Big and Better In D. C.
August 5, 2009 -- When Donald Dell speaks, people listen. As the founder of The Legg Mason Tennis Classic, he naturally imparts wisdom and insight that demand attention not only about this tournament, which he knows intimately, but also about the game.
So when Dell said, in today's Bob Larson's Daily Tennis Business News, "This is the strongest field that we've ever had since I've been involved in the tournament, since 1969," you can take it to the bank.
Of course, Dell credited the quality of the field to the changes made by the ATP for 2009, which elevated this U. S. Open Series stop to a Tour 500 event -- one notch below the ATP Masters 1000 Series tournaments.
If you dig into Dell's history you soon unearth the reason he is so passionate about the Legg Mason Tennis Classic -- and tennis here in D. C. Dell grew up in the area and played tennis -- no surprise there. Without funding through the resources at the Washington Education & Tennis Foundation, however, he never would have pursued professional tennis or reached a career-high ranking of #5.
After his tennis circuit and a law degree from The University of Virginia, he started one of the first player management businesses. His first two clients were Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith. He selected these two tennis icons to help him develop The Legg Mason tournament in 1969, one year after the Open Era began. Ashe insisted that the tournament be played in a public park, and Rock Creek Park became the site. Since the tournament's inception, $15 million has been donated to local charities, as reported by Bob Larson's news.
The ATP and fans would have liked Tommy Robredo to stay beyond his first-round match. However, his opponent and good friend Juan Carlos Ferrero didn't let him. He trounced his buddy and the #7 seed 63 62. He also tipped their match record in his favor 3-2.
"I was a little surprised [by the score]," Ferrero said. "I thought it would be tougher."
Fans packed the intimate and cozy-sized Grandstand Court to watch the man nicknamed 'The Mosquito' play his 'A' game.
"I was hitting the ball well and put pressure on Robredo," he said.
He also admitted that his first-round match yesterday against lucky loser Nicolas Lapentti was more difficult, but he recovered and came out fresh today. From his quickness and keen ability to take the ball early, Juan Carlos seemed years younger than twenty-seven.
After breaking Robredo twice in the second set, Ferrero relaxed. He ended his victory with two aces.
Speculating a bit, Juan Carlos Ferrero could be considered a finalist come Sunday. But first he must defeat Tommy Haas (seed #10), who he will play tomorrow in the round of sixteen.
Who would suspect that Ivo Karlovic is a funny guy? It certainly wasn't apparent today on court against Rainer Schuettler -- who was defeated 64 75. But in his press conference Karlovic's humorous side blossomed.
He told the press about a rap song he and Novak Djokovic -- who we all knew had a silly bone -- are collaborating on. It won't be in Serbian, Novak's native tongue. And, it won't be in English either. I guess Croatia wins the tune's war.
He was quite closed-mouth about the lyrics, but the ATP moderator said that the music might be uploaded onto its web site, 'upon approval.' Stay tuned.
By the way, Mr. Karlovic served eighteen aces in his two set victory, and said, "I served very good."
This evening, though, focused around Andy Roddick's return to the hard courts of America. And what a thrill for the D. C. fans to welcome the #1 seed for his first match since the Wimbledon final. The crowd roared as he entered the stadium. They were excited to have seats. Excited to see this man who had fought so hard against Roger Federer.
It was somewhat surreal to see Roddick there on this court. Surreal because of images remembered from the All England Club -- his 6/2 lead in the second set tiebreak, for one. The powerful ground strokes that befuddled Federer. The powerful serve that Federer could only bump back until late in the fifth set, when he got a squeak of a read on it.
As quick as a memory bubble pops, Roddick clocked a serve at 146 MPH. There was Andy. That's the guy we know.
Put Wimbledon in the past. Let Rock Creek Park rock.
Benjamin Becker, the opponent, impressed with his serve and backhand, if he was noticed at all except for tons of unforced errors that, at one point, forced him to slam his racquet onto the court. Becker moved with his head down from the deuce side to the ad side, as if he'd been sentenced in a court of humiliation.
In under a half hour, Roddick had the first set 63.
You could hear a few rumblings in the crowd, such as, 'he [Benjamin Becker] has a pretty good serve,' as if the German's 130 MPH bombers were any different than Roddick's. But Becker could not correct the unforced errors.
Andy was hopping happy after he went up a second break in the final set. He clapped his racquet face with his left palm, acting as if he had forgotten what it felt like to play well.
In fifty-five minutes Roddick defeated Becker 63 61. The American had earned his berth in the third round. He was on his way through the draw at, what he calls, his favorite tournament of the summer.