15 Jan 2020

Quarterfinalists confirmed after blockbuster day of action

by Rhonda Karl
Quarterfinalists confirmed after blockbuster day of action

With eighteen matches to get through across four courts, tennis fans were treated to an action-packed day of world class tennis.

Several of those matches were titanic battles including the opening match on Grandstand between former world No. 19 and Roland Garros semi-finalist Marcos Cecchinato of Italy against Argentine lucky loser Leonardo Mayer. The Italian prevailed 7-6 (6) 6-7 (18) 7-6 (2) in the 3-hour 7-minute match. After that match, it’s no surprise Cecchinato couldn’t back that win up in his second-round match against Ugo Humbert, going down 6-1 6-4.

In an-all Spanish clash 38-year old Feliciano Lopez came back from a set down to defeat Pablo Andujar 4-6 7-6 (4) 6-4 on Grandstand.  Lopez then quickly stepped on to centre court for his second-round match against top seed Italian Fognini. Lopez led their previous meetings 2-1 but it was Fognini who made the better start with his crisp ball-striking putting Lopez on the backfoot as he comfortably took the first set 6-3.  The Spaniard rallied back in the second set – using his wicked left-handed serve to full effect and coming to net to finish off points.

Lopez broke early in the third set and never looked back – delivering his 17th ace to send the top seed packing and booking himself a spot in the quarterfinals against the sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. The 22-year-old Pole was too strong for Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer 6-2 7-6 (2). Their quarter-final showdown will be the second night match on centre court.

Lopez who is 38-year old and the oldest player in the singles draw – spent four and half hours on court.

He knew he had to mix up his play if he was going to beat the world No. 12 ranked Fognini.

“I had to be aggressive against a player like Fabio who’s a better player than me from the baseline – I didn’t want to play so many rallies with him.”

In their only previous meeting Hurkacz beat Lopez in Winston Salem last year when the Spaniard retired.

American fourth seed John Isner was the first player to make the quarterfinals serving his way past defending champ Tennys Sandgren in three sets 7-6 (3) 6-7 (1) 6-3. As with any Isner match there was plenty of big serving with the 6”10 firing 16 aces in the 2hr 8-minute victory.

The win is Isner’s first of the season – after suffering three losses at last week’s ATP Cup.

“I put last week behind me and the freshest memory I have right now is winning and playing a good third set.”

Isner will next face Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund, who completed a 6-3 7-6 (4) win over Andreas Seppi. Isner leads their head to head 2-1 winning their last game in Miami.

Auckland crowds had their first glimpse of Canadian star Denis Shapovalov in his second-round victory over compatriot Vasek Pospisill. Shapovalov had to play at a high level to secure a straight set win over the qualifier 6-4 7-6 (4). The 20-year old is in career best form and is currently ranked No. 14.

Shapovalov says he knew it would tough playing against an opponent in good form and who doesn’t back down.

“Even getting broken in the second set I felt like the level was really high from both of us and I felt like we were playing toe to toe.”

Shapovalov will be third match on centre court tomorrow as he goes head to head against the 21-year old Frenchman Ugo Humbert who swept aside Italian Marcos Cecchinato 6-1 6-4. In their only previous meeting Shapovalov had to fight back in three sets to defeat the 57th ranked Hubert in Lyon last year.

Joining them in the quarterfinals will be fifth-seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire who came back from a set down to defeat Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro 4-6 6-4 6-3. Paire will face Australian John Millman who upset third seed Karen Khachanov 4-6 6-3 6-3 in their late-night encounter on centre court.

Doubles top seeds Michael Venus and John Peers were knocked out of the tournament by fellow kiwi Artem Sitak and Indian Divijr Sharan 7-6 7-6.

Sitak says it was great to spring the upset win in front of a packed home crowd.

“It’s not easy to play Mike he’s a top ten player – but this time I’m happy that we got through (the) first round it’s unfortunate that we actually had to play each other.”

Sitak and Sharan will open up play on centre court from 12pm against the Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. The other kiwi left in the doubles draw Marcus Daniel and his partner Austrian Philipp Oswald will play Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and Tim Puetz of Germany on Grandstand after 4pm. 

Quarterfinals day will be another day of superb tennis from the best in the business.