Posts Tagged ‘Steve Johnson’
(Originally posted on Tennis Panorama, 2/16/2013)
Day Five Quarterfinal Results
 T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2
 J Isner (USA) d  Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2
 Milos Raonic (CAN) d  Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3
 Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
Steve Johnson bemoaned his lack of aggression in losing to Tommy Haas in the first quarterfinal of the day, feeling that he let Haas take control too often at key moments. For his part, Haas is feeling good and grateful to be playing some of his best tennis towards the end of his career. He’s especially happy to be able to do so in front of his 2 year-old who’s here in San Jose with dad. “I know she probably won’t remember watching me play today, but maybe I can continue on playing and she’ll get to be around a couple of these tournaments and see me play competitively at a high level.”
John Isner didn’t play his best tennis in his quarterfinal match against Xavier Malisse, but he raised his level when needed to get by an opponent who was more than capable of a big upset. This was especially true in the first set tiebreaker after Isner dug a 0-3 hole with a mini-break on the first point. The tide turned with a monstrous return on a Malisse serve to level at 5-all. He closed out the tiebreak with some mad scrambling on the baseline before flicking one final running forehand winner that was netted by the Belgian. First set to Isner. Malisse’s level dropped off quickly in the second set. Isner, with the first set in his back pocket, kept up the pressure on the slumping Malisse to close out an uneventful second set for the win.
The quarterfinal match between Milos Raonic and Denis Istomin turned out to be almost a carbon copy of their match in last year’s SAP Open final. Both guys held serve easily and played to their strengths for most of the first set, with Istomin looking to be the stronger from the back court. But once again, the tiebreaker was the deciding factor with Raonic sweeping all seven points for the first set. After that, Istomin’s resolve slipped and Raonic’s confidence soared, and it was only a matter of time until Raonic closed it out.
Sam Querrey‘s win over Alejandro Falla was easily the best match of the day! It looked to be on track for a routine straight sets win by Querrey after a 6-3 first set. No one told that to Falla, however, as the Colombian left scrambled with even more intensity in the second set. In tennis, anything can happen when you make your opponent hit “one more shot”, and that was the case for Falla. Querrey’s level dropped, and a few key misses gave the set to Falla. The tension was high for both guys in the third set, with neither giving an inch until the eighth game when Falla broke Querrey for 4-all, then held serve for a 5-4 lead.
A straight-sets victory was a distant memory with Querry playing loose shots on the deuce court to find himself at match point, 30-40. A crucial 133mph ace out wide to Falla’s backhand saved the point, and lit the fire under Sam that he needed to hold serve, break Falla for a 6-5 lead, then serve out the match. That’s not to say that Falla didn’t have his chances, because he did. Two netted shots for a game point at 5-all could easily have put the pressure back on Querrey’s serve to stay in the match. But it was not meant to be for Falla, and a chance for a huge upset.
 T Haas (GER) vs  J Isner (USA)
Head-to-head: Isner leads 3-1
Quick Keys to the match: Isner needs to start aggressive and keep Haas from feeling like he has a chance. He must serve well to blunt Haas’ return opportunities, and keep the points short by coming forward as he’s done in other matches. For Haas, if he can get a handle on the Isner serve and make this a running match, he will have the edge for Isner.
Pick: Sticking with Isner for the win.
 M Raonic (CAN) vs  S Querrey (USA)
Head-to-head: Querrey leads 2-0
Quick Keys to the match: Raonic is going to come out firing on all cylinders with high intensity. Conversely, drops in his intensity level have been Querrey’s main issue in both of his previous matches. For Querrey to win this match against the two-time defending champion, there can be no drops. He has to maintain focus, serve well, and stay strong on the baseline. If Raonic can maintain focus and intensity from first point to last, something that Querrey typically can’t do, he’ll have the edge.
Pick: Sticking with Raonic for the win.
(Originally posted on Tennis Panorama, 2/15/2013)
Day Four Second Round Results
 Denis Istomin (UZB) d Benjamin Becker (GER) 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2
Alejandro Falla (COL) d  Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 6-4, 6-4
 Xavier Malisse (BEL) d Matthew Ebden (AUS) 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(1)
[WC] Steve Johnson (USA) d [Q] Tim Smyczek (USA) 6-3, 6-3
 Sam Querrey (USA) d L Hewitt (AUS) 7-6(6), 1-6, 7-6(4)
 Milos Raonic (CAN) d Michael Russell (USA) 6-2, 7-5
Xavier Malisse might be past his best days on tour, but the Belgian can still do damage given the right draw. He could also make things easier for himself by not putting so much energy into griping during his matches. Everything and anything from ball kids to the officials to his shots, you name it. It was a mutter-fest out there in his match against Matthew Ebden. He’ll need to be much more positive in his output if he plans on getting by John Isner in the quarters.
The battle of young Americans fizzled early as Tim Smyczek started strong but couldn’t stem the tide of unforced errors in going down to defeat against Steve Johnson. Johnson didn’t play particularly well either, but he played well enough to capitalize on Smyczek’s errors. Smyczek is a small, wiry guy who “redlines” his game to produce the pace needed to compensate at this level. Now he needs to figure out how to do that and find the court on a much more consistent basis. Johnson moves on to face Tommy Haas.
Sam Querrey got through a tough and very “losable” match to Lleyton Hewitt with the help of some last-minute errors by the Aussie in the final set tiebreak; notably a double fault on match point. Querrey started strong, but then struggled mightily with shot consistency after an initial 5-2 lead in the first set. Hewitt battled hard to take the first set to a tiebreak, but was done in by a close call he couldn’t challenge because he used up his allotment.
The second set was a wash for Querrey with Hewitt raising his game to easily sweep and take the match to a third. The third set was by far the best in terms of quality. Both men served well, defended admirably, and stood toe-to-toe in great rallies that tested each man’s resolve. To end such a great set on the aforementioned match point double fault was disappointing. A win is a win, though. Querrey now faces a much easier opponent in Alejandro Falla for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
Michael Russell did well to make it to the second round by defeating Donald Young. He didn’t play great tennis to beat Young, but then again he didn’t need to. Milos Raonic was a different story. Russell, like Olivier Rochus and a few others, is at a considerable disadvantage when playing larger and stronger guys like Raonic because he doesn’t have the weaponry to match up from the baseline. Russell scrambled well to get balls back but couldn’t do nearly enough in terms of moving the ball around to keep it out of the Raonic strike zone. With the win, Raonic moves on to face Denis Istomin in a quarterfinal rematch of last year’s final.
Every time I pass John Isner in the hallway, I’m astounded by his height. Ivo Karlovic, Sam Querrey, and Milos Raonic are all tall players as well. But none of them give me the same sense of height as John. It’s like I’m looking up a small tree. I wonder what the court looks like from up there?
The Hewitt kids are pretty gosh darn cute, and it’s a good thing too. After his disappointing loss to Sam Querrey, which ended with a double fault on match point, I tweeted, “Hopefully they’ll put a smile back on dad’s face tonight”. Sure enough, about 20 minutes after the match I passed Lleyton, his wife Bec Hewitt, and the kids as they were heading out to eat. And yes, he was smiling.
Observation of the day? After watching Hewitt lose a match that was within his grasp because of an awful third-set tiebreaker, I had the sense that I’d seen something like this before. I did: two weeks ago in the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick and the 49′ers last possession.
Odd sighting of the day? Sportscaster Vern Glenn standing outside of the HP Pavilion trying to get his work laptop to connect online.
Quote of the day? Also from Vern Glenn but attributed to Ronnie Lott, and in reference to working in the sportscasting biz: “Always make sure they keep you on scholarship!”
More tomorrow after Day Five quarterfinal action.
(Originally posted on Tennis Panorama, 2/14/2013)
Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open. It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins. But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.
- I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point. Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon. It’s tough to watch. Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
- Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team. Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together. We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
- Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak. With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point. Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob. Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”. He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response. Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
- The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil. John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
- Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee. However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight. With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose. The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″. Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
- Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open. Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
- When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”
The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt. The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans. I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…
(Originally posted on Tennis Panorama, 2/13/2013)
One of the great things about watching live tennis in a tournament setting is that you get a better feel for the character of the match and the players. Here are some courtside impressions from Day Two action at the SAP Open.
– I arrived at just after Lleyton Hewitt’s dramatic 3-set victory over Blaz Kavcic to find that no one was surprised to see this match go the distance. Even though he’s one of the older guys on tour, long grinding matches still seem to be Hewitt’s preferred method of advancing through the draw. His next opponent is Sam Querrey, making his tournament debut after receiving a first-round bye. It will be interesting to see if Sam’s late tournament start against a cagey veteran who’s “into” the tournament has a factor on the match outcome.
– Though he was suffering from low energy due to illness, Ryan Harrison lost a winnable 3-set match against German veteran, Benjamin Becker. It wouldn’t have been a particularly spectacular win under the circumstances, but it was doable. Unfortunately, Ryan couldn’t keep his focus on the important points in the second and third sets the way he had in the first set tiebreak. This was especially true when he got broken at the end of the second set.
Illness aside, Ryan is a talented and thoughtful player who can sometimes makes things complicated for himself in his matches. He’s struggled in 2013, and his ranking has dropped from last year’s high of 43. Because he’s defending a semifinal appearance in last year’s tournament, his ranking is going to take a pretty big hit. Hopefully he can turn things around in Memphis.
(NOTE: He’ll be playing doubles with his brother Christian)
– As I was watching Jack Sock in his match against Marinko Matosevic, I tweeted, “While Ryan Harrison sometimes thinks too much on court, Jack Sock maybe needs to think a bit more…” That about sums up Sock’s match strategy, or lack thereof. Sock is a big strong guy who hits a heavy ball, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Even when Sock broke Matosevic to serve for the first set, I had the feeling that the veteran Matosevic would find a way to out-think his younger opponent, and capitalize on the nerves of the moment. That’s exactly how it played out, with Matosevic going on to take the first set tiebreaker before sweeping the second set 6-1.
I don’t begrudge the big hitting, because the younger guys on tour definitely need big games in order to be competitive. But they also need to think clearly and give themselves options. Sock’s not there yet, and I’m not sure that he sees the need for options and nuance. I also look at Sock’s football player-like build and can’t help but think that maybe if his fitness were improved, it could pay dividends in the development of his game. He’s young though, so he’s got time to pull those pieces together. At least, I hope he does.
– It was a rough day for young Americans, and Ryan Sweeting’s straight-sets loss against last year’s finalist, Denis Istomin, did little to stop the bleeding. But then again, Sweeting was always going to have a tough time of it since he doesn’t have the weapons needed to trouble Istomin.
– The world No. 1 Bryan brothers weren’t as dominant over their younger American opponents as one would expect. Jack Sock and Steve Johnson played well with no signs of intimidation at the Bryans credentials as one of the greatest doubles teams ever. But once again, experience and mental toughness won out over big hitting as the Bryans took the match in two tiebreak sets. I hope the young guys are paying attention to these lessons of strategy/mental fortitude!
– Fernando Verdasco, with coach/dad by his side, seemed to have a decent on-court warm-up prior to the start of the doubles match. But something must have happened to him between the warm-up and his match. That would be the only explanation for his flat performance against an inspired Tim Smyczek. Fernando played without purpose. Smyczek, on the other hand, played as though his life depended on the win; and it showed. The difference between the two couldn’t have been starker, with Smyczek looking much more like a higher-ranked player than Verdasco.
There might have been an injury with Verdasco, who seemed to pull up on shots as the match progressed. But it was still a disappointing match for a former Top 10 player who at one time, challenged for Slam titles against the top guys. Disappointing, that is, except for Smyczek. At least one American young gun made it through!
That’s all for now.
More after Day Three action with Donald Young, John Isner, and Tommy Haas.
In this short clip after his exhibition doubles match with Jack Sock, Gael Monfils, and Steve Johnson, John McEnroe talks about the use of HawkEye, whether the top guys should play more doubles, and the strengths and weaknesses of John Isner.
There is more but I’m sure that the ATP has limits on posting of interview material. You want to know more, come talk to me or send me a message.