So since I had the day off, I decided to head up to the L.A. Tennis Open at UCLA and check out some of the early round action.
Although this tournament is one of the oldest men’s professional events around, it’s kind of lost some its stature, who knows why, as there aren’t any top 15 players in the draw this year. It’s odd going to a tourney and seeing the names of such champions as Agassi, Sampras, Chang, Courier, Edberg, et al displayed proudly on the side of the stadium and then you look down at your draw sheet and can’t recognize half of the names there.
But that’s for another post. More about the matches I saw.
Tursunov vs. Ball
Dimitry Tursunov was in action against qualifier Carsten Ball of Australia who resides in Newport Beach. Tursunov, a Russian, actually spends most of his time in California, so it was almost a home town match.
There was nothing special about this match. Tursunov played rather lackluster and after dropping the first set 4-6, he called for the trainer to look at his already heavily taped foot. After going down 0-1, in the second set, he retired.
Isner vs. Baghdatis
6’9″ John Isner from Greensboro N.C. took on fan favorite Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis, a former Australian Open finalist, has been injured of late as now trying to get back into the top 100 again.
The first set went 6-3 and the second set was back forth until it went into a tie-break. Isner had at least two match points on his serve before it got to 10-11, Baghdatis serving. Baghdatis hit a shot that caught Isner going the wrong way. Isner fell and said he hurt his ankle.
Baghdatis, being a gentleman, came over to see if he could help. After the trainer checked out Isner, Isner continued played, although very gingerly. He ended up holding his serve, forcing Baghdatis to serve to stay in the match at 11-12. Baghdatis ending losing the point and the match. He smashed his racquet in disgust because he knew if he had just won that set, Isner would retire to protect his ankle.
The thing I found odd about Isner’s game is that he wanted to stay on baseline and poke out groundstrokes. He has such a big serve that I don’t understand why he doesn’t serve and volley more? Despite that, he is at a career high ranking of 77 in the world and he should get to top 50 by end of year.
Safin vs. Gulbis
This match was like the younger brother playing the older brother. Both players being major head cases for various reasons. Safin, now on his final year on the tour, started out the first set like he was somewhere else and lost 2-6. In the second set, he started to get into it while Gulbis played some erratic shots which cost him the set at 3-6.
In the final set, Gulbis jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then Safin, helped by Gulbis playing wild shots, got back in front 4-3. Depsite some shaky serving and support from the crowd, Safin was able to serve it out at 6-4.
Both player tossed their racquets around and moaned their plights throughout the match. Gulbis has long been cited as a player to watch, but he’s slipped a bit in the rankings, now at 62. From what I saw, he doesn’t have a “shot” in his arsenal yet, and his mind games will need to be worked on if he wants a shot at the top tier.