Soeda, Ebden, Russell and Blake fight back for wins (Atlanta Day 4 Recap)
–Steen Kirby, TenniseastCoast.com
Day 4 Atlanta action was a night of comebacks as Go Soeda, Matt Ebden, Michael Russell and James Blake all came from a set down to win their matches.
8th seeded Soeda played a hard-fought match with Xaiver Malisse, and Malisse was looking strong in the 1st set. He wasn’t struggling in a single service game and hit some nifty winners and breaking at the end to take it 6-4. Soeda fought back and Malisse got distracted, losing the 2nd 5-7 to Soeda. In the 3rd, Malisse basically self destructed, losing his confidence and the match 6-4 in the final set. Malisse started off the fan favorite but over time, as he got more mopey, the crowd switched its support to Soeda, who got a standing ovation as he walked off the court a winner. This match was delayed for a couple of hours due to rain, although they played the first 4 games (to 2 all) before the rains came. Neither guy faced a ton of break point chances.
Fan favorite, Michael “Muscles” Russell, came back after dropping the 1st set 6-2 to Alex Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov was looking strong but Russell, the still spry veteran, kept grinding away and seemed to wear the qualifier Kuznetsov out. He took the 2nd set 6-4 and lead the entire 3rd set, finally taking it in a deciding tiebreak 7-6. Russell served out the 3rd set, almost at love every game while Kuznetsov kept having to fend off break points and could hold on no longer.
Matt Ebden dropped the 1st set to qualifier Sergei Bubka 7-5 on the outer court, but Bubka fell apart and Ebden took finished the match off 6-1 6-1. Ebden played a ton of defensive slice balls, even though both guys are heavy ball strikers and big servers, and it seemed to work as he frustrated Bubka, who ended up ridiculing himself after a while. There were a lot more breaks of serve than expected though, and Bubka had to serve for the 1st set twice and Ebden was broken twice.
And in the most surprising match of the night, veteran James Blake dropped the 1st set 6-1 to Ryan Harrison, the 5 seed, but proceeded to fight back and take the next two sets 6-3 7-5. He broke Harrison at the end of the 3rd and served the match out. It was a big confidence building win for JB, and now Americans Harrison,Young and Baker have fallen in Atlanta.
Ricardas Berankis was one of the 2 qualifiers who advanced to the 2nd round, dispatching Dmitry Tursunov 6-3 6-2. Tursunov struggled from the start and never found his footing, while Berankis kept hustling for his points.
Ruben Bemelmans was the other qualifier who advanced, with a nice win over Rajeev Ram 6-1 6-3. Bemelmans and Ram have both had good recent results, and the match was expected to be closer, but Bemelmans is really coming into his own and could be a threat here going forward on the hard courts.