We revisit a Tuesday filled with intriguing results from both the men’s and women’s draws in Cincinnati, keeping you up to date as the action escalates and seeds start to fall.
Fish d. Lopez: Having fallen to the Spanish lefty last year at a Davis Cup tie in Austin, the American erased those memories with a decisive straight-sets victory on a court suited to both of them. Fish usually plays his best tennis before his home fans, and he caused Federer serious anxiety in the final here two years ago, while he defeated Nadal on this court last year. With the US Open just two weeks ahead, Cincinnati should offer him the ideal preparation as long as he can stay healthy.
Raonic d. Gasquet: A surprise finalist at the Rogers Cup last week, the Frenchman knocked off two imposing servers in Fish and Isner to reach that stage. But he could not repeat the feat on the faster court of Cincinnati, failing to break Raonic at all despite dropping his own serve just once. After losing a close first-set tiebreak to Isner at his home tournament, the Canadian may have learned from that experience to play much more solidly in the same situation here. Down 0-30 when he served for the match, he found the clutch first serves that he needed to snuff out the Frenchman’s only real hope.
Haas d. Nalbandian: Just as it did in Toronto last week, this battle of grizzled veterans extended through three tight sets. Like Nalbandian, Haas ranks among the finest players of his generation never to win a major title, and his smooth all-court game has aged far better than one might have expected for someone injured so often. At the age of 34, he has climbed all the way from outside the top 200 when the year began to the top 25, and from a wildcard at the Australian Open to a seeded position at the US Open. During this remarkable surge, he has defeated Tsonga, defeated Federer, and won a set from Djokovic. One hardly can disagree with Australia Tennis Magazine editor Vivienne Christie in labeling Haas a favorite tennis story of 2012.
Chardy d. Roddick: Gone in the second round of Cincinnati a year ago, Roddick duplicated that disappointing result in a match when back spasms discomfited him. Injuries have plagued him repeatedly this year, and his stunning upset of Federer in Miami feels like a long time ago. For Chardy, however, a second straight victory over a notable figure (following Tsonga in Toronto) may spur hope in a highly talented but habitually underachieving Frenchman who had accomplished nothing to remember during the first half of 2012.
Querrey d. Melzer: Winning his third title in Los Angeles, a feat shared only by a few legendary stars, Querrey competed well against Djokovic last week and battled tenaciously to escape a one-set deficit against Melzer here. Able to withstand the heat and fond of the fast courts, he has shown a greater willingness to construct points and approach the forecourt this summer, together with a more mature perspective. Next for Querrey is a weary Murray, who reached the peak of his career so far with a gold medal at Wimbledon but withdrew from the Rogers Cup with a knee injury that clouded his participation here as well. The American defeated the Cincinnati defending champion in the Los Angeles final two years ago, so a surprise might lurk on Wednesday.
Venus d. Kirilenko: Relishing the fast court as much as Querrey, the elder Williams cracked 11 aces while minimizing the double faults that can trickle from her arrhythmic motion. Rarely does Venus lose when she converts more than 60% of her second-serve points, as she did today. Buoyed by an outstanding Olympics, Kirilenko gallantly clawed back into a second set that she trailed before winning the ensuing tiebreak, an area in which her opponent has struggled since her return this year. Venus reached the quarterfinals at notable tournaments in Miami and Rome early in her comeback, so she will hope to sustain her momentum here while rationing her energy as much as possible.
Shvedova d. Safarova: Reaching the second week at each of the last two majors, Shvedova deserves credit for resurrecting her singles career, which had flagged following a succession of injuries. Coming close to ousting Serena at Wimbledon, a feat that seems wildly implausible in retrospect, she started this tournament impressively by dispatching a Montreal semifinalist. On the other hand, Safarova may have continued to reel from her collapse in that match against Li Na, for which she served twice. The Czech lefty broke Shvedova only once, failing to capitalize on her opponent’s modest first-serve percentage and unable to win as many of her own first-serve points as she normally does.
Larsson d. Bartoli: Gone early in Montreal, the former Wimbledon finalist became the most prominent casualty of the women’s tournament here amidst 13 double faults. En route to the final in Carlsbad last month, Bartoli regularly survived matches despite reaching double digits in double faults as her serve betrayed her. In the same situation here, she could not survive a mercurial Swede who swept all but four of the eighth seed’s second-serve points. Not lacking for weapons, Larsson has struggled for focus and consistency at times, but Bartoli could not unlock those weaknesses because she never subjected her raw opponent to any sustained pressure.
Stosur d. Medina Garrigues: Just weeks ahead of her title defense in New York, nerves may have started to filter into the Australian’s mind already. Stosur allowed aging clay specialist Medina Garrigues to linger far longer than necessary, 158 minutes to be exact, in an ugly affair that featured 23 break points. Since both women spurned one opportunity after another, including a match point for the third seed in the second-set tiebreak, their encounter stayed on serve until the tenth game of the third set. Breaking for the match at that stage, Stosur must aim to seize the initiative more aggressively in future rounds if she seeks to advance much further.
Serena d. Daniilidou: Having lost no more than four games to any of the four current and former #1s whom she faced at the Olympics, Serena yielded seven games to a woman far below her level. This match faintly recalled her opener in Cincinnati last year, when she showed only sporadic intensity against the outclassed Hradecka. Although Serena did crack nine aces and lose only one service game, her return languished for long stretches as she converted only three of thirteen break-point chances and needed untimely double faults from Daniilidou to collect the decisive break in the second set. With a feisty, explosive Shvedova on the horizon, expect the gold medalist to raise her game significantly for an opponent more worthy of her attention.