Saturday, 30 April 2016

Kyrgios and Zverev serve it up

Things are warming up in Prague, but there was no warm up for Sam Stosur in her scheduled semi final with Sveta Kuznetsova as the Russian didn't show.  An abdominal injury was the official reason and it presented a free ticket for Stosur to slip into a final, one for which not many had predicted her being present a week ago.

While the fourth seeded Aussie lazed around the Czech capital, her opponent in the final was being decided via the conventional method - playing a tennis match.
Lucie Safarova, who had taken nearly four months to realise that losing didn't generate happiness, finally found joy at home here in the Czech Republic, and to make the final she had to bury a compatriot and Fed Cup heroine Karolina Pliskova.

Lucie broke Karolina's serve in the opening game of the match and the first set thereafter was basically a server's delight.  Hardly another break opportunity and not many points won against the serves of either player.  The first set safely in the Safarova locker 6-4. 

Set two again was difficult for receivers of serve, and yet Pliskova managed to squeeze out a service break and achieve a 4-1 lead.  Safarova replied with the third and final break of the match.  A tie break settled the set, and as Lucie would have it, the match as well.  Safarova is now counting her winning streak - sitting at four - instead of gloomily looking in the mirror at a once top ten player, dropping to top twenty, forgetting what a win felt like.  Should beat Stosur and effectively win her national title.

In Estoril, the biggest surprise on quarter final day was eighth seed Pablo Carreno Busta sending top seed Gilles Simon packing in an impressive straight sets display. His semi final success will require deflating another French player's hopes - Benoit Paire, the third seed, who ended the tournament for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

The other half of the draw has the highest seed left, number two Nick Kyrgios, whose serve was simply sensational against Borna Coric.  One break of serve each set was all that Nick needed to win 6-4 6-4, but the incredible statistic was 42 points won from 51 serves delivered by the Aussie throughout the match.
How Nicolas Almagro will deal with this sort of battering, if repeated, is hard to imagine, but he is used to knocking out seeds in Estoril, the latest being seventh seed Leonardo Mayer.  This was straight sets but close all the way 6-4 7-6 (5).

Munich quarter final victories for third seed Dominic Thiem and fifth seed Fabio Fognini were as expected but Del Potro's meek surrender to fourth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber was disappointing.  That disappointment was compensated somewhat by the three set thrilling upset win provided by eight seed Alexander Zverev over top seed David Goffin.
After taking the second set to level the match, most would have thought Goffin may sail home on that momentum, but Zverev served an outstanding third set.
Consider these final set statistics which emphasise what an incredible switch in momentum it was.  Zverev won 16 points from his 19 serves, and also 16 points from the 35 Goffin serves.  So his returning was phenomenal too.  He unsurprisingly faced no break points, but converted two of the six created while Goffin was delivering.

Like Safarova, Zverev seems to have leapt out of his lethargy in a tournament in his home country, and hopefully he can continue to rise, because it is young players like Zverev and Kyrgios that can bring a new excitement to the game for years to come.

The semis in Istanbul are as per the seedings, with one exception.  Number two seed Grigor Dimitrov will play third seed Ivo Karlovic and fourth seed Federico Delbonis will play the conqueror of top seed Tomic, unseeded Diego Schwartzman.
I think a Dimitrov v Delbonis final is most probable.

The Rabat tournament has from the start appeared to be a Bacsinszky benefit, and after her semi final victory over Babos, she is a heavy favourite to claim the title.  Her opponent is New Zealand qualifier Marina Erakovic, who has snuck through the draw without playing a seeded player except for Tsurenko, who retired after one set.  Credit to the fighting spirit of the Kiwi though.  After losing the first set of her semi to Kiki Bertens 6-2, she won the next two close ones 7-6 (7) 7-5.

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