by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – All systems were go yesterday at the Rotterdam tournament. With “oohs” and “aahs” echoing around the large arena, the crowd were treated to four exciting quarterfinal matches, which saw Berdych, Del Potro, Federer and Davydenko all make it through to the semi final stages.
First up was the cool as ice Tomas Berdych who beat Italian Andreas Seppi in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. After playing only three games against an injured Marcos Baghdatis (who retired due to experiencing problems with his calf muscle in the previous round), the tall Czech looked as fresh as a cucumber and ready for action.
It was all plain sailing for the second seed who comfortably took the first set 6-3 and broke again early in the second set with roaring topspin backhands that pushed Seppi back off the baseline onto his back foot.
A slight lapse in concentration by Berdych allowed Seppi back into the set after breaking during the fourth game, but at 3-3 the T-Berd regained his composure and consequentially broke again, before taking the second set 6-4.
The second match involved world No.10 Juan Martín Del Potro who floored Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-1 in his quarterfinal appearance. Throughout the first set, the Argentine hit very few unforced errors and did not allow Troicki into the set, bagelling him 6-0.
The second set served up much of the same as Troicki only managed to steal one game and had no answer to the power play of the third seed. Del Potro looked well adjusted to the slow speed and low bounces of the court and had adapted his game with prowess accordingly. Del Potro sailed through to the semis and has booked a mouth-watering contest with secondseed Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
Despite leading the head-to-head 2-1, Del Potro played down his chances against the Czech in his press conference:
“I think he could be the favourite. He has the better ranking.”
The opening evening match drew in full capacity crowds to watch world No.3 Roger Federer take centre stage against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. There was very little between them as they traded powerful rallies and after two close sets, Federer booked his place into the semi finals with a tight 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory.
Nieminen demonstrated how comfortable he was to go toe to toe against the 16-time Grand Slam champion and did not succumb to Federer’s steely determination until the eleventh game of the match. The champion of the Apia International in Sydney found himself squandering a 40-0 game to being break point down after firing untimely unforced errors. The Finn hit a backhand long and Federer readily accepted the break before serving it out 7-5.
The second set remained equally close, as Nieminen did not appear disheartened after the disappointment of a close first set. The crowd watched in amazement after a Federer unforced error such as the expectation for the Swiss to weave his magic and win every point.
They did not have to wait long as the top seed spun his web and snatched the victory comfortably in the second set tiebreak after a flurry of perfectly executed cross court forehands proved to be unassailable for the 30 year old Finn. To the delight of the crowd, Federer rallied through to the semi finals 7-5, 7-6 (1).
“You have to give Jarkko credit too, he played aggressive on both the forehands and backhands. He took every second serve of mine on the rise.”
The final quarterfinal match of the day involved Russian Nikolay Davydenko who caused an upset by beating fifth seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.
The first set was all swings and roundabouts as it was the Frenchman who had the early break at the start, but fought back only to be broken again as Gasquet served to take the opening set 5-3. Astonishing groundstrokes from the Russian prevent the fifth seed from securing the set and surprisingly it was the unseeded Russian who took the first set 7-5.
Davydenko continued his surge during the second set and broke Gasquet a further two times before wrapping up proceedings 6-3. He will now face top seed Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday.
Quarterfinals day was also busy for another legend – Boris “I was quite a famous guy too” Becker. He arrived at the arena on Friday and greeted the centre court crowd after he held a jovial press conference with the media during his promotion of Mercedes Benz, a company he has been sponsored by for over 15 years. During the conference, the tennis legend joked about pop stars in tennis and discussed one of the greatest debates rattling the lockers: the schedule.
In a modern Tour that is plagued with scheduling issues Becker believes that Roger Federer has remained a positive, dominant force:
“The question about Roger is ‘is he ever going to get back to world No.1?’ I don’t think that should be the main focus. I think we are all happy that we have him around. Whether he is No.2 or No.3 in the world, that doesn’t matter. “
But what we all know what really matters to Roger at this moment – winning this tournament and fulfilling what he came to do.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews
The Open GDF Suez WTA event in Paris saw seeded players Na Li and Jelena Jankovic both withdraw due to injuries today: Li with a sore back and Jankovic with a left thigh strain she picked up in Serbia’s 3-2 win over Belgium in the Fed Cup last week.
Li received a medical timeout, with a trainer massaging her lower back, before playing a few more points and eventually retiring after trailing in the second set to Tsvetana Pironkova.
“It was so painful,” Li said. “That’s why I called the physio to come to the court. I tried to tape and then tried to play the point, but it didn’t work. I’ll go to the hospital to take an MRI to see what happened.”
“I hurt myself in the Fed Cup at the weekend,” elaborated Li. “It had gotten better since and this morning it didn’t hurt. But the stab of pain returned, very strong and I couldn’t continue. I don’t know if it’s because of the Fed Cup, maybe I’m getting old as well,” added Li, who turns 30 later this month.
Likewise, Jankovic picked up her injury while playing Fed Cup against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium last week and wasn’t able to heal in time to play in Paris.
“I had hoped that after treatment I could still play here but unfortunately it’s impossible,” said Jankovic. “Australia (Open) and the Fed Cup and then here, that’s a lot. But it’s important for me to play for my country… I don’t know when I will be able to resume playing but I don’t regret having played in the Fed Cup.”
Although the third and fourth seeds are gone, the tournament still has it’s top two marquee players scheduled to play, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.
Other winners include sixth seed Julia Goerges who dispatched of Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-3, while ninth-seed Angelique Kerber defeated Lucie Safarova 6-2, 7-6. Chanelle Scheepers defeated Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-2. Qualifier Mona Barthel easily dispensed of Barbara Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-2, while Petra Cetkovska defeated Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-3.
Catch all the great action our photographer Rick Gleijm caught during the first round main draw matches today! And make sure to check out his feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”
Stay tuned all week for full coverage in Paris and catch Rick at the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week!