Only 2 More Days at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Atlanta OpenFriday was another great day of tennis at the BB&T Atlanta Open – Quarterfinal Day did not disappoint, even though we had a short rain delay in the first set of the first singles match of the day.

Tommy Paul came out swinging in his match versus tour veteran and Rafa-Slayer Gilles Muller, holding his own through the first few games. But, then the Weather Gods decided we all needed a little break to grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping around Atlantic Station, and when the match resumed, Tommy didn’t have quite the same firepower.

Muller went on a rampage, showing why he’s had so much success this summer. To Tommy’s credit, he kept a very positive attitude out there and battled through to the bitter end. USTA coaches Diego Moyano and Brian Boland remained

Diego Moyano & Brian Boland

positive as well, encouraging Tommy to keep going for his shots. They both seemed pleased with their young charge’s performance against the veteran Muller, pow-wowing throughout the match about what to work on moving forward.

Next up was former Georgia Bulldog and 3-time Atlanta Champion John Isner who always has tons of support at this event. As he came on court, you could hear the fans Woof-ing at the Big Dawg, which John acknowledged with a big smile and waves to the crowd.

Even though there was only one break of serve by Isner in each set, he never seem too bothered by Lacko and went about his business in less time than it takes to drive from Atlanta to Athens. Isner did face a break point in the first set. “Yea dangit that was a horrible service performance today [laughing]. No I served well. He was for a good portion of the match on me a little bit. He returned well. He takes the return early, and he hit quite a few good returns quick and right at my feet. I stayed calm at that breakpoint; hit a great serve, hit three great serves. Got out of dodge there and then was able to play a great game at 5 all to win the first set.”

The third quarterfinal of the day was perhaps the most anticipated: 25-year-old Louisiana native Ryan Harrison versus 21-year-old Atlanta native (and rising Georgia Tech senior) Chris Eubanks. Chris has had a dream run this week, using his Wildcard to its full advantage while taking out fellow NextGen players Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson in the first two rounds. Ryan Harrison proved too tough for the Yellowjacket, cruising to an early 5-0 lead in the first set before Chris finally held serve to get on the scoreboard. Harrison held to close out the first set 6-1 then kept his foot on the gas throughout the second set to win it 6-2.

At the end of the match, the announcer handed Chris the mic so he could talk to the very supportive crowd. He was very gracious, thanking everyone for their support, acknowledging that this was a great experience for him and gave him a chance to see what he needs to work on as he finishes up at GA Tech and prepares for life on the pro tour.

Ryan was complimentary of Chris’s play. “Chris was pretty aggressive early, and he was making a few errors,” explained Harrison. “So I was trying to focus on keeping my first serve percentage up. I know he’s got big weapons, especially with that forehand. I thought if I made first serves it would be difficult for him to control the point with it. I was really emphasizing on trying to make those. Then just you know I usually do a good job of making a lot of balls back and kind of putting that extra ball back in the court.”

The last Quarterfinal match pitted top-seeded Jack Sock against UK standout Kyle Edmund. Edmund, the twenty-two-year-old British star and Davis Cup player, seemed ready for aggressive play from Sock. He remained steady with his serve and returned the firepower with fire of his own, to come out on top. After winning the first set 6-4, Edmund took advantage of a weakened Sock – who requested a medical timeout but never seemed to recover fully despite massive crowd support – and dominated the second set, which ended quickly at 6-1.

RESULTS – JULY 28, 2017

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals

[3] G. Muller (LUX) d [Q] T. Paul (USA) 6-3 6-1
[2] J. Isner (USA) d L. Lacko (SVK) 7-5 6-4
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) 6-1 6-2
[5] K. Edmund (GBR) d [1] J. Sock (USA) 6-4 6-1

Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals

[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d H. Chung (KOR) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND) 6-1 6-2

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

[4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Not Before 3:00 pm

[3] G. Muller (LUX) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)

Not Before 7:00 pm

[5] K. Edmund (GBR) vs [4] R. Harrison (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) vs [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA)

AJC GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon

ALTA AA-3 CITY FINALS MIXED DOUBLES

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com

College Players Soar at US Open

With all the proposed changes NCAA is trying to make, you would think there was a problem with US college tennis.  This first week of the US Open is proving otherwise.

We have seen some incredible wins by our young guns in Flushing.  Stanford’s Mallory Burdette took out Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in her first round match in straight sets then did similar work against Lucie Hradecka (you may recognize this name as one of the silver medal doubles winners at last month’s London Olympics) of the Czech Republic in Round 2.

On the men’s side, USC’s Steve Johnson (NCAA Singles Champion in 2011 and 2012) beat former University of Illinois player Rajeev Ram in the first round then partnered with Jack Sock to oust the top seeds in the Men’s Doubles draw.  Stanford’s Bradley Klahn had an incredible 5-set win over Jurgen Melzer – I’m guessing playing out those tight 3rd sets during the college season was instrumental in helping him get the W yesterday!  And UCLA’s Dennis Novikov, who is also the 2012 Kalamazoo champ, won a hard-fought battle against Jerzy Janowicz in his first round match.  Our best-known college player and former Georgia Bulldog, John Isner (this year’s 9 seed), had an uneventful first round win over Belgium’s Xavier Malisse.

Both the men and women are having success in the doubles as well.  Besides Johnson and Sock’s win, Ram partnered with Belmont College coach and Comeback Kid Brian Baker to beat Emmrick and Sijsling in the first round.  Novikov partnered with fellow junior player Michael Redlicki to get a win over veteran Americans Bobby Reynolds (former Vanderbilt standout) and Michael Russell (1997 NCAA Rookie of the Year at University of Miami).  And former Georgia Tech star, Irina Falconi, partnered with former USC standout, Maria Sanchez, to win their first match versus Cadantu and Johansson.

To be fair, not all of our college players fared so well.  University of Tennessee grad, Rhyne Williams, had a very tough match, drawing Andy Roddick in the first round.  Williams put up a good fight and definitely made Roddick earn the win.  And Jesse Levine, a former Florida Gator, fell in 5 sets to 14 seed Ukranian player Alexandr Dolgopolov.

It would seem that the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is applicable here.  The young men and women mentioned above are living the dream of countless junior players – going to college, getting a degree, improving their tennis, then parlaying all those skills into success at the professional level.  While I realize that a first- or second-round win doesn’t prove that college tennis is a viable stepping stone to the pro circuit, it certainly shows that a young player can take that path and have positive results.

Good luck to our players as they move on to Round 2 and beyond!

There’s No “I” in T-E-A-M

UGA Men's Tennis Team - 2007 NCAA Champions

Jim Courier, Bob Bryan, John Isner, Mike Bryan, Ryan Harrison

I know I’ve written a lot lately about high school and college tennis, but it’s just where I am right now, so please indulge me one more time!

I watched this past weekend’s Davis Cup matches with great interest, not only because my childhood friend’s son was playing for the US but also because our #1 singles player, John Isner, was a 4-year member of the University of Georgia men’s tennis team (Go Dawgs!).

As I watched World #11 Isner play against World #6 Jo Wilfred Tsonga, in what turned out to be the clinching match, I couldn’t help but wonder how Isner’s experience at UGA shaped his ability to close out such a decisive match on Sunday or how it affected his ability to close versus Roger Federer in the previous Davis Cup tie.

In John Isner’s own words (via Twitter), “That’s the beauty of team tennis, Coach!! Lay it all out there!!!”

Laying it all out there is exactly what John did to help lead the US team to victory versus Switzerland then versus France, coming in as the underdogs in both ties, being forced to play on what has been considered the US team’s weakest surface, red clay.  But, as a Georgia Bulldog, John had lots of experience in coming from behind and using the sideline energy of his teammates to push him to victory.

UGA Head Coach, Manny Diaz, told me that John was always a great team player. “I believe that playing a team sport at an early age (basketball) plays a big part.”

Coach Diaz went on to say, “I think that we [UGA] emphasize the ‘team’ concept very strongly. I feel that it helps develop closeness and it teaches them that even when you do not feel your best you play a very important part of what happens each day in practice. It’s much easier to just go through the motions when you are tired. But if you have a close team, you do not want to let the others down.”

There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that high school tennis is a waste of time.  There are many, many high-performance coaches out there who will tell you that college tennis is NOT the proper path to the pros.

According to Coach Diaz, Isner is one of the greatest competitors and leaders his UGA team has ever had. In college, he was always at his best when others were counting on him. He would never let down the team by giving less than 100%, and when his teammates needed a win from him, he would raise his level to meet that need.  Now that Isner is on the ATP tour and playing Davis Cup, he seems to have carried that never-say-die attitude with him and is quickly becoming the go-to guy for Davis Cup coach Jim Courier.

I do realize that John Isner is an exception, that as Andy Roddick said, “You can’t teach 6-9!”  But, I can’t help but feel that, but for Isner’s 4 years under the tutelage of Coach Manny Diaz, he might never have developed into the kind of player who can withstand and thrive under the pressure of Davis Cup, especially the “away” matches with thousands of fans cheering against him.  If you’ve ever had the chance to watch your favorite college team play live, you know the kind of noise the home team can make.  Davis Cup fans have NOTHIN’ on college fans, especially in the SEC!

Here’s the thing . . . the odds are stacked waaaay against any junior player hoping to find success at the professional level.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s just the way it is.  So, why not advise your child to take at least a year or two (or four!) to mature, develop, and educate before making the decision to go on the tour?  Your child could be the next Davis Cup hero!