Monday, July 23, 2012

BB&T Atlanta Open – Sunday’s Finals recap with photos & videos

Sunday was a beautiful if hot (90+ degrees) and humid day for tennis on which to conclude the inaugural BB&T Atlanta Open with the singles and doubles finals. First up was Luxembourgian Gilles Muller versus American Andy Roddick, which was followed by Australian Matthew Ebden and American Ryan Harrison vs. Belgian Xavier Malisse and American Michael Russell.

The view from our seats for the finals

With Steve Ulrich in the umpire’s chair, Muller came out firing much as he had throughout the tournament, dominating Roddick with his lefty serves, deft volleys, and booming overheads. The American hardly knew what hit him; a combination of his opponent’s left-handed serve and crosscourt forehand to Roddick’s weaker wing – backhand – favored Muller, who went on to win the first set 6-1 in about 30 minutes. The points were short and Muller mixed up his shot-making such that Roddick couldn’t find any rhythm, despite the partisan crowd’s urgings. It also seemed as if the Luxembourgian made very few errors in the set.

Muller's volleys confounded Roddick
As did the Luxembourgian's lefty serve (to the American's backhand)
Roddick needed his right arm/shoulder stretched by the ATP trainer
After receiving treatment, Roddick served much better
Under the watchful eye of wife Brooklyn Decker and coach Larry Stefanki

At the end of the set, Roddick consulted with an ATP tour trainer, then received treatment to his right shoulder. It must have helped because the American had a much easier time holding his serve in the second set, which was cruising to a tiebreaker until Muller was serving at 4-5. Saving set points in that and then his subsequent service game, the lefty appeared to get tight in the tiebreaker and lost the second set earning just two points to Roddick’s seven. Here is the point that evened the match at one set each:

At 1-all in the third set, Roddick broke Muller with a backhand pass; momentum was now solidly in the American’s pocket.
After another break to 4-1, Roddick served a love game to a commanding 5-1 lead with the following combination: down the middle (126 MPH), kicker out wide (102 MPH), down the middle (125 MPH), and kicker out wide (107 MPH) – all four to Muller’s backhand, either aces or service winners. After a Muller hold, Roddick served another love game to take the set and the match for his thirty-second career title:
In the first set of the doubles final, all four men – Harrison, Russell, Ebden, then Malisse – held serve through seven games until it was the Belgian’s turn to even it; however, he was broken and Harrison next held to take the set 6-3. I was very impressed with the younger American’s (Harrison is just 20 years of age; Russell is 34) volleying capability – very sound.
Ryan Harrison serves to Xavier Malisse
Michael Russell serves to Matthew Ebden
In the second set, Russell held three straight break points from 15-40 at 2 all to lead 3-2, and in the very next game, Harrison double faulted twice in a row while leading 40-15, before his service winner evened it at 3-all. After holding his serve to 4-3, a Malisse shot was the decider in breaking Ebden and Russell held on to take the second set 6-3, evening the match to force a 10-point super tiebreaker.
A dark cloud shades the Stadium Court
Malisse was broken first serving at 1-all in the deciding breaker, but two points later Ebden was broken and it was on serve again with Russell to serve at 2-3. That’s when the black cloud above began to leak rather large drip drops of water on the court, and there was a conference between the four players and chair umpire Jake Garner near center court:
The players gather with the chair umpire to discuss the conditions
After a several minute unofficial delay and a raucous crowd urging them to play on, the umpire and several ball kids dried the lines using sponsor Gatorade’s towels so that the match could begin again. Russell and Harrison held their two points, but Malisse lost both of his such that Ebden possessed two mini-breaks when he stepped up to the line to serve leading 7-4 and held both to earn 5 match points at 9-4. Russell then held both of his to delay the inevitable, which Harrison closed out on his serve to win the breaker 10-6 and the match:
All in all it was a great tournament at a fantastic new venue (Atlantic Station); hope to see you there next year!

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