Chang thriving, Ferreira surviving, and D***** on the loose
by Ed Toombs
Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1999
The seeds are having a hard time this week at the du Maurier Open. After two rounds of play, and not counting Agassi (2), Martin (6) and Haas (8), whose matches were postponed by rain tonight, seeds eliminated or withdrawn are Henman (4) and Krajicek (5) from the top half; and Ivanisevic (13), Rios (7), Enqvist (10) and Grosjean (10) from the bottom half. So there are quite a few openings for the lower-ranked guys in search of big Super Nine points!
Today I had the honour of attending the day session matches with the esteemed D*****, a fervent non-sports fan who has decided that tennis might at least be worthy of her attention. The match reports will be interspersed with comments representing her rather unique perspective on the players, all of whom she was seeing for the first time.
Michael Chang def. Sébastien Grosjean (15), 6-4, 6-3
Previous head to head: Chang leads 2-0
A good test for Michael Chang's comeback aspirations. The veteran former number two finds himself at 64 in the current rankings, and even took part in a Challenger tourney in Aptos, Calif., two weeks ago in an attempt to find a winning groove. The burning question was on everyone's mind: Which Chang would we see? The Michael who beat Wayne Black and Guillaume Raoux in Los Angeles last week, and defeated Jan Kroslak in the first round here? Or the Michael who lost to modest qualifier James Sekulov at that same tourney?
As it turned out, it was the Good Chang that we saw. The quickness was there, and the groundstrokes were steady and consistent. In particular, I noticed Chang's effective service games. His first serve percentage was high, around 61%. In past years Michael has been criticized in some quarters for going for low-percentage hard, flat serves, instead of spinning the ball in more and concentrating on location. It seemed to me he was doing the latter today, hitting smarter and higher-percentage first serves.
As for Grosjean, he broke Chang's serve early in the first set, and initially looked very sharp, especially with his dynamic inside out forehand. But after that, Chang won 10 of the remaining 13 games. The 21-year-old Frenchman made most games close and had his chances, but seemed to misfire on the big points when he had the chance to drive a winner or put away a volley.
The D**** perspective: D***** didn't find anything particularly to like or dislike about either player, so she sat neutrally and found the proceedings a bit dull. One thing she did not particularly like the backward baseball cap that Grosjean wore. "That's little boy, nursery school stuff." She accurately predicted that Grosjean would lose the second set, noting that it was probably time for his nap. And as the players walked off the court she eagerly checked to see if his teacher had arrived with Sébastien's classmates attached to a long rope, ready to take them back to school.
Next up for Chang: Agassi or Reneberg in the third round.
Wayne Ferreira (17) def. Jan-Michael Gambill, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8)
Previous head to head: first meeting
One of the seeds still left is Wayne Ferreira (17). But just barely. For the second straight match he squeaked out a nail-biter in a third-set tie-break. After being a bit lucky to survive Woodforde in the first round, today Wayne decided to live on the razor's edge against one of the young American hopes, Jan-Michael Gambill, in a match with a freakish, rain-drenched conclusion.
This was the first time I had seen Gambill and his two-handed forehand live. From watching him on television I had always had the impression that he hit a fairly flat ball, because he whacked it hard and with little net clearance. Seeing him in person I thought he has pretty extreme grips, particularly on the forehand side, that impart a lot of topspin on the ball. It seems to me that if you're going to play as tight to the net as Gambill does you might as well hit it flat, and if you're going to hit topspin you should give yourself more net clearance. I make this observation because the biggest single reason Gambill lost this match was his propensity to dump balls into the net, particularly off the forehand. Just some rambling thoughts: it would be interesting to see what any of our eagle-eyed readers might say about this.
The match was spotty, with both Ferreira and Gambill alternating good and bad stretches of play. But there was enough good shotmaking to keep the large court one crowd, slightly pro-Ferreira, interested.
Let us jump straight to the weird ending. Ferreira had the first match point, at 5-6, 30-40 on Gambill's serve. On perhaps the best rally of the match, a long, high-energy exchange, Ferreira finally capitulated with a forehand error. Gambill decisively closed out the game with back to back aces, and a tie-break would decide the match.
The two gladiators went toe-toe in the breaker, until Gambill yet again netted a forehand, setting up Ferreira's second match point at 6-4, again on Gambill's serve. But the American played a great point, blasting groundies that sent his oppenent scurrying from side to side, and finally put away a short ball. At 6-5, Wayne had a third match point, this time on his own serve. Just as Wayne struck his serve, the skies opened and a torrential downpour of rain and hail was suddenly pelting the court. The players kept playing on, and Gambill wisely cut the point short, coming to the net and striking a winning volley, saving the match point. The players scurried to the dressing room with the deciding tie-break tied at 6-6!
The storm lasted no longer than five minutes, so the players came back after the court were dry for a conclusion to the match which was bound to be shorter than the warmup. Gambill had two match points when play resumed, but Ferreira fought them off with a big forehand and a service winner. Finally, on his third match point of the tie-break and his fourth of the match, Ferreira cashed in as Gambill made an unforced backhand error.
A relieved and surely exhausted Ferreira waved his fist and saluted the crowd, having fought hard to stay in the tournament. Wayne's third round opponent will be Jim Courier, who is fresh off his big win over Henman, and one suspects that Wayne will have to tidy up his game in order to reach the quarterfinals.
The D**** perspective: D***** took a liking to Ferreira, She thought Wayne looked a little unusual, but she liked his elegance and composure. "He's much more calm than the other guy. Gambill is always so nervous. He'll probably sprain an ankle with all the twisting and contorsions he does." During the rain delay: "Gambill is probably drinking four more cups of coffee." Jan-Michael is regarded as a heart-throb by many fans, but D***** was not impressed: "I don't like pretty-boy blondes." You can't please 'em all, Jan-Michael!
D***** grades the knees and Rafter:
One of the reasons D**** looked forward to the tournament was the chance to admire the knees of the pros. Of the players she saw on the grounds, the best knees belonged to: Max Mirnyi! On The Line extends its congratulations to Mirnyi. Max is a tall, slender man, and D***** feeels that many of the players's legs are too thick to be attractive.
What about Pat Rafter, People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive? "He's OK. But those shorts [Rafter was wearing his signature white shorts with red squiggles] look like something you should be surfing in, not playing tennis. Definitely not chic!"