BNP Paribas Open announces Wild Cards Which Include Americans Young, Sock, Harrison, Johnson, Duval and Townsend
(December 22, 2013) NORCROSS, Ga. – Steve Johnson and Sachia Vickery each earned main draw wild cards into January’s Australian Open by winning a tournament they almost didn’t play.
Vickery, 18, defeated fellow 18-year old Victoria Duval, 6-2, 6-3, while Johnson, 23, defeated 22-year old Tennys Sandgren, 4-6, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, in Sunday’s finals of the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga.
Johnson and Vickery are now into the singles main draw in Melbourne – Vickery’s first appearance there, Johnson’s second – after winning three matches in three days against some of their up-and-coming American contemporaries in the yearly indoor, hard-court event that easily could have featured neither of them.
Johnson contemplated pulling out of it while recovering from a leg injury, while Vickery entered the field as an alternate after Melanie Oudin withdrew.
“I was getting ready to go to Auckland, and my coach was like, ‘Well you might get in,’” said Vickery, who called both her mother, Paula Liverpool, and her coach, USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi, after the match. “So, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see what happens. If it happens, great. If not, I have qualies.’ … I’m very religious, and my mom always says God puts things in situations for a reason.”
Vickery, ranked No. 195, earned her second straight wild card into a Grand Slam. She won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship this summer to gain entry into the US Open, where she advanced to the second round in her Grand Slam debut.
Saying she fought nerves the whole match, Vickery bothered the rangier Duval, ranked No. 168, by mixing up her serve placement, being aggressive and hitting a few down-the-line winners.
Last year, Madison Keys won the Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, using it as a launching pad for her breakout 2013 season. Keys advanced to the third round in Melbourne and is now the youngest player in the WTA Top 40 at No. 38.
Vickery said she didn’t feel any challenge to live up to her predecessor.
“I don’t feel pressure right this second because I haven’t even processed the fact that I won. I’m sure once the start of the tournament comes around I’ll start feeling it a little bit,” Vickery said. “I’m just so happy to be in the tournament. I wasn’t even supposed to be in this tournament. I barely got in. So, I can’t ask for anything else. I’m just happy to be there.”
Johnson, ranked No. 156, could say the same thing. The former Southern California star, who injured his left ankle midway through the fourth set and came back with it heavily taped, faced a match point while serving at 4-5 to the 183rd-ranked Sandgren.
Johnson, who won consecutive NCAA singles titles in 2011-12, hit an ace on match point, came back to win the fourth set in a tiebreak and cruised in the fifth.
“I just kind of ran the best play I could. Luckily, it worked, and here we are,” Johnson said. “That’s just tennis. He’s one point away from winning, and 20 minutes later I’m up a break and trying to squeeze him for another one.”
Johnson lost in the first round of every Grand Slam in 2013. At the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, he lost in five sets.
“I’m excited to finally win a five-set match,” he said. “I’m 0-for-4 in life, 0-for-3 this year, so I’m glad to get one.”
(December 20, 2013) NORCROSS, Ga. – Denis Kudla and Steve Johnson are still on the outside looking in, hoping 2014 is a year their perspectives change for good.
Kudla and Johnson, both of whom spent time in the Top 100 this summer, each won their opening matches in the 2013 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, pocketing the first of three victories needed here to earn a wild card entry into January’s Australian Open and bypass the qualifying rounds that must be achingly familiar to both players.
Kudla, the tournament’s top seed, beat former No. 1 collegian Jarmere Jenkins, 6-4, 6-1, while No. 3 Johnson overcame 2011 French Open boys’ champion Bjorn Fratangelo, 6-3, 7-6(2). Afterwards, each player spoke on last year’s successes they’d like to repeat and the letdowns they hope to avoid.
Johnson, for instance, logged his first full season on tour in 2013 after leaving USC as one of the most decorated college tennis players ever, winning two straight NCAA singles titles and four consecutive team titles, and promptly reaching the third round of the 2012 US Open.
Last year, he qualified for the French Open then won a Challenger in Great Britain, after which he was awarded a wild card into Wimbledon. He peaked at No. 97 in early July. Following a first-round loss at this summer’s US Open, though, Johnson lost six of seven matches to end the season. His ranking has fallen to No. 156.
“I try to forget about after the Open,” Johnson laughed. “It was a tough couple-month stretch for me. I didn’t win too many matches, but, you know, that’s life. I don’t think I handled the end of the year very well. Especially it being my first year on tour, I think I let the little things really get to me, and I think that’s what led to the bad stretch up north and then to the indoor Challengers.
“That’s all behind me,” he added, “and I hope to learn from that and in this upcoming year just get to the end and really know what to do.”
Kudla, meanwhile, spent 11 weeks in the Top 100 in 2013, ascending as high as No. 90 after qualifying for both the French Open and Wimbledon – reaching the second round there – and making a quarterfinal appearance at the ATP Queen’s Club event in London.
According to the 21-year old from Arlington, Va., it was a “couple of off weeks” that he could have handled better last year to avoid sliding back to No. 114, outside the cut-off ranking for direct acceptances into Grand Slams, where he believes he belongs.
That was perhaps most evident when Kudla elected to not defend his points at the USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Charlottesville, Va., in November — a tournament he won in 2012 — but instead played in qualifying at the ATP Masters in Paris, where he lost his first match.
“You get to a certain ranking and you get into Masters, you gotta play up. That’s how I look at it, at least,” Kudla said. “You gotta play the Masters and get to the next level. I’m not trying to be the best Challenger player. I’m trying to be the best Masters player, Grand Slam player.
“I could have had a little better consistency, for sure,” he added. “I thought I had a bad start to the year. I thought last year’s offseason I could have done a lot better, and the U.S. swing I thought should have been way better. And at the end of the year I got hurt, so I kind of just said to myself, ‘Stay healthy.’ Then I really just focused on what I did, and it was kind of a couple of off-weeks I thought I could have handled a little bit better. Hopefully I can repeat the year and do it better.”
Jenkins, who grew up a short distance away in College Park, Ga., drew comparisons to Gael Monfils from Kudla, who scrapped the strategy he employed against Jenkins when they were kids.
“I played him when I was younger, and I would just try to hit winners,” Kudla said of Jenkins, who nearly won the NCAA “triple crown” last spring at Virginia, winning the NCAA team and doubles titles and reaching the singles final. “But he’s like Monfils, he’s so fast. It’s insane. He’s an incredible athlete. So, I tried to just wear him down, tried to move him left and right. I kind of executed my game plan really well, served really well, was just able to stay on him and came out with a bit easier victory maybe than planned.”
Chase Buchanan, the 2012 NCAA doubles champion at Ohio State, fought off Rhyne Williams to earn a comeback victory, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, over the 2011 NCAA singles finalist from Tennessee.
Williams, ranked No. 130, served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was broken by the No. 307-ranked Buchanan, who then won a second-set tiebreak and hit, by his estimation, five aces over the final two games of the match to close out Williams, who won last year’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs.
Through the fall, Buchanan has played largely outside of the United States – winning Futures titles in Bolivia and Ecuador — and playing in tournaments through South America, Japan and Thailand.
“I think it’s really good to get away from playing the same people every single week in the same places,” he said. “I think it’s good to get away, change things up. It gives you a new perspective on kind of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
Vicky Duval, several months removed from becoming an international star at the US Open by defeating 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in the first round, fell behind to Maria Sanchez in the first set at 4-1 and 5-2, crediting nerves for her slow start and her improving serve for powering her 7-5, 7-5 victory.
“My serve was never my weapon,” Duval said. “I’ve worked really hard to turn it into that, so I was happy that I could really count on it in the tough times.”
When asked if he thought was an “unknown commodity” internationally, Tennys Sandgren answered by saying, “I don’t feel like I really should be known.”
Sandgren is currently at his career-high ranking of No. 183, after finishing 2013 with his first USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title, at Champaign, Ill. On Friday, he credited his movement on court in his 6-3, 6-0 victory over Austin Krajicek.
2013 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs
Day 1 results
No. 1 Denis Kudla d. Jarmere Jenkins, 6-4, 6-1
Chase Buchanan d. No. 2 Rhyne Williams, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2
No. 3 Steve Johnson d. Bjorn Fratangelo, 6-3, 7-6(2)
No. 4 Tennys Sandgren d. Austin Krajicek, 6-3, 6-0
No. 1 Shelby Rogers d. Sanaz Marand, 6-4, 6-2
Sachia Vickery d. No. 2 Madison Brengle, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
No. 3 Grace Min d. Nicole Gibbs, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
No. 4 Victoria Duval d. Maria Sanchez, 7-5, 7-5
Order of play for December 21, 2013
DUVAL, Victoria (4) vs. ROGERS, Shelby (1)
Kudla, Denis (1) vs. SANDGREN, Tennys (4)
MIN, Grace (3) vs Vickery, Sachia (7)
JOHNSON, Steve (3) vs. BUCHANAN, Chase (7)
For updated draws, each day’s order of play and match live streaming, visit the official tournament site at www.australianwildcard.com.
CINCINNATI (August 8, 2013) — Seven of the eight men’s wild cards for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have been awarded to American players, with four US players being added to the main draw and three entered into qualifying.
James Blake, Brian Baker, Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock have been granted wild cards in to the main draw.
In qualifying, Australian Bernard Tomic joins a trio of Americans who each reached a career high ranking last month – Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams - in the field.
“We’re happy to welcome a familiar face like James back to a tournament where he has had a tremendous amount of success in his career,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “At the same time, it’s exciting to offer these younger players a chance to participate in a tournament of this caliber. We look forward to having all eight of these players in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open.”
Blake, the 2007 Western & Southern Open finalist, will be making his 12th apperance at the tournament, third among active players behind Tommy Haas (14) and Roger Federer (13). He also ranks sixth among active players for wins in Cincinnati with a 15-10 record.
Baker, from Nashville, returned to tennis in 2012 after a series of injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six seasons. He climbed to almost No. 50 in the rankings before suffering a knee injury at the Australian Open in January that has kept him out of action until this week’s Aptos Challenger.
Harrison, a 21-year-old who now calls Austin, Texas, home, reached the semifinals last month at the ATP event in Atlanta. He also claimed the title at the Savannah Challenger this season. It will be his third Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.
Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., won the title at the Challenger event in Winnetka, Ill., last month. He reached his second career ATP quarterfinal in February at Memphis. In 2010, Sock won the US Open Juniors title.
The four wild card entrants to the qualifying field will compete in a two-round tournament over this coming weekend for one of seven spots in the main draw.
Tomic, 20, is the top-ranked player from Australia. He recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and early this season claimed his first career title with a win in Sydney.
Kudla, a 20-year-old who grew up in Virginia, reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club in London in June.
Johnson, 23, won back-to-back NCAA singles champions in 2011-12 while playing for the University of Southern California. He won the Nottingham Challenger in June.
Williams, 22, turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, and was the NCAA singles finalist in 2011. He reached his first career ATP semifinal at Houston in April.
In addition, the following players have been added to the main draw – Radek Stepanek , Thomaz Bellucci and Denis Istomin. These three were entered following the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Viktor Troicki (suspension) and Marin Cilic (personal).
The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.
(June 15, 2013) American Steve Johnson won his first grass court title and a wild cart into Wimbledon by capturing the Aegon Nottingham Challenge on Saturday.
It is Johnson’s second ATP Challenger tournament win and first outside of the U.S. after he winning his first title in Aptos, California, in 2012.
“It means a lot to me. It is only my second tournament on grass and to come here and win it, play five good matches like I did and beat a player like Ruben is special,” Johnson said.
“That was a tough final, and to start with I felt I was fighting myself a little bit – I was uptight and nervous, it is my first grass court final, there were a lot of points and stuff on the line that people may not realize.”
Admitting to a bit of fatigue, Johnson hopes his grasscourt momentum continues at Wimbledon.
“Last week I was feeling a little tired and fried, and now to come out here and put a week together like this gives me a lot of confidence going into Wimbledon,” Johnson said.
Aegon Nottingham Challenge results – Saturday 15 June
Men’s singles – Final
S Johnson (USA) d R Bemelmans (BEL) 7-5 7-5
Men’s doubles – Final
 S Ratiwatana/S Ratiwatana d  P Raja/D Sharan 7-6(5) 6-7(3) [10-8]
Women’s singles – Semi-finals
E Baltacha (GBR) d  N Burnett (ITA) 6-0 6-4
 T Majeric (SLO) d [Q] M Miyamura (JPN) 6-0 6-4
Women’s doubles – semi-final
 J Glushko/E Sema d  M Miyamura/V Wongteanchai 1-6 6-4 [11-9]
Women’s doubles – Final
 J Coin/S Foretz Gacon d  J Glushko/E Sema 6-2 6-4
Aegon Nottingham Challenge – Order of play for Sunday 16 June
Centre Court (11am)
WS: E Baltacha v T Majeric
TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 10, 2013 – The USTA announced the line-up for the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger set for April 27-May 4, including a slew of up-and-coming Americans headlined by Ryan Harrison, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, defending champion Tim Smyczek and 2011 winner Donald Young.
The Tallahassee Tennis Challenger is the third of three events in the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge series, which will determine which American male earns a wild card into the 2013 French Open.
The field is revealed on the heels of the announcement last week that Mardy Fish, the former world No. 8 and current No. 42, was awarded a wild card for the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, held at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex. He won here in 2006.
Thirty-four-year-old Michael Russell is the highest-ranked player on the acceptance list at No. 73. The Houston resident made the quarterfinals of the ATP event in Memphis this February. In 2001, he reached the fourth round of the French Open, losing to eventual winner Gustavo Kuerten.
World No. 93 Harrison is making his main draw debut in Tallahassee at 20 years old. He played in the qualifying here at the age of 16 in 2009. The Shreveport, La., native has been ranked as high as No. 43 and has one USTA Pro Circuit title to his credit at Honolulu in 2011.
Sock, also 20, enters the Tallahassee field at a career-high No. 119 after a quarterfinals effort – like Russell – in Memphis. The big-serving Lincoln, Neb., native also paired with veteran James Blake to win his first-ever ATP doubles title in February in Delray Beach.
Former two-time NCAA champion Johnson, ranked No. 130, leads a host of top college alumni that includes No. 144 Rhyne Williams (Tennessee), 2008 Tallahassee winner and No. 145 Bobby Reynolds (Vanderbilt), No. 189 Bradley Klahn (Stanford), No. 210 Somdev Devvarman (Virginia) and No. No. 213 Tennys Sandgren (Tennessee).
Written by Nick McCarvel
(February 27, 2013) INDIAN WELLS, Calif., – Former top-five players David Nalbandian, Tommy Robredo, James Blake and Kimiko Date-Krumm; Americans Tim Smyczek, Steve Johnson, Madison Keys, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Sanchez, Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend; and Shahar Peer and Kristina Mladenovic were granted wildcards into the main draws of the BNP Paribas Open, to be held March 4 – 17 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was announced today by Steve Simon, tournament director.
David Nalbandian has won 11 ATP World Tour titles since turning professional in 2000 and reached the 2002 Wimbledon finals in his first appearance at the event. The Argentine and former World No. 3 will be making his tenth appearance at the BNP Paribas Open. Last year in Indian Wells, Nalbandian equaled his best result, reaching the quarterfinals for the second time in his career.
Former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo is continuing his comeback to the ATP World Tour after an injury derailed much of his 2012 season. The Spaniard has won 10 career titles and has reached five Grand Slam quarterfinals. American James Blake, former World No. 4, also has 10 career titles and defeated then-World No. 2 Rafael Nadal to reach the 2006 BNP Paribas Open finals. Kimiko Date-Krumm turned pro in 1989 and is currently the oldest player in the top 100 at 43 years old. The former World No. 4 has eight career singles titles and four doubles titles, including one in 2013 at Pattaya City.
In addition to Blake, seven other Americans have been granted wildcards into the main draws including two-time NCAA Champion from USC Steve Johnson, who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open; Milwaukee native Tim Smyczek, who is at a career-high ranking just outside the top 100 and pushed World No. 4 David Ferrer to four sets at the 2013 Australian Open; 19-year-old breakout star Madison Keys, who has already defeated five top-50 players in 2013 and cracked the top 80 earlier this month; WTA veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won the 2012 Australian Open Mixed Doubles title; another USC standout – Maria Sanchez, who is at a career-high ranking after jumping 560 ranking places in 2012 – more than any other player in the WTA; Georgia native Melanie Oudin captured her first WTA title last year in Birmingham (UK); and 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who turned professional in 2012 after reaching the top of the junior rankings earlier that year.
Two other international players receiving main draw wildcards are Israeli Shahar Peer, who was a BNP Paribas Open quarterfinalist in 2007 and 2011 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 11 and French teenager Kristina Mladenovic, who is at a career-high ranking after defeating three top-25 players to reach the Paris semifinals earlier this year.
“This year’s main draw wildcards span from seasoned veterans, to rising American and international stars to those returning from injury,” said Simon. “Awarding wildcards to players like David Nalbandian, James Blake, Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend add to the allure of early-round matches for fans and provide the potential for these deserving athletes to break through and make a move up their respective Tour’s rankings.
Qualifying wildcards were given to Americans Christian Harrison, Jack Sock, Rhyne Williams, Dennis Novikov, Grace Min, Jessica Pegula and Irina Falconi, German Andrea Petkovic and Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic.
Harrison, the 18-year-old younger brother of American No. 6 Ryan Harrison, reached the quarterfinals in doubles with his brother at the 2012 US Open and is making his debut to the BNP Paribas Open. Sock is at a career-high ranking after reaching his first ATP World Tour quarterfinal in Memphis earlier this month. Williams, a former University of Tennessee standout, is also at a career-high ranking after capturing the ATP Challenger tour title in Dallas. Novikov, who won the 2012 BNP Paribas Open pre-qualifying tournament, is now a sophomore playing at UCLA and won the 2012 USTA Boys Championships in Kalamazoo. Min won the 2011 US Open Junior Championship and three ITF titles in 2012. Pegula won two matches in the qualifying tournament to reach the 2012 BNP Paribas Open main draw. Falconi cracked the WTA top 100 in 2011 and has won 4 ITF singles titles.
Petkovic is a former World No. 9 and has reached the quarterfinals in every Grand Slam. She is returning to tennis after a series of injuries kept her from competing consistently for more than a year. Tomljanovic has three ITF singles and 3 ITF doubles titles.
In addition to the aforementioned qualifying wildcards, the winners of each pre-qualifying tournament, which takes place February 25 – March 2, will also be granted a berth into the 2013 BNP Paribas Open qualifying draw. Women’s qualifying starts March 4 and men’s qualifying begins March 5 at 10:00am.
Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Six Semifinals
By Kevin Ware
Day Six Semifinal Results
 Tommy Haas (GER) d  John Isner (USA) 6-3, 6-4
 Milos Raonic (CAN) d  Sam Querrey (USA) 6-4, 6-2
After watching Tommy Haas and John Isner the past few rounds, I had an uneasy feeling about Isner’s chances against the resurgent German in the first semifinal. Isner needed to start aggressively, serve well, and keep the points short. Haas needed to challenge the Isner second serve, take his chances, and work the big man over with baseline play. The Haas strategy proved to be the winning one, as he took out the No. 2 seed in straight sets.
When asked about his success in seeing the Isner serve, Haas said, “I mean, that’s the key against somebody like John, obviously. I think early on in the beginning he didn’t hit his first serves in so I tried to jump on the second, tried to make something happen, get it back in play, and then take my chances in the rally.” That’s exactly what he did; getting balls back into play and making the big man hit the proverbial “one more shot”.
“You have to play aggressive and play the type of tennis that you want to play. It can be tricky, but I did see his serve really well today and that obviously helps.”
For his part, Isner missed on all aspects of his “key to the win”. He started slow, missed some first serves, and found himself caught in baseline rallies he had little chance of winning. Lack of rhythm on his serve was at the top of the list in Isner’s honest assessment about his difficulties in this match.
“Yeah, that’s really what decided the match. I feel like normally I serve better than I did. And against a guy who is and was playing really well in that match, I need to serve better.”
The serve was just one aspect of Isner’s loss. When Haas drew Isner into baseline rallies, his speed and movement gave him a huge advantage over the taller Isner. When asked how he felt his ground game held up against Haas, Isner admitted, “It let me down a little bit. This court it stays low and it skids. I would prefer the ball to get up a little bit higher for me. But still I got a ways to go with just my game and going for my shots, and trusting my shots a little bit more. I just didn’t have it today.”
With this win, Haas reaches his 25th ATP World Tour final and has a chance to become the first German winner of the SAP Open.
Milos Raonic completely dismantled Sam Querrey, breaking the American’s serve in the very first game of the match. From there, he never looked back as he gave Querrey a comprehensive lesson in “big boy tennis”.
Raonic dominated Querrey with big serving, big forehands, big backhands and, most importantly, solid returning that kept Querrey under continual pressure in his service games. Every aspect of Raonic’s game was working in the match, and it became clear after a few games that Sam had little chance of stopping the Raonic juggernaut.
It can’t be overstated just how dramatically Raonic’s off-season work on his return game impacts a match like this. The stats tell much of the story for these two big servers.
Aces: 12 for Raonic, 7 for Querrey
Double Faults: 0 for Raonic, 4 for Querrey
Break Points Saved: 0/0 for Raonic, 6/9 for Querrey
By breaking Querrey early, Raonic put him on notice. Instead of the 20 aces that he hit in both of his earlier matches, he only got 7 against Raonic. That’s a ton of free points on which he usually relies that were no longer available. On top of that, pressing on his serve led to more double faults. Raonic had, for all practical purposes, taken the Querrey serve out of the equation.
When your weapon is no longer a weapon, and you can’t break your opponent’s serve while defending yours in each service game, the odds of success drop dramatically.
Raonic’s continually improving game is the result of hard work in the off-season, and the confidence it’s given him on court is palpable. “(I’m) returning well, moving well, getting into position to hit the shot and when I have the opportunity I’m going forward and I’m pretty successful. And I’m serving well. So sort of everything’s on the right track, in that sense. Then confidence comes with that. The work’s paying off.”
Sam acknowledged what was painfully obvious to all in attendance. “He served unbelievable, and I was never even really close to getting a look on his serve. On my serve I wasn’t getting a ton of pop and he was doing a good job of putting the pressure on me. He returned hard and deep and I felt like I was under pressure the whole time.” “He hit the ball big all around. He was really sharp today.”
To the contrary, Raonic has been sharp for the past three years. Two of his three career titles have come at the SAP Open, and he’s never dropped a set in San Jose. If he wins this final SAP Open title, he will be the first man to three-peat in the Open Era, and the first since Tony Trabert in the fifties. Judging by his play so far, this outcome appears likely.
 Milos Raonic (CAN) vs  Tommy Haas (GER)
Head-to-head: Raonic and Haas have never played.
Keys to the match: Raonic just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing in order to lift the trophy. But in order for Haas to have a chance in this final, he needs to do everything that he did in his semifinal match against Isner, and do it all BETTER! That’s a formidable task for most players, let alone a guy who’s spotting Raonic twelve years before they even step onto court.
Raonic can pressure Haas in ways that Isner couldn’t. He serves as big if not bigger than Isner. In addition to the big forehand, he also possesses a stronger backhand. He scrambles well to short balls and isn’t afraid to take the net. To make matters worse, he really likes the court surface and feels that it suits his game nicely. To say that this is an uphill battle would be the understatement of the day.
The good thing about tennis, however, is that titles aren’t handed out to the winners because it looks good on paper. Even though Raonic is the overwhelming favorite, he still needs to win the match. And lest we forget, Isner was the overwhelming favorite over Haas in the semifinals. His odds aren’t good, but there’s always a chance for the upset.
Pick: Raonic for the win in straight sets.
All photos by David Sweet
Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five
by Kevin Ware
 T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2
 J Isner (USA) d  Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2
 Milos Raonic (CAN) d  Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3
 Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
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.
 T Haas (GER) vs  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.
 M Raonic (CAN) vs  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.
All photos by David Sweet