Michael Russell, at 34-years-old, is the oldest person in the draw, but he does not play like one. He is still ranked in the Top 100, at No. 94. With his 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) win Tuesday, he remains unbeaten against fellow American Alex Kuznetsov with now two wins on the ATP World Tour and eight wins at the challenger level. Russell struggled to find his form and his frustration showed in the first set after the more-than-two-hour rain delay. Kuznetsov was up an early break in the second set, but Russell used his great speed and consistency at the baseline to break back in the second set and then win the match in a third-set tiebreak.
Ryan Harrison said he was not devastated by the 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 loss to James Blake. "He's a great guy and he's done a lot for American tennis. I'm glad he got the win. Just disappointed it was against me." We asked Harrison how the match turned around in the second set after he won the first set easily. "[Blake] started to get a better rhythm in the second set. I did a good job of mixing it up and keeping him off balance in the first set. In the second set, I started to get a little too predictable and when he started playing a lot bigger I got defensive. At that point I was just reacting to what he was doing and he was controlling the baseline rallies and that's the reason why I lost," Harrison said.
First Time Lucky
Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram took on Rohan Bopanna and Kristof Vliegen in the Doubles Final. This was the first tournament together for both teams of finalists. Lipsky’s serve, which was a slight liability in the pair’s semifinal match, was more consistent today neither American was broken. In the second set tiebreak, Lipsky and Ram were up 4-2 and close to winning the match when they started to play more tentatively; they did not win another point in the tiebreak. This was the first set that Lipsky and Ram lost all week. Both teams saved a match point in the super tiebreak before Lipsky and Ram won, 6-3, 6-7(4), 12-10. This was the first title of the year for both players. Ram said that he and Lipsky compliment each other’s game well, and that they hope to play again together soon. All the players were very appreciative of the large crowd that came out to watch the Doubles Final and remarked on how that is not always the case at other tournaments.
Simply the Best
Mardy Fish won, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in 2 hours and 45 minutes over John Isner in the fourth all-American ATP World Tour Final of the year. Fish, who was 4-11 in tour finals coming into this match, started off with many unforced errors and two double faults to drop serve at 3-4 in the first set. In the second and third sets Isner’s level started to decline in the oppressive heat and Fish was able to take control of the match. He appeared to be on his way to the win when he was broken at love serving at 3-1 in the third set. In the third set tiebreak, Fish took an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Isner won the next three points, but was not able to come back. Fish was definitely the best player of the week, having not lost a set heading into the Final, and it was no surprise that he won. Following up on a title in Newport two weeks ago, Fish extended his match streak to ten, a career best for him. This is his fifth title win.
John Isner and Kevin Anderson played the first semifinal during yet another scorchingly hot afternoon. Isner faced two break points in his opening service game but held after serving three straight aces. Not surprisingly, the match did not have many rallies. Both players have thunderous serves and tried to conserve energy in the hot weather. Isner was very listless in the heat and made four double faults late in the second set. And Anderson said after the match that he was sweating through his shoes and slipping on the court.
After winning the first set 6-3, Isner was able to save two set points at 4-5 and at 5-6 in the second set. Anderson saved one match point at 6-7 in the tiebreak and won the next two points to send the match to a third set. Anderson was 0-7 on break point chances while Isner went two for two. Isner broke at 4-3 in the third set when Anderson hit only his second double fault of the match. The American said he was happy when the clouds blocked the sun and cooled the temperatures considerably at the beginning of the third set. Isner won just in time. The lightning siren went off just as he reached match point.
Kevin Anderson only needed one break of serve in each set to defeat Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, in the Quarterfinals on Friday. Anderson was two for two on break point chances while Lacko was not able to reach a break point on Anderson’s serve. Lacko did not play a poor match, but he was not as sharp with his groundstrokes as he was in his upset of Lleyton Hewitt in the previous round. Anderson will play in his first semifinal since he made the Final in Las Vegas in 2008 as a qualifier.
Jonathan Erlich and Janko Tipsarevic were up a set and a break in their doubles quarterfinal match against Rohan Bopanna and Kristof Vliegen before losing 3-6, 7-6(9), 10-8. In the second set tiebreak, Erlich and Tipsarevic had two match points and Erlich double-faulted on one of them. They also had a 4-1 lead in the supertiebreak but Bopanna and Vliegen went on to win eight of the next nine points. Down 5-9, Erlich and Tipsarevic almost made a comeback, saving three match points. However, the opponents were able to take the match on their own serve, converting on the fourth match point.
Today was the hottest day of the week so far. Xavier Malisse and Illya Marchenko were especially affected by the heat. Both players were listless and mainly worried about keeping the ball in play. After every point they would hide in the shade at the back of the court. The match was close for a straight sets victory, but Malisse was a little more aggressive and Marchenko played an error-filled game at 2-1 in the second set to get broken after taking a medical timeout for the heat. The Belgian won, 6-3. 6-3.
Andy Roddick started off his match against Rajeev Ram with aggressive groundstrokes and Ram was unable to make a dent in Roddick’s service games. In the second set, Roddick played more passively, and his opponent took advantage of that by winning the set in a tiebreak. Roddick was able to save all four break points against his serve, including two in the first game of the third set. Roddick said that the heat caused his left foot to swell a little, but added that it had happened before and is manageable. It was not the cleanest match Roddick ever played, but he played well enough to win and reach the quarterfinals.
Age Is Just a Number
The first match on Court 1 featured the two oldest players in the draw, 32-year-old Michael Russell and 34-year-old Rainer Schuettler. Hot temper eruptions witnessed Tuesday continued on Wednesday with Schuettler becoming more frustrated as the match slipped away from him. He carried on conversations with himself in German for the entire second set and the end of the third set. I do not think I have ever seen a player talk to themselves so much. Russell played very consistently from the baseline and let Schuettler commit most of the errors. Schuettler served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but was broken and did not win another game. Russell is in his second quarterfinal of the year.
Serve is Key
Taylor Dent’s serving woes continued as he made four double faults on his way to losing his opening service game to Horacio Zeballos. Dent served a total of six double faults and only had a 21-percent first serve conversion in losing the first set, 4-6. Storm clouds and strong winds picked up over the stadium during the second half of the match. A few raindrops fell but the thunderstorm stayed away from the tournament grounds. Dent handled the difficult conditions much better than his Argentinian opponent by serving better and went on to lose only two games in the last two sets, winning the match, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.
Return to Atlanta
Atlanta, Ga., is kicking off the 2010 US Open Series by hosting the Atlanta Tennis Championships. This is the first ATP tournament in Atlanta since 2001, when Andy Roddick won his first title on the green clay of the defunct Verizon Tennis Challenge. The attendance for Tuesday’s matches was very high even though the temperature was in the upper 90s (Fahrenheit) during the afternoon. Water and sunscreen are a tennis spectator’s best friends for the summer heat in Georgia.
Atlanta definitely lived up to its longtime nickname of “Hotlanta” on Tuesday. Of the players I saw, Taylor Dent seemed to suffer most from the heat. He was completely drenched from head to toe in sweat. I don’t know how he was able to keep the racquet from slipping out of his hand. Maybe the excessive amount of sweat contributed to the unusually high number of double faults (13 in all) that Dent hit during his 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win against James Blake.
The heat also seemed to affect the tempers of the players. Many had outbursts and were yelling or talking to themselves. Janko Tipsarevic provided more than a few such incidents during his straight-set loss to Kevin Anderson. He tried to outhit Anderson, but almost every time, the Serb hit a forehand too long, Tipsarevic would then burst out with another yell. Tipsarevic was able to keep his volatile temperament in check long enough to break Anderson when the South African served for the match at 5-4, but was immediately broken back and lost, 6-3, 7-5.