First Ball In, 7/10: Plot Twists

Thursday, July 10, 2014 /by
AP
AP

Philipp Kohlschreiber was pinned so far behind the baseline, he could have used the radar display as a step stool to return Lukas Rosol's serve, which sprung to shoulder heights.

When Rosol wasn't twisting the ball out of Kohlschreiber's strike zone, be was busy blasting drives down the line. Broken for the only time when he served for the match at 5-4, Rosol rebounded for a 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory to bounce the fifth-seeded German out of Stuttgart in one of the best matches of the day.

Kohlschreiber has a history of peaking at home. Four of his five career titles—Düsseldorf (2014), Munich (2012 and 2007) and Halle (2011)—have come on home soil. Seven of Kohlschreiber's 11 final appearances have come in Germany. He beat Jan-Lennard Struff in a rain-delayed all-German first-rounder this morning and played solidly in round two, but Rosol refused to let the world No. 26 get too comfortable on court.

A stinging cross-court backhand return gave Rosol the first break and a 6-5 lead. The 6'5" Czech won 15 of 16 points played on his first serve in the opener, and his ability to strike quickly denied his opponent rhythm. Rosol ripped another backhand return winner down the line for break point in the opening game of the second set. Following a mishit forehand return to net, he caught a break when Kohlschreiber netted a mid-court forehand, donating the break and a 2-0 lead.

Grass was a launching pad for Rosol, who gained international attention for his 2012 Wimbledon upset of Rafael Nadal. But clay is his best surface because it gives him the time to unleash his sweeping swings. Rosol reached the Bucharest final on clay in April, falling to Grigor Dimitrov. He beat compatriot Jiri Vesely to win the Prague Challenger on clay last month, and he struck with ambition at crunch time today. Deadlocked at 5-all in the tiebreaker, Rosol lashed an ace down the middle and followed with a forehand return winner down the line. He will play fourth-seeded Feliciano Lopez in Friday's quarterfinals.

*****

Finishing School

Shelby Rogers led Carla Suarez Navarro by a set and a break in the 2013 Roland Garros second round, only to see the Spaniard rally for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory that day.

Today, Rogers was the rally killer. The 147th-ranked American qualifier hit 11 aces and denied 10 of 11 break points to stun world No. 16 Suarez Navarro in Bad Gastein, 6-4, 6-0.

The 21-year-old Charleston native joins 138th-ranked Grace Min as one two Americans to reach the last eight, and it's Roger's first WTA quarterfinal appearance. Rogers faces seventh-seeded Camila Giorgi next, while Min plays No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova.

*****

Scoop on Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt was the youngest man and first Australian to secure the year-end top spot in the history of the ATP rankings. Now the Aussie is a page-turning presence at age 33.

Hewitt, who faces Steve Johnson in the Newport quarterfinals on Friday, is the subject of a new book, Facing Hewitt, by Scoop Malinowski. It's the third tennis book by Malinowski, who also wrote Facing Federer and Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew. Malinowski interviewed about 50 players and coaches, who recall their experiences against the two-time Grand Slam champion, including these:

"He's probably the best competitor I played against. It's weird. At first we probably didn't like each other much, and then it came to the point where we respected each other...It would be hard for anyone to respect what he's done in this game more than I do."—Andy Roddick

"To win Wimbledon, to win the U.S. Open with the game he had, it was a turning point in the history of tennis. He was the first one really to win Wimbledon from the baseline...He was the first one to really demolish Sampras' serve at the U.S. Open...He's really shy, actually, incredibly."—Ivan Ljubicic

"[Facing Hewitt] it's like to play a computer."—Dudi Sela

"The operations and the things he's been through, to come back from that, he's one of my heroes. I love Lleyton Hewitt."—Richard Williams

*****

OOP Analysis

See Friday’s Order of Play for Bad Gastein and Bucharest here, and for Bastad, Newport and Stockholm here.

Bad Gastein

(4) Andrea Petkovic vs. Stefanie Voegele: Fitness has served Petkovic well in this rivalry. She's won three of their four prior meetings with strong finishes, including a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 triumph at Roland Garros last spring. Neither woman has dropped a set this week. Petkovic has more sting on her shots, but Voegele is returning with accuracy. The 75th-ranked Swiss has earned 21 break points in victories over Julia Goerges and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina to reach her first quarterfinal since January, when she pushed world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka to three sets in Brisbane.

Bastad

(8) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (3) Fernando Verdasco: The first meeting between Spanish seeds could come down to controlling the center of the court. Named ATP Most Improved Player last year, Carreno Busta has struggled to gain traction this year with 13 opening-round exits. But he should carry confidence from winning successive Challenger titles on clay last month and will try to engage Verdasco in backhand exchanges. The left-handed Verdasco used his forehand to dictate play in a 6-1, 7-5 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas today  to reach his fifth straight Bastad quarterfinal.

Newport

(1) John Isner vs. (7) Jack Sock: There's no time to negotiate rallies when two massive-serving Americans meet. The first serve will be critical and break points should be minimal. Isner has won all three of their meetings, with three of the seven sets they've played decided in tiebreakers. Sock may well be empowered winning the Wimbledon doubles title last weekend with Canadian Vasek Pospisil in a dramatic final against the Bryan brothers. Isner's wrecking ball serve has been destructive on the low-bouncing Newport grass: The two-time champion has won 15 of his last 16 matches on the Hall of Fame's lawns. Three of Sock's four ATP quarterfinals this season have come on American soil.

Stuttgart

(1) Fabio Fognini vs. (7) Santiago Giraldo: Mixing exceptional feel and timing, Fognini can make magic and mischief. But self-indulgence and a short fuse can cause outbursts, which the defending champion must limit. The flat-hitting Giraldo has taken time away from the Italian before, winning two of their three matches. Giraldo won 10 consecutive games before Fognini retired with a right leg injury in the Barcelona second round last April. The Colombian reached the Barcelona final then beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray in succession to reach the Madrid quarterfinals.

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