September 24, 2015

Time to Get Crackin'

The 2015 Grand Slam season may be in the books, but that doesn't mean there isn't more ball to be played. And a couple ATP stars that came up a little short at the U.S. Open seem to be taking the opportunity this week to turn things around.

Not everyone was successful of course -- in St. Petersburg top seed Tomas Berdych, who fell in the fourth round in New York, didn't make it even that far and dropped in straight sets to Simone Bolelli -- but others may fare a bit better. Milos Raonic, who's had some trouble coming back from foot surgery earlier in the year, opened with an easy win over Evgeny Donskoy. And Dominic Thiem, winner of back-to-back titles to start the summer but was dismissed quickly by Kevin Anderson at the Open. He seems back on track in Russia though, scoring his fourth straight win over compatriot Andreas Haider-Maurer to start his run. But perhaps the player under the most pressure to rebound is last year's standout Roberto Bautista Agut, who in 2014 boasted wins over the likes of Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro but this season only has one win over a top-twenty player, and that by retirement. Earlier today against hugely talented Teymuraz Gabashvili he saved match points before closing out the win in an over two-and-a-half hour match. Next up he faces young Lucas Pouille, who's had some big wins himself over the past several months -- but if the Spaniard recovers in time, he might just be able to end this year on a higher note.

Over in Metz a couple more heavy hitters are looking to make up ground. Some didn't have terrible showings at the U.S. Open -- surprise French Open titleist Stan Wawrinka made it all the way to the semis but ultimately lost in a quick three sets to countryman Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a semifinalist in Paris, took defending champ Marin Cilic to five sets in the quarters. But both have been tested this week though -- top-seeded Wawrinka came back after dropping his first set to Dustin Brown and Tsonga needed two tiebreaks and a decider to take out qualifier Mischa Zverev -- and will want to show they haven't lost any steam. But the player really looking to recoup is Gilles Simon who, despite climbing back into the top ten, has been on a bit of a lull this summer. He'd won just two matches since Wimbledon and was stunned in his New York first round by a resurgent Donald Young. But he finally stopped his losing streak in his homeland, taking out Edouard Roger-Vasselin in straight sets earlier today. He's slated next to face off against Gilles Muller, who had a promising start to the year and already took out seventh seed Fernando Verdasco -- he's won the pair's only previous meeting about a year ago, and there's no reason he can't do it again and perhaps put himself on course to ultimately claim the title.

After all there are still a couple more months left in the 2015 season, and plenty of big titles still up for grabs. And while these guys may have been a little quiet of late, there's plenty of time to turn up the volume now.

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