Another interesting day of tennis at the Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open featured major young talents and an old fogie who can still get the job done.
Jurgen Melzer, age 35 and ranked lower than his brother Gerald outside the top 100, struggled to handle Darian King but was able to get the job done in three sets. Melzer was once No. 8 in the world looks a tad slower and less explosive than his heyday years. Mezler will play Facundo Arguello in the next round. Arguello, Mr. Cramps/Underhand Serves/FootFaults defeated Christian Harrison today.
Miomir Kecmanovic dominated Mckenzie McDonald today on center court first match on to the tune of 61 62. I only saw the last point of the match. Double Mac swung a forehand crosscourt and came in but Kecmanovic hit the perfect forehand crosscourt which landed low and MacMac hopelessly netted the forehand volley. Kecmanovic glided to the net as if he’s won a thousand ATP matches already. Been there done that kind of humble cool. Kecmanovic continuing to do what he did at Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl as the ITF number one junior – make playing pro tennis look easy.
I did a Biofile with Kecmanovic right after the match in the parking lot because he walked by me leaving as I was chatting with Tim Mayotte’s sister Ellie who lives in Bradenton. She shared an interesting story about her brother Tim beating a young Boris Becker at Wimbledon, two sets to love and then Becker faked some kind of injury and stopped the match for at least five minutes, at one point even saying, ‘I quit.’ But of course it was just a trick and Becker resumed play and won the match in five.
Kecmanovic came back later to watch the first night match which featured Sebastien Korda vs former 2013 NCAA champ Blaz Rola. Before the match, Korda revealed that Rola was one of the first pros that he used to hit with at IMG when he was around fourteen.
Tonight, Rola showed that he is still too strong for the sixteen year old budding future star. Rola jumped out to a 5-0 lead but Korda began to find the feel and forced tighter games and longer points with steadier baseline play. But Rola is clearly too strong at this stage and finished the job with a 61 62 win. The gallery for this match was quite impressive with a who’s who of tennis and pro sports observing the action…Nick Bollettieri, Jimmy Arias, Petr Korda and his wife and two LPGA golf daughters Jessica and Nelly Korda, Leander Paes, Kecmanovic, Andre Sa, Mitchell Krueger.
Another fine match of the day was the morning battle of doubles partners Stefan Kozlov and Peter Polansky. Polansky raced to a 2-0 lead with his very powerful baseline game but Kozlov has more variety and gradually worked his way into the match, to take the first set 6-4.
Kozlov continued the momentum to a 2-1 break lead and had game points for 3-1 but blew that game for 2-2. Then Polansky won the next for 3-2. It was looking like a carbon copy of Kozlov’s final qualifying match vs Rola, win first set, blow second set chances then lose in three.
But Kozlov battled back, using his eclectic mix of shots, speeds and especially drop shots. It all started to go wrong when on game point at 3-2 Polansky hit a net cord in the middle of the net and it bounced wide right. Polansky was mystified by the weird bounce and muttered, ‘Hit the middle of the net cord and it bounces wide.’
Kozlov used that inch of a second chance and turned it into a mile. He won that game for 3-3 and then galvanized momentum by continuing to pepper Polansky with variety of speeds and drop shots. Polansky couldn’t contain his frustration and muttered again, “Ultimate pushing. On this court.”
But it wasn’t really pushing. It was Kozlov knowing and giving Polansky the kind of balls he did not want to have to play. It was Kozlov breaking Polansky’s rhythm by giving him a constant barrage of different balls to deal with. It was matador vs bull tennis. Kozlov is the matador and Polansky is the bull.
Kozlov broke Polansky for 5-4 and then served it out from 30-all. The last point was another drop shot and then a perfect passing shot backhand cross court and inch inside the sideline.
At the handshake, Polansky muttered a few soft but clearly challenging words at Kozlov who graciously refused to engage into an argument.
On Thursday Kozlov will play No 2 seed Horacio Zeballos for a spot in the quarterfinals. Tomorrow night Kozlov and Polansky will rejoin forces for the doubles where they will take on the team of Leander Paes and Jurgen Melzer on James T. Driscoll Stadium Court.