Matosevic Gets Home Support in Win over Seppi

Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic

By Dave Gertler

(January 8, 2014) SYDNEY – Twenty-eight-year-old Australian Marinko Matosevic has had a confident second round win over world No.25 Andreas Seppi in front of an appreciative Grandstand Court crowd, on the 6th day of the Apia International tennis tournament in Sydney.

Matosevic made the most of Seppi’s inconsistent forehand, attacking it frequently, as well as hitting a total of 7 aces in two sets. It was a convincing win for the world No. 56 Matosevic, who broke Seppi once in each set, 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes.

Crowd support had been a big factor in his first round win over Florian Mayer, yet Matosevic was underwhelmed by the energy on Grandstand Court today. Candid in press, he said, “The crowd was a little dead today. I played an unbelievable point to break him in the second set.  We had like a 20 shot rally. He came in, I’ve lobbed him, and I had like a few little claps.” After the crucial point he was referring to, Matosevic had raised his hands in the air to energize the crowd.

“I tried to get them going.  I was like, Come on, guys.  It was one of the best points this tournament has ever seen. If that doesn’t get them going, I don’t know what will.” Quickly rescinding this tongue-in-cheek claim, he said, “I was just kidding about the greatest point. It was good a good point, though.”

Matosevic’s quarterfinal opponent was decided on an outside court between qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky and French 6th seed Julien Benneteau, on a day featuring mostly men’s matches here at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Stakhovsky was dialed into the form that has now seen him win five consecutive matches in Sydney, taking the match 6-3, 6-2.

Needing only to get past world No.99 Stakhovsky to reach a likely semifinal against defending champion Bernard Tomic, Matosevic said, “I don’t really look forward.  I’ve done that before.  Every tennis player has looked ahead and then you lose. So I’m just concentrating, you know, like the old cliché, one match at a time.  As soon as you think ahead, that’s when you lose.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .


Djokovic Survives, Nadal Romps, Murray Advances in Monte-Carlo

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(April 17, 2013) Rafael Nadal began his quest for a ninth Monte-Carlo Masters title on Wednesday by extending his winning streak there to 43, while No. 1 Novak Djokovic was extended to three sets on a shaky ankle.
The eight-time had few problems with Marinko Matosevic, dispatching the Australian 6-1, 6-2.

“I played well at the beginning with the right intensity, with no mistakes,” said the Spaniard to media.

“I was trying to do the right things to find a good feeling on the ball, to find the right rhythm. I played to the right places, and that gave me confidence.

“I didn’t play my best game, the first game of the second, and he played well, so he had the break. And after that he played well for a while in the next games. Then he had good chances, two break points for 3-0. It was not an easy moment. I played one good point and I was able to come back.”

Nadal is on a 15-match winning streak. He’ll play Philipp Kohlschreiber next.

Djokovic, who twisted an ankle while playing for Serbia in the Davis Cup on April 7 in clinching a place in the Davis Cup semifinals, played 2 hours and 15 minutes for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 over Mikhail Youzhny.

“Today was a big test. My ankle survived, I’m in the next round. That’s what matters,” Djokovic said. “I know that my game is still not there, obviously, and I have a lot of ups and downs through the match. Physically also, I think I’ve put double the effort than I do usually because, you know, I still don’t feel comfortable.”

“You know, protection, the tape, was good. So I managed to overcome that pain and go through the match,” Djokovic continued. “I think that my ankle is (getting better) as the days are passing by. Obviously, I will have to play a match every day.”

“I’m just happy to compete, to be honest. I didn’t know if I’m going to be playing the tournament up to yesterday, basically,” said Djokovic who resides in Monte-Carlo.

“For me it’s important not to have a bigger risk of injuring myself. I enjoy this tournament very much. As I said before, if it was not Monaco I would consider not playing.”

World No. 2 Andy Murray moved into the third round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory in 73 minutes over Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Murray is now 20-2 on the year.

“I won the close games, which was important,” said the Scot. “I didn’t make too many mistakes. It was solid. I returned well, served well. If you do those two things well on any surface. it gives you a good base to work from. It was a good start.”


Singles – Second Round
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) d M Youzhny (RUS) 46 61 64
[2] A Murray (GBR) d [Q] E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 61 64
[3] R Nadal (ESP) d M Matosevic (AUS) 61 62
[4] T Berdych (CZE) d M Granollers (ESP) 75 64
[9] M Cilic (CRO) d K Anderson (RSA) 62 63
J Melzer (AUT) d [10] N Almagro (ESP) 64 62
J Nieminen (FIN) d [12] M Raonic (CAN) 63 16 76(3)
[13] S Wawrinka (SUI) d [Q] A Montanes (ESP) 61 61
[14] J Monaco (ARG) d E Gulbis (LAT) 60 36 63
F Fognini (ITA) d [Q] A Ramos (ESP) 63 75
F Mayer (GER) d R Bautista Agut (ESP) 57 64 64

Doubles – Second Round
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d P Kohlschreiber (GER) / F Mayer (GER) 63 62
D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) d [2] M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) 46 62 10-4
M Raonic (CAN) / B Tomic (AUS) d [8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) 62 64

Doubles – First Round
C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) d J Knowle (AUT) / F Nielsen (DEN) 64 76(7)


COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
[6] J Tsonga (FRA) vs J Melzer (AUT)
[16] P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs [3] R Nadal (ESP)
[13] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [2] A Murray (GBR)
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs [14] J Monaco (ARG)

COURT DES PRINCES start 10:30 am
[4] T Berdych (CZE) vs F Fognini (ITA)
G Dimitrov (BUL) vs F Mayer (GER)
[9] M Cilic (CRO) vs [7] R Gasquet (FRA)
J Nieminen (FIN) vs [5] [WC] J Del Potro (ARG)

COURT 2 start 12:00 noon
[7] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs J Benneteau (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
J Melzer (AUT) / L Paes (IND) vs [6] M Bhupathi (IND) / R Bopanna (IND) – After Suitable Rest
[3] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) vs M Raonic (CAN) / B Tomic (AUS)

COURT 9 start 12:00 noon
[5] M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) vs I Dodig (CRO) / R Stepanek (CZE)
C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) vs [4] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED)


Djokovic Win Streak up to 20: Faces Last Man to Beat Him – Querrey Next

Novak Djokovic at BNP Paribas Open players' party


(March 12, 2013) Novak Djokovic‘s win streak has hit 20 dating back to October 2012 with his 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory over Grigor Dimitrov to reach the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday in Indian Wells, California.

The World No. 1 was forced to come back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set when Dimitrov’s serve began to fail. The Bulgarian hit 6 double faults including 4 in one game.

Djokovic moves on to play Sam Querrey, the last man to beat him back on October 31. Querrey beat Marinko Matosevic 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 7-5.

“It’s been a long time, Djokovic said. “It’s been a few months and I played a few tournaments since then.  So, you know, I don’t think it’s going to affect me negatively in a psychological way.

“I won four, five times against him.  Yes, he has won the last encounter indoors.  Different circumstances and conditions.  So we’ll see, you know.

“I mean, we’ll play in front of his crowd and he has a big serve and big game and he can come up with the goods when needed.  He loves to play also on a big stage.  We’ll see, you know.

“I don’t know if we’re going to play day or night match, and that’s going to also make a little difference.

“During the night it’s a bit slower, so we’ll see how that goes.  I will need to definitely start better than I have done today, and try to step into the court a little bit more.”


“It was tough,” Querrey said of the match versus Matosevic.  “Last couple of weeks those are the matches that I lost.  It feels great to get through it.

“You know, there was four breaks to start the third set there, and, you know, I was glad I just battled through it.  I didn’t feel I played unbelievable, but I just stuck around, stuck around, got a break at 5‑All, and then closed it out with some good serves.

“So I was really happy, and I feel like I can only play better than that in my next round.”

Querrey spoke about playing Djokovic next; “I’m just going to hopefully play well, hopefully be aggressive, hopefully on those break points, deuce points, you know, have some balls go my way.

“I’m going to try and just enjoy it out there.”

“He does everything really well:  Unbelievable forehand; unbelievable backhand; moves around the court great; returns great.  It’s tough to pick on something.

“I might have to go outside of my comfort zone a little bit and do things I don’t like to do, and hopefully it will pay off for me.

With John Isner’s early loss, Querrey will become the top-ranked American man when the next rankings come out.

“It means a lot,” Querrey said.  It’s a great feeling.  I feel like I have worked hard to earn it.  Everyone seems like they’ve got their shot with Andy and Mardy and James and John, and so I feel like it’s my turn now.

“But, you know, those guys are right on my heels and we will keep pushing each other.  I know they want it, too.  Hopefully we will just keep pushing each other and we can all keep moving up the rankings.”

Djokovic has a 4-1 record against Querrey.


Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three


John Isner

By Kevin Ware

(February 14, 2013) SAN JOSE – Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open.  It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins.  But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.

  • I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point.  Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon.  It’s tough to watch.  Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
  • Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team.  Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together.  We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
  • Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak.  With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point.  Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob.  Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”.  He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response.  Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
  • The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.  John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
  • Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee.  However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight.  With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose.  The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″.  Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
  • Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open.  Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
  • When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey  for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt.  The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans.  I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…


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.


Notes from the Front – SAP Open Day Two


Ryan Harrison

Ryan Harrison

By Kevin Ware

(February 12, 2013) SAN JOSE, California – One of the great things about watching live tennis in a tournament setting is that you get a better feel for the character of the match and the players.  Here are some courtside impressions from Day Two action at the SAP Open.

  • I arrived at just after Lleyton Hewitt’s dramatic 3-set victory over Blaz Kavcic to find that no one was surprised to see this match go the distance.  Even though he’s one of the older guys on tour, long grinding matches still seem to be Hewitt’s preferred method of advancing through the draw.  His next opponent is Sam Querrey, making his tournament debut after receiving a first-round bye. It will be interesting to see if Sam’s late tournament start against a cagey veteran who’s “into” the tournament has a factor on the match outcome.
  • Though he was suffering from low energy due to illness, Ryan Harrison lost a winnable 3-set match against German veteran, Benjamin Becker.  It wouldn’t have been a particularly spectacular win under the circumstances, but it was doable.  Unfortunately, Ryan couldn’t keep his focus on the important points in the second and third sets the way he had in the first set tiebreak. This was especially true when he got broken at the end of the second set.Illness aside, Ryan is a talented and thoughtful player who can sometimes makes things complicated for himself in his matches. He’s struggled in 2013, and his ranking has dropped from last year’s high of 43.  Because he’s defending a semifinal appearance in last year’s tournament, his ranking is going to take a pretty big hit. Hopefully he can turn things around in Memphis.
    (NOTE:  He’ll be playing doubles with his brother Christian)
  • As I was watching Jack Sock in his match against Marinko Matosevic, I tweeted, “While Ryan Harrison sometimes thinks too much on court, Jack Sock maybe needs to think a bit more…” That about sums up Sock’s match strategy, or lack thereof.  Sock is a big strong guy who hits a heavy ball, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Even when Sock broke Matosevic to serve for the first set, I had the feeling that the veteran Matosevic would find a way to out-think his younger opponent, and capitalize on the nerves of the moment.  That’s exactly how it played out, with Matosevic going on to take the first set tiebreaker before sweeping the second set 6-1.I don’t begrudge the big hitting, because the younger guys on tour definitely need big games in order to be competitive. But they also need to think clearly and give themselves options.  Sock’s not there yet, and I’m not sure that he sees the need for options and nuance.  I also look at Sock’s football player-like build and can’t help but think that maybe if his fitness were improved, it could pay dividends in the development of his game.  He’s young though, so he’s got time to pull those pieces together.  At least, I hope he does.
  • It was a rough day for young Americans, and Ryan Sweeting’s straight-sets loss against last year’s finalist, Denis Istomin, did little to stop the bleeding.  But then again, Sweeting was always going to have a tough time of it since he doesn’t have the weapons needed to trouble Istomin.
  • The world No. 1 Bryan brothers weren’t as dominant over their younger American opponents as one would expect. Jack Sock and Steve Johnson played well with no signs of intimidation at the Bryans credentials as one of the greatest doubles teams ever. But once again, experience and mental toughness won out over big hitting as the Bryans took the match in two tiebreak sets. I hope the young guys are paying attention to these lessons of strategy/mental fortitude!
  • Fernando Verdasco, with coach/dad by his side, seemed to have a decent on-court warm-up prior to the start of the doubles match.  But something must have happened to him between the warm-up and his match.  That would be the only explanation for his flat performance against an inspired Tim Smyczek.  Fernando played without purpose.  Smyczek, on the other hand, played as though his life depended on the win; and it showed.  The difference between the two couldn’t have been starker, with Smyczek looking much more like a higher-ranked player than Verdasco.There might have been an injury with Verdasco, who seemed to pull up on shots as the match progressed.  But it was still a disappointing match for a former Top 10 player who at one time, challenged for Slam titles against the top guys. Disappointing, that is, except for Smyczek.  At least one American young gun made it through!

That’s all for now.
More after Day Three action with Donald Young, John Isner, and Tommy Haas.

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.


Berankis Into First ATP Final

By Curt Janka

Los Angeles – Although Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis was playing in his first ATP semifinal, he maintained his composure and elevated level of play to beat Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-1. With the win, Berankis reaches his first ATP final and is the first player from his country to do so.


Berankis was all smiles after his match. “It’s really amazing,” he said. “I really didn’t think of it before coming here. I mean, every athlete has to think of their best in the tournament, but the finalist? When you come to play qualies it’s difficult to think of the final.”


The match started out in a dead lock. The players had split their previous two meetings and through 10 games and neither could make a dent in the other’s serve. Serving at 5-5, Matosevic wavered and Berankis seized the opportunity. With the break in hand, Berankis quickly held to close out the first set.


Much like his match against Nicolas Mahut, Berankis started out the second set by grabbing the early break. From that point he never looked back. Matosevic had one look at a break when he got the first two points of the game with Berankis serving at 2-1. The frustration from not capitalizing on that opportunity seemed to break Matosevic as his opponent ran away with the rest of the match.


The coach who Berankis has been working with for 13 years, and who he calls a “second father,” flew into town today for the match. The coach left Lithuania yesterday for Washington, where they planned to meet after the tourney. Because things were going so well, they decided to get him on a flight at 6am this morning and he got to the tournament just 30 minutes before today’s match.


Berankis will play either Sam Querrey or Rajeev Ram in the final of The Farmers Classic.


Asked about his chances in the final, Berankis said “My game is improving every day. I’m feeling great on the court at the moment and looking forward to tomorrow.” He added that he would be looking to attack any second serves he gets.


While 2011 saw 10 first-time winners on the ATP tour, this year players attempting to win their first title have gone 0-10 in finals. Berankis hopes to add the title to his list of first this week.


Along with the other accomplishments Berankis is stacking up, today’s win puts him in a tie for 2nd on the Emirates US Open Series Bonus Challenge standings with Gilles Muller. The winner of the final will be tied for first with Andy Roddick.





Anderson Wins Delray Beach International Tennis Championships

South African Kevin Anderson captured his second title on the ATP World Tour, when he defeated 173rd ranked Marinko Matosevic 6-4, 7-6(2) for the Delray Beach crown.

“It feels fantastic. It’s my first one in the United States,” Anderson said, “which is great. I feel apart from South Africa, this is my new home. My wife Kelsey was here for the weekend… This is a very important tournament for me. I feel it’s good preparation going to Indian wells and Miami and playing outside.

“Both of us were a little nervous at the start of match, so I had to find my rhythm. I think at the end, I felt I was mentally composed throughout [the tournament]. I didn’t let any patches of bad tennis affect my mindset [this week].”

The Australian Matosevic had a career week reaching his first ATP World Tour final as a qualifier.

“I’ve been training really hard,” said the Austrlaian. “People have been telling me hard work pays off, and I guess in some small way, a little bit paid off this week. Before the week, if you told me that I’d make the final, I’d be the happiest guy in the world. Then when you get there and you play the match, I feel like I was just a few points from winning the match or turning the match, but I just couldn’t do it. It can only help me I guess.

“My energy levels were pretty low. I just couldn’t serve well today, but credit to Kevin. He was the better player today.”


Singles – Final
[7] K Anderson (RSA) d [Q] M Matosevic (AUS) 64 76(2)

Doubles – Final
[3] C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) d M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) 26 76(5) 15-13 – Saved 1 M.P.

For more Delray Beach coverage go to Miami Tennis News.


Anderson Upsets Top Seed Isner, Qualifier Matosevic Reaches Delray Beach Final

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson returns the ball to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller during the Paris Masters tennis tournament November 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)



In a match between two of the taller players on the ATP World Tour, top seed 6′ 10″ John Isner fell to 6′ 8″  Kevin Anderson. 7-5, 7-6(4) in a Saturday night semifinal in Delray Beach.

The battle of big servers had Anderson firing 16 aces past Isner  in the one hour and 36 minute match.  The South African is into his third career ATP World Tour singles final.

Qualifier Marinko Matosevic of Australia is into his first career ATP World Tour final after defeating Dudi Sela of Israel 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7) on Saturday at the Delray Beach International.

Ranked at No. 173 Matosevic needed five match points to complete an almost three hour match.
“I’m very happy but I’m very tired,” Matosevic said. “I was just fighting off cramps. … In the humidity I just sweat a lot and cramp. I cramped after my match on Wednesday, too.”

The Anderson versus Matosevic final on Sunday will be the first time the two players have faced each other in a singles match.


Singles – Semi-finals
[7] K Anderson (RSA) d [1] J Isner (USA) 75 76(4)
[Q] M Matosevic (AUS) d D Sela (ISR) 57 64 76(7)

Doubles – Semi-finals
[3] C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) d M Elgin (RUS) / D Istomin (UZB) 76(6) 64
M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) d I Karlovic (CRO) / F Moser (GER) 64 64


STADIUM start 1:00 pm
M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) vs [3] C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR)

Not Before 3:00 PM
[7] K Anderson (RSA) vs [Q] M Matosevic (AUS)


Barty and Matosevic Win Australian Open Wildcards

Ashleigh Barty of Australia holds the winners trophy after defeating Irina Khromacheva of Russia in their Junior Girl’s final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)




Ashleigh Barty and Marinko Matosevic will join tennis’ elite for the first Grand Slam of the year after winning the Australian Open Play-off at Melbourne Park.

Fifteen-year-old Barty is likely to be the youngest player at next year’s tournament after she defeated defending champion and second seed Olivia Rogowska.

After being down early in the first set, clawed her way back to take the first set in a tiebreaker 7-6(6) before running away with the second set 6-2.

Barty was elated with her win when she spoke after the match.

“I can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. I’m pleased with what I’ve done and I’ve played some really good tennis this week,” said Barty.

When asked about playing in her first Grand Slam tournament Barty replied, “ I don’t really want to think about it yet… I’ll probably go out there and play some horrendous tennis and be really nervous, but I’ll just go out there and have some fun.”

Barty came into the play-off as a wildcard after winning the Optus 18s Australian Championship last week and swept through the Australian Open Play-off without dropping a set, despite encountering players with years more experience.

Marinko Matosevic also has a main draw Australian Open berth following a straight sets victory over fifth seed James Duckworth (Gordon, NSW) 6-4 6-1 6-2 this afternoon.

“It’s a great opportunity, an honour and a privilege to get into a Grand Slam tournament by winning this,” said Matosevic, who will make his third Australian Open appearance.

Matosevic reached a career-high ranking of 131 in March and had some solid results throughout the year reaching the quarterfinals at Challenger events in Dallas and Nottingham.

Australian Open 2012 will take place at Melbourne Park from 16 to 29 January.


Delray Beach – First Day Qualifying Adventures

Raven Klaasen

DELRAY BEACH, FL, February 19, 2011- The day dawns warmly and beautifully at the ATP 250 Delray Beach for the first day of qualifying action. It’s so toasty, in fact, that this February day in South Florida offers a reasonable facsimile of what I’d imagine Australia was like around, say, the Tennis Australia Wildcard playoffs. Not content to merely imagine, I proceed to track down every Aussie on the grounds throughout the day, it seems.

I arrive early and scavenge the practice courts. First and best stop of interest is out on Court 6, where none other than International Tennis Hall of Famer Mark Woodforde is out with new charges Marinko Matosevic and Matt Ebden, helping them with their serves (note: they’re all Australian). “Use the same setup when you go down the ‘T’,” he advises Matosevic. “Gotta get that disguise.” Matosevic scolds himself for each little technical transgression but is very supportive of Ebden.

In the first match of the day, I see Ebden put that serve to good use, as he faces 2010 Easter Bowl champ, 17-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo, who received a wildcard into qualifying. Ebden serves five aces and just one double fault, connecting successfully on seventy percent of his first deliveries, and winning 79% of those.

Fratangelo is overmatched, sure, but it’s among the more impressive less-than-an-hour defeats I’ve seen in a while. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I don’t mean to be. He hits some terrific-looking backhands, displaying excellent footwork, balance and technique, outright catching the man from Perth flat-footed on a few. Good movement and the occasional ripping forehand, too (although he seems a bit more inconsistent off that wing).

Ultimately, though, the Western Australian is just that much stronger and steadier, on serve and otherwise. He advances 6-2 6-3 to the next round, where he’ll face second seed Igor Kunitsyn, a 7-5 4-6 6-2 winner over Tim Smyczek.

I watch a bit of Smyczek, who looks good in the set I see him play (I’ll let you guess which one that was), then move to catch top-seeded Blaz Kavcic against the popular Ecuadoran, the 28-year-old Giovanni Lapentti. From Smyczek to Kavcic – seems poetic enough to me. Oh, wait. Back up a bit. While watching Smyczek, I’m treated to the unintentional hilarity of well-meaning fans accosting poor Woodforde while he watches yet another Aussie, Mr. Samuel Groth, fire some first balls.

One gent tells Woody that he got his autograph at Disneyworld in 1999. Another quizzes him about long ago matches vs. the Bryan Bros. “Do you remember that match?” the beset upon coach is asked. “Yeah, we played them a few times,” Woodforde answers patiently, while trying to do his job. Good man.

OK. Kavcic. Lapentti. What can I say? Blaz blazed through the tired-looking younger Lapentti bro, taking some time to gripe along the way, as per. The 23-year-old Slovenian is one of those players whose venting just amuses me (though not in a Joe Pesci way). With others’ negativity, there’s a real sense of menace. With Blaz, it’s just what he does. The Courier-esque baseliner, currently on a career high of No. 83 in the rankings, displays his usual tenacity and scrambling – with bits of skill and volleying thrown in for good measure. The net result is all kinds of not bad – he advances 6-2 6-2 and will play Rajeev Ram in QR2, who won 7-5 6-2 over local fave and wildcard winner Eric Hechtman.

As today is turning into an Ozsome theme day, I check in on how Matosevic is faring against 28-year-old South African Raven Klaasen. Under a watchful Wood(e)y(e), he’s playing haphazardly, as has been the case for 2011. At 3-all in the third set, he looks up at the chair umpire. “Score?” he inquires. Then he ma-tosses in three consecutive service winners from 15-0 and flashes a cheeky, little-boy smile to his coach, like, “Look what I just did!” He reels off the next eight points to win the match 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3. Amazing how he can just seem to click his game “on” sometimes and thereafter look unbeatable. He’s similar to Alex Bogdanovic, in the respect. When it’s all going right, you think, “How is this guy not Top 50? Top 25?” It seems so effortless. Sadly for them (and possibly for us as well), it hardly ever all goes right.

Next stop? You guessed it. Another Aussie – the Thunder from Down Under, a certain Mr. Groth. The Grothawk is still in full effect, and he begins his match against Lester Cook on a nice roll, breaking for an early 3-0* lead, and serving out of his shoes, as he’s been known to do.  The wheels come off the Good Ship Groth a bit as he serves a few double faults up 4-2 and Cook gets the breakback. “How many doubles is that this set?” Sam wonders aloud. Three, by my count, Sam (just doin’ my job). Groth pounds a ball into the palm fronds across the street in frustration.

The Californian Cook evens up the first set at 4-all as Groth forehands long. “YESSSSS, MATE!” Sam screams, nonsensically. Gotta love Grothy. This match is a battle of one-handed backhanders, incidentally, and at 4-5, the American puts the man from Narrandera’s one-hander to the test; but Groth passes with colors, some of which are flying. The Melburnian gets the break for the first set 6-4.

Slammin’ Samuel starts acing by the bucketload in the second set. “Nice serve,” says someone from the crowd, which to me is kinda redundant, in Groth’s case. He nails a couple of line judges and a ballgirl with a couple of firsties (saying “Sorry” each time, polite gent that he is), and then thanks the ballgirl for bringing his towel.

Cook holds serve at 1-4. “C’mon Les, let’s go – you go the mo!” says an onlooker. Questionable. Groth questions a call of let on another bomb, and the woman next to me says, “This guy is an a-hole.” OK, so he’s not for everyone, heh. Regardless, he hits three aces to hold to 5-2*, and Les just shrugs like, “What can I do?” Indeed. Groth finishes the match with a Day One high of 16 aces, 10 in the second set, and wins 6-4 6-3. Where’d that mo’ go?

Though I’d promised in my preview that I wouldn’t be stalking Jack Sock today, some retirements and withdrawals conspire to send me to Court 4, where the 18-year-old phenom is getting his latest test from the pro ranks, in the form of 30-year-old Austrian Alexander Peya, a former Top 100 playa. And I’m quite pleased I show up on this day. Either I have a terrible memory, or the wildcard puts in his most impressive performance off the ground that I’ve seen in the entirety of his Florida swing. Which is really saying something, as I’ve seen about a bazillion of his matches in the past month. Man, this kid can play.

Peya tries to scare the reigning US Open boys singles champ by coming to net on practically everything, but Sock is unfazed and takes to the forecourt many times himself, often successfully. He still struggles with serve, connecting on only 47% of his initial offerings. But he’s able to save all seven of the break points he faces, and he keeps the pressure on Peya’s serve, going deep into practically every one of his opponents service games. But just one break each set is all it takes. He advances 6-4 6-4 and will face fifth seed Ryan Sweeting in the next round, which should be corker.

Speaking of, the last match of the day (featuring – wait for it – an Aussie) promises to be just that: another 18-year-old phenom, Bernard Tomic, taking on the fourth seed, Lukas Lacko. The match proceeds quite predictably at first, with the Slovakian dictating and Tomic retrieving, floating, slicing and lulling. But then, the unpredictable: the teen starts pulling at his left hammy, and breaks for a lonnnng medical time-out. During which time, some schoolkids scoot by on scooters and bikes on the other side of the fence and toss little trinkets onto the court. Lacko looks up at the chu/mp (smiling, of course) like, “WTF?” The congenial ch/ump just rolls with it.

With Lacko serving at 4-5 deuce, he nails a short ball sitter that Tomic anticipates perfectly, rocketing back a backhand for a set point. The Slovak saves it with an off forehand winner. Two more set points come for the Australian, but go when he errs on his groundies. Lacko holds for 5-all with two service winners to Tomic’s forehand side, and then rattles off the next eight points for good measure, taking the first set 7-5. Actually, it’s Bernard who gives it to him, missing wildly off the ground and not even trying on some returns. Hmm.

The young Aussie takes an early break lead in the second set, but Lacko breaks back in the fifth game. An unusual sequence puts the cap on a long tennis day. Tomic serves at 3-all and seemingly wins the first point when Lacko smacks a forehand just long; but a ball comes into the court at the end of the point, and Lukas argues that he was distracted. Tomic joins the conversation and sportingly concedes the point should be replayed. Lacko claps his racquet to applaud the gesture of goodwill. But then Tomic loses that first point, and a subsequent would-be 40-30 point is now a break point against, and the 23-year-old takes advantage to indeed get the break.

From there, it’s a train wreck. Lacko holds to love in under a minute, and Tomic sextuple faults (six consecutive faults), then dumps a drop shot into the bottom of the net. Just like that, Lacko wins it 7-5 6-3. Was this thus the last sporting gesture we’ll ever see in Tomic’s young career? Tune in tomorrow, when I don’t answer that question at all, but instead bring you more ATP qualifying adventures!

JJ is covering the Florida swing, from the USTA Pro Circuit through the ATP  World Tour Delray Beach tournament for Tennis Panorama News. Be sure to follow him on twitter @Challenger10s and visit his website  Challenger Tennis which celebrates and chronicles the unsung heroes of the pro tennis world – the Challenger and Futures players who grind it out each day.