AUGUST 5, by Paula Schumann
The skies broke open and the rain came lashing down just as the third round
matches were about to get under way on Thursday afternoon at the Legg Mason
Tennis Classic. Despite the severe storm, play was able to proceed with the use of
large blowers to dry off the courts. By around 8 pm, the action got started on
the Stadium Court with John Isner (USA) facing Xavier Mallise (BEL). Shortly
after, the side courts were dry and it was a night that made choosing where to
be quite difficult. I took the opportunity to spend some time on the side courts.
Because the rain had thinned out the crowds a bit, it was easy to get up close
and personal. If you’ve always thought that the only way to see a match is on a
center stadium court, I highly recommend the smaller side courts for witnessing
the intensity and level of exertion of the pros. I ran into a fellow tennis enthusiast
at one point who said she only likes to sit in the aptly named “sweaty seats”.
Things were not good for the home team last night as all four US players went
down, some putting up more of a fight than others. Ryan Sweeting (USA), who
took out Blake in their first round match, faced Fernando Verdasco (ESP). Things
looked promising for Sweeting as he took the lead in the first set with an early
break. Verdasco looked like he wasn’t quite all there, making errors and double
faulting. Eventually he flipped the switch and fought back taking the set 6-
4. They played a very competitive second set, Sweeting seemed calm and
consistent, keeping the emotion under wraps. A win for him last night would
have sky rocketed his budding career and you could see that he could taste it.
Verdasco couldn’t be held back though, and he took the second set 7-5.
Meanwhile in the stadium, Isner had split sets with Mallisse, and guess what,
was in a third set tie break. Given his recent victories, it seemed he might just
dig it out to move forward. But watching his movement between points, he
looked exhausted, like every step was an extreme effort. When you are that
big (6′ 9″) maybe it is. After missing two earlier attempted drop shots, Isner served a
134 mph ace, leveling the score to 5-5. In the next point, he missed an easy
overhead in what seemed a total mental lapse, and went down to 5-6. Mallise
served and won the next point and it was all over. With a mixture of misery and
self-pity, Isner’s hangdog expression said it all. Final score was 6-4 3-6 7-6 (5).
Battling it out on the Grandstand Court was Mardy Fish (USA) taking on Maric
Cilic (CRO). Mardy was not playing badly but was obviously frustrated as he
smashed his racquet in the first set, getting a warning from the umpire, and
losing it 6-4. He rallied to take the second set 3-6, and it looked like there might
be a chance for him to move to the quarterfinals, but things didn’t go that way,
and the American lost the third set 6-2.
Next up was Andy Roddick (USA) on the stadium and many die hard fans who
had waited out the rain delays, were clearly excited to see the Legg Mason
Classic poster boy walk onto the court. Too bad Roddick couldn’t muster up
similar enthusiasm, as he went down to Giles Simon (FRA) in two sets, 6-3 6-3.
In his post match interview, he said that he’s felt lousy for weeks and referred to
himself as “lethargic”. “I honestly don’t think it would have mattered who I played
tonight.” Gee thanks, I’m thinking on behalf of all those ticket holders leaving the
stadium with dashed hopes for some riveting tennis.
Other matches completed:
Marcos Bagdatis (CYP) d Illya Marchenko (UKR) 63 67 63
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 63 64
David Nalbandian (ARG) d Marco Chiudinelli (SUI)
Don’t forget, Friday’s play goes to two sessions, noon and 7 pm. Quarter final
matches on tap include Berdych vs Mallisse, Verdasco vs Baghdatis, and the
Bryan brothers vs Bopanna/Qureshi.