by Kevin Craig
Juan Martin del Potro continued his impressive run at Wimbledon on Friday, knocking out the No. 4 seed and two-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3, to enter the third round.
“I feel alive,” said del Potro after his impressive win.
Del Potro, the former world No. 4 and 2009 US Open champion, used a protected ranking to get into the main draw due to the various wrist injuries and procedures he has dealt with over the past few years.
Three separate left wrist operations left the Argentine out of the major tournaments for the past two years, but he has returned with a vengeance and looks like he is already reclaiming that status as a perennial threat to win major titles.
“It’s an amazing sensation for me. I was so happy on court,” said del Potro, who will take on the No. 32 seed Lucas Pouille of France in the third round.
Del Potro, currently ranked No. 165, got off to a shaky start, allowing Wawrinka to break in just his second service game of the match for a 3-1 lead. The first set was straightforward from there as both players looked to gain confidence throughout, especially del Potro, who was able to have a look at two break points when Wawrinka served for the set, but could not capitalize on them.
The 2009 US Open champion carried that momentum over into the second set, breaking Wawrinka at the same stage that the Suisse broke him in the first set, in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Wawrinka pressured del Potro late in the set, but the Argentine held his nerve to level the match at one-set all.
The third set saw an early exchange of breaks as del Potro broke first for a 2-1 lead but fell into a 0-40 hole in his next service game and was unable to battle back, getting broken at 15. Neither player had any chances on return as the set needed a tiebreak to be decided. From 2-2, del Potro reeled off four points in a row for a 6-2 lead and didn’t look back, putting himself just one win away from his biggest win since October of 2013 when he was ranked No. 5 and beat then No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Shanghai.
Each player had their chances in the fourth set, but del Potro was the one capitalizing on big points. After forcing Wawrinka to deuce in two of his first three service games of the set, del Potro earned a break point late and converted it to take a 5-3 lead. There were no issues for the Argentine in serving out the match as he held to 15 for the win.
“I’m enjoying tennis again. I don’t know if I can be in the top positions again, but if not, I will be happy just to be playing tennis again,” said an emotional del Potro.
Looking forward to his third round encounter with Pouille, del Potro said “I don’t know if I will be tired or not because I just finished my biggest match after my comeback, but I will try to be ready for that challenge.”
With the top two seeded players, Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, out of their section of the draw, Pouille and del Potro will be looking to continue their journeys at Wimbledon and take advantage of an opened up portion of the draw.
by Kevin Craig
Juan Martin del Potro made a winning return to Wimbledon on Tuesday as he defeated Frenchman Stephane Robert, 6-1, 7-5, 6-0.
Del Potro was in complete control of the match from the get go, breaking Robert in four of his first five service games, and having a look at three break points in the one game that he did not break. That, combined with a few easy holds, allowed the Argentine to cakewalk to a first set win before having to battle in the second.
After splitting breaks in the first two games, there were almost no opportunities on return for either player until the 12th game in which del Potro, who lost just four points on his first serve throughout the match, was able to break and win the set.
That break was the first of four consecutive for the 27-year old as he only dropped one point on serve in the third set to bagel Robert and close out the match in comprehensive fashion.
“To be honest, I feel my forehands and serves are working well at the moment. But my confidence is not there yet,” said del Potro, who hit 20 forehand winners and zero on the backhand side.
While Robert may be ranked just No. 79 in the world, he has racked up impressive results in 2016, and the way that del Potro was able to dispatch the journeyman was a confidence boost for the former No. 4 player in the world, but he is still making sure to look at the bigger picture.
“This is my comeback after three years. I’m expecting to be better in the future, but for this year my challenge is to finish healthy and ready to make a good preparation for the next year.”
Del Potro, who last played at the All England Club in 2013 when he reached the semifinals of Wimbledon, has had to deal with a plethora of problems with his wrist that have required three separate operations, sidetracking what had the potential to be one of the greatest careers of all-time.
“I was close to quit tennis in the end of last year, but now…I’m enjoying tennis again. I’m starting to talk about tennis and no more about my wrist. That’s important,” said del Potro.
His appearance at Wimbledon this year is his first at a major since the 2014 Australian Open. Of course, his most notable result at a major is his US Open title in 2009 in which he beat Roger Federer in an epic five-setter, but he did have a great amount of success at the majors throughout his career before injuries hit, including two semifinal and five quarterfinal appearances, which allowed him to reach a career high ranking of No. 4 in 2010 and finish the season in the Top 5 twice.
Del Potro has already successfully come back from an issue with his wrist as he was sidelined in early 2010. He was unable to defend his US Open crown and fell to a year-end ranking of No. 257, before impressively climbing back to No. 11 in 2011, re-solidifying his position at the top of the game.
Unfortunately, injuries returned in early 2014, limiting del Potro’s play to just a few tournaments in recent years, and he is looking to make a second successful comeback.
“I’m working hard mentally because I have to deal with some pains and some frustrations,” said del Potro.
After playing just two tournaments in 2015, the Argentine has been able to play seven events coming into Wimbledon this year and has surprised himself with how much success he is having as he was able to reach the semifinals in Delray Beach and Stuttgart.
“This year is completely different for myself and I am enjoying tennis a lot,” said del Potro.
The 2009 US Open champ will take on the two-time major champ in Stan Wawrinka in his second round match in what is sure to be a blockbuster.
Juan Martin del Potro made his return to tennis last month in Delray Beach, Florida after an 11-month absence due to recurring wrist problems. While he didn’t win the tournament, which nobody, not even himself, should have expected, he came out of the event with a very positive outlook and is eager to continue his progression towards playing full time on the ATP World Tour again.
In his post-match press conference after his loss to Sam Querrey in the semifinals of the ATP 250 event, del Potro was clearly disappointed, yet still exclaimed his satisfaction with the overall result he came up with this week. Beating a Top 30 player, a promising young American, and an inspired qualifier en route to the semifinals in Delray Beach were all impressive results for the Argentinian in his return event. While Denis Kudla and Jeremy Chardy didn’t play their best tennis in their matches against del Potro, it was still an impressive feat for him to knock out two Top 70 players in his first live match action since Miami in 2015.
In the loss to Querrey, the American was able to dominant his service games and crush the ball from anywhere on the court, forcing del Potro to move around and hit more backhands than he would have liked. The American only lost nine points on serve throughout the match and didn’t have to face a single break point, allowing him to relax on del Potro’s service games and apply pressure. The pressure built up at the latter stages of both sets, allowing Querrey to break at 5-5 in both sets, giving him the 7-5, 7-5 win. Querrey’s high level of play in the match can give del Potro some relief as it was arguably the best match that Querrey had played all week.
Despite the loss, Del Potro stated in his post-match press conference that he felt as if he had “won more than a tournament,” a sign that he is more than happy with where his game currently is. The 2009 US Open champion confirmed that he will be accepting a wild card to play in the masters level event in Indian Wells, and is well aware of what he needs to work on to improve his game before then.
The competition in Indian Wells surely will most likely be tougher than what del Potro came across in Delray Beach, and will possibly give a better test as to where he truly is with his game. While the entire tennis world is glad to have one of the best players in the world back on tour, no one is happier that del Potro is back on the court than del Potro himself, stating that he is “so glad to play tennis again.” After both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches, he expressed how tired he was, but his happiness could not be hidden behind his exhaustion.
Del Potro stated that he has “many positive things to take from” his experience in Delray Beach as he looks forward to continuing to take the next steps in his comeback.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Argentine Juan Martin del Potro returned to Washington, D.C. after a three year hiatus to claim his third Citi Open title against American John Isner, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. (Finals gallery at bottom)
“It’s amazing, I’m so happy to win here once again,” the 24-year-old stated after the final. “When you win a tournament its special, its big. After Wimbledon to be my first time on hard court it means a lot. I am looking forward to Montreal, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open. It gives me a lot of confidence to keep trying and get closer to the top guys.”
The soft-spoken Argentine struggled returning Isner’s solid serves and baseline shots in the first set, and realized that he needed to step further back out of the court in order to play his own game. He then kept Isner to only one ace per set for the remaining two sets.
Though disappointed, the American didn’t take the loss hard. After playing nine matches in eleven days, Isner admitted that his body wasn’t as fresh as he’d like it to be.
“I was a little tired out there,” said Isner. “It was one of those things where my body felt fine but my legs weren’t quite there. I wish I felt a little bit better out there but at the same time I could have been a 100% and still could have not won that match. That just speaks on how good he is. He was better today and my hats off to him. He was the better player.”
When asked about where Del Potro stacks up to the current top four ATP players, without hesitation, Isner praised the Argentine’s game, saying he was just a hair behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and the third favorite to win the U.S. Open.
In Del Potro’s press conference, he was told what Isner had commented regarding his chances at this month’s Slam, and the Argentine almost looked embarrassed, sweetly and sincerely returning the favor.
“He’s going to be a favorite too, for sure,” Del Potro said. “On the hard court, Isner is really good player. His game is improving day by day. He has a good advantage to take the opportunities to go farther.”
In the women’s singles final, Magdalena Rybarikova successfully defended her title defeating a newly-healthy Andrea Petkovic, 6-4, 7-6(2). On court, the Slovakian called Washington, D.C. “home” after never having lost a match on the surface, and admitted it was not an easy run.
“This year when I saw the draw I thought, ‘Yeah, this is going to be very tough,'” Rybarikova said. “I would have been happy to make the quarterfinals and play Kerber. But every match I was playing better and better, then I beat Kerber, which was a huge win for me. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Petkovic meanwhile reached her second final of the year after Nurnberg and feels her game is in a better place.
“It was a pretty good week – all in all I’m quite satisfied,” Petkovic said. “I would have loved to win the title here to really feel like I’ve completely come back, but I’m really okay. She played really well.”
“Magda was really stepping up her game, not missing a lot and not giving me many free points. It was a really difficult match but all the credit to her, she really deserved to win the title today.”
In the men’s doubles final, the duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau won their second doubles title as a team against Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek.
“It feels really great to win such a big tournament,” said Zimonjic. “It’s a 500 series, and not just that, it was a really strong field. It didn’t have easy matches here. Very good teams played. To come after a long break, to come this strong and win the tournament without losing a set is really the best way you want to come back to the tour.”
“It was a lot of fun for both of us to play. We had a great time here on the court, off the court, and hopefully this will help us for the upcoming three tournaments that we’ll play.”
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Super Saturday at the Citi Open saw John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro defeat their respective opponents, Dmitry Tursunov and Tommy Haas to reach the men’s singles final. Andrea Petkovic also defeated Alize Cornet and will meet Magdalena Rybarikova in the women’s final.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Set against the backdrop of downtown Washington, D.C., this week’s Citi Open has brought some of tennis’ most recognizable names to the tournament, including Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Haas and the youngest player in the women’s draw, 17-year-old newcomer and American Taylor Townsend.
It was a full schedule on tap with both men’s singles semifinals set on stadium court, along with one women’s semifinal and one men’s doubles semifinal. The rest, including the women’s doubles final, was scheduled on the first grandstand court.
There has been some discussion in player press conferences this week regarding scheduling differences between the men’s and women’s draws, and how the women are not being scheduled as equally on stadium court. It seems though that most players understand why. The men’s event is a 500-level while the women’s is a lower-tiered International-level, and several players — including females — commented that men tend to bring a bigger draw and whoever the tournament believes would be a bigger draw will be the match scheduled on stadium court. Logical enough but still questionable reasoning on some level.
That being said, the men’s doubles semifinal between the pairing of Julien Benneteau and Nenad Zimonjic against University of Virginia alumni and Citi Open defending champions Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot, took precedence over the women’s doubles final between 2012 Junior Wimbledon Girls’ Doubles champions Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend and Shuko Aoyama and Vera Dushevina.
In front of a decent-sized crowd, the first-time partnering of Aoyama and Dushevina were crowned champions in women’s doubles.
After the match, the only ones called into press were the runners-up, Bouchard and Townsend, as the media room was mostly empty and at the men’s doubles match. The winners gave no press conference.
With her longer history on tour than her counterpart, Bouchard was visibly disappointed in the presser but still sincere in answering questions. Townsend, on the other hand, looked as if she was on cloud nine. She seemed to have just been excited to reach a pro final and was relishing the moment despite the quick loss. I asked her about the contrast in the presence of young players on tour between the men’s and women’s side and she gave an insightful and rather mature answer.
“I think it’s a lot different for the men than the women,” Townsend replied.”The men mature at an older age and we mature younger. So I think it’s a lot easier for us — at a young age — to hang with the older players because our bodies mature faster. The men are so strong and it takes them a few more years to get caught up to that level, especially to get into that top shape.”
As the first men’s doubles semifinal started between top American John Isner and a newly-resurgent Dmitry Tursunov on stadium court at 3:00pm to looming clouds, doubles partners Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra (and his youngest son, Teo!) took to the practice courts.
As the Bulgarian stretched, a shirtless Llodra kicked a soccer ball around with his 6-year-old son. All week, the youngster could be spotted on the tennis court hitting some impressive shots and his soccer head-butting and kicking skills didn’t disappoint. After Dimitrov finished his stretching, he jumped into the mini-soccer game and ended up losing — happily obliging to do push-ups on court as the loser.
Heading onto stadium court for Isner-Tursunov, the first set was dead even, and ended up going to a tiebreak. Four exchanges of serve and some patience by the Russian and he got the unexpected upper hand, taking the first set. Tursunov diminished his double faults count from his matches earlier this week, and ran Isner laterally until the American hit long or into the net. On several occasions, Tursunov bullied the American’s backhand before pulling the trigger forcing Isner into an error with a running forehand.
During the changeover, sprinkles began falling but the players decided to continue on without any exchanges with chair umpire Magdi Somat. As the drops increased in intensity during the first game, Isner had a break point on Tursunov’s serve and slipped, slamming a forehand into the net. Instinctively, Isner yelled in the umpire’s general direction and Tursunov had also already began walking towards the chair. Play was called and the players taken inside as the 80-minute rain delay began.
Isner gets break point then nets FH. Yells, “WHY are we playing right now?! I’m NOT playing!” Magdi calls play, players go inside.
— Romi Cvitkovic (@RomiCvitkovic) August 3, 2013
At around 5:00pm, Juan Martin del Potro made an appearance on the practice courts to packed stands on court one. As play was suspended, fans still had the opportunity to enjoy a light hit by the Argentine for about 30 minutes.
Play shortly resumed on stadium court and after breaking Tursunov to go up 4-1, the American took the second set 6-3. The baseline play among both players was incredible to watch. After so many matches between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, you forget how powerful (and consistent and precise) other men on tour can hit, and the two held some extended jaw-dropping rallies. In the end, the American broke Tursunov again to take the final set, 6-4.
Walking back to the media center, I heard loud cheers coming from grandstand court and realized that the other men’s doubles semifinal went on at the same time as the singles match on stadium. That’s one of the problems with a rain delay — you don’t quite always get to watch everything you hope to. Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek took out fan favorites, Grigor Dimitrov and Michael Llodra, and with that, the Citi Open crowds will have American men in both the men’s singles and doubles finals. On the opposite side of the grounds on grandstand court two, women’s semifinalist Andrea Petkovic was practicing in front of a small group of fans.
At 7:20pm, Isner walked into press with ice on both knees for precautionary reasons. He’s one of the few to constantly have ice on some joint on his body so it’s not so much a surprise anymore.
Ten minutes later, the Isner presser was completed, and as we looked to the TV in the media center, we saw that Tommy Haas had just broken Juan Martin del Potro to go up 3-1 — a bit of early trouble for the two-time tournament champion.
Without much of a breather, Tursunov commenced his low-key presser, where he analyzed his loss but felt there really weren’t any holes in his game. A pretty fair analysis as he never once held break point, but stayed in the match much of the time.
As I prepared to go out and finally watch the Del Potro – Haas match, I realized the score was frozen at 4-1. Of course, another rain delay.
I looked at the live scoreboard and noticed that the women’s semifinal between Magdalena Rybarikova and Ekaterina Makarova was still going on though, and questioned what was going on. Rybarikova went on to win three games in a matter of minutes before play was finally suspended. But I guess the weather can be funny sometimes!
— Kelsey Anderson (@KelseyOAnderson) August 3, 2013
During the nearly three hour rain delay, the illustrious third edition of the “Citi Open Rain Delay Media Spelling Bee” commenced, where contestants had to correctly spell various ATP and WTA player names within the top 200. What started out with eight people in the first few minutes grew to nearly 20 and included photographers, bloggers, long-time wire writers, event staff and even Tour staff. Thanks to gracious contestant Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover, we have footage of Ben Rothenberg’s winning moment, having successfully defended his title from 2012.
The tournament media staff had some fun and sweetly made the winner his own notable trophy. How thoughtful!
The Del Potro – Haas match continued with the Argentine quickly picking up momentum, and later in press admitting that the rain delay helped him. Haas, conversely, came into press and was quite short, stating he was “aggravated and annoyed” during the rain delay and it reflected in his straight set loss, 7-6(4), 6-3.
Despite the lateness of the hour — the men’s semi had finished at 12:15AM — there had been no earlier talk of opening up play of the second women’s semifinal on a third court. Instead, Alize Cornet and Andrea Petkovic were set to follow on whichever court had finished first. Inevitably, organizers seemed to have waited to see if the men’s semi would finish shortly after the first women’s semi would, and they were lucky.
At 12:35AM, the second women’s semi finally took place to a crowd of still several hundred people. The sheer match ups of Cornet and Petkovic’s style could have made this match the highlight of the women’s draw so far, but the lateness of the hour prevented it from reaching grand proportions. However, both ladies impressed with full court-coverage, suspenseful rallies and looked — incredibly enough — quite fresh.
After being down 3-0, then getting broken twice while serving for the set, Petkovic finally took the first set, 7-5. She then made quick work of the French woman, taking it 6-3 in the second and delighting the crowd with her famous “Petko Dance.”
The evening finally ended at an “early” 2:15AM, with the women’s singles final scheduled for exactly 15 hours later. Talk about a quick recovery for both ladies!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thursday at the Citi Open saw two-time champion Juan Martin del Potro, French woman Alize Cornet, defending women’s champion Magdalena Rybarikova, Marinko Matosevic and Sorana Cirstea among the winners. Others in the gallery include Alison Riske, Milos Raonic and more.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With his run to the semifinals of Atlanta last week, and his straight set win over veteran Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open on Tuesday, American Ryan Harrison seems to already be benefitting from a recent coaching switch on his team.
The 21-year-old Louisiana native served up three straight aces in his second service game alone and continued dominating, breaking the Aussie three times to book a second round match up against Juan Martin del Potro.
“It was a good win,” said Harrison. “I felt good out there. I played a really good first set. And then when (Hewitt) fought hard to break me back, I was still able to stay ahead and stay on serve and finally get that break there at 5-all.”
After training at the Austin Tennis Academy, Harrison partnered up full-time with one of it’s lead coaches, Tres Davis, last Fall as the American was looking to take his game to the next level.
The partnership itself seemed to work out for the two who call each other “close friends,” but the results didn’t quite translate onto the court as Harrison most recently fell outside of the top 130.
“Tres and I are close friends,” Harrison spoke candidly to Tennis Grandstand. “He’s been involved, and we still communicate about tennis. But it got to a situation where we had to reevaluate after the first six months of the year. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for my career, just like I want what’s best for my career.”
After deciding to part ways, Harrison brought the head of men’s tennis for the USTA, Jay Berger, back into the coaching team, as well as former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert. The choice was made to train out of the USTA center in Boca Raton, FL where the “competitive crop of guys they have down there was going to be the best situation for me,” commented Harrison.
“Jay and I have always had an extremely close relationship, and been very proactive and involved in my tennis every since I met him really,” he continued. “I had a really good training week down there after I lost in Newport, and played well last week (in Atlanta). And Brad being involved is nothing but beneficial. He’s obviously got an extremely talented mind. I’ve had some advice from him and it’s been nothing but good.”
Given that his recent good form occurred just after his coaching switch, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the two might be correlated.
“You never really know what is going to happen,” said Harrison. “I also was down 1-2 break point in the third set of the first round of Atlanta – those are just moments that could change here and there … (But) I believe that the work I put in that week-and-a-half down in Boca certainly helped out in my Atlanta run and getting a good win here today.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Monday action at the Citi Open took place over five courts, with the last ball being played just before midnight, earning American Melanie Oudin a spot in the second round.
Players roamed, stretched, practice and played all over the grounds, including Angelique Kerber, David Goffin, Steve Johnson, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Dmitry Tursunov, Radek Stepanek, Juan Martin del Potro, Sloane Stephens, Magdalena Rybarikova, Alize Cornet, Bernard Tomic, Tim Smyczek, Eugenie Bouchard, and Taylor Townsend.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
While the WTA divides its action between two coasts this week, the ATP spans the Atlantic Ocean with events on two different continents and surfaces. The 500 tournament in Washington, part of the US Open Series, takes center stage.
Top half: A champion in Washington four years ago, Juan Martin Del Potro holds the top seed at the 2013 edition. The Wimbledon semifinalist hopes to rediscover his torrid form against one of two men who shone in Atlanta. Producing semifinal runs there last week, Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison will square off in one of the most intriguing first-round matches. Nor can Del Potro relax if he survives the winner. A strong grass season, highlighted by a second-week appearance at Wimbledon, will have restored Bernard Tomic’s confidence. Although he continues to cope with controversy surrounding his father, Tomic has plenty of ways to disrupt Del Potro’s rhythm if the Argentine returns rusty from a leg injury. A more straightforward test awaits from Kevin Anderson, seeking his third semifinal in three weeks. Before he meets Del Potro in the quarterfinals, Anderson may find the returning Mardy Fish an opponent worthy of his steel.
If power dominates the top quarter, flair defines much of the second quarter. The flamboyant shot-making of Tommy Haas favors precision over physicality, while the graceful one-handed backhand of Grigor Dimitrov has a vintage appeal. Haas reached the final in Washington last year, perhaps using his training at the Bolletieri Academy in Florida as experience for coping with the humidity. But power never lags far behind in a draw filled with Americans. Sam Querrey will face one of two Atlanta quarterfinalists, Denis Istomin or Santiago Giraldo, in the second round. A contrast of styles would await if Querrey advances to face Dimitrov and then Haas, although a 5-8 record since April leaves a deep run far from guaranteed.
Semifinal: Del Potro vs. Haas
Bottom half: Filled with question marks, the third quarter could produce a surprise semifinalist. The favorite at first glance would seem Milos Raonic, by far the most powerful of the seeds. Raonic’s massive serve could sizzle on a hot hard court, but he has accomplished little since winning yet another San Jose title in February. Neither has fellow seed Nikolay Davydenko, who has struggled historically against possible second-round opponent James Blake. Some of Gilles Simon’s best results have come in North America, including a Miami quarterfinal this spring, and the fifth seed’s steadiness might suffice to ease him past the erratic men around him. Among them is former champion Radek Stepanek, who looks forward to American collegiate star Steve Johnson in his opener.
One might lose sight of defending champion Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth quarter. Not a threat for most of 2013, Dolgopolov faces an arduous route towards a title defense. Home hope John Isner looms in the third round if he can revive his energy after a draining title run in Atlanta. An easier route to the quarterfinals beckons for Kei Nishikori, who won a North American 500 tournament at Memphis this year. Bogota runner-up Alejandro Falla faded quickly in Atlanta, as did American teenage sensation Jack Sock. The clean, balanced baseline game of Nishikori should carry him past either of those opponents, after which a first meeting with Isner could await.
Semifinal: Simon vs. Isner
Final: Del Potro vs. Isner
Top half: An assortment of Europeans and clay specialists have headed to this Austrian event before venturing into the steamy American summer. German top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber aims to move one round further than he did at another clay 250 event. The finalist in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, Kohlschreiber can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Spanish dirt devil Marcel Granollers. This Rome quarterfinalist will welcome the opportunity to erase memories of an epic loss in Gstaad last week. Between them stand Horacio Zeballos of Nadal-defeating fame and Wimbledon surprise Kenny de Schepper, who reached the second week there.
A greater Wimbledon surprise than de Schepper came from Fernando Verdasco, who would not hold the third seed here if not for his quarterfinal appearance at the last major. To his credit, Verdasco parlayed that breakthrough into a strong July, highlighted by victories over Nicolas Almagro, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jerzy Janowicz. An all-lefty matchup against Brazilian clay specialist Thomaz Bellucci should not detain him for long en route to a rematch of the Bastad final. At that Swedish tournament, Verdasco fell to Carlos Berlocq, who faces an extremely challenging assignment as the fifth seed. Days after defeating Federer, the ominous Daniel Brands sets his sights on the Bastad champion. Also in this deep section is Robin Haase, arriving from a series of morale-boosting wins in Gstaad.
Semifinal: Granollers vs. Verdasco
Bottom half: A week of mixed omens for Albert Montanes in Umag included an upset over world No. 9 Richard Gasquet and a tight loss to Gasquet’s compatriot Gael Monfils. Twice a semifinalist on clay already this summer, Victor Hanescu finds himself on a collision course with Montanes, who won a clay title in Nice just before Roland Garros. The winner should feel confident heading into the quarterfinals, although home hope Jurgen Melzer will have most of the audience behind him. Melzer reached the second week of Wimbledon but has lost five consecutive clay matches dating back to Monte Carlo.
Arguably the softest section, the base of the Kitzbuhel draw lies at the mercy of second seed Juan Monaco. This recent member of the top 10 has shown altogether too much mercy in 2013, helplessly watching his ranking decline. All the same, Monaco has produced at least somewhat respectable tennis this summer on clay, his best surface. Three qualifiers and a wildcard offer little competition, so any challenge would need to come from one of two Spaniards. While Daniel Gimeno-Traver has struggled on clay this year, Roberto Bautista-Agut retired last week in Gstaad. Monaco thus looks safe unless he implodes, admittedly not unthinkable.
Semifinal: Montanes vs. Monaco
Final: Verdasco vs. Montanes