August 6, 2015

Shaking Things Up

It's never fun when things go exactly as planned at a tennis tournament, and while the top men have certainly been less prone to big upsets than their counterparts on the women's Tour, even the favorites are certainly capable of surprising us from time to time. And this week, more than others it seems, the underdogs are capitalizing on any opportunity they get.

Dominic Thiem hasn't made it easy for the other guys in Kitzbühel, as last year's finalist has extended his win streak to ten straight matches with his win today over Albert Montanes. But his run has to end some time, and a couple hopefuls in Austria could make a case to be the one to do it. Thiem's next opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber, who started the year off kind of slow, reached the championship match in Munich and notched a nice upset over Hamburg runner-up Fabio Fognini in the quarter. He's never faced off against the rising star, but the veteran German might just have the experience to get the win. More of a threat, though, might be Nicolas Almagro, whose injury addled season has dropped him well out of the top hundred -- the clay court specialist hasn't done too much in his comeback, but so far this week has scored wins over 2014 breakout Jiri Vesely and hometown favorite Jurgen Melzer. He may have a less-than-encouraging 1-2 record against his next opponent, qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu, but if he's really back in form he should be able to make a play for not only the final, but maybe even the title.

Over on the hardcourts of Washington, D.C. there's been even more drama -- and even bigger surprises. American Steve Johnson, who's already given us a glimpse of his potential this year, notched his second straight win over world #26 Bernard Tomic, having beaten him earlier this summer in Halle. He'll face a bigger challenge against Grigor Dimitrov next, but the talented Bulgarian has struggled more than a little this year and could be more vulnerable than his sixth seed suggests. Then there's teenager Alexander Zverev who, despite a semifinal run in Bastad, is still just inside the top hundred. But on Wednesday he stunned big-serving Kevin Anderson to set up a third round against Alexandr Dolgopolov, a man who's had a hard time recapturing form since knee surgery last year -- there's no reason the young German can't take advantage of his opponent. But of course the biggest opportunity in D.C. comes courtesy of Teymuraz Gabashvili, who last night pulled off the biggest upset of his career so far, beating top seeded Andy Murray -- the first and only one of the Big Four to ever play in the U.S. capital -- in a nearly three-hour match. While there are more than a few seeds still in this half of the draw, the thirty year old Georgian by far cleared out the biggest threat. While anyone left could benefit from the big hole in the bracket, Gabashvili might just have established himself as the one to beat.

Of course it's one thing for any of these players to score one big win during a tournament -- what really makes a difference is if they can follow it up with another. But any one of them has the potential to make things even more interesting than they already have been this week -- and hopefully keep their momentum going even longer.

No comments: