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.