It’s @Gibbsyyyy over Oudin @USTAProCircuit Carson CA

NICOLE GIBBS DEFEATS MELANIE OUDIN TO CAPTURE USTA PLAYER DEVELOPMENT WOMEN’S $50,000 CLASSIC IN CARSON

Nicole Gibbs Carson

CARSON, July 20, 2014 – Nicole Gibbs moved another step closer to playing in her third consecutive US Open main draw, capturing the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Melanie Oudin on Sunday at the USTA Training Center – West at StubHub Center.

Gibbs, 21, is a two-time NCAA singles winner at Stanford and earned wild-card entry into the season’s final Grand Slam the past two years by way of those wins.

With one event remaining in the US Open Wild Card Challenge, Gibbs now leads in the standings with 88 points. She is followed by Julia Boserup (63 points), Oudin (48), Louisa Chirico (44) and Sanaz Marand (30).
The final of the three-event US Open Wild Card Challenge is the Lexington, Ky., $50,000 Challenger to be played this week.

It was a tight battle throughout in the final on Sunday with Gibbs holding a 4-2 lead in the second set, before the sole of her shoe came partially off. Admitting she started to “panic,” Gibbs fell down 4-all, 40-love with Oudin serving. Gibbs then played a solid point, was aided by an untimely Oudin double fault and ultimately broke back to serve for the match.

“Tennis is like that sometimes,” said Gibbs, who won this event last year when it was held in Yakima, Wash. Without a spare pair of tennis shoes, Gibbs contemplated wearing running shoes, but opted for a tape job instead, which seemed to do the trick.

Oudin’s first-round loss in US Open qualifying last year to Elena Baltacha ended a streak of five consecutive main draw appearances at the US Open, which of course included her quarterfinal run there in 2009.
“It’s one tournament,” said Oudin, who did not play in Sacramento last week but will play Lexington, of the US Open. “I’m not worrying about this wild card. It’s the last thing on my mind. If I play well I can qualify on my own. But if I do win this wild card that’s just an added bonus.”

Gibbs Oudin Carson

Gibbs, a nearby Marina Del Rey resident, said she loved playing so close to home. “Just the title of the tournament, ‘Carson $50,000,’ ” she said. “It’s so exciting to be at the place I train and have my community supporting me.”

USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic
A USTA Pro Circuit Event

Sunday, July 20
USTA Training Center – West at StubHub Center
Carson, Calif.
Purse: $50,000
Surface: Hard-Outdoor

Sunday, July 20 – RESULT
Singles – Final
(2) Nicole Gibbs (USA) def. (4) Melanie Oudin (USA), 6-4, 6-4

—S. Pratt, USTA

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Kvitova, Bouchard, Halep Headliners @ConnecticutOpen

2014 WIMBLEDON CHAMPION AND WORLD NO. 4 PETRA KVITOVA, 2014 WIMBLEDON FINALIST AND WORLD NO. 7 GENIE BOUCHARD, AND DEFENDING CHAMPION AND WORLD NO. 3 SIMONA HALEP HEADLINE CONNECTICUT OPEN PLAYER FIELD

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 8, 2014 – 2014 Wimbledon Champion and World No. 4 Petra Kvitova, 2014 Wimbledon Finalist and World No. 7 Genie Bouchard, and Defending Champion and World No. 3 Simona Halep headline the field, which has collectively won 14 Grand Slam and 188 WTA singles and doubles titles, for the 2014 Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies, it was announced today by Tournament Director Anne Worcester. The WTA event, which is part of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, will be held August 15-23, 2014 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.

Petra Kvitova, 2013 New Haven

Kvitova, the 2012 Connecticut Open Champion, marched through the Wimbledon fortnight the past two weeks to grab her second career Grand Slam title in four years, becoming just the third two-time winner in women’s singles since 1996. The Czech star defeated Bouchard in the final, the first Grand Slam final of the young star’s career. The 20-year-old has rapidly ascended the rankings to become the highest-ranked Canadian player in history, thanks to semifinals appearances at both the Australian and French Opens, along with capturing her first WTA title at Nurnberg. This will be her first appearance at the Connecticut Open.

Halep is having a fantastic season highlighted by a finals appearance at the French Open, reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon, and winning the title in Doha, all of which have catapulted her to a career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world. She returns to defend her 2013 Connecticut Open title, where she defeated Kvitova to win the trophy.

Wozniacki, New Haven 2013

Aside from Halep, Kvitova and Bouchard, five other players in this year’s Connecticut Open field are ranked in the WTA top 20 including No. 15 and four-time Connecticut Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki, who will be chasing a record fifth title in New Haven (currently tied with Venus Williams with four Connecticut Open titles). In addition to Wozniacki, No. 13 Flavia Pennetta, who won in Indian Wells earlier this year; No. 14 and 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani; No. 16 Carla Suarez-Navarro, who will be making her fourth Connecticut Open appearance; and No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova, a Grand Slam doubles champion, who advanced to the quarterfinals at New Haven last year, will compete for the title.

CoCo Vandeweghe (Photo: Craig Glover)

CoCo Vandeweghe (Photo: Craig Glover)

Joining the top-20 stars in this year’s field are American Coco Vandeweghe, a former US Open Junior Champion who also triumphed at s’-Hertogenbosh to capture her first WTA title; Garbine Muguruza, who advanced to this year’s French Open quarterfinals and defeated World No. 1 Serena Williams along the way; Roberta Vinci, who teamed with Errani to complete the doubles Grand Slam at this year’s Wimbledon; Shuai Zhang, who advanced to the semifinals at Birmingham, Kuala Lumpur and Acapulco this year; Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, who advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals and made a finals appearance in Birmingham, England; Klara Koukalova, a victor in Florianopolis and finals attendee in Rio de Janeiro and Hobart; Elina Svitolina, who advanced to the semifinals in Nurnberg; and Casey Dellacqua, a Birmingham semifinalist.

Magda Rybarikova

Magda Rybarikova

Rounding out the field are Magdalena Rybarikova, a four-time WTA tournament winner and semifinalist at s’-Hertogenbosch; Kurumi Nara, winner in Rio de Janeiro; Camila Giorgi, who advanced to the finals in Katowice; and Bojana Jovanovski.

“The 2014 Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies player field is loaded with talent – Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova and Wimbledon Finalist Genie Bouchard; Defending Connecticut Open Champion Simona Halep and four-time Connecticut Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki; and rising stars such as Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and American Coco Vandeweghe,” said Worcester. “All told, we have three of the top 10 players in the world, eight of the top 20, and with the men’s event featuring James Blake, Andy Roddick and Jim Courier, the tournament promises to be exceptionally entertaining this year.”

On Wednesday, August 20, Fairfield native James Blake, a two-time Connecticut Open Champion and former top-five ranked player, will matchup against Jim Courier, a four-time Grand Slam Champion and former World No. 1. On Thursday, August 21, Blake will face-off against Andy Roddick, another former World No. 1 and Grand Slam Champion. Both matches will be played following the 7:00 p.m. WTA feature match on their respective nights, and they will be best of three sets, with a super tie-break played for the third set. In addition, fans interested in participating in a Pro-Am with these American stars before the matches, or who want to capitalize on a party complete with dinner and a “meet and greet,” should visit http://www.ctopen.org for more information.

The field will be completed in the coming weeks with the addition of four wildcards, which the tournament will award, and the addition of six players who will advance through the 48 player qualifying draw. The first two seeds at the tournament will receive a bye.

—M. Van Tuinen, CT Open

Tiafoe, Arconada Win Inaugural @CitiOpen Wild Card Challenge @TheJTCC

Tiafoe, Arconada Win Inaugural @CitiOpen Wild Card Challenge @TheJTCC
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast

Usue Arconada (Photo: S. Fogleman)

Usue Keeps Busy during MTO

Usue Keeps Busy during MTO

Last month, when the Citi Open announced that the Junior Tennis Champions Center would host their first annual Wild Card Challenge, the JTCC trotted out their big names as marquee participants. Francis Tiafoe and Usue Arconada headlined the event, and the JTCC didn’t disappoint. Yesterday, Tiafoe and Arconada nabbed qualifying wild cards to the Citi Open in Washington next month, and they both did it in straight sets on a scorching day on the blue hard courts on which they train.

Arconada & Morton

For Arconada, it’s a return trip to Washington. Last year, she became the second-youngest player in WTA history to win her debut qualifying match. Last year, she was given a wild card. This year, she earned it by besting Skylar Morton 7-6(4), 7-5 in the final of a 29-player tournament. Morton was noticeably affected by the heat in the second set of yesterday’s final, wherein she got sick right before serving for set point of the second set.

“I had a pretty nice run. I had some good matches. Had a good match against Skylar today and that was great. We had a long match in the sun. It was really hot out there, but I got it through.”

As far as the heat, Arconada said that “Skylar had a little trouble with the heat. She’s been training here for the past 6 months while she’s taking a break from college. I was feeling a little nauseous after she threw up. I did not like seeing that”.

And what’s it like playing against a friend like Morton in a meaningful match?

“It’s pretty hard, but when you step on the court, you don’t think about your friendship”, she said.

Tiafoe also defeated a friend yesterday to win the Wild Card Challenge, and it happened to be Usue’s brother, Jordi Arconada. Tiafoe showed off his dazzling forehand in the 6-1, 7-6 win. This will be Tiafoe’s first time as a player at Citi Open, a tournament he’s been attending as a fan since he was five years old.

Look at you, JTCC. Looking strong!

Francis Tiafoe

Francis Tiafoe

N. American Women Roll in Roland Garros Warm-Ups: @GenieBouchard, @MonicaAce93 Puig Win WTA Titles

N. American Women Roll in Roland Garros Warm-Ups: Bouchard, Puig Win 1st WTA Titles

Genie Bouchard (Photo: S. Fogleman)

US Fans, look just outside your back window to find the next great WTA stars.

Playing in her second career WTA final, Eugenie Bouchard captured her maiden singles title on Saturday thanks to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Czech Karolina Pliskova at the WTA International Series event in Nurnberg, Germany.

Before the match, Bouchard was the highest ranked player behind only Sloane Stephens without a title and the 20-year-old Canadian was determined to change that stat. She need less than 30 minutes to win the first set 6-2, losing just four points on serve. Bouchard led 4-2 in the second set before Pliskova reeled off four straight games to force a decisive third set. There were five breaks of serve in the final frame with three going the way of Bouchard which allowed her to come away with the victory. She becomes the first Canadian to win a WTA singles titles since Aleksandra Wozniak, who was crowned champion in Stanford in 2008.

With the victory, Bouchard will reach a new career-high ranking on Monday. She will now travel to Roland-Garros where she will face Israel’s Shahar Peer in the first round.

Puig

Speaking of 20-year-old maiden champions, Monica Puig became the only Puerto Rican to win a women’s title, besting home court fave Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, 6-4, 6-3 yesterday at the Strasbourg International final in France.

Puig dominated the match and is now 1-0 in WTA finals. Although Puerto Rico is US territory, Puig flies under the Boricuan flag and is intensely proud of her island heritage. Still, she’s every bit a North American as Genie Bouchard. She’ll come close to returning to her career-high ranking of #41 tommorow.

Puig opens with Samantha Stosur in the first round at Roland Garros.

—Compiled with report from Tennis Canada

Summer Sneaking Up on Us: @CitiOpen, @TennisHalloFame Announce Early Player Fields

Summer Sneaking Up on Us: @CitiOpen, @TennisHalloFame Announce Early Player Fields

Bryan Brothers, Isner, Gasquet, Hewitt, Stephens Commit Early to Citi Open
Isner, Hewitt, Baghdatis, Kyrgios, Mahut In at Hall of Fame Tennis Championships

The countdowns to the Citi Open and the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships have officially started.

Sloane Stephens

Fans can watch their favorite stars in action and up close on the East Coast this summer. Early commitments to Citi Open include ATP World Tour Rankings No. 1 doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan, top-ranked American John Isner, top-ranked French player Richard Gasquet, and top-ranked Australian Lleyton Hewitt. On the women’s side, fan favorite Sloane Stephens, ranked No. 16 in the WTA Tour, will make a return appearance. Full player fields will be determined and announced approximately six weeks prior to the start of that tournament.

Citiopen Official Site

Citi Open runs from July 26 – August 3 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center at 16th and Kennedy Streets NW. To purchase, fans can click the link at www.citiopentennis.com and search for Citi Open, or call the tournament hotline at 202-721-9500.

John Isner, ATP Newport, 2012 Copyright TennisEastCoast.com

In Newport, Defending champion Nicolas Mahut of France has committed to the player field for the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, where he captured both the singles and doubles titles last year. In addition, two wild cards have been awarded to Marcos Baghdatis, an exciting player formerly ranked in the world top-10, and Nick Kyrgios of Australia who achieved the world No. 1 ITF Juniors ranking in 2013. The three new entries to the field will join No. 1 American John Isner and Australian great Lleyton Hewitt in that tournament, which will be played at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., July 5 – 13. The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, which is held directly after Wimbledon, is the only event played on grass courts in North or South America, and the only ATP World Tour event in New England.

Newport2014Site
“Tennis season has finally arrived in New England and we are gearing up for a great tournament this summer at the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” commented Tournament Director Mark Stenning. “Nico Mahut was unstoppable in Newport last summer and we are glad to welcome him back as defending champion. Marcos Baghdatis and Nick Kyrgios are exciting players to watch, and we know the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships fans will enjoy seeing them compete.”

Nicolas Mahut won both the singles and doubles titles at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships last year, following an epic couple of days of competition in which inclement weather forced him to play four matches in 24 hours. Mahut entered the Newport tournament last year ranked world No. 127. Since winning in Newport, he has consistently climbed the ATP World Tour rankings and is currently world No. 38, having reached a career high of world No. 37 earlier this month. Mahut’s victory in Newport last year was his second career title, having won his first just weeks prior at the Topshelf Open at s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. With countryman Michael Llodra, Mahut was a finalist at the French Open in doubles last year. Inclusive of his 2013 Newport titles, he has won two singles titles and eight doubles titles.

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus has been a staple of the ATP World Tour since the early 2000s. He has achieved notable wins against some of the world’s best players including Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Murray, and has been involved in many long, exciting matches. He is recognized for the energy that he brings to each match, and for his ability to draw fans in. In 2006, Baghdatis reached a career high of world No. 8 and won his first career title with a victory at the China Open. He has finished the season ranked in the world top-50 six times in the past eight years, and has won four ATP World Tour titles. Baghdatis made his Davis Cup debut for the Cyprus Davis Cup team in 2000 as a 14-year-old. He has been a dedicated and successful player for his country ever since, and has been instrumental in advancing the team from the lowest division of Davis Cup to move up two levels into the Euro/Africa Group II. With 43 straight wins, he is one of the most successful Davis Cup players of all time.

Nineteen-year old Australian Nick Kyrgios had a break through season just about this time last year, and has been going strong ever since. Kyrgios was given a wild card into the 2013 French Open, at which he won his first career ATP level match, defeating then world No. 52 Radek Stepanek in three tiebreak sets. Also last year, Kyrgios won the Australian Open junior title and the Wimbledon junior doubles title. He achieved the world No. 1 ITF Juniors ranking. This season, Krygios won back-to-back Challenger Tour titles in April. Earlier this year he represented Australia in Davis Cup competition. Next week, he is set to play in the French Open again, and has been training with Roger Federer in advance of the tournament. He is currently ranked world No. 161.

Tickets for the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, including access to the International Tennis Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on July 12, are available now. Hall of Fame Members save $5 on tickets, and enjoy many other benefits throughout tournament week, including access to a Member Lounge, first-in-line status for autographs, and much more. Tickets and membership info is available on HallofFameTennisChampionships.com or by phone at (401) 849-6053.

—-S. Pegarido/A. McLaughlin

Grab A Racket: @CitiOpen Wild Card Challenge @TheJTCC To Feature Local Talent, Maybe Even You

Grab A Racket: @CitiOpen Wild Card Challenge @TheJTCC To Feature Local Talent, Maybe Even You
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Trice Capra at the JTCC

It hit 90° at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland yesterday. That was fitting, because it was Citi Open Weather. The Citi Open is held in late July-early August just 10 miles away at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC.

The Citi Open Wild Card Challenge will be staged here at the Center in College Park from June 14-17. The facility has already earned a USTA award as an outstanding venue and is finally getting the credit it deserves for cultivating champions, as the name suggests.

jtcc

The Wild Card Challenge will result in the winners advancing to the qualifying draws of the Citi Open, an ATP 500 level and WTA International level event.

Yesterday, two of the centers protégés and seven-time grand slam champ Mats Wilander spoke about the event. JTCC CEO Ray Benton and Citi Open tournament director Jeff Newman also discussed the genesis and planning of the event. It was the brainchild of Benton, who wanted to return to the Wild Card event that the Legg Mason Tennis Classic had employed almost 20 years ago.

“We used to have a Wild Card Challenge, for quite some time, starting in 1995″, Newman said. “It was really meant to be a platform for the best talent in the area. We’re showcasing the best talent in the world, and we wanted to have a connection to provide an opportunity for local talent. We had Paul Golstein, Alex Kim and others.”

“Frankly, the talent got less. And Ray Benton gets the credit for reviving it with the talent that he’s brought and developed in this area. It felt like the right opportunity to bring it back.”

Newman also said the Citi Open will be more player-friendly than ever this year.

“We’re continuing to develop some areas that the public doesn’t see. Our player experience is critical as an ATP 500 and a WTA event. Our medical facilities and our locker room facilities are being upgraded.”

Citiopen Official Site

The Challenge is open to all USTA players 14 and up. There is a registration fee of $75, but participants who enter this event and the US Open National Playoffs will receive a discount. The Challenge is two weeks after the USONP Playoffs and the Mid-Atlantic portion of the USONP competition will also be decided on the same courts here in College Park. For players already training for the USONP, this is a mighty second chance sweepstakes. In fact, the Challenge offers a big prize of its own. At the USONP, you have to win your sectional tournament and then you go to New Haven to battle it out for a spot in the US Open qualies. At the Challenge, you win out in College Park and you’re in Citi Open qualies.

For some locals, myself included, playing at Citi Open on the hard courts beats driving by Flushing Meadows to go to New Haven to hope to get to Flushing Meadows.

Francis Tiafoe leads the men’s side. After an Easter Bowl win at Indian Wells, he’s happy to be back at home. “I’ve been going to the tournament since I was about 6 years old”, Tiafoe said. “I hope I can play well at the event.”

Having grown up (literally) at the JTCC, you would think Tiafoe is a lock. Instead, he is guardedly optimistic.

“I definitely know these courts better than anyone else. I’m going to go one match at a time and hope for the best.”

Surprisingly, Tiafoe says his life hasn’t really changed since he arrived to conquer the ITF scene.

“My life hasn’t changed much”, Tiafoe recounted. “I’m still just a 16-year-old kid having fun playing tennis. It’s been nice having some wins and getting some more confidence in my game.”

Usue Arconada is ‘excited’ to play in the Wild Card Challenge. Last year, she was granted a qualifying wild card by Citi Open officials and more than earned her keep in winning her first WTA match in straight sets.

Like Tiafoe, Arconada is another heavy favorite at the Wild Card Challenge.

“I train here every day, so I know these courts pretty well”, she said.

What a bonus it was to chat with Mats Wilander yesterday.

Wilander was hired as an advisor here as “somebody who’s done it all”, he said. “I turned pro very young, so I think I know what these kids go through. They’re not worrying about the best guy. They’re trying to fulfill every players potential.”

Mats has rolled out Wilander on Wheels for a fourth summer. He travels by RV across the US (and Europe), appearing at dozens of tennis clubs.

Weekend @PortugalOpen: Carla Suarez Navarro Wins Women’s Event, Berdych & Berlocq Fight For Men’s Title

Weekend @PortugalOpen: Carla Suarez Navarro Wins Women’s Event, Berdych & Berlocq Fight For Men’s Title

Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast

PORTUGAL OPEN

The Women’s Champion of the 2014 Portugal Open is Carla Suarez Navarro after a titanic battle on center court, which saw her come back from 4-1 down in the decider to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 in the third set to win her first ever career title and go up to #14 in the WTA rankings. It turned out to be one of the best finals of the event since it started in 1998.

On the men’s side, Tomas Berdych dispatched Victor Hanescu with the expected ease, overpowering him from the very first game on his way to a 6-2 6-2 win. His opponent in the last match of the tournament will be Carlos Berlocq, who after a very tight first set against Gimeno-Traver where he won 8-6 in the tiebreak and comfortably won 6-2 in the second set to reach his 3rd career final.

On paper, everything points to another comfortable Berdych win in the final. He’s superior to Berlocq in every aspect of the game. They have played three times with Berdych winning all of them in quite routine fashion and the Czech has much more experience in matches like this one.

It’d be a considerable surprise if Berdych wasn’t the one hoisting the trophy at the end of the match, picking up some steam for the battles ahead in the clay Masters and Roland Garros.

Men’s Semifinals and Women’s Final Set @PortugalOpen

Men’s Semifinals and Women’s Final Set @PortugalOpen
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast

The final Saturday of the Portugal Open will feature the women’s final and the men’s semifinals, all on center court. The day will open with Svetlana Kuznetsova facing the #1 of the tournament Carla Suarez Navarro in the final. Kuznetsova is far past her best days, but has played a very good week in Portugal, showing why she is a former Roland Garros champion (2009). Her game has proved too powerful and solid for the field so far on the slow Oeiras clay.

Still, it’d be perhaps fair to claim she will enter the final as the slight underdog – albeit one with good chances – against Carla Suarez Navarro, one of the best clay courters and a player who’s often praised and got the Portuguese crowd on her side due to her beautiful technique and game. The head to head is 3-1 for the Russian, but the only time they met on clay was back in 2008, when Suarez Navarro was still young and not established as a top player. In any case, it should be a great final to conclude another very good Portugal Open edition on the women’s side.

On the men’s side, the #1 seed Tomas Berdych survived a very good performance from Mayer to book a spot in the semifinals, even from a break down in the deciding set. His opponent will be Victor Hanescu, who beat the last Portuguese player standing in Gastão Elias. On paper, Berdych is the overwhelming favorite to reach the final since when both play at their usual level the Czech does pretty much everything better than Hanescu, with better technique, more power and more consistency. It’ll take a strong performance from Hanescu and a less than stellar one by Berdych for any other outcome other than Berdych playing the final on Sunday.

The Czech should be very eager to win his 10th ATP level title, as well as to gain some momentum ahead of Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros, tournaments where he aims to perform well and maybe even win.

The other semifinal might look weak on paper, but both Carlos Berlocq and Daniel Gimeno-Traver have been playing great tennis this week and haven’t even dropped a set on their way, although they’ve done it mostly on the outside courts in matches that were not broadcast on TV/stream. Yesterday, Berlocq secured his first ever win over a top 10 player in Milos Raonic, with one of his best ever performances, dominating Raonic from the baseline and doing a more than decent job returning his booming serve. Making an ATP final is not a chance that comes around every day for a player of Berlocq’s level/ranking, especially when the semifinal is against a player he has a positive H2H of 4-1 against, so it’s doubtful that he will be satisfied with simply recording his first ever top 10 scalp knowing that a chance (albeit small, with Berdych still in the draw) for a second ATP title in Bastaad last year is there. Gimeno-Traver also played amazingly yesterday, easily disposing of his countryman Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-2 on Centralito, firing winners of both wings at will, even off his usually unreliable backhand. If he can sustain that level, you have to imagine that there’s not much Berlocq can do despite the H2H. Despite his inconsistency, when in form, Gimeno-Traver has a very big serve and one of the best forehands on tour, capable of hitting winners from anywhere in the court. On paper, he also stands a better chance in a potential final with Berdych due to having a higher peak level of play.

All that said, this is a very unusual matchup for an ATP level semifinal. Berlocq has merely reached two finals in his career (won one), while Gimeno-Traver has never reached an ATP level final – both players are bound to be both excited and nervous before this unique opportunity, which might affect the quality of play.

Day 4 Review, Day 5 Preview @PortugalOpen

Day 4 Review, Day 5 Preview @PortugalOpen
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast

Portugal Open

As always, May 1st was by far the best attended day of the week of the Portugal Open, it being a public holiday in Portugal. Centralito was probably as full as its ever been, enough to encourage Gastão Elias to sensationally upset recent Casablanca winner and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4 3-6 6-2.

By his own admission, Elias played one of his best ever matches to repeat his Portugal Open quarterfinal performance of last year.

His quarterfinal opponent will be Victor Hanescu, who defeat Pablo Carreno Busta in 3 tight sets. While the Romanian is the favorite, he’s not exactly an unbeatable opponent for Gastão, who will definitely fancy his chances to reach his first ATP semifinal if he keeps his level up from yesterday.

Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic made their Portugal Open 2014 debuts and they won their respective matches with unsurprising ease, both with the same score: 6-3 6-2 without getting broken. The Canadian didn’t even face a single break point. As is the case with most opponents, Pablo Cuevas never really found an effective way to return Raonic’s massive serve. Berdych will face Leonardo Mayer in the quarterfinals, after the Argentinian played yet another solid match to defeat Golubev 6-1 7-6. Mayer caused Berdych quite a lot of problems in the only time they met, last year at the Davis Cup, but the Czech is still a very strong favorite to progress. Raonic, on the other hand, is taking on Berlocq – who expectedly beat Lukas Kubot with relative comfort – in yet another match where his serve was simply too overwhelming for his opponent.

Portugal Open
The final and perhaps least interesting of the men’s quarterfinal had already been decided on Tuesday, with Daniel Gimeno-Traver facing Marcel Granollers, the latter being the favorite though few would be shocked if Gimeno-Traver came out with the win. Should logic prevail though, the semifinals will surely feature Berdych and Raonic, against one of Elias/Hanescu and Granollers/Gimeno-Traver respectively.

On the women’s side, Carla Suarez Navarro barely broke a sweat to defeat Polona Hercog 6-1 6-3, and the same can be said for Svetlana Kuznetsova’s surprisingly easy win over Eugenie Bouchard. While the Canadian might be the future, at the moment the 2009 Roland Garros winner just has too much skill and craft on a clay court for Bouchard to handle.

Kuznestova will now face Elena Vesnina in the semis. Vesnina is bound to be tired after playing the best match of this year’s women’s event in the quarters – a back and forth grueling match that saw her eliminate Roberta Vinci 7-6 4-6 7-5 in almost 3 hours. Kuznetsova looks in better shape to reach Saturday’s final. Suarez Navarro is overwhelmingly favored to be there as well as her opponent, Irina Camelia-Begu. ICB was the winner of an improbable quarterfinal clash between qualifiers.

Day 3 Review, Day 4 Preview @PortugalOpen

Portugal Open – Day 3 Review, Day 4 Preview
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast

DSC00265

Day 3 at the Portugal Open saw the conclusion of the women’s round of 16 and only three men’s matches.

Due to Gastão Elias’s final in a Brazilian challenger last week, his first round matchup with Volandri was postponed until yesterday afternoon. Despite all the tennis he has played lately though, Gastão looked quite sharp in this match and had break points in all but one of Volandri’s service games (where he still got to deuce). He was aggressive all match long and got it done 6-4 6-3 despite some of his usual choking in some points, including an excruciatingly long and possibly deciding game at 4*-3 in the second set. In order to repeat his quarterfinal performance from last year, Elias will now have to beat #4 seed Guilhermo Garcia Lopez on the same stage Frederico Gil did in 2010 during his dream run: the Centralito. Garcia-Lopez is the obvious favorite, but Gastão is showing some good form and he will have nothing to lose so an upset might potentially be in the cards if the factors align.

The second round of matches started yesterday, with Granollers prevailing over Montanes in a very tight 3-setter, where the 2009/2010 champion had a lot of opportunities to close things out but ended up missing another opportunity to go deep again at the Portugal Open. The other player already through to the quarterfinals is another Spaniard, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who beat Rui Machado 6-3 7-6. DGT’s serve and forehand were more often than not too much for Machado to handle; by the time he seemed to finally adapt to Gimeno-Traver’s game somewhat it was already too late to do something in the match, although he was relatively close to taking the second set and forcing a third set.

Round 2 of the men’s draw will be concluded today; Berdych is the massive favorite to triumph over Devvarman at Center Court for obvious reasons and he should really win. Berdych has made a habit of shocking losses vs far inferior players, but Devvarman on clay is hardly a threat at all. Berdych won their only matchup 3 & 1 on a Harcourt on Chennai.

Portugal Open

Raonic should have more trouble against the talented but frequently injured and inconsistent Pablo Cuevas, but his serve and power should grant him a relatively safe passage to the quarterfinals.

On court 1, Victor Hanescu and Andrey Golubev will lock horns in the first match of the day; the names might not sound too appealing, but both can play incredible tennis on clay when inspired and could produce a very nice spectacle if they’re on their day.

Finally, Golubev and Mayer will face each other in a match that will be everything bar a classical clay-court match. Mayer is the favorite to outhit Golubev and reach the QFs on this surface, but with two players like these, consistency isn’t really something to be taken into account. It will all depend on what level they show on the day as both are capable of breathtaking hitting performances but equally of absolute shockers when they’re off. If you’re a betting man, you should really stay away from this match!

On the women’s side, only two of the seeds are missing the quarterfinals. Samantha Stosur and Lucie Safarova – defeated today in 3 sets by Polona Hercog in a match filled with unforced errors and poor serving throughout – and Kaia Kanepi – shockingly sent packing by the Romanian Begu. In the other matches of the day, logic prevailed with the #1 seed even delivering a double bagel to her opponent.

The quarterfinals promise to be really interesting, especially the first one and only on center court that will fit the seasoned veteran Kuznetsova to Canadian upstart Eugenie Bouchard. Can the Canadian make another breakthrough or will the Old Guard prevail even while not at their best? Suarez Navarro and Vinci are also clear favorites over Polona Hercog and Elena Vesnina, although both are playing pretty well so far and have a shot at going even further on current form. Finally, what should be on paper the tightest match of the round will be played on Court 2 and pit Timea Bacsinszky against Irina-Camelia Begu. The Romanian maybe emerges as an ever so slight favorite, but the match should be great and well contested throughout.