W-S Open Day Four: Johnson upsets Seppi
Aug 20, 2013
By Ben Helms, Wake Forest Athletic Communications
Day Four of the Winston-Salem Open brought one huge upset in 18 matches spread across four courts. Qualifier Steve Johnson surprised everyone with an upset victory over Andreas Seppi, while crowd favorite Gael Monfils picked up an easy victory on Center Court in the night session.
Following is a recap of some of the day's best action.
Upstart American Johnson upsets Seppi on Center Court
23-year-old American Steve Johnson pulled off the biggest upset so far of the 2013 Winston-Salem Open with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5 victory over second-seeded Andreas Seppi.
Ending the third set on a huge wave of momentum, the 2011 and 2012 NCAA National Champion picked up a huge break to go up 6-5 with a chance to serve for the match.
Johnson, who earned a spot into the main draw out of the qualifying rounds, served to a quick 30-0 lead in the final game. Seppi, the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw, fought back to even the score, but Johnson forced two Seppi errors and converted on his first match point to advance.
"I feel like everything I've been working on the last four, five, six months kind of came together. So it's nice to see the hard work pay off in big situations," said Johnson.
Johnson won 82% of his first services and racked up 15 aces en route to his big win. After the first two rounds of play, two Americans remain: Johnson and seventh-seeded Sam Querrey.
"We'll try and hold the flag proudly," said Johnson.
Monfils blasts Pella in less than an hour
15-seeded Gael Monfils prevailed in dominating fashion at the night session, easily downing Guido Pella 6-2, 6-2.
The always-entertaining Frenchman attacked early, breaking in the first game of the opening set and never looking back. Monfils finished off the first set quickly, then sprinted out to a lead in the second and converted on his first match point opportunity.
"I've trained because I sprained my ankle in Montreal, so I wasn't sure what I would give tonight. I was very pleased with the way I played tonight," Monfils said.
Monfils blasted six aces to Pella's zero, and avoided hitting any double faults. His match finished in 53 minutes, the quickest of the tournament so far.
His next opponent will be either Guillaume Pella or fourth-seeded Tommy Robredo. Monfils said that he has his eyes on the final.
"I mean to win the most matches I can, and why not win the title?"
Blake falls in three-setter against Paire
Going for a big upset on Court Two, American James Blake came up short in the third set against fifth-seeded Benoit Paire. The 24-year-old Frenchman defeated Blake by a score of 7-6(9), 2-6, 6-2.
After reaching a 6-6 tie in the first, Paire and Blake fought hard in a marathon tiebreaker that saw Paire take the opening set. But Blake responded strong in the second set, stealing an early break to go up 3-2 and winning the last four games in a row.
In the final set, Paire showed his strength, breaking Blake to take the lead at 4-2. He finished off the victory in front of a near-capacity crowd on the second court largely cheering for Blake.
"I think I played good because the conditions were tough for me... It's good for confidence before the US Open. I want to do something good here," said Paire.
Paire advances to face either Jurgen Melzer or Thiemo De Bakker. Paire said he foresees a tough match regardless of the opponent.
"It will be a tough match because Melzer is a good player on hardcourt and de Bakker, I know him. He's young, he plays very well. We will see," said Paire.
Blake named his inconsistency as the reason that Paire downed him in the second round.
"I definitely didn't return very well. I didn't put a lot of pressure on Benoit's serve. He wasn't making a lot of first serves and I wasn't doing enough to put pressure on his second serve, which is generally one of my strengths," said Blake.
Nieminen advances as Fish retires
11-seeded Jarkko Nieminen advanced to the third round of the Winston-Salem Open after opponent Mardy Fish retired midway in the third set.
Fish, who defeated Evgeny Donskoy on Sunday night, was coming off a tiebreaker victory to take the second set when he called for a trainer's assistance during a third set changeover. Fish then conceded and Nieminen advanced, with the score standing at 7-5, 6-7(3), 3-2.
"It obviously felt very hot and humid today, the weather just got to me a little bit and I just couldn't go anymore," Fish said in a statement. "I had heat stroke and wasn't feeling good, so I had to stop."
Nieminen, a veteran on the tour with two career titles, said that he was pleased with his performance.
"For one and a half sets, I played really good tennis. I'm really happy with that and Mardy still played good tennis, lots of good shots. He played smart, [with] good serves. I think I started well in the third set," said Nieminen.