Atlanta Open: Tomic Tops 5th Seed Tiafoe, World No. 405 King Stuns Dimitrov
By Herman Wood
(July 23, 2019) ATLANTA – “College Night” at the 2019 BB&T Atlanta Open which featured two night matches with Georgia Tech players, produced the biggest surprise of the tournament.
Tiafoe v Tomic
In his second match since Wimbledon, Bernard Tomic did not appear to be committed to his match with Frances Tiafoe. He started the match down 0-3 and trailed 1-4 before Tiafoe missed some very easy balls, overhitting the court. A subsequent hold by Tomic and a desultory service game by Tiafoe put the first set even at 4-4. Tomic returned to his lacksadasical ways on his service game and handed an easy break to give Tiafoe an opportunity to serve it out. Tiafoe did just that, aided by an unconvincing slap at a Tiafoe serve that landed a couple of feet out.
Rallies in this match were few and far between. Tomic’s strategy seemed to be to hit short returns or short shots forcing Tiafoe to have to work to control the depth of his shots. On the other hand, he sent many of Tiafoe’s serves back with interest at his feet only giving Tiafoe a chance to block the return back.
The second set stayed unremarkably on serve, with Tomic serving first until Tiafoe stepped to the line at 3-4. He dug a 15-40 hole simply making errors until Tomic laced a forehand winner down the line to take a 5-3 lead. Tomic started his service game with an ace and service winner for a 30-0 lead. A framed volley attempt followed up with getting too cute on a net exchange gave Tiafoe a chance. After holding off a game point, Tomic was able to steady and Tiafoe made the errors to provide Tomic a set point. A big serve and the match was even at a set apiece.
In the deciding set, at two games apiece, Tiafoe cut loose with an audible “c’mon” after a backhand cross court winner to get 0-15. He worked to get to 30 all, made a forced error to go down game point, but fought it off to get deuces. Tomic was giving him very little pace to work with- sliced backhands and forehands to manage the hold. Tiafoe hit lots of balls long! Holds of serves brought the match to 3-4, with Tomic serving. He seemed to be in a hurry after going down 0-30 though he hit a wide service winner to get in the game. The strategy of letting Tiafoe provide all the power paid off, with the exception of a well placed wide service winner or ace. Tiafoe just could not seem to out rally Tomic, ceding the game and taking the third set to 4 games all. Both men held serve easily to take the 3rd set to a tiebreak, 6-6.
The tiebreak looked like much of the 3rd set, with Tomic waiting Tiafoe out in rallies and hitting a big serve for a service winner. Tomic led in the tiebreak 4-2, then got another Tiafoe error for 5-2. Tiafoe took care of his serve, with cautious play for 3-5 and a service ace for 4-5. A tricky point led to a desperate Tiafoe attempt at a volley that was unsuccessful, 6-4 Tomic. With a match point on his racquet, Tomic passed Tiafoe with a big forehand for the match, 7-4 in the tiebreak. On the final point, the Tiafoe approach of the net did not look wise.
Asked about his slow start and his approach to his first match against this opponent Tomic said, “I’m not as fit as these guys. I have to do stuff that they’re not expecting.” He did it all match long.
Gromley v Humbert
In the evening session on the stadium court wild card Cole Gromley, a sophomore at Georgia Tech, took on number 8 seed Ugo Humbert. The collegian acquitted himself well, holding serve through 4 games all. In Humbert’s next service game, Gromley bore down, working points and taking advantage to get an ad. Humbert fought him off with a service winner down the tee, then another wide to the deuce court and finally a wide serve that Gromley could only block into the net to take the set to 5-4, Gromley to serve. After exchanges of holds, a tiebreak was in order. Humbert’s recent success continued to follow him, as he ran off with the tiebreak 7-2. It had to be demoralizing for Gromley, as a net cord even worked against him.
Gromley started off the second set by getting broken. He simply missed a couple of shots and was noticeably down, shadowing swings of shots after misses. He did prove a veteran in use of challenges, successfully challenging an apparent Humbert ace, only to hit the 2nd serve long when his judgement was proven correct. It seemed Gromley could feel the match slipping away. He bombed away on his serve only to see the ball come back. He swung out on his ground strokes, but Humbert kept the ball in play until Gromley missed wide or long. Humbert stepped to the line to serve with a 3-0 lead and promptly made it 4-0.
To his credit, Gromley never gave up the fight, even digging out of a deep hole on his serve to finally hold serve and bring the second set to 1-4. Humbert continued to wait for Gromley to miss, but turned up the volume on his serve and ground strokes, feeling he could swing freely and hitting a number of winners. At 1-5, Gromley held his serve with little trouble and showed his willingness to play, taking little time on the changeover at 5-2. Humbert took his time before he stepped up to serve. When he did, he fired aces and hit winners, slamming the door with authority, 7-6, 6-2.
Humbert gave credit to the Georgia Tech students in attendance. “You guys are amazing”. Gromley said after the match that the experience is, “Something I’ll never forget.” He said that he also learned that, “The pros are pretty good.” He was pretty good himself in the first set. The BB&T Atlanta Open may see him again!
— BB&T Atlanta Open (@BBTatlantaopen) July 24, 2019
Dimitrov v King
Wild card Grigor Dimitrov was knocked out by hometown qualifier Kevin King 7-5, 6-4 in the first round for his first-ever ATP Tour main level tour match win, in the last match of the evening on Stadium court. The 28-year-old King broke Dimitrov’s serve seven times and let a break lead in both sets slip.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket alum was a two-time ITA All-American and a three-time All-ACC star in college.
In one of the upsets of the year in tennis, No. 405 Kevin King earns his first career @ATP_Tour win over Grigor Dimitrov in his hometown tournament.#USOpenSeries | @BBTatlantaopen pic.twitter.com/csQYujFixN
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) July 24, 2019