Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BB&T Atlanta Open – second day of ‘insider’ notes, photos, delay and upsets

Tuesday at the BB&T Atlanta Open started under ominous clouds, which opened up and poured rain less than 30 minutes into the first round matches that had begun at 4 PM. But the rain abated and the radar showed clear weather for the rest of the day/evening less than a hour later so that – at around 5:30 PM – the squeegee and blower patrol descended on the Stadium Court. Unfortunately, it was for naught as a light drizzling mist continued for the better part of another hour. It was around 6:45 PM before the initial matches begun could be resumed, meaning the evening docket would be pushed back for the second night in a row.

Tuesday's two hour forty-five minute rain delay

The first match on Stadium Court featured the tournament’s eighth seed, Japan’s Go Soeda (#54 in the world) versus Belgium’s Xavier “the X-man” Malisse, returning to Atlanta for the third straight year. But, 20 minutes into the contest, at 2-all with Malisse serving at 30-love, play was suspended. The last point played was a long rally in which both men were pulled wide, each slipping on the lines, which are usually the most treacherous when wet relative to the rest of the court.

Xavier Malisse serves to Go Soeda

When play resumed, each player continued to hold serve until the tenth game of the set, when the Belgian broke the Japanese to take it 6-4. The second set proceeded much as the first, the two men playing long rallies in every game but the server prevailing each time. In the tenth game of the second, as in the first, Malisse again had break opportunities to win the match in straight sets by the same tally, but failed to convert and subsequently lost his serve. In fact, serving at deuce, Soeda won a point when his short angled volley clipped the tape, making it unplayable for the X-man, who threw his racquet to the ground. After he double-faulted the game away, Malisse broke his racquet over his knee (on the third attempt) while making his way back to his chair. For some reason, chair umpire Magdi Somat did not penalize the Belgian player even though he’d given him a warning for taking too much time between points earlier in the set. Soeda then held to take the second 7-5. Malisse, who is known for getting discouraged with himself and mental meltdowns had complained to Somat earlier about crowd noise coming from the patrons ‘watching’ the match from the Champagne Suites, which are located behind the west stands on the street level of Atlantic Station.

The colorful Belgian's 3rd set attire

The third set was close, featuring just one break of Malisse at 3 all; Soeda then held out to win it 6-4. According to the post match statistics, each player won 103 points during the closely contested match.

Heartthrob Ryan Harrison

Tuesday evening’s featured match on the Stadium Court was between two Americans: the tournament’s sixth seed, 20-year-old Ryan Harrison versus the fading veteran, 32-year-old James Blake. After holding his serve to open the match, Harrison broke Blake’s first service game to lead 2-0. However, Blake broke right back, but then Harrison made it three breaks in a row to lead 3-1. Harrison then closed out the set with a hold-break-hold to take it 6-1 in just under 30 minutes.

James Blake returns Harrison's serve

But Blake was just getting starting; having learned his opponent’s game, the veteran broke Harrison to lead 4-2 in the second, then held on to win 6-3. By now it was past 10:30 PM, and I had to head for home. Despite what happened in the second set, I expected the youngster to pull it out and was surprised to learn that Blake won the deciding set 7-5. Next up for Blake is Harrison’s BB&T Atlanta Open doubles partner, Australian Matthew Ebden, so it seems likely that we’ll have a James Blake-Mardy Fish quarterfinal on Friday.

The 3-set match ended around 11:30 PM

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