Martin Strelba’s second-round finish pushed him up to #155, still more than 90 rankings spots below his break-even point. He’s been bringing in enough money that I’ll be traveling with him for a while to try to get him back up where he needs to be. Meanwhile, Steve Herzoida’s win at Spain F6 vaulted him to 334th(+119), and I hired a trainer(Thomas Schneider, 25% Rally, 20% Physical, 3% Other) to work on the next week which three of the guys have off. Strelba’s dime of course, he’s the only one who can afford it.
Madrid Masters(Clay, Q)
This event and the French Open are critically important. If Martin doesn’t do well here, I can probably kiss his contract good-bye. 5-seed Igor Zelenay was the first-round qualifying obstacle: not the best draw. A tight match was expected: Igor is stronger, while Martin is in his element on clay and has a significantly better mental game. Confidence-wise, Strelba was very happy with how he played in Roma. Zelenay served for the first set at 5-4, but Strelba broke and got himself into a tiebreaker. He lost it though, and trailed 5-1 in the second. Incredibly, he got himself back into it, leading 40-0 with a chance to get back on serve … and then Igor won the last five points of the match. 6-7(4), 3-6, a very damaging loss.
Top seeds in doubles, the first obstacle was Petrovic/Gilderry. A 6-1, 7-6(3) win assured that the trip would be worth something. Bradaric/Holm held three first-set points in the money round, but all were saved and Galbraith/Strelba went on to take the tiebreak. 7-6(3), 6-1.
Strelba/Galbraith survived Van Rensburg/Dilaura in the first round, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. 8 seeds Davis/Noah looked in command for the second round, but Scott Davis couldn’t continue at 2-4 in the opening set, an unfortunate break for us. In the QF, top seeds Leach/McEnroe, the best doubles tandem in the world, obliterated them 1-6, 3-6.
Darryl Fausett met Herve Grenier(FRA), and looked to have a chance for his first win. Grenier comes in 4-13 on the year, never advancing past the second round of qualifying. Fausett has a notable physical edge, but lacks in his shot-making from the baseline in this matchup. Even so, I was surprised that he took the first set decisively, and mostly cruised to his first professional match win in seven tries, 6-2, 6-4!! The key difference was his ability to effectively attack Grenier’s second serve, winning 18 of 26 points there.
7-seed Sandeep Kirtane(IND) was next. Very similar comparison as the first round, except Kirtane is a little more well-rounded as a player and a little more successful. Darryl attacked his serve relentlessly, breaking more often than Sandeep held, and won decisively again 6-3, 6-3. The money round brought top seed David Adams(ZAF), a much more accomplished player than the other two, particularly mentally and in the return and net parts of the game. Darryl was still superior athletically, but I was still pleasantly surprise to see him rebound from an early break down to take the first set in a competitive tiebreak. Adams had a chance to even it up, serving at 5-3 for the second set, but Darryl out-dueled him in a long game to break back and forced another tiebreak. That one was Adams the whole way, setting up a dramatic final set to decide who would qualify.
Darryl had a significant edge in conditioning and stamina, so the longer the match went on, the more it would play into his hands. David Adams broke right away, continuing his momentum, but he’d led in both of the first two sets also so I knew Fausett could come back. It didn’t happen this time. He came up short of what would have been a pretty significant upset, 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 2-6. This one came down to experience more than anything else. Adams did a much better job of converting his break chances(42% to 19%). Darryl played well enough to win otherwhise.
Top seeds again, Herdoiza/Fausett faced off with Williamson/Camradt and got through, 6-3, 6-2. Second seeds Sullivan/Chang went up against Eriksson/Avila, a low-quality match almost all the way around, with Sullivan the lone exception. They had just enough to win it, 4-6, 6-3, 1-0(6).
Martin Strelba was the #19 seed for the qualifying draw, and obviously he absolutely needed to make it through. Wild card Stephane Matheu(FRA) hadn’t made a main draw in any tournament so far, and that didn’t change: Strelba won 6-1, 7-5. Bogdan Buneci(ROU) took the first set, but Martin was back in control in the third set when he had to retire, 4-6, 6-3, 2-0 ret.
Clearly our collaboration was not going to end well. No point in waiting any longer – I cancelled the contract with Strelba, and replaced him with a more capable and talented player. Countryman Petr Korda(CZE, 22), with a 7% commission. Only half of Strelba’s, but Korda is much more polished and talented. He’s currently ranked 51st, but to succeed I need to get him up to 28th. So far this year he’s 44th – there’s definitely some work to be done.
Carl Chang was the last DA, and began against Min-Kyu Han, winning easily 6-4, 6-0. Ofer Sela(ISR) pretty much laid down and died for him in the next round, 6-1, 6-0. That set up a very interesting match against David Adams(ZAF), who of course had edged Fausett in the final round of qualifying, and also knocked out the tournament’s top seed in the first round. Adams looked very sharp, as he has for all of his matches here: Carl was just a bit off his game. He rallied from 4-1 down to even the first set, only to get broken in the final game and lose it anyway. The second set was virtually a carbon copy. 5-7, 5-7 Chang falls here, just another upset victim.
Steve Herdoiza was the #2 seed, and met Howard Joffe(ZAF) in the first round. An off day for Steve, but he still managed to get through, 6-3, 7-6(4). Rodrigo Faria(BRA) got rolled quickly, 6-2, 6-0. Qualifier Piet Norval(ZAF), a left-handed net player with impressive touch and an accurate serve, was a definite step up in the quarters. This was his best result on the year, but he had won both matches so far in straight sets and impressively so. Herdoiza didn’t do any better, quickly and badly losing 2-6, 0-6 to snap his seven-match winning streak.
Sullivan/Chang were up first in doubles against third seeds Agafonov/Hunt, and of the four only Chang was ready to play. Again they went to a match TB, and again they won it there, 6-4, 3-6, 1-0(6). Serrano/Kilderry made it three straight decided that way, and this time their luck ran out. 6-7(5), 7-5, 0-1(5).
Herdoiza/Fausett started against 2-seeds Schukin/Saric. 10% xp boost for Herdoiza, but Fausett was only at 74%, much worse than the other three. Surprisingly, they still walked through, 6-2, 6-3. In the second round, Crabb/Montoisy offered even less resistance, taking only two games. In the semis, they both had a bad match against Serrano/Kilderry, but a 12% xp boost for both attempted to make up for that. Evidently it wasn’t necessary … they surrendered only three games this time.
Their first doubles final was against Eltingh/Del Rio, and it was a wipeout: 6-1, 6-0, and it was a total cakewalk all the way through to this title.
The day after winning the Kuwait F1 Championship, Herdoiza/Fausett were back on court to qualify(top seeds again) at F2, facing off with Berard/Zipris. A tougher start, but they dominated the last set to win 7-5, 6-0. Sullivan/Chang met Hui/Chen, and their flair for the dramatic nearly cost them. 6-4, 1-6, 1-0(4) … that second set was one to forget.
A rough draw for Petr Korda, who faces #7 Boris Becker in the first round. He put up a whale of a fight, winning a tense second set and forcing a breaker in the third, but Boris came up with the goods when he needed them to win it. I was sure it was over, but Korda broke in the final game of the fourth set to force a decisive fifth … but he definitely looked like the more fatigued man out there. Becker had a chance to break at 2-2, but couldn’t capitalize, and Petr went ahead in the very next game! Unfotunately, Boris broke back immediately at love. At 4-5, he had an uncharacteristically error-riddled game, and Petr finally won it on his third match point, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4!! A big, big upset, and one that shows he definitely is fully capable of being Top 30 material as is his goal.
In the second round, clay-court specialist Diego Perez(URU) was not expected to provide more than a moderate challenge: Korda is a better all-around player, and Perez has a notably weak serve. 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. In the third round, Jonas B. Svensson(SWE) lurked, and he had yet to lose a set. 8% xp boost for Korda. He dropped the first, then lost a tiebreaker after holding three set points in the second, and it looked over. Just like with Becker in the first round though, Petr refused to fold, rallying to force another fifth set against one of the fittest players in the world. Svensson broke right away to go up 3-0, and Korda missed two points to break back. A solid run and a great effort ends 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 3-6. He could have won it, but just a little short. Still a very encouraging tournament for Korda’s prospects.
Steve Herdoiza, top seed, started vs. American Brandon Coupe, and he had to save several set points in the first before winning it, 7-5, 6-2. Bill Behrens, another countryman, also had only one good set in him before falling 7-6(2), 6-0.
Carl Chang was the 7-seed, and he faced Nigerian Sulieman Ladipo first for an easy 6-3, 6-0 decision. Miguel Pastura(ARG) got one of Carl’s worst efforts, which made a one-sided matchup on paper quite even. Chang just survived, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The quarterfinals brought the first meeting between Steve Herdoiza and Carl Chang. Herdoiza won a pretty tight battle, 7-5, 6-3, with the difference being a much more effective 2nd serve. Swedish lefty Michael Ryderstedt, the 4-seed, went up 4-1 before Steve rallied to win it 6-4, 6-1, taking 11 of the last 12 games.
That left a final matchup against Melvin Tong(HKG). I’m not sure how he did it, but Tong pulled off a pretty shocking upset, 5-7, 4-6.
Herdoiza/Fausett came within a millimeter of blowing their winning streak in the first round after last week’s title. A disastrous second set necessitated a match TB, where they had to save a match point before surviving 6-3, 0-6, 1-0(9). Serrano/Finnberg were up next, and they won only a single game.
Furusho/Dev Varman went down 7-6(5), 6-0, and it was on to the final. Monnecchi/Muzalewski came out extremely flat, and after the first few games they didn’t offer much resistance, 6-3, 6-0. Another doubles crown for the fast-rising pair.
Sullivan/Chang met Flores/Tavares, and Carl was still worn from his second-round singles match. They lose here 5-7, 4-6.