First Ball In, 8/20: Déjà Blue

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 /by
Donald Young saved match points, then missed on two, before losing in three sets. (AP Photos)
Donald Young saved match points, then missed on two, before losing in three sets. (AP Photos)

Tie Die

The final tiebreaker was a heartbreaker for Donald Young. The 11th-seeded American fought off three match points late in the third set, then held a pair of match points in the third-set tiebreaker, only to see Guillermo Garcia-Lopez fight back for a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory in Winston-Salem.

Down 4-5 in the third set, Young saved his third match point with a leaping stab overhead from behind the baseline that Garcia-Lopez could not handle. Young built a  6-4 lead in the breaker, but could not close. He double-faulted on his second match point as the fifth-seeded Spaniard, who had lost five straight tiebreakers, won the final four points to close a gripping win.

"At the end today, I got lucky," said Garcia-Lopez, who held off Young in five sets at Roland Garros last spring. "Sometimes the tiebreaker is a lottery, and I got the number. That's why I won.''

Garcia-Lopez will play Sam Querrey next. Querrey toppled second-seeded Kevin Anderson, 7-6 (4), 6-4, continuing a trend in their rivalry. Seven of their 11 career meetings have featured first-set tiebreakers, and the winner of each one has gone on to win the match.

***

Big Game Giorgi

Caroline Wozniacki's feet were stuck in Connecticut, but her head looked spooked by memories of Flushing Meadows.

A year ago, Camila Giorgi upset Wozniacki beneath the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Today, she bounced the former world No. 1 out of New Haven, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to the quarterfinals. The pace and depth of Giorgi's drives pushed Wozniacki so far back at times that she was operating on the Connecticut logo emblazoned well behind the baseline. Giorgi blasted a backhand winner down the line to break in the opening game of the match and spent much of the day painting the four-time tournament champion into obscure areas behind the blue court.

Wozniacki, who looked weary playing her 16th match since Wimbledon, worked out of a triple break point hole to hold for 3-4, then plopped down in her court-side seat while the Aretha Franklin classic "Respect" blared over the stadium sound system. Giorgi wasn't listening: She showed disdain for the Dane's second serve, frequently stepping inside the baseline to blast returns into the corners.

There's a lot to like about Giorgi's game. She has fast feet, she's nimble around net, serves bigger than her slender 5'6", 119-pound frame suggests (she hit a few 117 M.P.H. serves today and did not drop serve), fearlessly attacks her shots, and has played some of her most assertive tennis against elite opponents. The world No. 37 took the court with a 5-3 career record against Top 10 opponents, including wins over former top-ranked foes Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Wozniacki.

The Italian hits big and plays close to the lines. When she's dialed in, Giorgi is explosive, but when her timing flickers she's prone to erratic patches and struggles to reset her game. Giorgi is so light on her feet, can take the ball so early and is capable of opening the court so effectively, she'd be well served using her volley even more. Giorgi won 18 of 22 trips to net today, punctuating points with some fine backhand volleys. She finished with nearly four times as many winners (31 to eight) as Wozniacki and will play Garbine Muguruza for a spot in the final four.

*****

Silver Streak

Winning isn't easy, but David Goffin is hooked on the habit. The surging Belgian extended his winning streak to 25 matches with today's 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over veteran Jarkko Nieminen in Winston-Salem. To put the streak in perspective, Goffin has nearly matched his total victory output from the past two seasons (28 wins) during the past two months. He has not lost a match since bowing to Andy Murray in the opening round of Wimbledon and has surrendered just three sets during his winning streak, which includes three consecutive Challenger crowns and his first ATP title at Kitzbühel earlier this month. He's competing as if losing is not an option.

“Of course after 25 matches you have a lot of confidence, you don’t think you’re going to lose, but I play every match like it’s the first one in the tournament, like it’s the first one of the season and I give everything," Goffin told ATPWorldTour.com. "And with my confidence I keep winning, so I’m very happy.”

Next up for Goffin is a first meeting with Jerzy Janowicz, who rallied past Edouard Roger-Vasselin to reach his first quarterfinal since February. As good as Goffin has been during his surge, he can get even better. The slender Belgian, who may be generously listed at 5'11" and 150 pounds, can get stronger and solidify his second serve. Goffin has a high ball toss, which can create some complications under pressure—he entered the match with almost as many double faults (69) as aces (71) on the season—and hit seven doubles today. Lowering his toss a bit could help stabilize his serve. His fluid movement, compact strokes, ability to redirect the ball down the line off both wings and willingness to play all-court tennis area all assets. Goffin won't be seeded at next week's U.S. Open, but he will be a dangerous floater.

"I think he can be one of the best players in Belgium that we’ve ever had," said compatriot Steve Darcis, who told us yesterday that he practiced with Goffin almost daily earlier this summer.

*****

OOP Analysis

See Thursday’s Order of Play for New Haven here and for Winston-Salem here.

(2) Petra Kvitova vs. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova: A rematch of the Wimbledon quarterfinals should favor the two-time Wimbledon champion, who possesses more power, does everything better, and permitted just three games to Ekaterina Makarova in her opener. But if Kvitova's mind wanders and shots stray, she could be in for a battle against her flat-hitting compatriot who knows her game well.

Camila Giorgi vs. Garbine Muguruza: Both women can blister the ball, so controlling the center of the court and taking the first strike is essential. Giorgi, who has dropped serve just once in two wins this week, won their lone prior meeting in Madrid last year.

(1) John Isner vs. (7) Lukas Rosol: Two-time champion Isner hasn't exactly rolled out the welcome mat for opponents in his home tournament: He is 12-0 lifetime in Winston-Salem. Rosol has registered back-to-back hard-court wins in an ATP event for the first time since reaching the Dubai quarterfinals in February.

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