Legg Mason Tuesday
The withdrawal of Mardy Fish last evening further damaged the men's singles draw. Mardy was probably wise to skip Washington, as he had just completed two weeks of hard tennis,╩reaching two finals amid hot temperatures and many difficult matches. Mardy looked worn in losing to Ernests Gulbis last Sunday in Los Angeles, favoring the foot and heel cited in withdrawing here.
Once again, the first match of the afternoon seemed the session's most interesting. American Ryan Harrison, 19, fresh from a close loss to Mardy Fish in Los Angeles, faced European Misha Zverev, age 23 and height 6-3, just arrived from a disappointing clay season in Europe. Misha quickly showed a nicely sliced left-handed serve along with a good supply of both moxie and volleying skill in attacking net. Plainly the edge in power serving and stroking was the American's, and indeed throughout, Ryan often answered Misha's net rushing by ripping heavily topspin shots toward Misha's feet as the European advanced forward. Again and again the result was a softish volley that invited an easy pass by the teenager.
Misha was in trouble during most of the first set, which finally went to Ryan when at deuce in game ten, Misha serving, Ryan first produced a superb dipping passing shot to reach set point, and then scored a winner by anticipating Misha's sharply angled volley. It looked as if Misha had become too predictable by invariably coming forward when things mattered most.
Perhaps overconfident, Ryan then began playing loosely, losing the first three games of the second set by╩unleashing full-blown rockets, badly controlled, with nearly every swing. Down by two breaks, Ryan seemed mainly interested in getting to set three. The set ended with yet another break of Ryan's serve, this one gifted by yet another double-fault.
But with the start of Set Three, Ryan discovered a very different approach. Now his ground strokes became controlled, the rallies now became extended. And, perhaps surprisingly, it was a pattern in which the teenager was superior. The softer game indeed invited Misha's attack, but Ryan was now deadly with Misha at net. The American won four consecutive games and, given his reserve of power in serving and stroking, the issue was no longer in doubt.
In his press conference later, Ryan analyzed his own temperament and playing style, comparing them to Andy Roddick's -- fiercely determined, strongly dependent on power serve and forehand.
THEY NEVER GIVE UP
Tommy Haas, now 33, next took Stadium Court against Amer Delic, a last-minute replacement for Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. Tommy is now amid yet another come-back, in this case following hip surgery. The result was a comfortable win for Tommy over Delic who, as Tommy pointed out, was also coming back from injury.
After collecting his victory, Haas discussed his new U.S. citizenship. He explained that the rules are confusing in determining tennis nationality, but in his case he would be willing to play Davis Cup for either U.S. or Germany. He also said the doubles might become more attractive for him than in the past, for example with Radek Stepanek as partner. (Haas and Stepanek last night defeated the tournament's second-seeded pair, Mirnyi-Nestor.)
Next on court were two other veterans, both in come-backs of sorts. David Nalbandian, 29, ╩won the Legg Mason last year, but since then leg problems have intervened, necessitating surgery this spring. This was his first North American appearance of 2011. Seeded eighth, he was the first to play of the tournament's sixteen seeded players, all of whom had first-round byes. His opponent was James Blake, who had tuned up the previous evening in a comfortable first-round win.
It came down the the superior serving ability of Blake, especially as the affair approached its conclusion. Both men seemed to move well, both drove the ball aggressively generally from back court, though in both aspects James seemed slightly superior. Blake's recent hard-court match play surely helped as well, along with a vocal and strongly supportive gallery.
The departure of Nalbandian left the apparent favorites to attain the four semi-final berths as follows: (1) Gael Monfils, (2) Troicki or perhaps Blake, (3) Melzer, and (4) Verdasco or perhaps Stepanek. All the above save Blake are scheduled against unseeded opponents tomorrow in quest of the tournament's final sixteen.