2014/08/01

John Isner Leads Top Seeds into Newport Quarterfinals

John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 9, 2014) NEWPORT – Day Three of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, saw solid performances from top seeds, and expected results from the tournament’s big servers and grass court specialists.

 

The only minor upset of the day was Israel’s Dudi Sela ousting his higher-ranked opponent, No .8 seed Adrian Mannarino, in straight sets. Sela had a strong serving day, winning 82% of points on his first serve and converting five of six break points against the Frenchman. Sela, one of the shorter players on tour, will now face the tallest, Ivo Karlovic, whose 18 aces was too much for serve-and-volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky to handle, the Croatian winning 7-5, 7-6.

 

The tournament’s top four seeds also won through to the quarterfinals in straight sets. Defending champion Nicolas Mahut beat Australia’s Luke Saville in an hour, 10 minutes, out-serving the 20-year-old Australian qualifier, breaking him on four occasions. “It was a tough match,” said Mahut, “He’s a good player on grass. This kind of surface you have to be really focused on your serve and take the opportunity. It was much better than yesterday and I hope tomorrow will be even better.”

 

His serving will need to stay solid in his quarterfinal match against Australian Sam Groth, who although still outside the top 100, is one win away from reaching that milestone after another solid serving performance saw him through his match against Malek Jaziri. Groth’s ace count against the Tunisian was remarkably high at 24, ominous for his next opponent, who said, “He’s serving huge, he’s a very, very powerful player. So if I had to play against him I will have to be really concentrate on my serve, and then wait for something, maybe a double fault once, try a good return and waiting for the small opportunities I will have. But the first thing is to keep my serve, I’ll be really focused on that.”

 

Tournament top dog John Isner required less time and less aces against fellow American Austin Krajicek, defeating him on Center Court 6-3, 6-3 in just over an hour. “It was a pretty clean match,” said Isner, “I guess I got up early in both sets, and for me, that helps so much. I feel like I play pretty well when I’m playing ahead, especially on this surface too. It was a good match, very happy with it.”

 

Isner’s quarterfinal opponent was decided in a match between Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock, 21-year-old Sock coming through on top. Sock and Isner, both good friends, are looking forward to the quarterfinal. “He and I practice a lot and have become pretty good friends,” said Sock of Isner, “We obviously know each other pretty well now. We both know each other’s games pretty well so it should be whoever can execute better, I guess.”

 

Sock, fresh from winning his second grand slam – a Wimbledon doubles title with Vasek Pospisil, defeating the Bryan brothers in the final – is enjoying the burst of confidence he’s received into his singles game. “No matter what tournament it is, even doubles,” said Sock, “Whenever you win a match, it can only help, and especially the slams. I think that when you can get that run going into to second week of any slam, singles or doubles, and then you end up, like we were, fortunate enough to play on the weekend, second week of a slam, there’s only a few guys left in the locker room. It’s pretty cool, it’s a pretty special feeling. And to be able to be there and then go out on Center Court and play, and be lucky enough to win against the best team, probably, of all time in doubles, it can only help your confidence.”

 

Isner, who has not lost to Sock in four matches, seemed positive about Sock’s future in the game ahead of their first meeting on grass. “We’re both gonna want to win,” said Isner, “We’re good friends; we may even go out to dinner tonight, or even tomorrow night. I’ve gotten especially close to him now that he’s moved to Tampa. We train together, we use the same strength coach, we’re always training together. He’s a good friend of mine and someone who – I think, in a sense, he might look up a little bit to me. I’m certainly much older than him but he’s – in my opinion – got an incredibly bright future. He’s got a lot of weapons in his game, especially with that forehand of his, which is world class. So, he’s only gonna get better.”

 

The winner of Isner/Sock will face – in the semifinal – the winner between Lleyton Hewitt and Steve Johnson, who both graduated comfortably past their round-of-16 opponents, Ante Pavic and Tatsuma Ito, respectively. While Hewitt and Johnson won’t contest their quarterfinal tomorrow, the 33-year-old Aussie won’t be resting entirely. He’s one of five Australians remaining in the doubles draw at the quarterfinal stage. After his match with Pavic, Hewitt revealed, “I only play doubles most of the time to play with guys that I’m going to play Davis Cup for Australia with. That’s the only real reason that I play doubles. We’ve got a Davis Cup tie later in the year and Chris Guccione and I will most probably be playing doubles there, so it’s good to get some more matches.”

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport 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 .

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Tim Smyczek Headlines ‘Serves For Summit’ Exhibition on December 7

Tim-Smyczek-Miami-2011-e1354932743597

(October 31, 2013) Milwaukee, WI – On December 7th, Americans Tim Smyczek, Rhyne Williams, Denis Kudla and Rajeev Ram will take the court at the REX Fieldhouse on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College to help raise money for the Summit Educational Association, which provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring for Milwaukee’s inner city students.

Joining the four players on court will be former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson, a Wisconsin native, who will MC the action. The players will start with two singles sets and conclude with a doubles set, similar to Davis Cup format.

“In 2010 we held a tennis exhibition that was a lot of fun and raised money for Summit,” said Smyczek, ranked 83rd in the world and a Milwaukee native. “With the help of my family, friends and the great tennis fans of Milwaukee we’re hoping to make this event bigger and better so we can make a difference for a lot of kids who rely on the guidance and services Summit offers.”

The weekend’s activities start on Friday night, December 6th, when Summit will host a reception and dinner at the Hilton City Center in Milwaukee.

Tickets for the tennis, dinner, and sponsorship opportunities may be purchased online at www.ServesForSummit.com.

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Uncle Sam at the Down Under Slam – Day 1 Edition

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

(January 14, 2013) Looking at how American tennis players fared on day one of the 2013 Australian Open.

American tennis players went  6-3 on the first day of the Australian Open with Venus Williams leading the way with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Galina Voskoboeva.

“Obviously it’s nice to spend less time on the court, and not be in long sets,” Williams said after the match. She  had a first-serve percentage of 70 percent and converted on 6 of 11 break point chances.

“I don’t think my opponent quite got the hang of – you know, it’s hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure.” Williams said of her opponent “I did my best to just close it out.”

Sam Querrey, who is the highest ranking American man, due to the withdrawal of 13rh ranked John Isner, came back from a set down to defeat Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Querrey will take on another American in the second round, Brian Baker, who defeated American turned Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (0), 3-6, 6-2.

Ryan Harrison came back from a set down to advance, defeating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.  Bad news for Harrison – he’ll face top seed Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, the 1th0 men’s seed outlasted American qualifier Steve Johnson in a first round five-set marathon 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2. Johnson was the first reigning NCAA champion to qualify for the Australian Open.

Tim Smyczek came into the tournament as lucky loser, and thanks to housemate John Isner’s withdrawal  due to a right knee injury, made it into the main draw. Smyczek was a winner on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic.

Veteran Michael Russell fell to No. 5 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

Touted as “one to watch” seventeen year-old Madison Keys won her first match in Melbourne on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory against Casey Dellacqua of Australia.

Sorana Cirstea had no problems beating American Coco Vandeweghe  6-4 6-2 in first round action.

Americans scheduled for Tuesday play in Melbourne include No. 3 Serena Williams, 29 seed Sloane Stephens, Vania King, Jamie Hampton, Melanie Oudin, Vavara Lepchencko, Lauren Davis, Rajeev Ram, and Rhyne Williams.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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Thirteen American Men Accepted Into Australian Open Qualies

James Blake

James Blake

(December 18, 2012) Thirteen American men have been accepted into the Qualifying draw of the 2013 Australian Open. They include James Blake, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne, Rajeev Ram, Tennys Sandgren, Tim Smyczek, Ryan Sweeting, Michael Yani and Donald Young.

 

Rhyne Williams also was accepted into qualifying, but Williams claimed a wild card entry into the main draw by winning the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff last weekend. Bradley Klahn and Daniel Kosakowski are the second and third listed alternates, respectively.

 

The 2013 Australian Open qualifying tournament begins on January 7 in Melbourne.

 

The USTA reports that Jesse Levine is listed as an American on the Australian Open qualifying acceptance list, but will be representing Canada in Melbourne.

 

The Australian Open women’s qualifying acceptance list will be announced at a later date.

 

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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.

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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.

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