With the quarterfinal spots at stake, after nearly five hours, the stormy weather cleared to allow play at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. While Tomas Berdych, the number one seed, and Fernando Verdasco, the third seed, battled their way into the next round. For the Americans, the tournament was a disaster. Andy Roddick, the three time champion and second seed, 2007 finalist John Isner as well as 2010 Atlanta champion Mardy Fish were all swept away.
Isner, the fifth seed, squared off against Xavier Malisse. In March at their initial meeting in Houston, Malisse prevailed in three tiebreaker sets. In the beginning stages of the first set, Malisse had a few break points. However, Isner promptly brushed those aside. Later at 4 all, Malisse obtained the break which permitted him to take the set. But, in the second set, Malisse double faulted on break point to give Isner a 2-1 edge. As usual, this was the minute window the American required to push the match to a third set. In the third game, Isner had two break point chances, yet converted none. For his part, with Isner serving at 4 all, Malisse failed to capitalized on love 40. Thus, the tiebreaker was called upon. At 5 all, Isner miscalculated an overhead which resulted in the ball landing on his side of the court. With a mini-break/match point in hand, Malisse connected on a good serve. With Isner botching the return, Malisse punched his ticket into the subsequent round with a 6-4,3-6,7-6 win.
Despite recently turning 30, Malisse is enjoying great success the last few months. MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q. Although you are getting on in years, you are playing pretty good tennis. What keeps you motivated?
Malisse: I had two years of injuries, when you are sidelined and everyone else is playing it hurts. Sometimes you say that you want a couple of weeks off, when it’s [not on your own terms], it really gets to you . . . Since I had two easy years, I feel I am healthy now . . . The road back has been tough playing challenger last year after being in nice tournaments in nice places. . . But it feels so much more satisfying now . . . Before, I was just playing, not really enjoying it.
At Wimbledon, Malisse teamed up with Kim Clijsters and made it to the quarterfinals in mixed doubles. MiamiTennisNews inquired:
Q. Do the two of you plan to do the same at the U.S. Open?
Malisse: I don’t think so. We have not talked about it. It’s harder considering it’s five sets . . . We had a good time and laughed a lot in [London], that’s the most important thing.
The first set went along swimmingly for Malisse’s quarterfinal opponent, Berdych against Andrey Golubev. After securing the break in the third game, Berdych cruised on serve. Nevertheless, serving to send the second set into a tiebreaker, Berdych dropped serve at love. In the decisive set, Berdych broke for 3-2. Though, serving for the match and ahead 30-0, Berdych surrendered four straight points to enable Golubev back in. Still, Berdych managed to break once more and hold for a 6-3,5-7,7-5 victory.
First round at Wimbledon, Berdych faced Golubev and send him packing in straight sets. Hence, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know:
Q. Why was it so difficult to close Golubev out this time around?
Berdych: He’s really improved [in the last couple of weeks]. He won his first [title] in Hamburg which is a big tournament . . . Even before, he’s had a couple of good results . . . Hardcourt is going to be the best surface for him. . . The conditions, the fast courts suit his game . . .
The Sony Ericsson Open was a pivotal point in Berdych’s career. Since, he’s had extraordinary results at the French Open and Wimbledon. MiamiTennisNews questioned whether Berdych felt the same way.
Q. In making the final in South Florida, did that give you the mental boost to propel you to additional success?
Berdych: Yes. . . But not only the tournament in Miami. It started the Davis Cup week right before Indian Wells. . . I won a couple of matches . . . Then at Indian Wells, I made the quarters which showed me even if I am . . . not playing well, I can [have] good results which gave me a lot of confidence. . . Coming to Miami which is really my favorite tournament . . . The key match against Roger [Federer] turning it around match point down . . . [getting] to the final . . . I am happy I can keep the form, keep the consistency and bring more and more good results.
Sixty nine minutes was the length of Gilles Simon’s match against 2009 finalist Roddick. For the Frenchman, it was surprisingly easy in light of his knee problem. Moreover, although the two had not played since 2008, Simon had never carried a set. Subsequent to getting the break for 2-1, Simon stole another game from Roddick to seal the first set. As in the prior set, Simon captured the break for 2-1. Roddick manufactured one break point in the set, his second of the night which Simon salvaged. Nonetheless, Simon sustained the lead to eventually triumph 6-3,6-3.
With an ice pack strapped to his right knee, Simon stated that the difference tonight is that unlike before, he “managed to return serves which was not the case the last times” they met. Moreover, as a defensive player and with Roddick camping at the baseline, Simon cited “when we play a lot of points from the baseline, I feel more confident”.
While Roddick credited his opponent as usual and said “I have no defense, it was a pretty bad effort”. Roddick’s results have been poor lately and he admits that he has “struggling” with his energy level which is “concerning“. As such, Roodick acknowledged that a visit to the doctor is warranted since “I’ve been feeling like crap”. With that disclosure, it will not be shocking if Roddick sits out the Masters in Toronto.
Simon clashes with David Nalbandian in the quarterfinals. At their maiden meeting, Nalbandian squashed Marco Chiudinelli 6-1,6-0. Gradually, the Argentine has been making a comeback following hip surgery last year. Currently ranked 117, this is the best Nalbandian has performed on hardcourt reaching his initial quarterfinal of the year on that surface.
The rain slowed down Verdasco enough to give qualifier Ryan Sweeting a glimmer of hope. After wrestling the first game from Verdasco, Sweeting bounced back from love 40 to consolidate. Down the road, Verdasco broke to level the first set at 3 all. Benefiting from Sweeting’s miscues, Verdasco took a second game from the American to pocket the first set. Break opportunities against Verdasco were plentiful early on in the second set. Finally at 3 all, Sweeting capitalized to move ahead 4-3. Yet, serving for the set, Sweeting produced a bevy of forehand errors which let Verdasco equalize for 5 a piece. Later, Verdasco arrived at double break/match point thanks to another unforced error by Sweeting. As Sweeting’s backhand sailed long, Verdasco claimed a quarterfinal berth with a 6-4,7-5 victory.
At the press conference, MiamiTennisNews questioned Verdasco:
Q. You seem to get off to a sluggish start. Was the rain delay a factor at the beginning for you ?
Verdasco: I don’t know maybe. Nobody knows that . . . Waiting for a long time is not easy [with an uncertain start time]. . . I am happy that I finally won the match that’s the most important thing . . .And I am feeling better day by day, match by match.
Q. You go to Las Vegas frequently to train with the Addidas program, how has that helped to elevate your game?
Verdasco: When I have tournaments in Europe, it’s more difficult . . . When the tournaments are in the States, I go because I think it really helps me to have people like Gil Reyes, Darren Cahill, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff . . . I was the first of the Addidas players to go there . . . Since Gil speaks Spanish, we hit it off right away. . . I have an incredible relationship with [everyone]. I did a big change before the Australian Open 2009. They are still helping me and making me a better player. That’s why I go every time I can.
Marcos Baghdatis, Verdasco’s subsequent challenge, made his match against Illya Marchenko more intricate by wasting a 4-0 lead in the second set tiebreaker. Still, Baghdatis recuperated to vanquish his rival 6-3,6-7,6-3.
The last beacon for the Americans, Fish was extinguished by Marin Cilic. Cilic improved his record to 3-0 versus Fish. After the former seized the first set, Fish gained the break at 5-4 in the second set to force a third. But, the last set, Fish withered and Cilic pocketed the match 6-4,4-6,6-2. Therefore, for the first time since the creation of the tournament, there will be no American in the quarterfinals and for only the third occasion has it happened with the semifinals.
At their one prior tussle in the first round at Roland Garros this year, Janko Tipsarevic was booted by Alejandro Falla. Tipsarevic got off to a fast start in the first set, taking it 6-3. In the second set though, Tipsarevic encountered resistance from the Columbian. In the end, the Serbian ousted Falla 6-4, 6-3 to reserve the quarterfinals’ terminal slot.