On Friday, I saw parts of eleven matches, including many of the men who ended up qualifying for the main draw. Since I’ve already written about many of these players (Tuesday notebook; Wednesday notebook), I’ll keep this brief.
Joao Souza vs David Goffin
Souza, a 23-year-old Brazilian, is a big guy with a big game. He plays as explosively as anyone I’ve ever seen in qualifying, reminding me of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his ability to impose his will on a match. Goffin is a steady counterpuncher and was holding his own until Souza just exploded near the end the first set, hitting untouchable serves and forehands to seal the set. Judging from his track record so far, Souza doesn’t reliably play at that level, but there’s no doubt the talent is there.
Goffin is a very different player. I saw parts of his second and third-round matches yesterday, and was impressed both times. He has a very slight build and is only 20, suggesting that more power is on the way. Now, he looks like Gilles Simon’s 12-year-old brother, and plays quite a bit like Simon, moving very well around the court and hitting solid groundstrokes off of both wings. The 7-5 7-5 loss to Souza notwithstanding, he seemed mentally strong, holding his own against physically superior players.
Sergei Bubka vs Rogerio Dutra da Silva
I’m afraid I can’t explain Bubka’s superiority here, since I only saw the second set, which Dutra da Silva won 6-4. The Brazilian is skinny but hits like a big man, finding impressive angles to crush forehand winners. Like Souza, he has the talent to simply bowl someone over, and Bubka didn’t have the defensive skills to stop him. But this time, Dutra da Silva didn’t maintain that level.
I wish I had more to say about Bubka, but he didn’t do much to impress. He hits hard and is reasonably steady, which was apparently enough against the mercurial Brazilian.
Augustin Gensse vs Laurynas Grigelis
I wrote about Grigelis on Wednesday. He crushed Adam Kellner, though he let up a bit near the end the first set. It would appear that his mind is holding him back; he sputtered to a 6-1 7-6 win over a weak 2nd-round opponent in Bastian Knittel. In two tight sets on Friday against Gensse, he couldn’t close it out.
Gensse is a typical qualifying journeyman, hitting reasonably big shots without quite the consistency necessary to reach the next level. I also saw the end of his 2nd-round victory over Joao Sousa (not Souza, mentioned above), and held on while Sousa’s game simply collapsed.
Grigelis may have more potential than any other player in this year’s qualifying tournament, so it’s a shame to see him fail to convert on the opportunity to make his first US Open main draw.
Louk Sorenson vs Gastao Elias
I saw the Irishman in his 2nd-rounder, which started bright and early at 10am. When I arrived, Elias was dictating play, forcing Sorenson to play clay-court tennis. Elias looked good, with steady topspin groundstrokes and the ability to recover from defensive positions. Sorenson was too erratic to do anything with that.
But near the end of the first set, everything changed, and I’m not sure how. Elias started missing, Sorenson’s forehand came alive, and Louk was up a break in the second set before Elias knew what had happened. Elias–still only 20–has the brighter future of the two–especially on clay–but Sorenson came through when it mattered. He came back later in the day to beat Martin Fischer in straight sets and qualify for the main draw.
Vasek Pospisil vs Charles-Antoine Brezac
This was another second-rounder. I wrote about both players earlier this week, and was excited to see Pospisil take on a stronger opponent. The second set lived up to my expectations, with one deuce game after another before the Canadian finally broke for a 6-1 7-5 victory.
20 years old and about 6’4″, it’s no surprise that Pospisil isn’t yet in full control of his strokes. He wasn’t as consistent as the veteran Brezac, but there’s no questioning his vast potential. The serve is huge, and his awareness of the court is far beyond his years. He didn’t come in as often as he could have, but neither did Brezac, so he got away with it. Pospisil came back out to beat another journeyman, Grega Zemlja, to qualify for the main draw.
Malek Jaziri vs Guillaume Rufin
Rufin retired two games after I arrived, so I suspect anything I observed about him isn’t very accurate. Jaziri got lucky with that outcome, even though he was up a set at the time. The Tunisian is a clay-courter, and he didn’t make any concession to the hard surface in yesterday’s match. He had the loopiest groundstrokes I saw all week, and I’m not sure I saw him hit a single winner. He drew Thiemo de Bakker in the first round, one of the few possibilities that might get him a main draw win.
Conor Niland vs Matwe Middelkoop
Niland was a mess in the first set, losing 6-2 on the “strength” of a backhand that went everywhere but inside the lines. Throughout the match, he displayed one of the least consistent two-handed backhands I’ve ever seen, hitting flat, topspin, and extreme topspin shots with more or less the same motion.
After a bathroom break between sets, Niland came back out a different man. The backhand didn’t win him points, but it stopped losing them, and got him in position for several inside-out forehand winners. Middelkoop got lulled into passivity by winning the first set, and didn’t recover before Niland took control of the match. Unfortunately for Conor, his backhand will be exposed about two games into his first-rounder with Novak Djokovic.
Romain Jouan vs Denis Kudla
Kudla was simply overmatched. (I also wrote about his win on Tuesday.) At this stage in his young career, the young American is basically a counterpuncher, occasionally going on offense with an exceptional backhand. From the beginning of the match, Jouan looked erratic, but he was consistent enough to overpower Kudla again and again. As was the case earlier this week, Kudla didn’t display the best tactics, going for down-the-line backhands from defensive positions. Jouan put him on defense all the time, and it was clear that the American didn’t have an answer for it.
Like Souza, Jouan is a powerful, imposing player. Against a better opponent, it’s questionable whether he can maintain that level, and he’ll likely be demolished by Tomas Berdych next week.
A few more notes on qualifying winners:
I’ve seen Michael Yani several times, and written about him here and here. Same with Marsel Ilhan: here. Jesse Huta Galung is a very stylish, smooth player who has never gotten the results I think he deserves–I don’t think he consistently serves and volleys, but he has the talent to do so. I wrote about Go Soeda earlier this week. When I saw Robert Farah a few years ago, he was an electrifying, inconsistent player, with an odd mix of flat, hard groundstrokes and clay-court tactics.