16 Feb TOP SEEDS MOVE ON IN DELRAY
TOP SEEDS MOVE ON IN DELRAY
Dolgopolov and Karlovic Survive
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, FL. – Both of the seeded players in action Monday survived the first day of the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.
Alexandr Dolgopolov, the No. 3 seed here this week, won in straight sets, and No. 4 seed Ivo Karlovic advanced to the second round with a three-set victory at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.
Dolgopolov ousted Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 7-6(4), 6-3 in the afternoon, and Karlovic finally figured out how to beat nemesis Dustin Brown when the Croatian closed out the first day of play with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2 win in the nightcap against the 30-year-old German who is ranked No. 97 in the world.
The past seven months have been somewhat of a roller-coaster journey for Dolgopolov. The top-ranked Ukrainian on the ATP World Tour was having arguably his best year since he was ranked No. 13 in the world in early 2012 before he sustained an injury to his right minuscus in Hamburg last summer. He had surgery on July 24 and did not return to the tour until Tokyo in late September where he lost his first-round match to American Jack Sock.
Dolgopolov went 3-4 against Top 10 opponents in 2014 and earned more than $1 million for the second time in three years, but he went 1-5 in his last five tournaments. He’s currently ranked No. 24 in the world, but had won only one match before beating Gabashvili.
“I think I did quite well,” Dolgopolov said of his second win in five matches this year following a first-round loss last week in Memphis. “I was really nervous the first set. It was not my best the first set and I think winning that was really important, and then the second set I was much better.”
Dolgopolov said it’s important that he builds more confidence at the Delray Beach Open, something he feels will come if he can notch more than just one win.
“I know I’m ranked high, but I lost the first rounds the last two tournaments,” Dolgopolov said. “I’m dropping points. I need points to be high-ranked and I need some wins. I didn’t do well at the Australian Open, so I need to go play more tournaments and try to get in the shape I want. I was just trying to relax (Monday) and concentrate on what I need to do.”
Dolgopolov said dealing with the knee injury has been the main culprit that shook his confidence. He said the doctor who performed the surgery suggested he take two months off from the World Tour, but other doctors told him differently.
“I visited nine doctors in three days,” Dolgopolov said. “I found all the doctors I could in Australia. I sent MRI’s to Europe, Ukraine, (and) all of them said I was good (to play). But that was the Monday before the (Australian Open) matches, so I came out and I was completely nuts. I didn’t practice for three days. It was not the best for me.”
Dolgopolov’s second-round opponent will be an American — either Tim Smyczek or Pembroke Pines teenage wild card Stefan Kozlov.
“Physically, I feel fine,” Dolgopolov said. “The speed is OK, everything is good, but I feel that the knee is not the same as before. It’s week by week.”
Karlovic, ranked No. 29 in world, had not beaten Brown in their two previous meetings, and when Brown took the second set tiebreaker, it appeared that Karlovic might be headed for another setback against the pesky German.
“You don’t know what he’s going to do. I don’t even know if he knows what he’s going to do, so it’s difficult,” Karlovic said of Brown. “But it was a really good match and I’m happy I won. He serves really well and he’s fast and always has a good eye.”
The 6-foot-11 Karlovic used his big serve to register 23 aces, compared to six for Brown. Eight double faults, including three in the decisive third set, also did not help Brown’s cause. Karlovic’s second-round opponent will be the winner of the Tuesday’s match between Serbian Filip Krajinovic and Aussie qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The only other singles match in the main draw that was contested Monday saw American wild card Denis Kudla defeat Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Next up for Kudla, whose ATP ranking is 132, could be a match against No. 5 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, who faces American qualifier Eric Quigley in his first-round match.
Quigly was estatic about qualifying for his first ATP-level event. ““It feels really good,” he said. “This is what you always play tennis for. I’ve always dreamed of playing in tournaments like this. I’m really happy I could do it here in Delray – beautiful weather, beautiful place.”
Teens Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan and Kokkinakis joined Quigley in qualifying for the main draw, and John-Patrick Smith of Australia filled the fourth spot.
With the 19-year old Nishioka and 18-year-old Kokkinakis advancing, it marked the first time in Delray Beach that four teenagers reached the main draw. The pair join Koslov and Russian Andrey Rublev, a pair of 17-year-olds who received wild cards into the tournament. Koslov was the 2014 Orange Bowl champion and the No. 3 ITF junior for 2014 while Rublev was the world’s top junior, and is playing in his second ATP tournament.
Bernard Tomic of Australia and Viktor Troicki of Serbia prevailed in a third-set tiebreaker to upset the No. 4-seeded doubles team of Aussies Sam Groth and Chris Guccione 6-7(10), 6-2 (10-7). In other doubles action, No. 2 seed Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Leander Paes of India downed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia and Aussie Marinko Matosevic in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(0). Americans Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram also advanced to the second round of the doubles draw.
A full slate of matches is scheduled for Tuesday, including No. 1 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa and No. 2 seed John Isner of the USA. Anderson will face Aussie qualifier Smith in the early evening match at 6 p.m., followed by the matchup between Isner and Matosevic in the nightcap.