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July 31, 2011

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2011 Farmers Classic - Los Angeles, CA, USA
July 31, 2011
Editorial By Vince Barr. Photography by Harvey Rubin.


 

Vince Barr Photo
Vince Barr

Battle Of Los Angeles: Gulbis Rallies To Defeat Fish In Three Tight Sets
 
Yesterday's championship match between Mardy Fish and Ernests Gulbis went the distance and featured a closely-fought three set final. Neither player had faced the other person in an ATP Tour-level match prior to their encounter on Sunday. Pam Shriver interviewed both players briefly prior to their match and Gulbis was asked if he felt any pressure going against the top-ranked American and the tournament's # 1 seed. "Not really," Ernests replied, laughing. "No pressure; he's #1 in the U.S. and I'm the # 1 in Latvia," Gulbis noted. Ernests has been a very streaky player in his brief career. Despite turning pro back in 2004, he had only one title on the Tour and that came at Delray Beach last year where he defeated Ivo Karlovic in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. This year, Gulbis was playing .500 ball with a won / loss record of 14-14 prior to his encounter with Fish in the Farmer's Insurance final; for his career, he had a record of 103-100 prior to the final. Gulbis had been ranked as high as # 21 which came earlier this year (February 7th) but entered his match with Fish ranked 84th.
 
According to Darrin Cahill, Ernests has not been all that healthy this year; at one point earlier in the year (around the time of Indian Wells and Key Biscayne), Gulbis was battling a fairly serious lung infection. He required some antibiotics to get rid of the infection and his on-court conditioning took a huge hit. Cahill reported that at one point during his illness, Gulbis was unable to do more than about five minutes of physical exertion on court before having to stop. Obviously, given these limitations, he was also unable to work on his game which explains why his ranking has been on a roller coaster this year.
 
Fish was riding some good momentum entering his encounter with Gulbis. He had a seven-match winning streak and had just won a title in Atlanta last week where he beat John Isner in the final, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Partially due to his win in Atlanta, he was enjoying a career-high ranking of # 8 this week as well as playing at home. He and his wife Stacey Gardner have two homes: one in LA and the other in Tampa, FL so Shriver obviously wanted to know how different it was to be waking up in his own bed for a change and playing on Sunday. "It's great to be here two weeks in a row, playing on Sunday, so we'll see how it goes. The crowd is great as well as the weather, so I'm looking forward to it," Fish replied. Shriver then asked him about Gulbis and Mardy said that "Well, I really don't know what to expect out of him; he's obviously playing some great tennis this week. He's had some up-and-down results and when he's playing well, he's as good as anyone out there, so hopefully, he won't be at his best today," Fish joked.
 
Mardy started off the match holding serve at love and the match stayed that way until close to the end of the first set when Mardy managed to break Ernests serve to take the set at 7-5. But there was some interesting drama early on that highlighted a somewhat controversial rule regarding player challenges of line calls. Gulbis was serving at 1-2 (on serve) leading 40-30 when he hit what appeared to be an ace to level the match at 2-2. Mardy told the chair umpire (Mohamed Lahyani) right after the shot that he was thinking of a challenge and walked up to the T to check the mark. I don't know what happened off camera after that, but Fish was told that he took too much time in deciding on whether or not to challenge the call and that set off an "extended discussion" between Fish and Lahyani. At this point, Darrin Cahill chimed in by noting "that the intent of the rule is to allow a player to take a look at the mark and walk up to it to see if the ball is in or out (before a player decides to challenge the call). However, once the player walks away from the mark, then the umpire can refuse to honor your challenge by saying that you took too long to challenge the call," Cahill observed.
 
Fortunately, the Chase Review replay showed that part of the ball kissed the T and was correctly ruled in, so the argument over Lahyani's refusal to allow Fish's challenge was moot. But I have personally witnessed that this rule is not applied in a consistent manner in Tour level matches on many different occasions. I think that this is something the Tour should take a look at in the offseason and define the rule more precisely either in terms of time allowed in which a player may challenge a call or define a specific set of player actions that establishes an objective, consistent standard wherein players may challenge line calls. Shriver chimed in that another rule that has a wide variety of implementation is the time allotted between balls in play, supposedly set at 25 seconds before a warning is issued to a player or a point penalty levied. I have personally timed some players taking as long as 45 seconds between balls in play without getting warned by the chair and this rule is perhaps one of the most abused rules on Tour.
 
It might seem like this is much ado about nothing, but one of the biggest drawbacks in covering the sport on television is that broadcasters don't know how long a given match is going to last. There is no "shot clock" or timed games and it causes broadcasters to have a great deal of uncertainty of how long to allow for a given match before cutting away to their other scheduled commitments. And let's face facts: tennis needs to be on television but, in my opinion, the governing bodies are not as sensitive to their needs as they could be and that affects what events you can see on TV. More consistent enforcement of existing rules would help establish time parameters to make the sport more "television friendly." Having more events on TV also can help draw kids into the sport at an early age and that will help grow the game that we all love to watch and play. In any event, Fish finally broke Ernests' service game at 6-5, then held his own serve to take the first set, 7-5.
 
The second set also started out with Fish serving and both players held until 3-3 when Fish faced his first break point against his serve, down 30-40. Mardy subsequently dumped a volley into the net to hand the break to Gulbis. This effectively evened the match at one set each even though several games remained in that particular frame. In the third set, Gulbis seized the early advantage and broke Fish's serve to start that frame which put Mardy on the defensive, and Gulbis ended up closing out the third set 6-4. Gulbis earned $113,000 for his championship while Fish took home $59,400 as the runner-up.
 
A few interesting notes about the Farmer's insurance Classic. First, it has been played annually in the city of Los Angeles since 1927. Second, it is the longest-running annual sporting event there, which is somewhat surprising since I would have thought that the Rose Bowl would have that unique honor. Of course, that might be a technicality since the Rose Bowl is played in Pasadena, not in the city of Los Angeles, itself. Third, the Farmer's Insurance Classic has been played on the campus of UCLA since 1984. Fourth, a total of 30 former champions have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island which is quite impressive.
 
From here, Fish's schedule would make Yevgeny Kafelnikov proud in that he is scheduled to play each and every week through the U.S. Open. After his two tough Davis Cup losses (to Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer), he took a week off, then played in Atlanta (won the title), LA (lost in the final), then is doing what amounts to an East Coast swing. He next plays in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C., then travels to the Rogers Cup in Montreal. That is followed by his return to the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (which I will be covering on site for the 14th consecutive year!), where he is the defending finalist. Last year, he lost a tough three set match to Roger Federer but gave the Swiss Sensation all he could handle in what might be termed a "quality loss." After Cincy, he travels to Winston-Salem, North Carolina just prior to the U.S. Open, which of course, he will play the following week.
 
With the Farmer's Classic win, Gulbis leaps from 84 to 55 as of today's (August 1st) rankings.
 

 
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) {blue shirt} d [1] Mardy Fish (USA) 57 64 64
 
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mardy Fish 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Ernests Gulbis Mardy Fish Trophy 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis

 
 
Mark Knowles {white cap and white shoes} & Xavier Malisse {white shirt with light blue shoulders} d Somdev Devvarman {red shoes} & Treat Huey 76(3) 76(10)
 
Xavier Malisse 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Treat Huey 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Xavier Malisse 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mark Knowles 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mark Knowles 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Mark Knowles 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Treat Huey 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Treat Huey 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Treat Huey 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Somdev Devvarman 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Xavier Malisse 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis
Treat Huey 2011 Farmers Classic Los Angeles Tennis

 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
July 30, 2011 Farmers Classic: Harrison vs. Fish, Round Two
July 29, 2011 Farmers Classic: Harrison Heating Up The Farmer's Classic
July 28, 2011 Farmers Classic: Fish, Muller, Bogomolov, Dimitrov
July 27, 2011 Farmers Classic: Blake, del Potro, Harrison, Russell
July 26, 2011 Farmers Classic: Blake, Gonzalez, Kuntisyn, Berrer
July 25, 2011 Farmers Classic: Lu, Ginepri, Sweeting, Devvarman
 

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