By Herman Wood
(July 24, 2013) ATLANTA, GA – The courts stayed mostly dry at the BB&T open on Wednesday, except for a few drops from Michael Russell during his win over Mardy Fish.
In the final singles match of the evening, Michael Russell and Mardy Fish picked up from their match that had been twice interrupted by rain last night. Fish had won the first set 6-4, but had given up a break in the second and started the night down 2-4 with Russell serving. Fish seemed to start slowly with some loose errors in his service game and was broken when Russell unleashed a big forehand on set point.
The third set opened with Fish getting an easy break, as Russell seemed intent on returning Fish’s favor. Fish consolidated, holding to 2-0 with a big serve and a stretching forehand blast winner. Fish continued to hold, despite getting down 0-30 on his serve, with the help of an ace. Russell finally broke back in a nervy game featuring big audible effort from both players to get to 3-3. The effort was clear by both men, with Fish changing shirts at least twice and Russell apparently needing to. After each change of ends when Fish got ready to serve, he or a ball boy did some light housekeeping, drying the court with their shoes or a towel where Russell apparently had left behind some perspiration. Both men kept digging holes on their serve and had to reach down to hold. The chair seemed to show needed restraint with no time warning to either player, even when one or the other took a moment after an extended point. Finally, with Fish serving to get to a tiebreaker at 5-6, Russell held the lead or ad multiple times, and Fish showed his willingness to fight hard. A final ad point and a big service return closed the door on Fish’s Atlanta return: 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Fish reportedly stated that this is the best match Michael Russell has ever played. Russell will advance to play Santiago Giraldo later in the second round.
Matt Ebden got through due to some health issues of Ivo Karlovic. Ebden won the first set, as Karlovic showed signs of distress. A trainer was called and Karlovic retired prior to the second set. Ebden said via Twitter “Got through today but unfortunately Ivo had to retire, hope he gets better fast & continues his great form.” Ebden will face Kevin Anderson tomorrow. No official word on Karlovic’s condition was available.
Ivan Dodig took three sets to get by Ricardas Berankis, 1-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 in a second round match. In first round action, Christian Harrison won his first ATP main draw match of his career against Alejandro Falla, 6-1, 7-6 (7), 6-2. He’ll be rewarded with a second round match against top seeded John Isner on Thursday.
Veteran Lleyton Hewitt took on American qualifier Rhyne Williams. Hewitt’s experience showed, as he seemed to find the right combination or shot to get by Williams 7-6 (6), 6-4, despite 18 aces for Williams. In the tiebreaker, Williams did not challenge a ball on the baseline that the crowd seemed to think was out. An out call would have given him the first set. He followed up with a double fault and Hewitt worked the set point to coax a Williams error. The match stayed on serve again until late in the second set when Hewitt shut the door with a break at 4-5. As in yesterday’s Jack Sock match, the chair took the opportunity to get involved late, issuing a time warning to Williams late in the second set. Williams seemed to brush it off.
In another match featuring a veteran, James Blake took three tight sets to advance past Tim Smyczek 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (4). Blake selectively worked points to get to the tiebreaker and earn the set. Smyczek earned a break in the second set and served it out as Blake seemed to concede the last point of the set. Strategically, both men worked the other’s backhand, though Blake seemed to manage to run around to his forehand more often to do damage. At 2-2 in the 3rd, with Blake serving, Smyczek made a challenge that looked a little embarrassing- the ball smothered the line. Serving at 4-5, down 0-30, Smyczek dug out of the hole, closing with an ace and an 83 mph service winner. After a Blake hold, Smyczek forgot to show Blake that new balls were in play and Blake had to ask. The new balls made a difference – every point was a service winner or ace to get to 6-6 and a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Blake got an early mini-break and made it hold up, drawing a groundstroke error from Smyczek at 4-6.
In doubles action, Rajeev Ram and Ken Skupski got by Domini Inglot and Frank Moser 6-4,6-4. Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt needed a match tiebreak to beat Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky. The final match of the evening had James Blake and Jack Sock taking on Brazilians Marcelo Demoliner and Andre Sa. There was quite a bit of conversation among the players on court and it sounded testy. Blake and Sock prevailed, needing a match tiebreak: 5-7, 7-6 (4), 10-6.
Thursday promises to be a big day at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Really big – John Isner, at 6’9″ and Kevin Anderson, at 6’8″ will both be in action. Isner has local connections, leading the University of Georgia Bulldogs to the NCAA national title in 2007. Expect barking.
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 25 JULY, 2013
STADIUM start 4:00 pm
R Harrison (USA) vs  I Sijsling (NED)
J Blake (USA) vs  E Donskoy (RUS)
Not Before 7:00 PM
 J Isner (USA) vs [WC] C Harrison (USA)
J Blake (USA) / J Sock (USA) vs  C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR)
AJC GRANDSTAND start 4:00 pm
 Y Lu (TPE) vs D Istomin (UZB)
M Russell (USA) vs S Giraldo (COL)
[Q] M Ebden (AUS) vs  K Anderson (RSA)
D Kudla (USA) / M Russell (USA) vs R Berankis (LTU) / S Giraldo (COL)
COURT 3 start 3:00 pm
 I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) vs [PR] J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR)
R Ram (USA) / K Skupski (GBR) vs C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS)
 E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) / I Sijsling (NED) vs [WC] K King (USA) / J Spir (COL) – After Suitable Rest