John Isner is a player who must be getting used to being one half of an epic match (his opponent being the other). Today, he was once again involved in one of those matches of which the result is a rare, and rather exceptional, feat.
Isner’s Shanghai Rolex Masters Opener against Kevin Anderson might not make history, but it will definitely be remembered. The American saved three match points to defeat Anderson, 7-6(3) 6-7(8) 7-6(7), in 2:45.
This second-round match was a serve fest, as both players fired a total of 45 aces (24 for Isner, 21 for Anderson), and was only the third match this season not to count any break of serve.
Most of us probably remember the only other such match this season, where Milos Raonic fired 35 aces to defeat Janko Tipsarevic, 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 7-6(4), in the Chennai Open final. Few of us remember the round-of-16 match at Queen’s opposing Ivo Karlovic to Yen-Hsun Lu, won by the Croatian, 6-7(3) 7-6(6) 7-6(7).
Between those matches, there have been two other encounters that finished with three tiebreaks (Andreas Seppi d. Stanislas Wawrinka in the round-of-16 of the Rome Masters 1000, and Sam Querrey d. Igor Andreev in the first round in Washington). Those two matches, however, counted a few breaks of serve.
It seems like the measure of thrillers wasn’t full for Kevin Anderson this Tuesday. After that tough singles loss, the South African went to play, and this time win, an epic doubles match, when he and his partner Sam Querrey defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4 5-7 18-16.
Empty as in very empty
If the players like the hospitality of the Shanghai Rolex Masters, for us watching the tournament from home, the view of empty stadiums is definitely one we would like to avoid, no matter how well the organisation treats the main protagonists of the tournament.
Granted, the venue is far from the centre of Shanghai, and the transportation is quite difficult. However, in the days when Shanghai was hosting the Masters Cup, the same venue was packed.
Perhaps a Masters 1000, third most important event on the ATP Tour behind the Grand Slams and the World Tour Finals, is not only about the stars of the game, but it remains a very important tournament, and seeing the lack of interest to attend when the stars are not in action is one that, for such a tournament, is pretty sad for the fans of the game who cannot afford to make the trip to China to watch some good tennis.
The Stadium court should at least be packed on Wednesday, as the top four seeds will all be in action, although I wouldn’t wager for the first match, even though it involves fourth seed Tomas Berdych.
After having been a victim of a death threat several days before leaving for Shanghai, World n° 1 Roger Federer has been placed under high security and protection for the duration of his stay in China.
The Swiss did not particularly like that the media had had wind of the affair, as he stated in his pre-tournament press conference:
“So then obviously it came out in the press. That’s when things changed. It became much more public, which I’m a bit disappointed about, that it did come out in the press. It was something just very small on a website, nothing clear and concrete, people just debating. That it makes that big news is a bit surprising to me.”
It still remains quite a sight when you see the best player in the world surrounded by an army of bodyguards when signing autographs after practice…
… or just at practice!
It is nonetheless necessary, if not for the anonymous person who made the threat on a forum, at least for other just as crazy but silent people who might think it was a good idea.
Like many others, I am starting to believe that in a day not so far away, the public will have no more access to the players during practice sessions or even after the matches, unless there is such heavy security.
Tuesday results (Shanghai Rolex Masters)
There haven’t been many surprises in Shanghai, this Tuesday, except seventh seed Juan Mónaco’s upset by Fernando Verdasco, which diminishes the Argentine’s chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals.
To be fair, the Spaniard played one of his best matches this season, and Mónaco, despite playing at a good level, was not as brilliant as he has been over the last couple of weeks, looking somewhat flat.
Maybe the long season is starting to take its toll on him, but fortunately, he does not play next week and has a few days’ rest before attempting to defend his Valencia Open final.
Round 1 results
-  Milos Raonic d. [Q] Marinko Matosevic, 7-6(4) 6-3
-  Stanislas Wawrinka d. Albert Ramos, 7-6(1) 7-6(5)
-  Kei Nishikori d. [WC] Wu Di, 6-2 6-4
-  Gilles Simon d. Jürgen Melzer, 6-4 6-2
- [Q] Yen-Hsun Lu d. [WC] Zhang Ze, 6-0 6-2
- Denis Istomin d. Carlos Berlocq, 4-6 6-2 6-1
- Florian Mayer d. Bernard Tomic, 6-4 6-0
- Radek Stepanek d. [WC] Lleyton Hewitt, 7-5 6-1
- Marcos Baghdatis d. Fabio Fognini, 6-2 6-2
- Viktor Troicki d. Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3 2-6 6-4
- Feliciano López d. Alejandro Falla, 6-3 1-6 6-3
Round 2 results
- Fernando Verdasco d.  Juan Mónaco, 6-4 6-2
-  John Isner d. Kevin Anderson, 7-6(3) 6-7(8) 7-6(7)
-  Marin Cilic d. Martin Klizan, 7-5 6-1
Enter the big guns
All the big guns are playing their second-round match on Wednesday, when the second round will be completed. The top four seeds are all scheduled on Stadium court from 14:00 local onwards, and a few interesting matches can also be watched on Grandstand.
I admit that the match that will catch my attention will most likely be the all-French meeting between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire. Entertainment guaranteed!