Top Players Roundup:
Roger Federer cruised through his match against Fernando Verdasco which was a fair bit easier than the scoreline indicated. Federer was very good on his serve and really had a very smooth match. He did not break Verdasco as often as some would have liked but he only faced one break point all match and it really was very routine. Murray had a much less routine match against Feliciano Lopez. The match had a few breaks but it was really a nerve-wracking match with 3 tiebreaks. Murray was the mentally tougher player and won all 3 of them, but it was still a match that could have easily gone either way. It hinged on just a few points. And with Milos Raonic up next, Murray needs to figure out a way to start breaking serve again.
Djokovic was once again absolutely dominant. He is playing at a scarily high level this tournament. He just looks more and more like his unbeatable 2011 self each match. It will probably be a sad day for American tennis if Roddick meets him in the quarterfinals. Roddick, meanwhile, got past Fabio Fognini without being too threatened and will play what could easily be his last-ever career match Tuesday night on Ashe. David Ferrer got a tough battle from Lleyton Hewitt for two sets, but Lleyton’s body eventually gave out and Ferrer won the last two sets pretty easily. Ferrer has done well in tiebreaks this tournament, which is a very big positive for him.
Who Looked Good:
1. Jack Sock- I cannot overstate how impressive this youngster has been all tournament. Sock went up against the #11 seed and really outplayed him for much of 3 sets. He got a little tight in two of the tiebreaks (the first 3 sets all went to breakers) and then lost his rhythm in the fourth. But the former junior champion has shown a lot of good things this tournament and could really be a serious challenger in the not-so-distant future.
2. Marin Cilic- Cilic, after playing fairly poorly for two straight rounds, came up with his best play when he needed it most. He was up against Kei Nishikori, who was playing very well also. But Cilic finally found a good rhythm on his serve and groundstrokes and really showed how he reached an Australian Open semifinal and why he is almost in the top 10. His next match against Martin Klizan should not be so tough if he plays this well and after that he will be challenged with the Murray/Raonic winner.
3. Richard Gasquet- Gasquet didn’t do anything exceptional in his match. He played very solid tennis and his backhand was beautiful as usual. But he was forced to keep down a talented player who plays with a ton of heart and who had a massive backing in the crowd. If shows a level of mental fortitude that Gasquet has lacked in the past. The win is a good sign for him and hopefully he can play his top tennis throughout the tournament.
Who Looked Bad:
1. The Mardy Fish/Gilles Simon match- Look, I almost never comment on the way a match is played. These are some of the world’s best tennis players and you do whatever it takes to win. And if that means playing an unappealing style, so be it. But Simon’s counterpunching-without-the-punching style creates matches that are just ugly to watch some times. The matches have long, boring rallies and are usually punctuated by obscene unforced error stats ans few winners. Fish won it in 4 sets, but it was a match that was in no way entertaining to watch.
2. Alexandr Dolgopolov- Dolgopolov got throttled by Stanislas Wawrinka, even though the Swiss left 19 break chances unconverted. Dolgopolov couldn’t hit through Stan’s defense and it obviously frustrated him. He sprayed errors all match long and could never get into a good rhythm. Wawrinka is a good player and at his current level there’s no shame in losing to him, but Dolgopolov should have been able to make this match a lot closer.
3. Bernard Tomic- This was from his second-round match, but I was forced to publish the last recap before that match was contested. Tomic just didn’t try. I’m sure it must have been tough mentally to face down an American legend on Arthur Ashe stadium right after that legend announced he was retiring at the end of the tournament. But Tomic never got into that match at all. It would have been a tough match to win regardless, but Tomic could have at least pretended he was playing in a Grand Slam.
Match of the Round:
This round really didn’t have any match that deserves this slot either. There was one five-setters and none of the four-setters really had massive emotion or a feeling that anything could happen at any moment. Both Murray/Lopez and Almagro/Sock had 3 tiebreakers, which is exciting, but neither ever really had such a strong feeling that the match could hinge on any given point. Hewitt/Ferrer felt like that for 2 sets, but Hewitt couldn’t keep it up after that. Querrey/Berdych also came close, but for a while it felt like Querrey had given up on the match and the match lost a lot of meaning because most of the fans left early.
Roddick/Fognini definitely was the closest that we had to that type of atmosphere. Fognini outplayed Roddick in many of the rallies and beat him in just about every statistical category (even aces). The crowd and his serve carried Roddick through though, and he was helped by some poor patches from the Fog. Still, it felt like the importance of the match came from Roddick’s impending retirement and not from the closeness of the match itself. The only other match that could reach this spot was Isner/Kohlschreiber. But that was a match that was decided by one break in each set and while it had a great atmosphere, it was not a battle of two players playing their best. Each player held their own serve and took advantage when their opponent lagged. There was some drama in the fifth when Isner got absolutely furious (and that’s a massive understatement) over a foot fault call. There was never really a moment when both players played top tennis and one actually had to beat the other.
What to Watch in Round 4:
Of the 8 round-of-16 matches, they all pretty much look to be good ones. The only one that isn’t really compelling is Marin Cilic against Martin Klizan. And saying that isn’t quite fair because Klizan has played most of this tournament at a higher level that Cilic. Djokovic against Wawrinka might not be interesting at all, but that would only be because Djokovic is playing at such a high level. Wawrinka has been very good all tournament and has played at a good enough level to challenge most of the top players.
Fish challenging Federer will be interesting. Federer recently beat Fish in straight sets in Cincinnati in what was a very high-quality match. If Fish can find his form (and get back some rhythm which the Simon match will have completely sapped him of) then he has a chance to make that a special match. He will need to do serve at a higher percentage than he has in his first rounds if he wants to pull off the upset. He also needs to utilize his great return of serve to send balls back deep at Federer and not let Federer get too many free points. The best chance of an upset is probably Gasquet/Ferrer, though that will be a tough and tight match no matter what. Kohlschreiber also has a very good chance to beat Tipsarevic, who hasn’t really met any tough competition yet this tournament, though that would not be too much of an upset.
But the one match that all eyes will, and should, be on next round is Andy Roddick against Juan Martin Del Potro. Delpo is better than Roddick at this point in their careers and he can really dominate any rallies on this surface. Roddick has no reason to protect his shoulder or body from injury so he can go all-out on every shot like he did back when he won this tournament in 2003. His serve and groundstrokes are nowhere near as big as they used to be, but Roddick still has a pretty strong punch. The crowd will be exclusively behind Roddick from the first ball to the last. The only question that will arise as this match goes on is whether it will be Roddick’s last or whether he will earn himself one more night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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