Thunderstorms interrupted play for a third day in a row, with an almost five-hour delay on Wednesday afternoon and evening. How did Andy Roddick pass the time? "I looked out the window and watched the rain fall in the pool," Roddick joked. Roddick was surprised his match against Nicolas Mahut on Stadium Court was bumped up ahead of Michael Russell versus Kevin Anderson, who had already played two games before the rain delay, but he was happy he was able to finish the match on its scheduled day.
Rain Delay Entertainment
There were a few very vocal fans in the crowd Wednesday night who would sometimes shout right before the players served. Some of the fans might have taken advantage of the Corona tent on the grounds and the surrounding bars during the long delay. "I think you could tell what the rain delay activity was. People might have been indulging a little bit," Roddick said.
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.
This year's BB&T Atlanta Open is especially unique among tennis tournaments because it is being held in the heart of midtown Atlanta in the outdoor mall of Atlantic Station. The move has been a success - as of last week, ticket sales were up 30 percent from last year. The sponsor tents are right outside the entrance to the tournament so sponsors have the added bonus of attracting not only ticketholders, but people shopping in the Atlantic Station district. It is not often that you will find a tournament's media center between a movie theater and a department store. The downtown connector of Interstate 75/85 is right next to the Stadium Court and United Way Grandstand Court, but the traffic noise has been minimal and not disruptive on the courts. All the courts can be accessed by the underground parking garage, which also serves as an easy way to escape the hot summer sun.
Donald Young is now on a 14-match losing streak after two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson of the University of Southern California defeated him on Monday, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. This was Johnson's first win on the ATP World Tour. Johnson has a huge first serve with speeds that sometimes hit the low 130s (in mph). He also has very strong groundstrokes that sometimes produce a lot of unforced errors; he could be successful on the tour if he learns to control his game more. Johnson will face fellow wildcard Jack Sock in the Second Round.
After losing two games in the Semifinal on Saturday, Serena Williams lost only one game in her 6-0, 6-1 win over Lucie Safarova, to win her 40th singles title. This was the first time Williams returned to Charleston since she won here in 2008. The first set was closer than the score indicated, partly because Williams had to save four break points, while Safarova only saved one of four break points on her serve. There was loud applause from the crowd and a big smile from Safarova when she was able to hold serve for the first and only time in the tenth game of the match.
Safarova, much like Samantha Stosur on Saturday, was not too upset over her defeat to Williams. "You kind of still try to fight, to dig in and wait for opportunity if it opens to the match. But today Serena was really on her top. She was killing everything, and it's just how it is in tennis. She's a champion. She's a great player and she deserved to win. She was better," Safarova said.
Two breadsticks and two bagels were served Saturday to the two losing singles semifinalists. It took barely two hours in total for Serena Williams to defeat Samantha Stosur, 6-1, 6-1, and for Lucie Safarova to beat Polona Hercog, 6-0, 6-0.
Williams crossed the $35 million threshold for career prize money with her win over Stosur on Saturday. She was already at the top of the All-Time Prize money list going into the match.
One of the reasons Williams played so well, according to her post-match interview, was because she has a lot of respect for Stosur's game. "She has a Grand Slam under her belt, and she beat me in the final of that and played unbelievable, but I think when you're playing someone like her, you have to play well or you're going to lose," Williams said.
Friday's singles quarterfinals featured five former Family Circle Cup champions: Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, Samantha Stosur, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
Finish What We Started
On Friday, the temperature dropped 30 degrees Fahrenheit from Thursday, leaving conditions very cold and cloudy for most of the quarterfinals action. Stosur and Galina Voskoboeva began the days plat, continuing their third round match, which was delayed due to thunderstorms Thursday night. Stosur maintained her break advantage in the first set and managed an early break in the second set. The Australian then had a break point to go up 4-1 in the second set, but Voskoboeva managed to hold, causing a shift in the match. Voskoboeva started playing with more confidence and hitting more winners while Stosur began playing more tentatively. Stosur regained her form in the third set, however, and returned to serving well and finishing points at the net, winning the set, and match, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
After his semifinal win, John Isner said he had found his confidence and did not want to let it go, but Isner might have lost his newfound confidence already after losing a second straight Atlanta final to Mardy Fish after being up a set and a break.
Isner had a chance to close out the match in the second set tiebreak when leading 5-1, and then 6-4, with two championship points. Fish said about being match point down, “When you’re in that position, it’s almost over. I played some good points. I don’t think he missed any first serves there. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play.”
Isner also had two break points at 2-3 in the third set to get back on serve, but Fish was able to hold and pulled away with the match to win 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-2. Fish said of the match, “I didn’t necessarily change anything tactically. I took care of my serve games a little bit better once I lost serve in the first game of the second.” Fish also said, “I played a good third set, but I was lucky to win the second set. I felt like I played better and better throughout the match.” This is Fish’s sixth ATP World Tour title.
Saturday’s Semifinal between John Isner and Gilles Muller was reminiscent of their second round match last year with both men very dominant on their own serve. The only thing that separated the two in the first set was Isner’s break of Muller’s serve on a double fault at 5-5. Isner had two break points, again at 5-5 in the second set but was not able to capitalize. The American played a poor tiebreak, which Muller won 7-3. After the match, Isner said he did not panic after losing the second set and that he felt he returned well in the third. He won 80 percent of Muller’s second serve points in the third set to take the match, 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-1, and make his second straight Atlanta final.
Isner also said that the difference between the beginning of the year, when he had a string of losses, and the last few weeks (during which he won a title in Newport) is that he feels like his confidence is back. “It’s not so much something I’ve been working on in practice, it’s something simple like confidence. I’m not the fastest mover but I feel like I’ve been moving well this week and that comes from having a clear head and making the right decisions on the court. I’ve been waiting for this feeling for four or five months now and now that I’ve got it I don’t want to let it go.”
Isner said that he feels more rested for the final this year than last year because last year he was playing in the Doubles Semifinal after playing the Singles Semifinal.
Out of Sync
Yen-Hsun Lu had a great start to his Quarterfinal match against John Isner with a break point in the first game, but after failing to break, Lu had a difficult time staying in the rallies and reading Isner’s serve in their first meeting. At one point the second set where Lu failed again to return one of Isner’s serves, he let out an annoyed sigh and shrugged his shoulders. Isner only served eight aces for the match, but he only lost four points on his first serve on his way to a 6-1, 6-2 victory, in 56 minutes. Isner acknowledged that his opponent did not play his best, but he still felt he played a solid match himself and was happy to win quickly. Isner is on a seven-match winning streak after winning in Newport last week.
Isner said his last two matches this year are very similar to his path to the Final last year, where he had a long three-setter followed by a quick Quarterfinal. Isner will meet Gilles Muller, who defeated Kevin Anderson 7-6(3), 7-6(3), in a semifinal rematch of their second-round encounter last year, where Isner won in a third-set tiebreak.
The Thursday afternoon temperature was over 100 degrees with high humidity and the air felt like a sauna. Ryan Harrison and Xavier Malisse did not play inspired tennis during the midday heat. In the first set, Malisse threw his racquet after he surrendered a break lead in the first set. In an “anything you can do, I can do better” scenario, Harrison yelled and also threw his racquet in frustration, and was given a warning for obscene language when he was down 0-4 in the first set tiebreak. Harrison angrily asked the Chair Umpire, “What does ‘freak’ mean?” Then, he asked the crowd if he shouted a curse word to which they laughed and shouted that he did not. Harrison did not immediately recover from his outburst and lost the first set, 7-6(3). Malisse played one sloppy game to lose serve, and the second set, 6-4. The match was then suspended due to lightning and then rain at 2-1 on serve in the third set.
After a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay, Malisse and Harrison came back on court and traded breaks. The rain delay obviously did not cool their tempers since they started to argue with each other during the changeover at 3-2. After the match, Harrison took the diplomatic approach and said it was all in the heat of the moment and that what happens on the court stays on the court. He would not elaborate on what was said between him and Malisse. Both players are notorious for sometimes showing volatile natures on court, which created a perfect storm here in their first meeting on the ATP World Tour. After their brief argument, Malisse continued to mutter to himself but Harrison managed to calm down and used the crowd support to win, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4.