Mercedes Cup

ATP Stuttgart: Kohlschreiber to Take on Fognini in Final; Mercedes Cup to Switch to Grass

(July 13, 2013) Another sunny and hot day in Stuttgart began with a fully-packed program off the courts.

In the morning, the organizers of the Mercedes Cup presented their “Vision 2015”, the year when the tournament’s surface will switch from clay to grass. Themed by “Mercedes Cup serves green”, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony took place with tournament director Edwin Weindorfer along local politicians, sponsors, guests like Boris Becker and Toni Nadal as well as officials from the ATP and the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, which supports the replacement at the venue with their know-how during the coming years.

Ground breaking Ground breaking II“We were delighted when Stuttgart came very fast out of blocks in terms of expressing their interest in converting the tournament here from clay to grass,” said the club’s Chairman, Philip Brook. “We are very excited as Stuttgart will be a very important tournament ahead of the All England Championships.”

The Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart has been the only candidate so far, where the ATP accepted the tender for the new calendar structure featuring a three weeks grass court season before Wimbledon. Other applicants like the tournaments in Gstaad and Umag have to readjust their candidature.

Laurent Delanney of the ATP congratulated the tournament on their decision: “I think it is a great success for Stuttgart and the fans!” Right after the end of this year’s edition of the Mercedes Cup the alteration work on the first three courts will start.

Delanney CEO ATP EuropeAnother off-court highlight was a tennis practice session for kids on Centre Court under the special direction of Toni Nadal and Andrea Petkovic.

Practice session with Petkovic & NadalThe Spanish coach has attended the entire week here in Stuttgart to take part in a project called “Making of a Wimbledon Champion.” Moreover, a junior tournament took place with a couple of German youngsters in which the 18-year-old Maximilian Marterer took the title. Properly more important for him is the fact that he will be granted a wild card for the 2015 grass court premiere of the tournament.

In match play, the first contest of the day took place between Fabio Fognini and Roberto Bautista-Agut. The Italian, who knocked out top-seed Tommy Haas in the round before, played his 11th career ATP World Tour semi-final of which he only reached three previous finals.

Bautista-Agut played his second career semi-final after reaching the stage of the last four in Chennai earlier this year. Today, both players made a nervous start and the match began with three breaks in a row. Fognini, however, managed to find his rhythm quickly. The Italian had better length in his shots, put more variety in his groundstrokes and became the more dominant player throughout the match.

Fognini gained two more breaks in the fifth and seventh game to close the first set out after 22 minutes. Bautista on the other hand remained to be an unforced error machine in the second frame as well. Consequently the 25-year-old Spaniard lost his first service game and was only able to hold one after 35 minutes in the fourth game of the second set. It was the time when you might have thought that this could work as a wake-up-call for Bautista, as he could gain the break back in the seventh game but still couldn’t stabilise his play in general. Most of the time Fognini just needed to keep the ball in play to win the rallies.

The 26-year-old Italian broke serve in the eighth game to close the match out winning 6-1, 6-3 after 55 minutes. Fognini has joined his countryman Andrea Gaudenzi as only the second Italian to reach the final in Stuttgart since 1994.

FogniniAfter the encounter, Fognini was understandably happy. “During the first days it was difficult with the transition from grass to clay court but I improved day by day,” said the Italian. “Today, I think I played very solid and I hope to play like this in tomorrow’s final.”

He also told his thoughts about playing on grass here in two years time. “It’s strange and I can’t really imagine it by now. When you have a look around everything is red but when I come back in two years it will be on grass and that’s ok, as I like the courts and the hospitality.”

Fognini IIHe also enjoyed playing in front of the German crowd, which seems to like his style of play and supports him, but he was quick to note his next opponent’s advantage. “If I play Kohlschreiber in tomorrow’s final, I think it will change but nonetheless I hope that I can finally win my first title on the Tour”.

In tomorrow’s final Fognini will have to face the German. Philipp Kohlschreiber broke a five-match losing streak against Gael Monfils yesterday and continued his success today defeating Victor Hanescu in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

In front of a fully packed centre court with 4,200 spectators, the 29-year-old from Augsburg showed a consistent baseline game, broke his opponent’s service in the fifth and ninth game of the opening set. In the following game, Kohlschreiber had to fight harder and it became an even encounter when Hanescu played up his game.

In the end it was the second seed, who gained the decisive break in the eighth game to eventually close the match out after 80 minutes of play. Kohlschreiber becomes the first German to reach the final in Stuttgart after Tommy Haas did so in 1999.

KohlschreiberKohlschreiber was glad that he was able to stick to his game tactic. “I played aggressively with a lot of spin in my shots,” said the German after his win. “That’s what (Hanescu) obviously didn’t like. I’m really satisfied with my performance today and that I could win the decisive points.”

About his opponent in the final he added, “Fognini has played a strong season so far this year, in particular on clay where he reached the semis in Monte Carlo amongst others. I think there will be no favourite in tomorrow’s final.”

Kohlschreiber also mentioned the Mercedes for the champion with a smile, “Maybe the possibility of winning the car might be the right incentive for me.”

In the second doubles semi-final Facundo Bagnis & Tomaz Bellucci defeated Dustin Brown & Paul Hanley winning 6-7, 6-4, 10-6 after one hour and thirty minutes of play.

Bagnis & Bellucci

Florian’s Travels: Haas, Paire Fall in Stuttgart; Fognini Thru

Centre Court

(July 13, 2013) Four of the five top seeds, including three Germans, were in action at Friday’s quarterfinals at the 35th edition of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

In the first match of a beautiful sunny day at the Weissenhof Club, two unseeded players met each other for the first time. Roberto Bautista-Agut faced Michael Berrer, who was born in Stuttgart and entered the tournament by a wild card. The German played aggressively right from the beginning and tried to find his way to the net as often as possible. The Spaniard needed some time to respond to the attacking style of his opponent.

Bautista Agut

In the sixth game Bautista broke Berrer’s serve for the first time when he hit some nice passing shots. With another break in the eighth game, the Spaniard took the opening set 6-2 after just 29 minutes. During the changeover, Berrer took a medical time-out and received some treatment to his left elbow and arm. This seemed to help the German break serve in the first game of the second set, but that’s where his luck ended.

After this short feeling of success, however, Berrer was forced to retire.

“I felt pain in my elbow when I was serving and so it was useless to go on,” explained Berrer in his press conference. “Yesterday, I noticed it for the first time and I got treatment but this morning I could hardly brush my teeth.”

Berrer

For the tournament’s local player, it was bitter decision.

“There were so many people here in Stuttgart who wanted to see me play,” Berrer continued. “I could have given at least seventeen tickets away to friends. This also means that I’m out for the qualification in Hamburg but I hope that it will be better in four to five days.”

Berrer also had to withdraw from his scheduled doubles semifinal with his partner Andreas Beck thereby giving their opponents, Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk, a walkover into the final on Sunday.

In the second match of the day, Victor Hanescu extended his head-to-head advantage against tournament No. 4 seed, Benoit Paire to 4-0. The Romanian won the encounter after 71 minutes with a score of 7-5, 6-2.

Hanescu

The Frenchman lost an even opening set when he faced his first break points of the match, and let it get away from him. As a consequence and in typical Paire style, the Frenchman hit the ball clear out of center court, also giving him an expected warning by the chair umpire.

Paire never really recovered from that and lost his service in the fourth game of the second set with a double fault. From then on the “Big Paire-show” began in terms of moaning, complaining and even smashing his racket, which meant the 24-year-old was given a point penalty.

After the match, Hanescu admitted that it might have been the key to his win that he stayed focused during Paire’s tantrums — when he wasn’t really sure about what was going on, on the other side of the net. The Romanian added: “Sometimes I wasn’t really sure if he was playing on or just making show.”

In the afternoon, it was time for the marquee match of the day which featured top seed Tommy Haas against No. 5 seed Fabio Fognini.

Given that Tommy Haas’ manager, Edwin Weindorfer, is also the Mercedes Cup’s tournament director, it was no surprise to find the German’s face plastered on every poster, t-shirt and cap.

Tommymania

On an almost fully packed center court, the 35-year-old Haas appeared in his ninth ATP World Tour quarterfinal of the year facing Fognini for the first time. The Italian had a great start and began to hit some nice backhand winners. The German veteran was under pressure in every service game. Consequently, he lost his serve in the third and seventh games, allowing Fognini to close the set out in only 31 minutes.

Fognini

Seven minutes later Haas gained his first break point of the match but couldn’t capitalize on it. So it was the fifth-seeded Italian again who got the break in the seventh game. Fognini served the match out 6-2, 6-4 after 74 minutes and finished the “Haas-hype” in Stuttgart.

“It wasn’t my best day for sure,” said a calm Haas after the encounter. “I tried to find a rhythm and I fought for that. There were also some unlucky calls today. It is always difficult with the umpires on clay. I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go on for me here in Stuttgart.”

Haas II

Haas will next play at the German Open in Hamburg and also revealed what he did with the car he won earlier this year at the BMW Open in Munich: “I sold it!” Luckily for Haas, he won’t have the problem of finding a buyer for the tournament winner’s car this time, a Mercedes.

All the German hopes have now switched to Philipp Kohlschreiber, the last remaining German left. The second-seed held a 1-8 career head-to-head disadvantage against Gael Monfils, but today the German was able to improve this stat.

Monfils

Kohlschreiber gained two breaks in the third and seventh games of the first set, and Monfils could only get one back. The Frenchman then had the chance to even the set at 5-5, but the German ended up serving out the set after 38 minutes.

Kohlschreiber

The second set became a copy of the first, with Kohlschreiber again up two breaks up. He eventually sealed victory after 70 minutes, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ever semifinal in Stuttgart.

Check back Saturday and Sunday for full semifinal and final coverage from Stuttgart!