2014/10/21

Ferrer Beats Haas in Three Sets to Reach Miami Final

 

David Ferrer

David Ferrer

By Amy Fetherolf

(March 29, 2013) MIAMI — World No. 4 David Ferrer fought back from a set down to beat World No. 18 Tommy Haas, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, advancing to the Sony Open final.

Haas came out picking up where he left off in beating both Novak Djokovic and Gilles Simon in straight sets earlier this week. He was damaging Ferrer most on the forehand side, passing him for winners and leaving Ferrer flat-footed as he earned two breaks of serve. He would need both of them to close out the set, but Ferrer was racking up too many errors to make it competitive.

In the second set, the tide changed direction. It was Ferrer who broke twice as Haas’ footwork lost its luster. The 34-year-old Haas appeared to be rapidly running out of steam.

Tommy Haas

Tommy Haas

After his second shirt change, Haas, now decked in purple, started the third set strongly, breaking Ferrer early. However, he got immediately broken back, and though he broke again, he simply couldn’t hold onto his serve. Ferrer cut down on the errors in his game to close out the match with ease.

“I knew after the second set I got broken for the first time, he started playing more solid,” Haas said. “I got a lot of deep balls. You know, he made life pretty tough on me. After the second set, I just tried to forget about it and really regroup in the third and told myself, Come on. All you have to do is play one great final set to maybe achieve another big goal of mine. Even at 3‑all I still felt, okay, no worries. Have to keep it up. I started missing a little bit and came up a little too often. He didn’t miss at all anymore. That’s the difference. That’s why he is where he is and that’s why he deserved to win.”

For his part, Ferrer said he could tell the tide had turned in his direction after the second set, even with his slow start on serve.

“I know Tommy, in the third set, he was a little bit more tired than me. I know that. But when I start the third set, I served very bad, no? But anyway, I tried to forget and to play, focus every point.”

Haas said that he was still happy with what he’d achieved at the tournament. He will move up four spots to No. 14 in the ATP rankings with his strong results in Miami.

“Beating Novak Djokovic, coming back, beating Simon, getting to the semis. It’s been an unbelievable tournament, something that, you know, I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life. I’ll continue and I will try to get better and take this momentum to the next weeks and months, try to stay healthy. This is what it’s all about for me, you know, going out in front of a packed house like that, playing the best players, and still feeling like I have a chance and playing good matches. That makes me happy, and I will try to continue as long as I can, because this is a lot of fun.”

Amy Fetherolf‏ is covering the Sony Open as media for Tennis Panorama News (@TennisNewsTPN). She is a co-founder of The Changeover. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyFetherolf.

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In His Own Words – Tommy Haas After Defeating Novak Djokovic at Sony Open

 

Tommy Haas

(March 26, 2013) With all of the 30-plus players active on the ATP World Tour, one has to wonder is 30 the new 20? A week away from his 35th birthday, an inspired Tommy Haas stunned a not-so-inspiring Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 to move into the quarterfinals of the Sony Open on Tuesday evening.

Haas is the oldest player in t0 years to beat the No. 1 player.

For  Haas this is his second win in 14 tries against a World No. 1. The last time he topped a World No. 1 was back in 1999 over Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam Cup.

Here is his post match news conference after the win:

T. HAAS/N. Djokovic

6-2, 6-4

An interview with:

TOMMY HAAS

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  Congratulations.  Do you remember the last time you beat a No. ‘1?
TOMMY HAAS:  Somebody just told me.  So, yeah, but I don’t know    who was it, though?

Q.  Agassi, ’99, in Germany.
TOMMY HAAS:  Oh, yeah?  Well, it’s been 13 years, something like that, right?

Q.  Talk about the feeling.  Did you believe all along that you could put him away?
TOMMY HAAS:  Well, you know, I mean, I had the mentality tonight going out there believing in it.  You’ve got to, you know.
Just from last week, you know, playing somebody like Del Potro who gives me quite a bit of trouble, you know, I sort of had a game plan.  I went out and nothing seemed to really work, you know, and I didn’t really have a game plan B.
I was just frustrated with the way I played and tried to totally, you know, focus and tried to, you know, approach this match totally different.
You know, last couple of times I played Novak was in Shanghai last year and Toronto, and Toronto we had a really good battle, which I was really happy about the way I played; he played just better in the end.
Tonight I had a good game plan, I thought.  Conditions, you know, maybe now looking back, favored me a little bit with the game that I played against him tonight.  You know, it was tough out there with the swirling wind.

You know, I’m just really happy and proud of that tonight against such a great player who has been dominating the sport the past couple of years.  I really took advantage of the opportunities I’ve gotten.  You know, I think I played extremely well.
He gave me a lot of looks, and I took advantage of it.

Q.  Is this the reason you still are playing, is for nights like this?
TOMMY HAAS:  You got it, yeah.

Q.  How do you feel with the support of the people on the stadium?
TOMMY HAAS:  It’s very nice.  I mean, any time you play such big events on the stadium, it’s always just a great pleasure to go out No. 1.
Like he just said, this is what you play for, or I play for.  These are the moments I appreciate the most, going on those big stadiums, big stages, playing against the best people in the world.
Playing against something like Novak and coming out on top at this time of my career, it’s unbelievable.  You know, it goes up as one of my, you know, most best wins of my career. You know, the fans I hope, enjoyed it.
Miami is also sort of late night loud crowd, and I think they really appreciate good tennis.

Q. It was pretty hot until the last couple of days here, and then these conditions were not really expected. Did you have to do any adjustment to your game plan based on temperature, the wind, and everything?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah. I mean, when I woke up this morning obviously felt that it was a little bit chilly out there, and I looked at the weather report and saw it was going to be really cold and windy tonight. I wasn’t happy about it.
This is unusual for Miami time, you know, to have a drop. I think it’s supposed to be even colder tomorrow. It’s not great for me, especially with    you know, my body likes the heat, you know, to stay warm. You know, it’s something that you have no control over, either.
You know, you adjust with the racquet tension and, you know, mentally prepare yourself for it. All you can do is just do the best out there and try to adjust.

Q. When was the last time you played at such a level and maintained it pretty much the entire match?
TOMMY HAAS: I don’t know. I have had some, you know, good results last year. Probably in Halle maybe where I won the tournament, you know.
You know, you go back to obviously where you maybe have won matches against top players like that, against Roger, maintained a really high level.
It’s tough obviously. It’s one of the biggest challenges out there. You know, even looking at Novak Djokovic’s results the last two years, two and a half years, it’s just crazy, you know. You look at Roger last eight, nine years, and Nadal, how tough they are and maintaining that level.
It’s something really special. Not everybody has that gift. So I’m happy to have done it somehow a little bit tonight.

Q. He won 11 straight points; got the break back. A lot of the people in the stadium, I’m sure, were thinking, Oh, man, this guy is almost 35. The wheels are falling off. What were you thinking? How did you pull it together?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I wasn’t happy, you know. I had 3 1, I think, and had a couple of break points, or one, I’m not sure. Didn’t convert it. Then I lost    I know I lost eight points in a row for him to go up 4 3. I just wasn’t happy with the way I gave those points away, really.
I didn’t think anything else of it. I just didn’t make the right shots, shot selection that needed to be happening. You know, I didn’t give him a chance to pass me or win those points. I just kind of gave it away.
I think with four unforced errors to break back, and then, yeah, I just tried to regroup in the changeover and tell myself, Try to hold here to go to 4 All and keep it tight. If you have a chance, play a little bit different than before.
That’s exactly what happened.

Q. A few years ago when you had to come off the tour because of all the injuries and the time you spent away, at that stage could have imagined almost 35 years of age you’d still be playing at this level and producing a win against world No. 1?
TOMMY HAAS: Not really. You know, there were times I wouldn’t have believed that, no way. But, you know, when I came back after my hip surgery it was a grueling, you know, I don’t know, 9 months, 12 months before I actually felt like I can sort of train again and get in better shape and sort of maybe feel like I can move and give myself a chance to at least try to go for some victories again that I would enjoy.
You know, somewhere in the middle of last year, sometime in April, May, my body sort of adjusted a lot, got better, and I could train. You know, if you can’t train and put in the hard yards in this sport anymore, you know, you’re not going to get far. You know, not at least to the point where maybe you have a chance against a top player.
From experience, you know, luckily I know that, and luckily I’m a guy that likes to work out and gets in the best shape that I can possibly can, my body allowing. You know, right now I feel pretty good, as good as I have in a long time, and, you know, just never give up.

Q. Asking about your fashion statement out there, a lot of these guys are every stitch matches, and you had a lot of different colors going on. Is that conscious or random?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I’m pretty pathetic I think when it comes to color matching. Sometimes I look at myself, you know, in the mirror before I go out and I’m like, Jesus, what was I thinking there? (Laughter.)
I guess if I maybe had a clothing contract it would be different. But, you know, n this case I just put on the clothes that I really like. It’s comfortable and it sort of feels good on me. I’m not the color matching type, and my wife has to take care of our daughter most of the time so she doesn’t have time to do that, either. It falls into my hands.

Q. Still the backward hat, though.
TOMMY HAAS: Sometimes, yeah. It’s just when I sweat. You go in and out of that stage. My hair is short enough to go without a cap, but it’s just routine. Sometimes I play without it.

Q. Could you talk about your next match? You play Simon.
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, similar conditions, maybe a little bit cooler. He’s just such a good  counterpuncher, a guy that is back wall. He moves extremely well. He knows the geometry of the game really well. He’s sort of somewhere always in the mix.
You don’t even really talk about him that much or you don’t see him in the draw that much. He’s always there, always within the top 20, top 10 over the past couple of years. You know, extremely talented, and it really depends on what kind of a night I have, I think.
I can try to mixup my game again and try to be aggressive when I have to be. And I’m going to have to change it up and sort of try to find a way, a style the way I played tonight and be aggressive, come in more, and hopefully it will be a good night, good tennis.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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Haas Beats Dolgopolov in Miami

IMG_3570

By Amy Fetherolf

(March 24, 2013) MIAMI — World No. 18 Tommy Haas beat World No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-3, 6-2, in just an hour and 17 minutes to advance to the fourth round in Miami.

Haas was broken to start the match, but he rattled off five straight games, breaking back and securing the break necessary to take the first set.

Haas broke Dolgopolov straight away in the second set, and never let go of the advantage. He saved three break points to hold serve in the sixth game of the set for a 4-2 lead. From that point on, Haas cruised through the rest of the match, securing a double break, and closing the match out with three aces (two of which were second serve aces).

Haas hit 13 aces, 21 winners, and 17 unforced errors to Dolgopolov’s four aces, 16 winners, and 24 unforced errors in the tennis match.

Photos from the match:

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Amy Fetherolf‏ is covering the Sony Open as media for Tennis Panorama News (@TennisNewsTPN). She is a co-founder of The Changeover. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyFetherolf.

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Tommy Haas Continues His Return to Form with Win over Nicolas Almagro

Tommy Haas

By Jennifer Knapp

(March 13, 2013) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Tommy Haas, the ATP’s 2012 Comeback Player of the Year and nineteenth seed continued his strong return to form and secured his place in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open with a hard fought win over eleventh seed Nicolas Almagro.

The 34-year-old, making his 13th appearance in Indian Wells, took the first set 6-3 with solid serving and equally powerful returns. Almagro seemed a little out of sorts as the match got underway and it wasn’t long before he was berating himself and yelling in the direction of his camp.  Haas started off the secondset well but midway he lost his first serve, giving Almagro the opportunity to turn his luck around and even the match in a tie break 7-2. This time it was Haas’ turn to express his displeasure with his level of play.

 

The third and final set was perhaps the most dramatic of all as Almagro had the win on his racquet only to tighten up and lose control of his first serve, allowing Haas to break back and eventually forcing another tiebreak.  Despite the fact that the two players were pretty evenly matched, Haas was able to capitalize at the right moments and secure the match 7-6 for a 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-6(2)  third round victory.  He’ll play seventh seed Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round. The two have played 3 times, most recently in Cincinnati last year and del Potro has won each of their matches.

Jennifer Knapp is covering the BNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow the updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN.

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Djokovic, Sampras, Fish and the Bryan Brothers Among Those to Particpate in LA Tennis Challenge

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(March 4, 2013) LOS ANGELES – The inaugural LA Tennis Challenge took place on Monday night on the campus of UCLA at the recently renovated Pauley Pavilion. Participating in the event to raise money for charity were world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Former No. 1 and member of the tennis Hall of Fame Pete Sampras, Bob and Mike Bryan, James Blake, Tommy Haas and former player Justin Gimelstob.

Los Angeles’ ATP World Tour event, the Farmers Classic, their license was sold to Colombian investors who took it to their home country. Former UCLA Bruin Gimelstob wants to keep pro tennis alive in Los Angeles and organized the event.

Singles and doubles exhibition matches took place including Djokovic pairing with his idol Sampras.

Celebrities in attendance included actress Jodie Foster, actor Bruce Willis and actor/comedian and tennis fan Rainn Wilson.

Proceeds from the event are to benefit the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, Call to Cure and the Southern California Tennis Association’s community tennis initiatives.

 

All photos by Maria Noble

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Notes From the Front – Milos Raonic Three-Peats at the Final SAP Open

Raonic trophy (1 of 3)

( February 17, 2013) SAN JOSE

By Kevin Ware

Notes from the Front – Milos Raonic Three-Peats at the Final SAP Open

 

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [4] Tommy Haas (GER) 6-4, 6-3

Milos Raonic completed a week of dominating tennis by defeating Tommy Haas in straight sets to become only the third man to three-peat in the SAP Open’s 125 year history, and the first in the Open Era. Though some great players have won this tournament 3 times or more, the three-peat hasn’t been accomplished since Tony Trabert (1953-55).  With this win at the final SAP Open, Raonic has indeed joined the ranks of an elite few.

The term “dominating” is actually an understatement for Raonic’s play when you look at his accomplishments at this tournament.  He won without dropping serve the entire week, and only faced one break point in 39 service holds. Additionally, Raonic has never dropped a set during his three year run at the SAP Open, winning 24 sets in a row. These are remarkable numbers from a player who’s won three of his four career titles in San Jose, and who jokingly said that he should “roll up the court, put it in his bag, and hope that it doesn’t get lost” on his next flight.

THE X’S AND O’S

Serve

Raonic’s first service game set the tone for the match with four aces, ranging in speed from 123mph to 148mph. By the end he would have a total of 19. Many expect Raonic to ace his opponents with pace, but many of his aces in this match came on serves between 115-120mph with great placement.  By contrast, Haas had 1 ace in the third game of the second set; his only ace of the match. It’s tough to overcome that many free points in a match that might be decided by only 5. (Raonic had a total of 58 aces for the week.)

Return Game

Raonic has talked a lot this past week about the work he’s put in on his return game, and the results were evident in today’s final.  Whenever Haas served out wide to the Raonic backhand on the ad court, he ran the risk of getting burned by Raonic’s backhand down the line.  It was a risk that hurt him greatly.  But there weren’t many other options open if he wanted to avoid the Raonic forehand, which could hurt him worse: either as a crosscourt return from the deuce court or an inside out shot from the ad court.

Break Chances

Raonic put Haas under pressure with an early break in the third game, and finished the match with a total of 7 break point chances while facing none on his own serve.  To put this into the larger context of the tournament, Raonic faced (and saved) one break point the whole tournament.  It happened in his match with Denis Istomin. His opponents (Michael Russell, Denis Istomin, Sam Querrey, and Tommy Haas) faced a total of 27. It’s impossible to take a set off of someone if you can’t break their serve.

Ground Game

Unlike his match against John Isner, Haas had to face an opponent with a strong ground game on both sides who also wasn’t afraid to come in and attack the net. In his post-match press conference, he referred to Raonic’s strategy as “taking risks” and being rewarded.

I understand Tommy’s need to chalk this up to a player rolling the dice and getting hot.  But that would be unfair to Raonic, because it’s not possible to explain the Raonic game in such low-percentage terms, especially given the consistent execution. Raonic didn’t have one spectacular day of shot-making.  He’s had three years of spectacular shot-making, so it doesn’t seem like there was much risk-taking involved.

It should also be noted that Haas didn’t play badly.  In fact, his play in the final was very much on a par with his play against Isner in the semifinals. He served decently, hit his backhand well and tried to finish points at the net when possible.  But as the match wore on and the pressure wore him down, Haas’ execution suffered. Either he cut his margins too fine when going for the lines, or was forced to block shots back in the hope that they would stay in and prolong rallies. More often than not he was left watching shots whiz by with a plaintive look on his face.

Sadly, his reactive tennis seemed more of a risky strategy than the Raonic’s game.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Milos Raonic

Did you feel any pressure today?

“Yes, at the beginning.  But I made a conscious effort…to hit harder to get the energy out.”

Even with your dominant level of play in the final, is there one thing you could have done better?

“When I’m playing well and my opponent is playing well, mixing it up a bit more.”

Tommy Haas

Did Raonic’s play how you expected him to play today?

“Yeah, he didn’t give me too many looks on his serve. He served extremely well and has a lot of confidence in that serve. He played risky when he had to and he got rewarded for it. That’s his game and what’s so tough. It puts pressure on me trying to hold serve, and he was feeling it.”

Doubles Championships

[4] Xavier Malisse (BEL) / Frank Moser (GER) d [WC] Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) / Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 6-0, 6-7(5), 10-4

After falling to an embarassing 6-0, 4-0 deficit, the Aussies made a match of it; winning the second set but ultimately losing the match tiebreaker.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Six Semifinals

Haas d Isner semifinal (1 of 5)

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Six Semifinals

By Kevin Ware

Day Six Semifinal Results

[4] Tommy Haas (GER) d [2] John Isner (USA) 6-3, 6-4

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [3] Sam Querrey (USA) 6-4, 6-2

Match Notes

Semifinal #1

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.

Semifinal #2

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.

Final Notes/Pick

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [4] 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.

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.

All photos by David Sweet

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

John Isner-2

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

by Kevin Ware

Day Five Quarterfinal Results

[4] T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2

[2] J Isner (USA) d [8] Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [6] Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3

[3] Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5

Match Notes

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.

Semifinal Notes/Picks

[4] T Haas (GER) vs [2] 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.

[1] M Raonic (CAN) vs [3] 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.

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.

All photos by David Sweet

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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.

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Raonic Looks To Make History At This Year’s Final SAP Open

 

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

By Kevin Ware

(February 12, 2013) SAN JOSE, California -This is a bittersweet moment as I prepare my preview for this year’s SAP Open.  The SAP Open, the second-oldest tournament in the US, is ending its’ illustrious run with this final week at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA.  Many great and legendary players have hoisted the trophy through its’ various names and incarnations.  But whether it was the Siebel Open, the Sybase Open, or whatever, it didn’t matter to those of us in the Bay Area who were grateful for a chance to see world-class tennis. This tournament will be greatly missed!

This year’s edition promises one final hurrah with a great field and the addition of a mixed doubles exhibition match on Saturday, featuring longtime SAP Open stalwart Andy Roddick, 3-time Slam champion Lindsay Davenport, and 22-time Slam champion Stephanie “Steffi” Graf.  Defending champion Milos Raonic is also back to try for an historic SAP Open hat trick.  So even though this is the final SAP Open, it definitely promises to go out on a high.

Main draw action started Monday night with Xavier Malisse and Jesse Levine winning first-round matches. With qualifying rounds completed, the action starts in earnest on Tuesday with main draw matches for both singles and doubles.

Here is my breakdown of the quarters as I look for Raonic to make history for the tournament with his third straight title.

 

Milos Raonic [1]

The top quarter features top seeded Milos Raonic, who has a chance to pull off a rare “hat trick” win at this year’s SAP Open after title runs in 2011 and 2012.  How rare is it? No player has won three straight SAP Open titles since Tony Trabert accomplished the feat with wins in ’53, ’54, and ’55.  This includes greats like Ashe, McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi, and Roddick. a win in this final SAP Open would certainly put Milos at par with this very select group of players.

Milos likes the conditions in San Jose, and has played some of his best tennis on this center court over the past couple of years.  His serve has been off the charts, both in terms of pace and placement, and his ground game has been damaging off both his forehand and backhand wings. There isn’t much that’s likely to stop his march to the semifinals; not even a potential quarterfinal rematch against his 2012 finalist, Denis Istomin.

Sam Querrey [3]

The second quarter features Davis Cup hero, Sam Querrey.  It would be easy to peg Querrey as the favorite to make his way through to the semifinals, but he will have his hands full with his most likely second-round challenger, former champion Lleyton Hewitt.  While Hewitt has a first-round encounter with Blaz Kavcic to help him settle into the tournament and get used to the conditions, Sam has a first-round bye.

Most players will tell you that there’s nothing trickier than playing an opponent who’s “into” the tournament when you’re still trying to get used to the conditions. And even if they haven’t played since 2009, Hewitt’s 2-0 head-to-head over Querrey doesn’t help matters much either.  But if Sam settles into the match quickly, he should be okay for the win. On the other hand, Hewitt’s success at this year’s Kooyong exhibition showed that he’s a legitimate contender in best two out of three matches with significant wins over Raonic, Tomas Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro.

After Hewitt, seventh seed Marinko Matosevic of AUS will likely be Querrey’s last hurdle for a spot in the semifinals.

Tommy Haas [4]

Speaking of best two out of three set matches, the combination of the format and the quicker indoor court gives the number four seed a decent shot at making the quarterfinals. Once he gets there, however, he’ll have a tough battle to get by Fernando Verdasco [5] for the third semifinal spot.

Tommy has a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Fernando on tour, but they haven’t played since 2009.  In many ways, it’s either player’s match to win or lose.  If Tommy’s body and game hold up, it could happen for him.  Fernando is no slouch, though.  He’s one of three former champions in the field (along with Raonic and Hewitt), and knows what it takes to win in San Jose.

Also, I’m sure Fernando would like a chance at redemption for the title he felt that he wrongly lost in the 2011 final after a fan’s yell on match point distracted him while returning Raonic’s serve.

John Isner [2]

In spite of recent knee issues that kept him from performing his best in Australia, Big John looks to be moving decently and serving at close to his best level.  He lost a five set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci in Davis Cup, but should be okay in San Jose even though he hasn’t played there since 2009.

With a 2-2 head-to-head record, veteran player Xavier Malisse might cause Isner some issues in their probable quarterfinal match-up.  But I’d be hard-pressed to see him not make it through to Saturday’s semifinals.

Semifinal Picks

Milos Raonic [1] versus Sam Querrey [3]

Head-to-head: Querrey leads 2-0

Querrey might have the advantage in the head-to-head numbers, but Milos has owned this court for the past two years.  In a battle of evenly-matched big guys with big serves and big groundstrokes, I have to give the edge to the guy who has won back-to-back titles in the past two years.

Raonic in straight sets.

Tommy Haas [4] versus John Isner [2]

Head-to-head: Isner leads 3-1

Make that 4-1 after this semifinal battle.  Isner has way too much firepower for Haas.  He will make the big guy work for it with smart shot-making, but it won’t be enough to counter Isner’s untouchable serve unless Tommy has a great returning day.

Isner in straight sets.

Final Picks

Milos Raonic [1] versus John Isner [2]

Head-to-head: Isner leads 1-0

They’ve played only once before on a Canadian hard court in last year’s Rogers Cup, with Isner winning a close 7-6(9), 6-4 match.  Serve dominated the stats, as one would expect.  But while Raonic served more aces than Isner, Isner won 91% of his first serves as compared to 78% for Raonic.  In a close match that can make all the difference.

I expect this match to go the distance, with the winner being determined by the same factors i.e. winning serve percentages.  If John keeps his percentages high, he’s got a good shot at thwarting the Raonic three-peat.  If not, Raonic has a “slightly” better ground game on which to fall back than Isner.

For all practical purposes, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top.  For history’s sake at this last SAP Open, I’ll go with Raonic for the three-peat.

Raonic in three sets.

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.

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