  Murray also felt he served well, and coming to the match he was prepared to play Falla, who can be a tough opponent with his South American style of play.

Falla is looking forward to playing Davis Cup in Brazil next month, ogether with fellow countryman, Santiago Girardo.  Falla feels Brazilians are the favorite to win, but he is looking forward to playing for his country not only in Brazil, next month, but in London in July in the Olympics.

With his win on Friday Murray avoided a repeat of last year’s opening round loss in Miami. Murray fell in his first match in the recent BNP Paribas Open. Last year Murray lost in the opening rounds of both Indian Wells and Miami.

Lucia Hoffman is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama.


Fish Upset by Falla in Melbourne

MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Mardy Fish became the first major upset victim in the men’s draw. The eighth seeded American committed 58 unforced errors in his 7-6(4), 6-3,7-6(6) loss to Colombia’s Alejandro  Falla.

“Didn’t play great, ” said Fish.  You know, he played well.  Made a lot of errors.  You know, conditions are about as ideal for me as I would have liked as far as the second and third set, heat and stuff.

“Just didn’t work out.  You know, couple tiebreakers that I won last year, you know, most of those.  Played good when he needed to.
” You know, that’s it.  Third set obviously pretty important knowing that he’s struggling, I guess.  Maybe not.  Maybe that was a ploy.  I don’t know.   “Didn’t seem like he was having too much trouble during the point.  So it was a good tactic on his part.”

Falla will face next Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round.


Delray Beach – Day 2 of “Qualies” Adventures

Kunitsyn (L) defeats Ebden

DELRAY BEACH – February, 20, 2011- Day two of qualifying at the Delray Beach ATP dawns as spiffily as the day before. Play starts at noon, so it’s already nice and toasty by the time this day’s matches begin. I start out watching last week’s San Jose doubles champ Rajeev Ram take on top seed Blaz Kavcic.

Kavcic plays some unbelievably good, scrambling backhands early. The 23-year-old Slovenian – who won his first round match at the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson in his coach’s shoes after his pair ripped and he didn’t have a spare – scurries all over the court, as ever (and presumably in his own shoes).  He hits some superb passing shots, ultimately breaking Ram in the fourth game with a low and reaching backhand crosscourt pass and a grunt of maximum effort.

Kavcic‘s court-blazing ways are on full display in the first set, and people around me are all checking their OOP sheets, saying “What’s this guy’s name again?” To Ram’s credit, he sticks and carves some nice-looking volleys and gets the break back when Kavcic suddenly can’t find his forehand while serving for the set at 5-3. Kavcic cracks his racquet to make it pay for its forehand-ular transgressions. But the scruffy Slovene breaks right back, as Ram cedes the next game thanks in part to a double fault and some forehand errors. First set to the top seed 6-4.

I’ve seen all I need to see of this match, as Kavcic seems unbeatable on this day, so I go check on Matty Ebden. Things are not going so well for the man from Perth – he’s down a set and a break to second seed Igor Kunitsyn and seems disheveled. The 23-year-old Western Aussie – who reached the quarterfinals in Brisbane beating Denis Istomin - is loaded with unforced errors off the ground in a way I don’t usually see from him.  Sure enough, Ebden calls for the trainer after the fifth game and gets his right knee tended to. Magic knee spray is applied (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term for it) as well as some tape, and Ebden gamely but forges forth.

He’s clearly off form in the next game, netting out-of-position backhands, as Kunitsyn holds to 4-2. The 29-year-old Russian is playing fairly well, and might be beating a fully up-to-snuff opponent as it is.  But Ebden’s snuff is clearly not up, and though he grittily saves a match point on his own serve – after double faulting at 30-all and coming up gingerly – Kunitsyn closes him out 6-3 6-4, and will meet seventh seed Marinko Matosevic in the final qualifying round.

Meanwhile, I look at my awesome ATP scoring app on my and see that eighth seed Donald Young has beaten Victor Estrella 6-3 6-4 and Kavcic finished off Ram 6-4 6-3.  The fact that these matches end simultaneously is awful for me, as it means the next matches will begin concurrently, and I’ll probably miss two more matches.

Say what you will about the big red-headed Australian, but Groth brings maximum entertainment for your tennis dollar. His on-court personality is as explosive as his serve, and he always lets you (and his opponent) know exactly what’s going on in his mind. I think it’s a detriment to his game, personally, but it’s always a spectacle to watch. Plus the Grothawk is still blazing in all its bleached-blonde glory.

Hajek wins the toss and chooses to receive, which seems fairly insane to me, but what do I know? Groth greets him with an ace out wide – how do you do! Jarmila Groth’s husband is making the people next to me crack up with his post-point requests for the towel. He’s using the word to both celebrate a good point – “Towel!” – and as a substitute epithet whenever he loses a point – “Towel!” It is pretty hilarious.

To add to this match’s spectacle there’s a growling dog behind the far baseline’s fence, making its displeasure known throughout the contest. Serving at 1-all and having missed an overhead and an easy forehand, Groth exclaims, “Two of the worst shots in the game ever – towel!” He holds anyway.  Hajek gets a break point at 3-all, but Groth erases it with a service winner. “C’mon! Towel!” he exhorts. All in all, Groth serves a staggering 13 aces in the first set – over three games worth. The 27-year-old from the Czeck Republic just smiles or shrugs after most of them fly by. What can you do?

Hajek finds himself down two set points after double faulting to 5-6 15-40, but Groth misses on two volleys and Hajek holds to force a tiebreak. “How many volleys can you miss?” Sam asks himself. “Too many, that’s how many,” he answers. Groth starts off the breaker with a service winner on the second delivery. “Towel! Focus, focus!” he yells. The Melbourne man gets a mini-break and aces to 4-1*. Hajek holds his two serves then gets the mini-breakback with a cracking off forehand return to 4-all. Groth bounces back with a tremendous one-handed backhand pass up the line. “C’MON!!!” he screams, and is so pumped he forgets about the towel. Hajek holds fast with a backhand volley and a service winner. Facing his first set point serving at 5-6, Groth double faults and hurls his racquet into the net.

The third seed starts the second set with one love hold, and Groth starts his first service game with a quadruple fault. Hajek’s cheering section applauds wildly, saying “Fight! Fight!” “Yeah, fight fight on my double faults,” Sam snipes back, understandably miffed. Groth is all agitated and aggro now. He’s disturbed by the ball kids standing in the wrong place and by their rolling the balls between first and second serves. He misses a forehand volley long and is broken, then he smacks a ball into a nearby palm tree with a surprisingly thunderous thud. That’s a code violation, right there. That ball has done been abused! The chair ump is not amused.

Hajek wrong-foots Groth at 30-all 2-0. “I’m too big for this sport,” the Aussie offers. But he breaks back anyway, as Hajek nets some forehands and the net cord steers another one wide. Serving at 15-all, Sam misses a swinging backhand drive volley and poses the following question, presumably to himself: “Are you crazy?” He quickly finds an answer: “You must be.”  Man. Sam is so talented but he gets in his way so often. He’s like the Phillip Simmonds of the ATP tour (and kudos to you if you understand that reference, loyal reader). Groth nets a forehand volley, strokes a backhand wide and is thusly rebroken.

Things proceed apace, as things often do, and the big Aussie finds himself down match point at 2-5, so he aces. Problem solved! “That’s how you save match point!” he sagely instructs. Hajek nails a backhand crosscourt pass to bring up another MP. Sam doesn’t take his own instruction and instead saves it with a drop shot. Groth serves and volleys on a second ball and the Czech mails an inside-in backhand return right past him. Match point number three. Groth responds with two aces.

Hajek is reading the returns a a lot better now, as he passes on another Groth second-serve-and-volley foray for match point number four. Saved with? An ace, of course. Groth drop shots into the net, probably just to see if he can ace away another match point. And he does he does. And then holds with another ace and a nifty backhand smash, though not in that order.

At this point there is a huge contingent of Aussies looking on – Matosevic, Ebden, Mark Woodforde among them – and the Oz man is now en fuego. He hits a perfect, scintillating backhand winner up the line for triple break point as Hajek tries to serve out the match. And that’s a no go for the 3 seed, as he nets a backhand and we’re back on serve.

Meanwhile, I look at my scoring app and see that Ryan Sweeting has beaten Jack Sock 6-4 6-0 and I am thus deprived of seeing Sock’s final singles point of the Florida swing I’ve followed him on all this time (he’s in the doubles with Donald Young though).

How’s that tennis going? Hajek’s contingent is trying to get under Sam’s skin by deliberately “Fight! Fight!”ing every time he double faults. As in this game. But he holds anyway to 5-all. But then the second seed holds and breaks and takes the match 7-6(5) 7-5. Yet another chapter in Groth’s long line of (possibly self-imposed) heartbreaking losses.

I run off to catch what turns out to be my last match of the day: Frank Dancevic against fourth seed Lukas Lacko. Fancy Dancer is in fine form, going up an early break with a couple of crowd-pleasing backhands. “Better than Federer,” I hear uttered in the crowd. Ha! Something seems lacking in Lacko’s play today, as he’s susceptible to a rash of forehand errors here and there. Better see someone about that rash, Lukas! Dancevic takes the first set 6-4.

In the second set, many serves are held. At 5-all 15-all, Dancevic serves and Lacko hits a backhand long. Only problem with that is it’s not called out. Oops. “That ball was 8 inches out,” the Canadian protests. The guy next to me is apoplectic – “That ball was way out!” he shouts at the chair ump’s back. The ump turns around and asks the crowd, “You wanna switch places?” “Yes!” someone in the crowd emphatically replies. Bad move, ump. Bad move.

Lacko tries to take advantage, lacing a forehand down the line to put Dancevic in a 15-30 pickle. But then he backhands long, and Frank serves and forehand volley winners, then aces to snuff out the threat. For a close match, there’s surprisingly little drama or intensity other than the above exchanges. The 26-year-old former World #65 player – still on his way back from an awful back injury – scores the only upset of the day, closing out the 4th seed 6-4 7-6(3).

I rush over to Court 4 to try and catch some of the match between Alejandro Falla and Alex Kuznetsov, but I only get there in time to see the sixth-seeded Falla win the match on a cruel, dribbling net cord, 6-3 6-3. So that’s the day done, then. Tune in tomorrow for more splendid tales of the final qualifying round, plus details of wildcard Ryan Harrison’s first round match against France’s Florent Serra.