Round 2 – June 14
Thursday at the Libema Open Den Bosch started partly cloudy and sunny. Gasquet warmed the crowd up with superior grass tennis against Donskoy. Richard mixed up his game and made very few errors. Evgeny had no answer to Richard’s variation. Gasquet hit flat out and/or mixed up his game with nasty slice balls. Donskoy mishit some of them and Gasquet won the longer rallies. A great performance by Gasquet.
Being up close I spotted two weird habits of Gasquet. First: at the start of each service game, for some reason he hit the led-boarding once with a ball. Second: before returning he walks around the sideline. Then touches (with his racquet or foot) the left side of the sideline, the line itself and the right side. He finishes tapping on a spot just in front of his foot, like a crucifix sign. He seems to be doing this meticulously for each return. Today it certainly worked out well.
Match of the day. Jaziri started strong with good groundstrokes and returns, which won him some nice points. Tsitsipas started sloppy. Overall Malek was just a bit better in the first set and he took it 6-4. A drizzle already started and Stefanos asked for the fysio. Nothing happened though. A minute later, the match was suspended due to rain.
After a long delay, Jaziri quickly broke Tsitsipas’ serve. Stefanos slowly managed to serve better and found a good rhythm. At times he hit some amazing net-shaving groundstrokes. Raw talent at work with every now and then a sloppy shot. Jaziri also played aggressive tennis, often looking for the far corners and the net. Malek clearly wanted to end the match in two sets. Stefanos, to the delight of the crowd, broke back just in time. Malek however steamed ahead in the tiebreak with fabulous (net)points. Stefanos saved a match point and struck back with gutsy strokes and net play. He won the tiebreak and broke Jaziri’s serve immediately in the final set. Tsitsipas wasted no time to finish just before another rain delay. A great match with gorgeous groundstrokes, net play and lobs!
Quarter Finals – June 15
A nice sunny day and what an amazing opening match this turned out to be! McDonald and Chardy made a spectacle of it. Chardy served well most of the match. At one point he hit 4 aces in one game, 3 of them in a row. However McDonald returned Chardy’s deep and on-the-line serves pretty well. The small ‘Mackie’ moved well too. Jeremy did manage to get a break to take the set. Chardy took a sanitary stop after set 1. McDonald broke early in the second set and after that had more work to do on his serve than Chardy. Both players struggled to keep their unforced errors down. McDonald hit some nice winners to deservedly win the set.
The third set was ultra close and of premium quality. Some rosé drinking Wallon fans supported Chardy increasingly louder as they slowly emptied their smuggled bottle. The set went to a tiebreak after both players saved several breakpoints. Some amazing shots were hit by both players. We saw impossible groundstroke winners as well as freaky net points. One blistering longline backhand winner hit from behind his body from McDonald and two huge forehand winners from Chardy were the highlights of the ‘jeu decisif’. Jeremy Chardy victorious!
QF: Lukasz Kubot & Marcelo Melo (POL/BRA/1) def. Sander Arends & Matwe Middelkoop (NED) 4-6, 6-4, (10-8)
After the Chardy-McDonald match I got the chance to watch the top seeded doubles team Kubot/Melo (ranked 3 and 4 in the world). They took on dutch team Arends/Middelkoop. Both are doubles specialists (Middelkoop ranked 31, Arends 67). Court 2 was overcrowded with fans even sitting on the stairs to watch the home team take on the doubles giants. Among the spectators was former Grand Slam doubles winner Paul Haarhuis.
The match started spectacular with a few awesome and typical ‘pinball’ volley exchanges. Middelkoop and Arends were loud, passionate and played terrific. They took the first set and pumped up the crowd. In the second, Kubot/Melo hung in and capitalised on errors by the dutch team in an Arends service game. The champions tiebreak was tight. Middelkoop/Arends took early momentum but unfortunately an error by Arends cost the local boys. In the end all players were terrific and provided great doubles tennis entertainment.
With the centre court basking in heat, the match got underway around 2:30pm. Verdasco is pretty good on grass too and Tomic loves grass, even though he never won a tournament on this surface. Verdasco started weak and Tomic took advantage of that capturing a break and the set. Tomic served well and committed few errors.
Bernard ‘lost himself’ at the start of the second, as he described it in the post-match interview. He let Fernando get back in the match, who forced a tiebreaker. Some unforced errors by Fernando and very good grass tennis sealed another win for Bernard. It was his 5th straight win, good for a place in the semis. Tomic really found his mojo this week!
The last centre court match. Everywhere Tsitsipas plays there is a buzz. It happens naturally. The crowd adopts him quickly as the favourite. I think it’s because of his attacking tennis, laid-back looks and youth. ‘Stef’ was tested by Jaziri and JP Smith. However the grass court mastery of Richard Gasquet proved an exam too hard today. Both players displayed great tennis. The first three games seemed to last ages. It was clear from the start that this was going to be a close one.
Gasquet mixed up his game. Although he needed to work hard to win his service games, he came through. Even from 0-40 down. No breakpoints were converted and two tiebreakers decided the match. After set one, Tsitsipas received treatment to his shoulder/neck area. Shortly after that he served some double faults but gradually improved. Stefanos slowed down between points to recover from longer rallies. He received a time violation warning for it. I’ve seen him do it before against Goffin in Antwerp. He seems pretty streetwise on the court though. Both players were annoyed with the Hawkeye system being down twice, which made it impossible to challenge calls. In the end congrats to Richard who again played entertaining and high level grass court tennis.