October 31, 2009
If you are/were an Agassi fan more excepts released from his book may have you feeling worse about the 8 time Grand Slam champion. As we reported earlier this week, news spread very quickly that in his soon to be released book, Agassi claims to have done Crystal Meth in 1997 and then lied to the ATP Tour when he failed a drug test that same year. Now, more details about Andre’s drug use have surfaced with him admitting that it was not a one or two time use but rather something he did the entire 1997 season. For obvious reasons, fans of Agassi are up in arms especially given the fact that he also lied to the Tour once he was caught.
Other excerpts of the book cover how Agassi hated to play tennis but was forced into it by his abusive father. The long feud between Agassi and his father is well known on Tour especially given Mr. Agassi’s crazy training regiments, but it seems as if this is not something that Agassi particular wants to let go of even though tennis is what has made him what he is today.
The book also describes his short and unsuccessfully marriage to Brooke Shields. Agassi recalls being jealous many times around Brooke during her shoots including an episode of “Friends” when Brooke had to lick Matt LeBlanc’s hand. He examines how and why they began dating and what caused the two to separate and ultimately divorce.
It seems that even Agassi’s “Image is Everything” persona was fake as well as in the book it claims that in the 1990 French Open finals Agassi wore a hair piece! I could handle all the other news but the fact that his hair was fake probably hurts me the most. The story says that he made his brother run around Paris looking for bobby pins so that he could prevent a hair malfunction.
“Of course I could play without my hairpiece. But after months of derision, criticism, mockery, I’m too self-conscious,” he wrote. “Image Is Everything? What would they say if they knew? Win or lose, they wouldn’t talk about my game. They’d only talk about my hair. I can close my eyes and almost hear it. And I know I can’t take it.”
As mentioned, the book drops Nov 9 and I will be picking it up as I’m sure a lot of people will be as well. Although many people think Agassi is divulging this information for more money, I don’t think this is the case. As we know Agassi has millions upon millions of dollars. His book deal was lucrative before the juicy details of what it contained were released. I believe this is something that Agassi needed to do in order to help his conscience. He has always believed in the almost Buddhist philosophy of “the truth will set you free” and I think that was Andre’s goal all along. Whether or not I think it was a good idea or not, I will have to wait to read the rest of his book. But being an Agassi fan, this week hurt my overall perception of the tennis rebel.
October 30, 2009
The rockstar days of hanging out with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were soon replaced with two kids and tireless charitable work. Agassi not only put tennis on the map in terms of new age pop culture, he now also seems to have outdone himself by shaking the very foundation of what was once thought a credible sport.
When taking into account all of the peaks and valleys which encompassed Agassi’s career, it seems now more than ever that a disgruntled tennis phenom was itching to tell a story.
Earlier this week it was revealed by Agassi that he had dabbled with crystal meth during the 1997 season. The use of any drug, albeit recreational or performance-enhancing has always been forbidden on the professional circuit. Regardless of the circumstance, if a player tests positive for drug use of any kind, immediate suspension takes place, with a tribunal hearing shortly thereafter.
But, it appears, that if your name is Andre Agassi, a loophole or two may be present in brushing away any misdoing.
With Agassi being a historic drawcard during his illustrious and lucrative career, can the ATP really be at fault for dismissing the drug charges of their most prolific and enigmatic star?
Well, it needs to be said: It pays to pay the bills.
It’s important to remember here that in his day, Agassi was arguably more appealing and sought after than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in their current generation.
The Las Vegas native was not only the premiere player on tour, but his absence from any event was suicidal for tournament directors. If Agassi didn’t play, revenue, fan appeal, and network ratings would simply plummet.
You’ve all read by now the details which underline Agassi’s infamous letter to the ATP in the fall of ‘97.
“My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I’ve achieved, whatever I’ve worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It’s filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth,” Agassi said.
This one final jab by Agassi towards a career that he really never wanted insists that the tennis legend was forced, and not volunteered into greatness.
Agassi suggests in his upcoming autobiography titled “Open,” that he hates tennis. He describes his detest for the game “with a dark and secret passion”.
Before we continue, it’s important to consider whether or not Agassi’s recent remarks are merely a publicity stunt or truly words from the heart?
One take on the Agassi’s introspection can spell a bruised a bitter champion. The years of his father’s abusive behavior, highlighted by braking second place trophies and pointing guns at nearby drivers, can only lend to a desensitized and confused upbringing.
Whether or not we sympathize with the Agassi’s decision to abuse the legal process which was overlooked by the ATP, the more vital concern of the moment becomes the ramifications which the current crop of tour players will address on a day-to-day basis.
The current heads of the men’s ladder, Federer and Nadal, were left in initial disbelief when addressing the startling news.
“It was a shock when I heard the news.” Federer said at a sponsors meeting at Kilchberg near Zurich. “I am disappointed and I hope there are no more such cases in future… Our sport must stay clean.”
But is staying clean an option at this point? With the likes of Federer and Nadal being tested upwards of 17 times a season, will the top players be subjected to even more scrutiny in the coming years?
“To me it seems terrible,” Nadal said at an awards ceremony in Madrid on Thursday. “Why is he saying this now that he has retired? It’s a way of damaging the sport that makes no sense.
“I believe our sport is clean and I am the first one that wants that. Cheaters must be punished and if Agassi was a cheater during his career he should have been punished,” Nadal said.
While having the top two players in the world distraught with his actions, Agassi, who will appear on 60 minutes on November 8th, the day before his books drops across the nation, appears to have the backing of his countrymen, as well as his former coaching staff.
I had a chance to speak with Andy Roddick this week, and while the American didn’t condone his compatriot’s actions, he didn’t shy away from sharing his admiration for the multiple Slam champ.
“Andre is and always will be my idol. I will judge him on how he has treated me and how he has changed the world for [the] better.”
Roddick went onto further defend Agassi by suggesting that, “To be fair, when Andre wrote the reported letter, he was well outside the top 100 and widely viewed as on the way out.”
Roddick’s last remark, although valid, is not completely accurate. What Roddick and fans alike must keep in mind is that even though Agassi was ranked No. 141 at the time of his drug use, his market share on tour remained at the highest order. The demand to see him play was still high, and to lose him, regardless of his ranking, would have been detrimental to the sport.
There is no doubt that the ensuing weeks will divide and concur all which we need to know about Agassi in order to better formulate the exact remedy to this truly sad development.
Agassi will always be remembered as tennis’ reformed rebel. A man who began his playing career in violent colors and the pressure of an unreasonable father.
Throughout all his adversities, the tie-dye visionary soon become the pinnacle of what a tennis player should be: all fitness, all business, and nothing short of continued success.
But now on the eve of his autobiography, the brashness which Agassi embodied in the early stages of his career has resurrected in becoming the story of tennis season—and may be of the tennis decade.
If Agassi intends on taking a final four-corner bow, it should be coming up shortly. However, this time around, it will not be because of a win or loss or the respect he has for an opponent or the crowd. Agassi’s final stand as tennis professional rests on the morals which he has lived his 39 years by:
“I never asked to be born, so I don’t owe God anything. I’m blessed for what I have, and will make the best of it.”
Truth be told, it’s irrelevant whether or not we owe anyone, anything. Agassi’s actions, whether committed or confessed for solitude or profit, will remain a burden for all who are concerned with the sport today.
The day may come when Agassi regrets his upcoming autobiography and all which it beholds. In the meantime, however, we remain hostage to the ongoing charisma which only the man from Vegas can bring.
Through his playing days and beyond, Agassi always knew how to attract an audience.
October 29, 2009
Here is a video featuring the man of the moment (for good or bad) Andre Agassi discussing why he decided to go forward with his book “Open: An Autobiography” which drops Nov 9, 2009. This serves as a bit of a promo and teaser to the release of the book as well but I think given the latest media coverage his book will do alright. If you haven’t seen our Twitter conversation with Andy Roddick about the topic click here.
October 29, 2009
Roger Federer will be honored next week at the tournament he once acted as a ballkid when he was a child. The Basel event has a special place in Roger’s heart and it doesn’t hurt that he has won the event the past 3 years and that the stadium is named after him. The ceremony will be held Monday night and the focus will be Roger’s record breaking 15th Grand Slam title. After the ceremony Roger will take to the court for his first round match (imagine the downer if he loses?). This will be the first event for Roger after taking off 5 weeks due to injuries and spending time with his family.
The event and Roger have been in the spotlight lately due to the fact that it is one of the few sporting events that permits tobacco adverting. Many around the world have asked Roger to boycott the event to show his support but there is little to no chance of that happening especially given the fact that smoking in Europe is far more accepted than here in North America.
October 29, 2009
Here is a heart warming video of bad boy Marat and his countrymen Teimuraz Gabashvilli visiting a local orphanage and troubled youth centre in St Petersburg this week. As much as we love to give Marat a hard time, I think people realize he has a soft side to him and that is why so many people love him. The interesting part is Marat’s comments about finding the “right” woman and maybe someday having kids. Could you imagine Marat as a father? My kids are definitely going to play at his house!
October 28, 2009
Tennis Connected: What do you think of Agassi’s recent claim of using Crystal Meth? Does it change your perception of him? Cheers.
Andy Roddick: Andre is and always will be my idol. I will judge him on how he’s treated me, and how he has changed the world for better.
Tennis Connected: Do you feel top players receive different treatment for lower ranked players? Do you think with the recent Agassi events the ATP should tighten up its hold on the top players?
Andy Roddick: Tighten up its hold? example?
Tennis Connected: For instance, Agassi said that he wrote a letter to the ATP saying that he didn’t do drugs. If a guy ranked No. 100 did so..would the ATP push it aside, or take measure like they have done. Basically, the underlying question is: Do higher ranked players get special treatment on tour because they are of more value?
Andy Roddick: The higher the ranking, the more frequently you are tested. I applaud the ATP because we have the most stringent testing policies in sports. For every positive test there is an appeal [which] forces you [to] have the chance to defend yourself… same for all rankings.
If anything, we are subjected to way more testing and attention… that’s just a fact… and to be fair when Andre wrote the reported letter, he was well outside the top 100 and widely viewed as on the way out
Tennis Connected: Interesting, so are you confident that the ATP treats players ranked No. 1 to 1000 the same? It will be interesting to see where this all goes.
However, Agassi is a true humanitarian and a legend in the sport. Cheers again, Andy. All the best in getting back out there soon.
Waiting for response…
Roddick’s take on this is quite interesting. Of course, the one thing that must always be taking into context here is that Andre is a legend and that will help and hurt his case. On one side, he’s done so much for the sport on an off the court that we can dismiss something like this quite easily. On the other hand because he is deemed as a role model how will this look to the general public and even a step further, the students at his school?
Would it have been better or worse if he had been caught with steroids in his system? My take is that although I’m a huge Agassi supporter, yesterday’s news did hurt a bit. I would have rather heard that Agassi did Crystal Meth than some performance enhancing drug, which would have aided him in winning as much as he did.
What is your take everyone? Hit up the comments below.
October 27, 2009
This is one of those things that if someone told me was true I would just laugh in their face. Andre Agassi, one of the most iconic figures in tennis, is reported as saying in his new book “Open” that during the 1997 season he used Crystal Meth. In a time where athletes are being caught with steroids and cocaine, this puts a completely different spin on it. Especially given that Andre is one of the most wholesome guys the tennis scene had.
The article was brought with Agassi’s book to be released in the coming weeks. Agassi’s said that he was introduced to the drug by his assistant, named “Slim”, when he was going through his difficult divorce with Brooke Shields.
“Slim is stressed too … He says, You want to get high with me? On what? Gack. What the hell’s gack? Crystal meth,” Agassi recounts in the book. “Why do they call it gack? Because that’s the sound you make when you’re high … Make you feel like Superman, dude.
“As if they’re coming out of someone else’s mouth, I hear these words: You know what? F*** it. Yeah. Let’s get high.
“Slim dumps a small pile of powder on the coffee table. He cuts it, snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I’ve just crossed.
“There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful — and I’ve never felt such energy,” Agassi says.
“I’m seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds.”
Here is where things get really crazy. In that same year, Agassi was approached by the ATP tour telling him that he failed his drug test.
“My name, my career, everything is now on the line,” Agassi recounts in the book. “Whatever I’ve achieved, whatever I’ve worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It’s filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.
“I say Slim, whom I’ve since fired, is a known drug user, and that he often spikes his sodas with meth — which is true. Then I come to the central lie of the letter. I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim’s spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.
“I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it.”
The tour threw out the positive test because of Agassi’s claims but obviously once this book gets out it will obviously put some of the spotlight back on the ATP. One thing is for sure, when Andre’s book comes out Nov 9, there is sure to be some interesting tidbits.
October 27, 2009
Andy Murray may be questing his 2009 campaign but it seems like his 2009 calendar is already pretty planned. He has agreed to participate in the Hopman Cup mixed team event which takes place on January 2nd. What is interesting about this move is that it seems that it will conflict with the Abu Dhabi event that Andy won last year that features the world’s best players in an all or nothing event. Andy will be playing with 15-year old Laura Robson and the event also featured the Australian pair of Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur, the Americans John Isner and Melanie Oudin, and the Spanish team of Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
October 27, 2009
Here is an interesting video of Rafa seeing how many balls he can pick up in 30 seconds and then challenges us to do the same. Perhaps this is something we can finally beat him in! The ad is for the Olympic Best Of Us Challenge. My favorite part is when he says he is a tennis player, as if most people didn’t know.
October 25, 2009
Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky captured his second career title on Sunday, defeating first time ATP World Tour finalist Horaico Zeballos, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (7).
The entertaining two hour and 19 minute contest featured two highly contested tiebreaks, that went down to the wire.
After being broken on three occasions in the first set, Stakhovsky rebounded confidently in the second set, maintaining his resolve while saving six break point chances.
Squandering an opportunity to close out his first career title, Zeballos became slightly dejected after losing the second set.
With the match tied at a set apiece, Zeballos drew first blood in the final set, breaking Stakhovsky at 2-1. Stakhovsky, not to be outdone, broke back and served for the match at 5-4.
Zeballos denied Stakhovsky the chance to take home the title, leveling the set at a 5-5.
The crowd couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the match, with a final tiebreak on the horizon. Both men were eager to capture the lucrative Tour title, and highlighted the tiebreak with precision groundstrokes and accurate first serves.
Zeballos, who held a match point at 7-6, couldn’t capitalize on either of Stakhovsky’s serves. Leading 9-8, Stakhovsky gained his third straight point over his Argentinian opponent to seal his victory.
Stakhovsky, who captured his maiden Tour title in Zagreb, Croatia in 2008, became the third qualifier this season to win a Tour title. Stakhovsky also won the Zagreb event as a qualifier.
“He was playing really good, I didn’t expect him to play that well,” confessed Stakhovsky.
“Obviously all the match he made it tough for me. He was strong on my serve; he was strong on his serve. I was just trying to keep in there as long as I could. That’s all I could really do today as he was playing much better than me. Any chance I got I was just trying to rally. I was serving for the match at 5-4 third set and he broke me to love and I was just trying to fight for every ball I could. I’m really, really pleased to win.”
Zeballos, who was participating in his fourth main draw event, won more total points that Stakhovsky (105-97), while winning more second serve points (61 to 38 percent). The young Argentine’s lack of big match play cost him dearly in this match, but it was evident that with a rise of over 154 ranking positions from the start of year, the Mar de Plata native will be a force on Tour for years to come.
“He played the big points better than me, that’s why he won the two tie-breaks,” lamented Zeballos.
“I missed a lot of chances in the second set, but he served really well in those moments. Maybe I should have tried to be more aggressive, but in that moment, especially in a final, it was really difficult because I was a little nervous. I’m really happy to reach this final. It was really close, so I’m really, really happy.”
Stakhovsky’s excellent week in St. Petersburg featured wins over No. 6 seed Evgeny Korolev, and Tour retiree Marat Safin.
The 23-year-old Bratislava native improved his year-to-record to 15-14, while capturing 250 ATP World Tour points, and earning $118,500 in prize money.
Stakhovsky, who will take next week from the Tour, will set his sights on the qualification rounds of the Paris Masters 1000 event, which will take place in a weeks time.
Zeballos, who fell to 4-4 on the season, captured 150 ATP World Tour points for his efforts, and $62,500 in prize money. The Argentine will be in action week, participating in the main draw of the Basel, Switzerland event. Zeballos will face Richard Gasquet in round one.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
Austrian Jurgen Melzer ended an 21 year title drought by hometown players in Vienna, upsetting top seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.
Spurred on by an electric full house, Melzer’s superb afternoon of tennis was aided by his left-handed serve, which repeatedly opened up the court against his lanky opponent.
After capturing the first set on the strength of one break of serve, and one ace, Melzer began the second set in similar fashion, breaking Cilic’s serve in the fifth game of the second set.
Melzer, who saved all five breaks points against his serve, withstood 10 aces from Cilic, while winning 73 percent of his first points during the one hour 32 minute final.
Cilic, who exhibited strong play in the beginning stages of the final, squandered a triple break point opportunity in the second game of the match. The tall Croat was bidding to win his third final of the year, recently finishing a runner up to Novak Djokovic in Beijing last month.
After saving two sets points in the first set, Cilic remained handcuffed on Melzer’s service games in set two. The top seed, visibly frustrated from the excellent serving of his opponent, managed to save two match points before sending a final errant backhand wide.
With the win, Melzer improved to 2-8 in ATP World Tour finals, capturing his first title since winning in Bucharest in 2006.
Melzer, who is Vienna born but resides in Deutsch-Wagram, pocketed €86,500 for his efforts, while collecting 250 ATP World Tour points.
“I can’t find the right words to describe my emotions,” said Melzer.
“I am over the moon. I am very proud to win here,” the 28-year-old Austrian said.
Cilic, who remains a top candidate in the race to capture one of the two of the remaining spots for the Tour finale in London, took home €45,950 in prize money, while collecting 150 ATP World Tour points.
Cilic will now travel to Basel, where he will be competing as the No. 4 seed. The Zagreb native will take on Philipp Petzchner in the first round of the 500 point tournament.
Melzer, who currently stands at No. 35 in the world, improved to 36-29 on the year, will next head to Basel, where he will face countryman Daniel Koellerer in first round action.
Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon—France
Former world No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic captured his second career Lyon title and first of the season on Sunday, defeating French hopeful Michael Llodra 7-5, 6-3.
Ljubicic, who had previously recorded sixth quarterfinal appearances on Tour this year, capitalized on a late service break in the opening set, offsetting the belief of Llodra and the hometown crowd.
The second set saw a resilient Llodra, who broke Ljubicic for a 2-1 lead. Ljubicic, who lost his serve for only the second time in the event, quickly rebounded by breaking back—evening the score at 2-2.
Ljubicic’s serve, which was simply astounding throughout the week, produced seven aces throughout the one hour and 36 minute victory.
Ljubicic, who won his first career title in Lyon in 2001, was both nostalgic and proud of his ninth career Tour title.
“It’s a really special feeling to win this title. Lyon means so much to me, it was where I won my first title in 2001, and now it’s the first title I have won as a father,” said Ljubicic.
“It has given me the belief that I am still a great player and that I can compete with the best. I feel in great physical condition and I’m going to give everything I have in the last two weeks of the year.”
Ljubicic, who improved to 31-21 on the season, assessed the serving of his opponent, which he concluded made the difference in the match.
“I thought his serve dropped off a bit in the second set and I was able to execute my shots well,” commented Ljubicic.
“I felt like I was in control in the match, even when I was down a break in the second set. I think the crucial point in the match was at 5-5 in the first set, when I saved a break point and then I broke him in the next game. I really look forward to coming back next year and to seeing my name twice on the stadium wall.”
Llodra, who fell to 0-2 in finals this year, also dropped to 17-15 on year. The Paris native agreed with Ljubicic’s analysis of his serving performance.
“I thought I could have served better today,” admitted Llodra.
“I didn’t get enough first serves in, and maybe my arm was a little tired. He returned very well too. There wasn’t much in it, but it’s a shame. I had less rhythm today than in previous days. It’s a shame to get so close to the title and lose, but if someone had told me a few weeks ago that I would get to the final in Lyon, I would have taken it straight away.”
For his efforts, Ljubicic captured €103,400 in prize money and 250 ATP World Tour points. The Croat will now travel to Basel where he will face No. 6 seed Stanislas Wawrinka in round one.
Llodra, who will enter the top 100 after his finals appearance in Lyon, pocketed €54,300 in prize money and 150 ATP World Tour points.
The Frenchman will take next week off, while beginning preparations for the final event of year at the Paris Masters 1000. Llodra will be a wildcard recipient in his hometown event.
That wraps up another exciting week of ATP World Tour action in St. Petersburg, Vienna and Lyon. Please stay tuned for continuing coverage from next week events in Basel and Valencia.
Quotes courtesy of theatpworldtour.com.
Day Six Review: Safin Falls In Russia, Cilic Reaches Final in Vienna, Ljubicic Powers into Finals of Lyon
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
Russian favorite Marat Safin faltered in his bid to advance to his final career final at home on Saturday, losing in three tough sets to Sergiy Stakhovsky, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Tied at one set apiece, Safin squandered a break point opportunity during the ninth game of the third set. Serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Safin hit two unforced errors to fall behind two match points at 15-40. Stakhovsky capitalized on his first match point, sending the two-time St. Petersburg champ out of his final Russian tournament.
Stakhovsky, who won 64 percent of his total service points, improved to 15-14 on the season, while staying on course to capture his first title of year.
“Today beating one of my idols was strange, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that,” Stakhovsky said.
“Marat is a great player and I grew up watching him. To play him and beat him in his final match in Russia is very special for me and something I will remember for a long time. When I got the match points, I still didn’t think I couldn’t do it.”
Safin, who was positive after his defeat, will retire after the upcoming Masters 1000 event in Paris. The two-time Grand Slam champ dropped to 18-21 on the year.
“I’ve reached the semifinals and it’s a good result for my recent form,” Safin said. “I was serving bad through the entire match and I had to risk and made too many unforced errors. Stakhovsky felt it and dominated the match.”
Stakhovsky’s interpretation of how the match unfolded was slightly different from his opponent. By contrast, Stakhovsky felt that Safin had served well in the match, particularly in the second set.
“In the second set Marat really lifted his serve, and I didn’t have a chance to break him. Then in the third set it was more of the same. I was really having a hard time on his serve and managed to hold at 4-4 in the third set after saving a break point, and then he presented an opportunity on his serve at 4-5 and I was happy to take it.”
With the win, Stakhovsky advanced to his second career final, where he will meet No. 8 seed Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos defeated Russian favorite Igor Kunitsyn 7-6 (7), 6-3.
Zeballos, who is only playing in his fourth career tournament, has made eight Challenger level finals this year, winning on five occasions.
The 24-year-old Argentine struck 10 aces, while saving one of two break point chances during the one hour and 24 minute encounter. The Buenos Aires native capitalized on the only break point opportunity by either player in second at 3-2, improving his year-to-date mark to 4-3.
Kunitsyn, who was bidding to reach his first final since winning the Moscow tournament in 2008, fell to 16-30 on the season.
Zeballos alluded to the difficult match that lies ahead against Stakhovsky.
“Tomorrow it will be very important to be patient in the moments when the pressure is coming. So I will try to do what I do every match, I will try to use my serve and my forehand. It’s going to be a really hard match (against Stakhovsky), especially because it’s a final and we don’t play finals every day,” said Zeballo.
“I know that he is a really strong opponent but if I keep doing my tactics I think I will have a lot of chances as I feel so good with my serve.”
Zeballos and Stakhovsky will battle in their first career ATP World Tour match on Sunday.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
Vienna born Jurgen Melzer surpassed his seeding of No. 7 this week, advancing to the finals of his hometown tournament by defeating Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The two hour and 29 minute clash became nothing short of a war of attrition.
Melzer, who lost the first set despite winning 93 percent of his first serve points (11-12), while striking three aces, found himself in a one hour and five minute second set, which saw the Austrian two points from defeat. After tying the match at a set apiece, Melzer sustained his motivation for the remainder of the contest.
The third set remained leveled until Melzer broke Tipsarevic at 4-5, capturing the lone break of serve by either player in the final set.
With the win, Melzer improved to 35-29 on the year and will attempt to become the first Austrian player to win the event since Horst Khoff in 1998.
Tipsarevic, who was attempting to make his second straight final on Tour, fell to 29-23 on the year.
In Sunday’s final, Melzer will face top seed Marin Cilic, who defeated No. 4 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Cilic, who has been in stellar form all season, pounded 12 aces and converted on two of eight break point opportunities to oust his German opponent.
Cilic’s year has been highlighted by capturing his first and second career titles in (Chennai and Zagreb), while advancing to his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open.
Cilic also defeated world No. 2 Rafael Nadal at the Beijing Open, falling short in the finals to Novak Djokovic.
Cilic’s rising star on Tour will take the young Croat to his fourth career final. By advancing to the finals, Cilic improved his head-to-head deficit against Kohlschreiber to 3-2, while improving his year-to-date record to 44-18.
Cilic will take a 3-0 head-to-lead over Melzer into Sunday’s championship match.
Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon—France
No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic, who last made a Tour level final in February of 2008 (Zagreb), served flawlessly in Saturday’s semifinal to oust Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4.
Clement, who had defeated top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an epic three set encounter on Friday, couldn’t muster up a single break point opportunity against his Croatian opponent.
Facing only two break points in his four matches this week, Ljubicic pounced on the weak serve of his opponent throughout the one hour and 20 minute affair.
After breaking Clement twice in the first set, Ljubicic kept his returning onslaught persistent in second set, breaking the Frenchman in the ninth game to close out the match.
With the win, Ljubicic improved to 30-21 on the season, while increasing his head-to-head lead over Clement to 8-2 lifetime.
Clement, who was in search of his first Tour final since June 2007 (Nottingham), fell to 12-18 on the year. Clement’s improved play as of late has been spurred on by increased fitness. The Geneva resident also advanced to the quarterfinals in Stockholm last week (l. Marcos Baghdatis).
“I don’t think I was tired today,” reflected Clement.
“Of course, I had a long match last night against Tsonga, and maybe it made a small difference, but I felt good on the court today. I think that Ivan played a very, very good match. He was too good today, and I think he’s playing at a very high level.
“Still, I’m really happy with the past few weeks. No matter what happens between now and the end of the season, I will have a very positive outlook on my season, which is motivating for next year.”
Ljubicic, who will be in search of his ninth career title on Sunday, faces the left-handed challenge of Michael Llodra.
Llodra, who advanced to his second final in France this season (Marseille), improved to 4-0 against Gilles Simon, defeating his countryman 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(1).
Matching Ljubicic’s serving display against Clement, Llodra struck 24 aces, while never facing a break point against his top ten opponent.
Llodra, who is ranked No. 107 in the world, enters Sunday final with a 3-3 career mark in Tour finals.
Sunday’s final will undoubtedly bring forth a tremendous serving contest. Llodra currently leads the pair’s head-to-head 1-0, and will hold the support of his hometown fans.
“I feel like my serve is working very well, and also my volleying as well,” said Llodra. ”I’m trying to put a lot of pressure on my opponents, and taking away the rhythm. I know that when I’m playing well and feeling fit, I can be very dangerous on this kind of surface and tough to play against.”
Ljubicic agreed with the sentiments of his finals opponent.
“It’s going to be a tough match tomorrow,” said Ljubicic. ”He will have the home crowd and will be pumped up. I think it’s a 50-50 chance. It’s going to be a couple of points here and there. It’s difficult to predict this kind of match.”
Please check back on Sunday for a finals wrap up from St. Petersburg, Vienna and Lyon.
Quotes courtesy of theatpworldtour.com
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
After reaching his second quarterfinal of the season, Ernests Gulbis failed to advance to his first semifinal of the year, losing in straight sets to clay-court specialist Horacio Zeballos 7-6 (8), 6-4.
Zeballos, who has spent the greater part of his year winning five Challenger finals, while making three finals, persevered through a tough opening set that saw both men win 81 percent of his their first serve points, while squandering one break point opportunity.
With the first set in hand, Zeballos captured the lone break of serve by either player in the seventh game of the second set to close out his powerful Latvian opponent.
Zeballos’ rise to the upper ranks of the ATP World Tour is surprising to say the least. As mentioned, the Argentine had amassed a win-loss mark of 1-3 on the year coming into St. Petersburg, but due to his incredible Challenger level record, which stands at 49-14, Zeballos has managed to build up his ranking to a profitable world No. 54.
With the majority of his results coming on clay, Zeballos’ march to the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Open (which is played on hard-court) becomes a fascinating story to say the least.
The Argentine’s rise of 142 places in the rankings from the beginning of the season has been aided by his strong forehand and reputable first serve.
The 24-year-old Mar de Plata native also possesses a consistent return of serve, which was on display on Friday. Zeballos also withstood 18 aces from Gulbis to advance in one hour and 31 minutes.
With the win, Zeballos improved to 4-3 on the season, while Gublis, who is still in search of his first career title fell to 20-26 on the year.
Zeballos will await the winner of either No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu or Russian hopeful Igor Kunitysn in the semifinals.
Hanescu and Kunitysn will be contesting their first ever ATP World Tour level match on Friday.
Elsewhere, 2008 Zagreb winner Sergiy Stakhovsky progressed to his first Tour semifinal of season, ousting speedy German Bjorn Phau, 6-2, 7-5.
The one hour and 29 minute match featured more of a baseline duel than a serving contest. Both men, who possess potent backhand wings, utilized their best shot to set up numerous net approaches.
After converting on three of five break points opportunities in the first set, Stakhovsky was made to work hard in the second set, gaining a critical break of serve at 6-5 to close out the match.
Phau, who was attempting to reach his second semifinal of the season (Houston), fell to 12-17 on the year.
Stakhovsky will next face either Marat Safin or Denis Istomin in the semifinals.
“It’s always nice to win, and I think today I produced the best tennis that I could to win,” said Stakhovsky.
“It was pleasing to win a tough close match.”
Safin, who defeated close friend Igor Andreev in second round action on Wednesday, will be facing Istomin for the first time on Friday.
Safin is in search of his first title of the year, which will also be his last on tour.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
Top seed Marin Cilic made quick work of his opponent Feliciano Lopez on Friday, defeating the Spaniard 6-1, 6-4 in quarterfinal action.
Cilic, who is in search of his third ATP World Tour tile of the season, won 69 percent of his total service points and struck eight aces in the one hour and 24 minute encounter.
By contrast, Lopez, who was in search of his second semifinal in the past month (Shanghai), failed to capitalize on his two break point chances and hit an uncharacteristic five double faults.
With the win, Cilic improved to 43-18 on the year and will now head to the semifinals to take on No. 4 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Kohlschreiber leveled his head-to-head against his opponent No. 5 seed Nicolas Almagro, defeating the Spaniard in two tight sets, 7-5, 6-4.
After breaking Almagro’s serve at 5-6 in the opening set, Kohlschreiber sustained his consistent ground game to break his opponent in the seventh game of the second set, closing out the match in one hour and 16 minutes.
The win for Kohlschreiber improved his season record to 40-21, while the loss for Almagro dropped his win-loss mark to 29-22.
Kohlschreiber, who remains in search of his fist title of the year, will take a 3-1 head-to-head lead over Cilic to the semifinals.
The pair last met at the Madrid Masters 1000 in May, a match which Kohlschreiber won 7-6 in the third set. Cilic’s lone victory over Kohlschreiber came in Munich earlier this year, with the lanky 6′6″ Croat demolishing his German opponent in straight sets.
Elsewhere, the home-country hopeful remained confident that an Austrian player will succeed in Vienna this year after No. 7 seed Jurgen Melzer dismantled No. 2 seed Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-2 in quarterfinal action.
Melzer, who reached his highest career ranking of No. 25 in the world (May 2009), was at the top of his game throughout the one hour and one minute shellacking.
Stepanek’s bread and butter net attacking style did not fluster Melzer throughout either set. The Austrian’s compact return of serve was up to the task of defusing his Czech opponent’s net rushes, capitalizing on three of seven break point opportunities for the match.
Melzer, who won 81 percent of his total service points, struck eight aces and allowed only break point against his delivery in the first set.
The left-handed Deutsch-Wagram native improved to 34-29 on the year, while Stepanek, who was in search of his third title of the season, fell to 41-18.
Melzer will now await the winner of the day’s last match, which will feature No. 3 seed Gael Monfils vs. Janko Tipsarevic.
Monfils will be motivated to continue his quest for one of the two remaining spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London (he currently stands at 15), while Tipsarevic will be eager to maintain his form which saw him advance to his first maiden Tour final last week in Moscow. The pair currently stand at one win apiece in the head-to-head.
Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon—France
No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic, the lone non-French player left in the field, advanced to his first semifinal of the year, defeating Florent Serra 7-6 (8), 6-2.
With both men failing to break serve in the first set, a deciding tiebreak would decide the victor. After both players held set points in the tiebreak, the more powerful Croatian used his serving arsenal to gain control.
Ljubicic, who blasted 16 aces throughout the contest, gained complete momentum in the second set after his demoralized opponent began to falter with his serve.
After saving four of four break point chances in the first set, the diminutive Frenchmen was broken on two occasions in the second set. As a result, Serra fell to 23-28 in the process.
Ljubicic, who was once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world (May 2006), was pleased with his recent form of late, which saw him reach the quarterfinals or better of his last three events.
“It’s a great feeling to get into my first semi-final of the year,” admitted Ljubicic.
“But still, I’ve played four quarter-finals in the [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 events so it hasn’t been too bad. If I can finish the year in the Top 20 that will be a really good year for me. I feel like I am getting back to where I belong with my ranking.
“I’m feeling good on the court again. I started to feel much better the week of Metz and had played well in Asia, so I’m just trying to keep it going for the last few tournaments of the year.”
Ljubicic will now await the winner of top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Arnaud Clement.
The all-French battle will feature the duo’s first career meeting in the French suburb.
Tsonga, who remains a strong candidate to reach the Tour finale in London, has won three titles this year on the ATP World Tour.
Clement by contrast, who is in the twilight of his career, will hope to build on his quarterfinal finish in Stockholm last week.
Elsewhere, No. 2 seed Gilles Simon progressed to his fourth quarterfinal of the season on Friday, defeating last year’s finalist Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-3.
Simon, who like Tsonga holds an opportunity to travel to London, put forth a spectacular serving performance by winning 94 percent of his first serve points (33-35), while striking six aces in the one hour and 23 minute contest.
Benneteau, who possesses a crafty all court game, fell to 24-26 on the year after attempting to reach his second straight final in Lyon.
Simon will now take a 3-0 head-to-head deficit against his next opponent, Michael Llodra in the semifinals.
Llodra defeated two-time finalist Marc Gicquel 7-6 (5), 6-4 earlier on Friday.
Llodra, who broke his countryman on two of three occasions, maintained his own serving prowess throughout the one hour and 26 minute victory, winning 83 percent of his first serve, while striking 13 aces.
With the win, Llodra improved to 16-14 on the year and will attempt to reach his second Tour level final of the season on Saturday. Llodra lost a highly contested final in Marseille to Tsonga in February.
Please check back on Saturday for a semifinal wrap up from St. Petersburg, Vienna and Lyon.
Quotes courtesy of theatpworldtour.com
Day Four Review: Youzhny loses in St. Petersburg, Cilic Rolls through in Vienna, Ljubicic Advances in Lyon
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
Top seed Mikhail Youzhny was forced to retire from his second round match in Russia on Thursday to Denis Istomin. The fatigue factor of two successful weeks on tour finally caught up with the Moscow native, who was trailing 6-2, 2-1 to his Uzbekistani opponent.
Youzhny was coming to St. Petersburg on the heels of winning the Kremlin Cup and making the finals of the Japan Open.
Youzhny was broken twice in the first set, winning only 33 percent of his second serve points. The top seed could only endure three games in the second set before he pulled the plug on his St. Petersburg journey due to lower back pain.
Istomin, who had recently made the third round of the US Open (l. Marin Cilic), was in complete control of the 50 minute contest. The 23-year-old had saved both break points against his delivery, while recording 87 percent of his first serves in.
Youzhny, who won the event in 2004, fell to 38-27 on the year, while Istomin improved to 16-17 on the season.
Istomin, who lives in Tashkent but is of Russian decent, will await the winner of Marat Safin or No. 4 seed Igor Andreev in the quarterfinals.
The powerhouse Russian duo are set to do battle in front of a full crowd later in the day.
Safin, who put forth a riveting performance to oust talented Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Wednesday, will take a 1-1 head-to-head record against his good friend, Andreev.
Safin and Andreev have been known to party it up when traveling on the road, but their second round clash in St. Petersburg will consist of all business as soon as the first ball is struck.
Elsewhere, Igor Kunitysn reached his second quarterfinal of the season (Memphis) and improved to 15-29 on the year after he defeated St. Petersburg native Michial Elgin, 6-2, 6-3 in second round action.
Kunitsyn fired six aces and converted on three of six break point opportunities to oust his No. 353 ranked countryman.
By contrast, Elgin, who was playing in his first main tour tournament of the season, failed to capture any break point chances, while winning only 29 percent of his second serve points.
Kunitsyn will now face No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu on Friday. The pair have never met on the ATP World Tour.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, who reached a career high rank of No. 74 in the world in November of 2008, defeated wildcard Russian Andrey Kuznetsov 6-1, 6-4 to advance to his fourth quarterfinal of the season.
Stakhovsky’s potent offense included winning 81 percent of his first serve points, while converting on three of four break point opportunities. The 23-year-old Ukrainian prevented his 18-year-old opponent from capitalizing on his three break point chances during the one hour and one minute contest.
Stakhovsky will now meet German Bjorn Phau in the quarterfinals. Phau advanced to his third quarterfinal of the year (Chennai and Houston), after his opponent Karol Beck retired during second round action due to respiratory illness.
Stakhovsky and Phau have never met on the ATP World Tour.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
Top seed Marin Cilic dominated his equally tall opponent on Thursday, defeating Daniel Brands of Germany 7-6 (7), 6-4 in second round action.
After capturing the first set, which included one break of serve by either man, Cilic’s utilized his solid ground game to obtain the lone break of serve by either man in set two.
Cilic’s serve was also a deciding factor in his victory, albeit he stands only one inch taller than the 6′5″ Brands. Winning 91 percent of his first serve points (30-33) and striking seven aces during critical junctures of the contest allowed Cilic to improve his match record on the season to 42-18.
The Croat, who will attempt to capture his third 250 point tournament of the year (Chennai and Zagreb), also advanced to the finals of the Beijing earlier this month, losing to Novak Djokovic.
Cilic can not add any points to reaching the London finals this week. The 21-year-old has already filled his 250 point category with wins in the aforementioned Chennai and Zagreb, leaving only pride and rhythm to be captured this week.
The top seed will next meet No. 6 seed Felicano Lopez, who dismissed the entertaining game hometown hero Daniel Koellerer 6-3, 6-3.
Lopez’s blistering serve and net play were simply too strong for his diminutive opponent. Koellerer, who possesses tremendous foot speed and top notch consistency was broken twice in each set, while capitalizing on only one of four break point opportunities.
The determined Austrian will best be remembered this season for his showstopping third round effort against eventual US Open champ, Juan Martin del Potro. The New York battle featured four high quality sets and many standing ovations.
With the loss, Koellerer fell to 10-16 on the season. “Dani,” as he is known on tour, was attempting to reach his third quarterfinal of the year (Kitzbuhel and Acapulco).
Lopez, who is in form at the moment, made the semifinals in Shanghai (l. Rafael Nadal) and will take a 1-0 head-to-head lead into Friday’s quarterfinal encounter with Cilic.
Elsewhere, No. 3 seed Gael Monfils is currently tied at one set a piece against unheralded Czech Jan Hajek.
Monfils, who is still in contention to qualify for one of the two remaining spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour finals, will have to dig deep if he is to advance.
Remaining matches on Thursday include:
The highest ranked Austrian in the event, No. 7 seed Jurgen Melzer taking on veteran Domink Hrbaty; while rebounding Serb Janko Tipsarevic faces the brute force of Michael Berrer.
Melzer will attempt to gain his 33rd win of the season, while Tipsarevic will by vying to advance to his fifth quarterfinal of the year.
Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon—France
No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic prevented Nicolas Kiefer from capturing his second consecutive epic win of the tournament, defeating the veteran German 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 on Thursday.
Ljubicic, who fired 27 aces throughout the one hour and 42 minute affair, lost momentum in the second set when Clement broke in the seventh game of the set to lead 4-3. The Frenchman saved six break points in the second set to tie the match at a set a piece.
Ljubicic restored order in the final set, capturing the lone break point chance for either player to improve to 28-21 on the season.
The hard serving Croatian will next meet another Frenchman, Florent Serra. Serra coasted by No. 8 seed Albert Montanes on Wednesday to reach his seventh quarterfinal of the year.
Elsewhere, 2006 and 2007 finalist Marc Gicquel destroyed 2002 champion Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-0 earlier in the day.
Gicquel’s flat groundstrokes became persistently difficult for the topspin oriented game of Mathieu to deal with. After capturing the first set on the strength of eight aces and two breaks of serve, Gicquel breezed through the second set, which featured a lackadaisical Mathieu.
With the win, Gicquel advanced to a quarterfinal clash with countryman Michael Llodra.
Llodra, who is a nightmare to play on an indoor surface, played exquisitely to dispose of No. 4 seed Juan Monaco, 6-3, 6-4 in second round action.
The lefty serve of Llodra gave Monaco fits throughout his one hour and 14 minute defeat.
The Argentine, who excels on clay-courts, couldn’t overcome 11 aces by his French opponent.
With the win, Llodra improved to 15-14 on the season while Monaco, who has only won three hard-court matches on the year fell to, 34-24.
Llodra and Gicquel have never met on the ATP World Tour.
Matches that are still to come on Thursday will include:
Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Oliver Rochus, No. 2 seed Gilles Simon vs. David Guez and No. 7 seed Benjamin Becker vs. Arnaud Clement.
More often than not, these year end tournaments provide a great setting for local players to showcase their talents for their hometown fans.
Tsonga and Simon, who are still in the running for the final two spots in London, will be the favorites against their unseeded opponents.
Clement, who has had a recent surge on tour, will be in tough against his hard serving German opponent.
Please check back on Friday for continuing daily coverage from St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Lyon.
Day Three Review: Chardy upset in St. Petersburg, Kohlschreiber Makes Quarters in Vienna, Benneteau Advances in Lyon
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
Once touted as a future world No. 1, Latvian Ernests Gulbis has been endured one of his worst seasons to date. Failing to win two consecutive tour matches this year luckily ended for the 21-year-old with a recent quarterfinal finish at the Japan Open (l. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga).
However, a recent coaching change has spawned new commitment in the career of Gulbis. His once errant groundstrokes are finding the corners of the court, and he has clearly increased his level of play.
Another example of Gulbis’ continued improved was on display today at the St. Petersburg Open. Taking on No. 4 Jeremy Chardy, who by any definition of the word appears to be primed for a top 10 position, had little answers for his powerful opponent. Gulbis inevitably persevered through a complicated first set to oust the Frenchman, 7-6 (7), 6-3.
The pair’s first meeting, which lasted one hour and 34 minutes, saw Gulbis strike 22 aces and win 88 percent of his first serve points.
Gulbis’ first serve was deadly throughout the first set, winning 22 of 22 points, while his return of serve was equally as impressive, holding Chardy to eight of 20 points won on his second serve.
After losing the first set, Chardy became despondent and dropped his opening service game in set two. Although the Frenchman was able to break back in the ensuing game, Gulbis utilized his explosive forehand to capture the deciding break of the match at 3-2.
With the win, Gulbis improved to 20-25 on the year, while Chardy fell to 34-26 on the season.
In what can be described as Gublis’ best match of the year, the Jurmala native will now head to his second quarterfinal of season to face No. 8 seed Horacio Zeballos.
Zeballos, who won his third match of the season on Wednesday, defeated Olekander Dolgopolov Jr., 6-3, 6-1.
The 49 minute victory by Zeballos was highlighted by four aces and four breaks of serve. The 24-year-old Argentine, who has made eight Challenger level finals this season (5-8), relied on his topspin groundstrokes to upend his 20-year-old opponent.
Dolgopolov Jr., who defeated Robby Ginepri in round one, was competing in his first ever tour level tournament this week in St. Petersburg.
Elsewhere, No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu made his sixth quarterfinal of the year on Wednesday, dispatching Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-4.
Hanescu, who had lost five consecutive tour matches prior to his first round win in St. Petersburg, struck seven aces and won 89 percent of his first serve points during the one hour and 18 minute contest.
Marchenko, who had advanced to his maiden ATP World Tour semifinal last week in Moscow, was broken on two occasions, while donating one double fault to his defeat.
Hanescu will next face Igor Kunitsyn or Elgin Michail in the quarterfinals.
Kunitsyn upset No. 7 seed Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 6-3 earlier in the day, while Michail dispatched Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets on Tuesday.
Top seed Mikhail Youzhny closed out his sixth consecutive win on tour, defeating Andrey Golubev 6-3, 6-2.
Youzhny’s great run in Russia will continue into second round action against Denis Istomin on Thursday.
Youzhny, who has won 10 of his last 11 matches on tour, will be attempting to make his fourth tour final of the season in St. Petersburg this week. Youzhny won his first title of the season last week in Moscow.
The final match of the day will see Marat Safin vs. Richard Gasquet. The electric first round encounter will pit the two shot makers against one another for the sixth time in their respective careers.
Safin currently leads Gasquet 3-2 in head-to-head meetings.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
German workhorse Philipp Kohlschreiber progressed to the quarterfinals in Vienna on Wednesday, benefiting from a right shoulder injury from his opponent Victor Crivoi.
Trailing 6-2, 3-0, Crivoi called for the trainer and subsequently retired from the match after 34 minutes.
Kohlschreiber, who is seeded No. 4 this week in Austria, advanced to his fifth quarterfinal of season, while improving to 39-22 on the year.
Kohlschreiber will next face No. 5 seed Nicolas Almagro, who made his first hard-court quarterfinal of year, defeating Wayne Odesnik 6-4, 6-4.
Almagro capitalized on two of four break point opportunities, and hit eight aces to oust his unseeded American opponent.
Almagro leads Kohlschreiber 2-1 in career head-to-head meetings.
No. 3 seed Gael Monfils was a first round winner on Wednesday, ousting Kiztbuhel champ Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-4.
Monfils, who is still in the running to capture on the two remaining spots for the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London, won 79 percent of his total service points, while breaking the weak serve of his Spanish opponent on two of eight chances.
Garcia-Lopez, who was in search of the his second title of the year in Austria, only managed two aces while committing three double faults.
With the win, Monfils improved to 36-16 on the year and will next face Jan Hajek in round two.
Other first round winners on the day included:
Domink Hrbaty winning his fourth match of the year over fellow 31-year-old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-3, 6-4, and Janko Tipsarevic ousting No. 8 seed John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Hrbaty, who has seen limited court action this season, won 78 percent of his first points in defeating his clay-court comfortable opponent. Hrbaty will next meet No. 7 seed Jurgen Melzer in round two.
Isner’s disappointing fall season continued on Wednesday, losing his fourth consecutive match, while dropping to 25-16 on the year.
Tipsarevic, who improved to 27-23 on the year, will next face Michael Berrer in round two.
Matches that are still to come on day three action in Austria will include:
No. 2 seed Radek Stepanek vs. Frederico Gil, and Daniel Koellerer vs. Jarrko Nieminen.
Stepanek remains in the hunt for his third tour title of the year (w. Brisbane and San Jose), while keeping the Davis Cup final in Barcelona in his forethought.
Koellerer, who has widely been regarded as the bad boy of the tour, will attempt to ignite his hometown crowd against his Finnish opponent.
Thursday’s action in Vienna will feature:
Top seed Marin Cilic vs. Daniel Brands, Monfils vs. Hajek, and Almagro vs. Odesnik.
Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon—France
Last years finalist Julien Benneteau advanced to the quarterfinals of Grand Prix Tennis de Lyon on Wednesday, a ATP World Tour 250 point event, defeating Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2.
Benneteau, who is having quite the rewarding season, withstood 12 aces from his 6′7″ opponent, while winning 97 percent of his first serve points during the one hour and 10 minute match.
After breaking serve once in the first set, Benneteau continued his momentum in the second set by breaking his South African opponent twice in the second set.
Anderson by contrast, failed to gain a single break point opportunity throughout his defeat, winning 62 percent of his first serve points, while committing one double fault.
Benneteau will now await a potential mouthwatering quarterfinal clash with No. 2 seed Gilles Simon. Simon, who remains in the running for a finals berth in London, takes on talented, but struggling Italian Simone Bolelli later in the day.
Paul-Henri Mathieu, who won the Lyon tournament in 2006, defeated upstart Argentine Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Mathieu’s relative struggles in 2009 have included reaching the quarterfinals or better of four tour events (Brisbane, Munich, Hamburg and Metz), while failing to advance past the third round of any of the Grand Slams.
Mathieu capitalized on three of nine break points opportunities, and withstood 17 aces by Mayer during the one hour and 30 minute affair.
Mathieu will now head to the second round where he will face tw0-time finalist Marc Gicquel. Gicquel, who made the finals in Lyon in 2006 and 2007, was a winner on Tuesday over countryman Jerome Haehnel.
Elsewhere, Nicolas Kiefer recovered from a first set defeat to win a barnburner of a match against Sebastien Grosjean 4-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(2). The two hour and 27 minute epic saw both men visit the form that had taken them to the No. 4 ranking in the world during their careers.
After winning the first set on the strength of two breaks of serve, Grosjean squandered an opportunity to close out the match in the second set after leading 3-2 up a break.
Kiefer’s veteran guile began to take over, allowing the 32-year-old German to win the tight second set tiebreak, and proceed to capture his fourth win over Grosjean with a third set tiebreak win.
With the win, Kiefer improved to 13-14 on the year, while Grosjean fell to 1-4.
Kiefer will attempt keep up his 20 ace performance against Grosjean when he takes on No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic in round two.
Oliver Rochus continued his recent good form on tour, defeating Frenchman Vincent Millot 6-3, 6-2.
Rochus, who was a finalist last week in Stockholm (l. Marcos Baghdatis), improved to 14-7 on the season and will next face No. 1 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Millot, who was one of 14 Frenchmen in draw, fell to 0-1 on the season in his first tour event.
The day’s final match between No. 8 seed Albert Montanes and Florent Serra will pit two tour grinders on their favorite surface.
Montanes, who has captured two tour titles this year (Estoril and Romania), will attempt to win his second hard-court match of the year, while Serra will be bidding to improve on his 22-27 win-loss record for the season.
Thursday’s action in Lyon will feature:
No. 1 seed Tsonga vs. Rochus, No. 4 seed Juan Monaco vs. Michael Llodra, and No. 7 seed Benjamin Becker vs. Arnaud Clement.
Please check back on Thursday for continuing daily coverage from St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Lyon.
Day Two Review: Chardy Breezes into Second Round in Russia, Lopez Continues Good form in Vienna, Tsonga Sees Action in Lyon
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
Future French hopeful Jeremy Chardy made quick work of Petru-Alexandru Luncanu on Tuesday, defeating the qualifier 6-2, 6-2.
Chardy, who has been touted as a potential top 10 player, used his canon serve and sonic forehand to improve to 34-25 on the season.
Luncanu, who was playing in only the second tour level match of his career, won a mere 59 percent of his first serve points, hit four double faults, while failing to obtain any break points chances.
The No. 322 ranked Romanian was at the mercy of his higher ranked opponent, appearing out of his element throughout the contest.
With the win, Chardy sets up an interesting second round encounter with Latvian Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis defeated Florian Mayer in first round action on Sunday.
Chardy and Gulbis have never met on the ATP World Tour.
The young Latvian is in the mist of alleged prostitution charges he suffered in Sweden last week and has failed to comment on the status of his case.
Elsewhere, No. 4 seed Igor Andreev kept Russian hopes alive for a hometown winner on Tuesday, easily dispatching Potito Starace 6-4, 6-2 in first round action.
Andreev’s lethal forehand produced the bulk of his winners over the one hour and 24 minute encounter, allowing for his 28th win of the season to take place.
Andreev, who has endured reasonable struggles throughout the year, broke Starace’s serve twice in each set, while saving six of seven break chances against his serve.
Andreev’s topspin style is by no means tailor made to the indoor Russian stadium, making it a difficult task for the 26-year-old to progress deep in the event.
Andreev will next meet the winner of a blockbuster first round match between Marat Safin and Richard Gasquet.
Safin, who is retiring at the end of this season, will take a 3-2 lifetime head-to-head record over Gasquet into Wednesday’s first round contest.
No. 8 seed Haracio Zeballos improved to 2-3 on the season on Tuesday, ousting Yuri Schukin 7-6 (9), 6-3 in one hour and 38 minutes.
Zeballos, who has won five Challenger titles this year to go along with three other finals, has positioned himself at the No. 54 position in the world despite his lack of main tour play.
Zeballos, who previously won his lone match of the year during the first round of the US Open (d. Michael Berrer), served tremendously against Schukin, striking 17 aces and winning 78 percent of his first serve points.
Schukin, who was competing in his first ATP World Tour match of the year, produced adequate serving numbers throughout his defeat, hitting seven aces and winning 62 percent of his total service points.
With the win, Zeballos will now head to second round action where he will face Oleksander Dolgopolov Jr., who moved past Robby Ginepri when the American was forced to retire in the second set trailing 6-2, 1-0.
Illya Marchenko continued his fine form which saw him reach the semifinals in Moscow last week, defeating Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-1. Marchenko will next meet No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu in the second round.
Other first round action which was completed on day two saw:
Michail Elgin prevented Mikhail Kukushkin from repeating his semifinal heroics from Moscow, defeating Kazakastan native 6-3, 6-3.
Russian wildcard Andrey Kuznetsov handed Marcel Granollers his 24th defeat of the season, ousting the Spaniard 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4.
Elgin will next face either No. 7 seed Pablo Cuevas or Igor Kunitsyn, while Kuznetsov will take on Tuesday’s final match winner between No. 6 seed Evgeny Korolev or Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Korolev, who made the quarterfinals of Moscow last week will be looking to even his win-loss record for the year which stands at 16-17.
Wednesday’s action in St. Petersburg will feature:
Top seed Mikhail Youzhny vs. Andrey Golubev, Safin vs. Gasquet, and Chardy vs. Gulbis.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
Former Vienna champ Feliciano Lopez advanced to the second round in Austria on Tuesday, defeating Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-4, 6-4 in first round action.
Lopez, who captured his lone career tour title during the 2004 Vienna event (d. Guillermo Canas), struck six aces and won an astounding 92 percent of his first serve points (24-26), to oust the Austrian qualifier.
Haider-Maurer, who was competing in his first ever tour level match, currently resides at No. 184 in world. The 22-year-old Zwettl native has diligently participated in Challenger level tournaments on season, hoping to gather the required points to move up to the main tour.
With the win, the No. 6 seeded Spaniard improved to 15-6 at the event, and advanced to the second round meeting with either Jarkko Nieminen or Daniel Koellerer.
No. 2 seed Radek Stepanek began his Vienna campaign in style on Tuesday, defeating dangerous floater Lukasz Kubot 6-4, 6-1.
Stepanek pounced on is opponents second serve throughout the one hour and 23 minute contest, winning 55 percent of Kubot’s second serve points.
Stepanek, who will lead the Czech Republic into the Davis Cup final in December, won 72 percent of his total service points, while hitting 10 aces.
The serve and volley tactics of Stepanek kept his Polish opponent off rhythm for much of the contest, improving his win-loss record to 40-17 on the year.
Stepanek will next face Frederico Gil, who defeated hometown hopeful Stefan Koubek in three sets on Monday.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is seeded No. 4 this week, easily defeated Dieter Kindlmann 6-1, 6-3 earlier in the day. Kohlschreiber’s consistent baseline game, coupled with his four of 11 break points conversions, led the 26-year-old German to his 38th win of the season.
Kindlmann, who was in search of his first win of the year, failed to convert on all four of his break points opportunities, while winning only 32 percent of his second serve points.
With the win, Kohschreiber will next face Victor Crovoi in round two. Crovoi defeated Jan Henrych in straight sets on Monday.
Lucky loser Michael Berrer, who took the place of defending champ Philipp Petzchner in the draw, dispatched the formidable challenge of Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-2.
Petzchner was forced to withdraw from the event due to a left calve strain. The German was attempting to defend his lone career title.
Matches that are still to come on Tuesday will include:
Top seed Marin Cilic vs. Alejandro Falla, No. 7 seed Jurgen Melzer vs. Marco Chiudinelli, and Andreas Seppi vs. Jan Hajek.
Cilic will begin his hopeful run to his third title of the season; Melzer, who is the highest seeded Austrian in the event will have complete fan support when he takes on his Swiss opponent; and Seppi will attempt to win his 23rd match of the year. Seppi’s slumping season has been highlighted by two semifinal finishes at Umag, Croatia, and Belgrade, Serbia.
Grand Prix Tennis de Tennis de Lyon—France
Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga begins his quest for his four title of the season on Tuesday, taking on the unheralded efforts of American Kevin Kim.
Tsonga, who is still in contention to qualify for the season ending Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London, currently stands at the No. 8 position in the race.
Tsonga has never played Kim tour, remaining the undeniable favorite going in.
No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic, who is in the twilight of his career, dismissed Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina 6-3, 6-4. The one hour and 28 minute match saw Ljubicic capitalize on two of 12 break point chances, while winning 88 percent of his first serve points.
Ljubicic’s recent good fortune on tour has included making the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters 1000 (l. Rafael Nadal), as well as the quarterfinals of the Beijing Open (l. Robin Soderling).
With the win, Ljubicic improved to 27-21 on year and will next face either Sebastien Grosjean or Nicolas Kiefer.
Elsewhere, No. 7 seed Benjamin Becker ousted Paola Lorenzi 6-2, 6-3; No. 8 seed Albert Montanes ended the popular run of Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-4; tricky Frenchman Michael Llodra destroyed Lamine Ouahab 6-1, 6-2; two-time finalist Marc Gicquel breezed past countryman Jerome Haehnel 6-1, 6-4; hard-hitting South American Kevin Anderson won his second match of the year, ousting Simon Greul 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3); David Guez won his first career match, defeating Newport winner Rajeev Ram 6-2, 6-4; and Arnaud Clement dispatched Oscar Hernandez 6-1, 6-3.
Wednesday’s schedule of play in Lyon will feature:
No. 2 seed Gilles Simon vs. Simone Bolelli, Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Leonardo Mayer, and Oliver Rochus vs. Vincent Millot.
Please check back on Wednesday for continuing daily coverage from St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Lyon.
Day One Review: Troicki upset in St. Petersburg, Almagro Advances in Vienna, Monaco Victorious in Lyon
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
No. 3 seed Viktor Troicki was ousted in first round action on Monday, losing to journeyman Karol Beck 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4.
Troicki, who lost his 11th first round match of the season, struck 10 aces and won 83 percent of his first serve points while falling to 30-27 on the year.
Beck, who improved his year-to-date record to 4-6, broke Troicki’s serve in the seventh game of the third set, closing out the 10th game of the set at love.
The two hour and 33 minute win by Beck will likely assist top seed Mikhail Youznhy in his efforts of taking home his second consecutive title in Russia. Youzhny was slated to meet Troicki in the semifinals.
Beck will now face Bjorn Phau in the second round, after the German easily disposed of wildcard recipient Stanislav Vovk 6-3, 6-2.
Phau, who is currently ranked No. 110 in the world, controlled every facet of his one hour an 18 minute victory over his No. 1216 ranked opponent.
Phau won 79 percent of his total service points, while converting on four of seven break point opportunities.
Vovk, who is an 18-year-old Russian prospect, fell to 0-3 in his career and will now head back to the Challenger circuit to build up his ranking.
Phau and Beck have never met on the ATP World Tour.
Elsewhere, the day’s final match will see former top 10 player Rainer Schuettler face Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
Schuettler, who is 10 years the senior of Istomin, at 33, will take a 16-27 win-loss record against his No. 101 ranked opponent.
Schuettler has contemplated retirement after this season and will assess his year after the Paris Masters 1000.
Istomin recently made the third round of the US Open, his best Grand Slam to date.
With main draw action beginning on Sunday, No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu and talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis are already safe in the second round.
Hanescu, who had lost sixth straight matches on tour coming into St. Petersburg, defeated Teimuraz Gabasvili 6-1, 6-2 in 59 minutes. Hanescu’s serve was dominant in disposing of Gabasvili, striking four aces while winning 90 percent of his first serve points.
Hanescu will now meet the winner of Fabio Fognini or Illya Marchenko in round two action.
Gulbis, who has had an absolutely atrocious year, defeated the formidable challenge of Florian Mayer, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Gulbis improved to 19-25 on the year and will now face either No. 4 seed Jeremy Chardy or Russian wildcard Petru-Alexandru Luncanu.
Tuesday’s order of play will feature:
Chardy vs. Luncanu, Igor Andreev vs. Potito Starace, and Evgeny Korolev vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
No. 5 seed Nicolas Almagro battled past Peter Luczak on Monday, while preventing his four straight loss at the event from taking place.
Almagro was forced to hit 20 aces and win 77 percent of his first serve points during the 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory. The Spaniard, who thrives on the outdoor clay, improved to 28-21 on the season, following a second round defeat in Shanghai to Robin Soderling.
Almagro, who was in danger of losing in straight sets to his Australian opponent, found his grit just in time, capturing the second set with a convincing tiebreak win, only to book his second round place with routine third set victory.
Almagro will next face Wayne Odesnik, who improved to 10-12 on the year by defeating Lukas Rosol 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8).
The close encounter featured 10 aces by either player, with Odesnik winning slightly more total service points at 67 percent to 62 percent, while using his flat baseline game to persevere in the highly contested tiebreak.
Almagro and Odesnik have never met on the ATP World Tour.
Elsewhere, big serving Daniel Brands handed Robert Kendrick his 16th loss of the season, defeating the American 7-6 (6), 7-5 in first round action.
Brands, who avenged a five set loss to Kendrick at the French Open earlier his year, withstood 16 aces and saved two break points in advancing to only his fifth second round of the season.
The 6′5″ Deggendorf native improved to 7-4 this year and will next face top seed Marin Cilic or qualifier Alejandro Falla in round two.
Cilic will be aiming for this third tour title of the season in Vienna this week.
Romanian Victor Crivoi prevented Jan Henrych from picking up his 11th win of the season, defeating the Czech player 6-3, 6-3.
Crivoi, whose year highlights have included defeating James Blake and Fabio Fognini, won 84 percent of his first serve points, while committing four double faults.
Crivoi will next meet either No. 4 seed Philipp Kohlshreiber or Deiter Kindlemann in round two.
The day’s final contest will feature Austrian veteran Stefan Koubek, who is currently ranked No. 114 in the world. The 33-year-old Austrian will take on Frederico Gil of Portugal.
Koubek is another player at the crossroads of retirement and would dearly love a great result on home soil.
Tuesday’s feature matches in Vienna will include:
Cilic vs. Falla, Jurgen Melzer vs. Marco Chiudinelli, and defending champ Philipp Petzchner vs. Steve Darcis.
Grand Prix Tennis de Tennis de Lyon—France
No. 4 seed Juan Monaco won his fifth hard-court match of the season on Monday, easily defeating French hopeful Joesslin Ouanna 6-3, 6-2.
The one hour victory for Monaco featured three aces, while saving one of three break point against his serve.
The Tandil native (which is the same city Juan Martin del Potro is from), broke the serve of Ouanna twice in the first set, and followed up his returning prowess by recording a perfect four of four break point chances in set two.
Ouanna, who will best be remembered this season for defeating Marat Safin at the French Open and making the third round, appeared frazzled while competing in front of his home crowd.
The Tours native won a mere 43 percent of his total service points, dropping to 3-5 on the season.
Monaco’s attempt to reach his first hard-court quarterfinal of the season will depend on his continued form against either Micheal Llodra or Algerian Lamine Ouahab.
Frenchman Llorda remains one of the toughest indoor competitors on the circuit, while Ouahab, who has seen limited main tour action will be bidding to win his first ever career match.
Elsewhere, a light day of action in Lyon will see, last years finalist Julien Benneteau battle Spanish workhorse Alberto Martin, while Christophe Rochus (brother of recent Stockholm finalist Oliver Rochus) takes on French favorite Florent Serra in the night cap.
Benneteau’s indoor success has been moderate this season, advancing to the quarters of both Rotterdam and Marseille. The 27-year-old Geneva resident advanced to the finals of Kitzbuhel this spring, a losing effort to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Serra, who will vying to capture his 22nd win of year has never played Rochus on the ATP World Tour.
Both men, who stand at under six-foot possess great groundstrokes and tremendous foot speed.
Tuesday’s schedule in Lyon will be highlighted by:
Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Kevin Kim, Fabrice Santoro vs. Albert Montanes, and Arnaud Clement vs. Oscar Hernandez.
Please check back throughout the week for continuing daily coverage from St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Lyon.
This week on tour marks the first time since the beginning of April that three ATP World Tour events will be held during the same week.
The rare occurrence on the grandest circuit that tennis has to offer means that St. Petersburg, Russia; Austria, Vienna; and Lyon, France will have the opportunity to showcase the best players in the world.
The distinct and valuable points allocated this week will assist those players on the cusp of gaining entry into the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London, as well as lending a hand to lower ranked competitors seeking a jolt in prize money.
With Nikolay Davydneko sitting out this week in St. Petersburg, and Andy Murray not defending his title due to a continued left wrist injury, Russian rocket Mikhail Youzhny will attempt to continue his recent string of good fortune on tour by advancing to his third straight final.
Youznhy will be joined by No. 2 seed Victor Hansecu, No. 3 seed Viktor Troicki, and No. 4 seed Jeremy Chardy at the St. Petersburg Open.
Other notables in the St. Pete’s draw will include, Marat Safin, Richard Gasquet, and Robby Ginepri.
On to the Vienna draw and recent tour springboard Marin Cilic. The lanky Croatian youngster was a late entry into the tournament, taking an 11th hour wildcard in the hopes of continuing his late season surge.
Cilic will take his recent win over Rafeal Nadal (Beijing) and deepest run ever in a Grand Slam (l. del Potro), towards what he hopes will be his third title of the season.
The Croat will be joined by No. 2 seed Radek Stepanek, No. 3 seed Gael Monfils and No. 4 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Defending champ Philipp Petzchner will also be present, who will attempt to defend his title.
Other notables in the field will include, No. 6 seed Feliciano Lopez, No. 8 seed John Isner, and Janko Tipsarevic.
Tipsarevic will be looking to maintain his high level of play from Moscow, where he reached his first final of the season.
The French contingent will be out in full force in Lyon, led by top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will be attempting to solidify his place amongst the elite eight in London.
Tsonga’s road to a title in Lyon will be complicated by the likes of No. 2 seed Gilles Simon, No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic and No. 4 seed Juan Monaco.
Fabrice Santoro, who will be retiring by years end, remains the oldest of the 11 participating Frenchmen in the draw. Santoro will attempt to end his 20 year career with his second title in Lyon (w. 1997), while taking part in his 18th tournament in the French suburb.
Argentine Leonardo Mayer and Joesslin Ouanna round out the lurking threats in the field.
Let us now take a look at the top and bottom halves and the obstacles the top two seeds from each of the three events will face this week.
St. Petersburg Open—Russia
After two weeks of dominating tennis, Mikhail Youzhny will hope to make good on his second consecutive week in Russia. Some home cooking and unanimous crowd support could enable the 27-year-old Muscovite to a dominate during his St. Pete’s campaign.
First up for Youzhny will be Andrey Golubev. Assuming the top seed is rested from Moscow, a Wednesday start should prevent the top seed from faltering early.
The quarterfinals could see a blockbuster all-Russian affair with retiring Marat Safin or No. 4 seed Igor Andreev setting up a Youzhny showdown
Safin will have to defeat tough Frenchman Richard Gasquet in round one, while Andreev will likely have to defeat the Safin-Gasquet winner in round two.
With Youzhny’s toughest competition in his section coming from either Safin or Andreev, a semifinal clash with either No. 3 seed Viktor Troikci, or No. 8 seed Evgeny Korolev could pose a less difficult task.
Two of the hardest hitters on tour, Troicki and Korolev, are dangerous when they’re on, but remain easy targets because of their overall inconsistent play.
Korolev did play well to defeat Safin in Moscow, who relied on his monster to oust the former world No. 1.
All in all, if fatigue plays a factor in Youzhny’s performance, expect someone like Andreev to take over proceedings.
However, keep in mind that Youzhny is beginning to show the form that took him to No. 8 postion in the world back in January 2008. He loves competing in front of his home crowd and will be motivated by his recent form.
After a disappointing week in Moscow, No. 2 seed Victor Hanescu will be hoping to crawl out of a four match losing streak. The 6′6″ Romanian has a slew of clay-court friendly players to contend with, begining with Russian hopeful Teimuraz Gabasvili.
Gabasvili’s temperamental game is big enough to dispose of Hanescu, provided his racket and focus don’t shatter on court.
If Hanescu survives his first obstacle, either Fabio Fognini or Illya Marchenko could be waiting.
Fognini is a tough competitor under any circumstance, while Marchenko will be coming in off his first career semifinal appearance in Moscow.
The worrisome opponent for Hanescu in this section could very well be No. 4 seed Jeremy Chardy. The flashy Frenchman has immense potential and should enter the world’s elite in the foreseeable future.
Chardy’s loose groundstrokes and solid serve should be good enough to carry him deep in this event. A potential semifinal clash between Chardy and Hanescu could very well spell the end for the second seed.
All in all, Hanescu’s successful year inevitably ended after the clay-court season. With that being said, it would take a grand effort to live up to his seeding and make the finals of St. Pete’s.
Let’s go with the future of French tennis in this section.
Bank Austria Tennis Trophy—Vienna
After facing a qualifier in round one, Cilic could face either Robert Kendrick or Daniel Brands of Germany in round two.
Both Kendrick and Brands possess big serves, with Kendrick’s overall game being better suited to indoor courts.
Cilic’s quarterfinal opponent could come from the challenge of 2004 champ and No. 6 Felicano Lopez. Lopez, who recently made the semifinals in Shanghai, brings a 14-6 life mark in Vienna, having the surface tailor made to his game.
In the semifinals, Cilic could face the consistent arsenal of No. 4 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber. “Coleslaw,” as he is known on tour has proven his mettle against the world’s best and has the potential to derail Cilic’s campaign.
All in all, it is without question that Cilic is the best player in this half and it is truly his to win or loss. Look for Lopez to be his toughest foe in his half.
No. 2 seed Radek Stepanek was dealt a trickier section than Cilic and will have to be on full guard from the get go.
Stepanek faces under-the-radar Lukasz Kubot in round one. For those of you who are not familiar with Kubot’s name, he recently defeated Andy Roddick in Beijing, while advancing to his first career final earlier this season in Belgrade (l. Djokovic).
Kubot has the firepower to upend Stepanek in the first round if he’s not dialed into his serve and volley game.
Apart from a potential nostalgic effort from veteran Austrian Stefan Koubek in round two, Stepanek’s next obstacle could come in the form of hometown favorite No. 7 Jurgen Melzer.
Melzer will hold the patriot card during this week and could cause an upset or two in the draw. His unorthodox style holds the variables to create an early departure for Stepanek.
The semifinals could provide Stepanek with the challenge of either Philipp Petzchner, No. 3 seed Gael Monfils, No. 8 seed John Isner, and recent Moscow finalist Janko Tipsarevic.
Petzchner will not go down without a fight in defending his title; Monfils looks to be the best player in this section and should live up to his seeding; Isner can never be taken lightly with his serve; and Tipsarevic will unlikely repeat his heroics from Russia.
All in all, with Radek’s mind likely focused on the Davis Cup final in December, look for Monfils, who has a realistic shot at making the tour finals in London to step and return to finals.
Grand Prix Tennis de Tennis de Lyon—France
No. 1 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will attempt to win his third career title in France this week, adding to his Marseille title earlier this year, and his Paris Masters 1000 triumph of a year ago.
The draw gods were kind to Tsonga in this half, which will see the Le Mans native begin his Lyon journey against wily veteran Kevin Kim. Kim’s best results have occurred on the Challenger circuit and he will be hard pressed to dent Tsonga’s weaponry.
Round two could see Tsonga up against recent Stockholm finalist Oliver Rochus. Rochus, who possesses the most effortless game of any small man on tour, will likely be fatigued from his Swedish success.
Arnaud Clement could set up an all-French quarterfinal with Tsonga in the event he can squeeze by No. 7 seed Benjamin Becker. Becker has struggled as of late, leaving Clement, who made the quarterfinals of Stockholm last week a realistic threat to make the final eight.
The semifinals could line up a contrast of styles between Tsonga and Fabrice Santoro. Santoro’s last dance in Lyon could likely be complicated by No. 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic, or wildcard recipient Sebastien Grosjean.
Grosjean has been out of action for most of the season, leaving Ljubicic, who recently made the quarterfinals of Shanghai (l. Rafael Nadal), the logical choice to make the semifinals.
Tsonga and Ljubicic have met on two occasions, with either man holding one victory.
All in all, with the feel good story of Santoro being present, Tsonga’s game will ultimately be too difficult to match in this half. Ljubicic is by no means a gimme for Tsonga, but with the indoor surface playing fast, look for the French flair to peak right where it should.
With an outside shot at qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour finals, No. 2 seed Gilles Simon will be taking nothing for granted in Lyon this week.
The recent Bangkok champ has historically performed well indoors and a comfortable draw would suggest that Simon’s luck will continue on home soil.
Simon’s first opponent, Simone Bolelli could in fact be his toughest adversary until the finals. Bolelli’s forehand and serve are top notch, leaving the world’s best with nothing short of compliments for the young Italian.
The quarterfinal round could see yet another all-French battle between Simon and 2008 finalist Julien Benneteau. Benneteau, who lost to Robin Soderling in 2008, possesses a crafty all-court game that could translate well against Simon.
In the event that Simon progresses to the semifinals, No. 4 seed Juan Monaco or No. 6 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu could be waiting.
Both Monaco and Mathieu will be in tough in their first round matches against Joesslin Ouanna and Leonardo Mayer respectively. Don’t be surprised in the least to see both seeds ousted in the opening round.
With that in mind, Mayer, who is making quite the name for himself this year could in fact make the final four. His hard-court resume is building by the week, though, clay is still his best surface.
All in all, look for Mayer to be the surprise story of this half and Simon producing the tennis he needs to make his second final of the season.
Please check back throughout the week for daily reports from St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Lyon.