October 3, 2010

From Out of the Ashes

It's been an interesting year for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. After losing five matches in a row to start the year, the twenty-seven year old Spaniard seemed to be coming into his own during the spring, running over Marin Cilic in Indian Wells, dropping only five games to Lleyton Hewitt in Rome and fighting to the finals in Eastbourne.

But in the last few months, he's been less than impressive. Though he was my pick to make the semifinals at Roland Garros, the barely seeded Garcia-Lopez lost in the second round to Thiemo De Bakker and, other than Eastbourne, only won three matches since. He hadn't beaten a top twenty player since March and fell from a career-high ranking out of the top fifty.

Then he came to Bangkok. In his Thailand debut he faced a tough road from the start. He opened with a straight-set win over eighth seeded Michael Berrer -- his only two-setter the entire tournament. He had to fight much harder against Florent Serra and Ernests Gulbis, but put up his biggest win when he saved twenty-four of twenty-six break points against world #1 Rafael Nadal in the semis -- it was the only time he'd even won a set from his countryman.

In the finals against Finn Jarkko Nieminen, Guillermo had the early lead, but allowed his opponent back in the game after holding the 3-1 advantage in the third set. He stayed strong after squandering a few match points in the tenth game and ultimately closed out the championships almost two hours after the match ended.

It was Garcia-Lopez's second career title -- he'd beaten Julien Benneteau in the Kitzbühel final last year, and certainly a solid victory as he travels to Tokyo this week. Still unseeded at the Japan Open, he faces a potential second round against '09 U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro or just-as-intimidating sixth seed Feliciano Lopez. It will certainly be a tough task to repeat his run from Bangkok, but his wins this week should give him an additional boost of confidence when he touches down.

And like the phoenix before him, he might just be able to fly from the ashes of his disappointing summer into a much more successful fall.

1 comment:

Tennis Talk, Anyone? said...

Great win for Garcia-Lopez, especially to come through and not let the emotions and excitement of beating Nadal stopping him from taking the title.

I was pulling for Nieminen, though: He's lost a LOT of finals in his career! I hope that second career title comes soon enough for him.