By Florian Heer
(October 18, 2013) VIENNA, Austria – It is the 39th edition of an ATP World Tour event in Vienna this year and tennis has a big tradition in the capital of Austria. The event takes place in the Stadthalle of Vienna, with a capacity of more than 8.000 seats, one of the biggest sports arenas in Europe. The stadium also celebrates its 55th anniversary this year and with Lleyton Hewitt the twentieth “World No. 1player” took part here this week.
Quarterfinals Friday at the Erste Bank Open began on Centre Court with the first meeting on the ATP World Tour between eighth-seeded Czech Lukas Rosol and Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans. They met once before on the ITF Futures Tour in Germany four years ago when the Czech won in three sets. By reaching the quarterfinals both players have already achieved their best result in Vienna. Both served ten aces throughout the match in which Rosol had the better ending winning the encounter 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in eighty minutes.
Next on court was the second meeting between Fabio Fognini and Robin Haase. The Italian has had a great season so far, already recorded his 40th match win this season on Thursday and took two titles on the ATP World Tour winning in Stuttgart and Hamburg. However, it is the Dutchman who won the only previous meeting in straight sets at the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo last year. Haase also seems to be a force on Austrian soil winning both of his only two ATP career titles in the mountains in Kitzbühel. The first set was dominated by the service games with no break points until the eleventh game in which Haase gained his first chance to break serve. The third-seeded Italian however saved it, held his service game and consequently the tie-break had to decide. Fognini eventually took an even decider winning the first set after forty minutes. In the following frame, things changed quickly and it was the Dutch, who capitalized on his first break point to gain an early 2-0 lead and finally took the set in only twenty minutes by 6-1. The match went the distance and it was Haase again, who gained the early advantage breaking Fognini’s service in the third game. Through a double fault by the Italian in the seventh game, Haase gained a second break winning the encounter 7-6, 1-6, 6-1 after 84 minutes. “The key to success today seemed to be the fact that I was totally focused on my game and I didn’t distract myself from the often unconventional style Fognini was playing in the final set,” the Dutchman explained after the match and advanced into his fourth semi-final of the season.
In the third quarterfinal of the day Radek Stepanek took on Tommy Haas. It was the seventh meeting of the two veterans, where the series was tied 3-3 before the encounter. On Thursday the 35-year-old German defeated qualifier Miloslav Mecir in straight sets to reach the stage of the last eight for the third consecutive year. In today’s match, Haas broke the attacking Czech’s service in the twelfth game through a nice passing shot but couldn’t serve out in the following. In the tie-break with a couple of hawk-eye-decisions and great rallies, Haas had the better ending winning 12-10 after 63 minutes. The second-seeded German gained the decisive break in the fifth game of the second set and served the match out in the ninth game winning 7-6, 6-3 in one hour and 44 minutes to face Lukas Rosol in the semis. “Lukas is an attacking opponent, playing very aggressively with a huge serve,” Haas said about his next task. “If he (Rosol) feels good, he will be a very dangerous player – and it seems to be that he does as he reached the semis here – so I expect a hard match tomorrow,” the German stated. Haas also mentioned that he is not worried about the future in men’s tennis as he thinks that the game of many of the youngsters like Dimitrov, Tomic or even Thiem is very attractive to watch.
It was the local wild card Dominic Thiem, who was last on Centre Court facing top-seed and 2011 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Of course this was the match most people in Vienna were waiting for. The 20-year-old has reached his second career quarterfinal on the ATP World Tour after being one of the last eight in Kitzbühel earlier this year. In September Thiem reached his first ATP Challenger final in Como, three weeks later he took his first title in Kenitra and today he faced the world number eight in front of about 7.700 spectators on Centre Court. It was an even affair until the ninth game of the first set when the French broke Thiem’s service and took the frame in the following. The atmosphere was great as the Austrian crowd backed their player as much as they could but Tsonga seemed to remain on the winning track. Although the world number 149 had a couple of break point chances throughout the match, so far in the decisive moments, Tsonga’s service has worked perfectly; until the eighth game of the second set when the Austrian was able to capitalize on his eighth break point. Thiem stayed cool and served out in the following to equal sets after 78 minutes. The Austrian youngster also kept calm in the tenth game of the final set when he had to save match point and he took the encounter to the distance. Tsonga needed all of his experience and some unforced errors by Thiem in the tie-break to finally seal victory after two hours and fourteen minutes winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6. Therewith the French extended his match record in Vienna to 6-0 and remains unbeaten. “Dominic played well today. He didn’t have anything to lose, so it’s always difficult to face a player like him,” Tsonga commented the Austrian’s performance. “My baseline game was really poor today but I served well. I’m still a top-ten player, I played many matches like this and that’s what I think made the difference in the end,” the French reflected on his own game.
Thiem on the other hand was understandably disappointed. “It was a match on highest level and it was also very exhausting. Nonetheless I really enjoyed playing here today in front of the almost fully packed arena. It was like Davis Cup atmosphere. Unfortunately in the end it didn’t work out for me but he served big and I will take today’s positive things into my next matches,” the Austrian said after the match.
The day ended well for Dominic Thiem when he advanced into the doubles semifinals together with his partner Maximilian Neuchrist, beating fourth-seeded team of Jamie Murray and John Peers 6-3, 6-4.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit. He’s in Vienna covering the Erste Bank Open as media. His special interest is in Spanish tennis and you can follow his twitter account @armadadetenis.
RESULTS – FRIDAY, 18 OCTOBER, 2013
Singles – Quarter-finals
 J Tsonga (FRA) d [WC] D Thiem (AUT) 64 36 76(3)
 T Haas (GER) d  R Stepanek (CZE) 76(10) 63
R Haase (NED) d  F Fognini (ITA) 67(4) 61 61
 L Rosol (CZE) d [Q] R Bemelmans (BEL) 63 16 63
Doubles – Quarter-finals
F Mergea (ROU) / L Rosol (CZE) d  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) 75 36 10-8
[WC] M Neuchrist (AUT) / D Thiem (AUT) d  J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) 63 64
SCHEDULE – SATURDAY, 19 OCTOBER, 2013
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
 L Rosol (CZE) vs  T Haas (GER)
Not Before 3:00 pm
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs R Haase (NED)
F Mergea (ROU) / L Rosol (CZE) vs [WC] M Neuchrist (AUT) / D Thiem (AUT)
 J Knowle (AUT) / D Nestor (CAN) vs [PR] J Levinsky (CZE) / M Pavic (CRO)