Monday February 20, 2017, Delray Beach, FL
It was a beautiful night to watch tennis and there was some good tennis on tap. I went to the Delray Beach ATP 250 for the second straight year tonight (thank you Dave and Margaret!).
There weren’t a lot of people in the stands, though more showed up for the 8pm match than for the doubles at 6pm. The grounds at the Delray Beach Tennis Center are nice, and made festive by the addition of sponsor tents and vendors selling food, tennis clothing and more.
The first match up was Tommy Haas (Germany/USA; also the Indian Wells TD) and Vasek Pospisil (from Canada) against Steve Darcis (BEL) and Adrian Mannarino (FRA). Haas/Pospisil returned well…their opponents won fewer than half of their service points, even on first serves and only one out of three on second serves. The scoring makes breaks more prevalent, as any deuce game is decided by the next point. H/P were having a tough time holding Haas’ serve though in the second set; they changed up formation then and played “I” formation in the final game and Haas served it out comfortably. Haas makes his singles debut here tomorrow night. All four guys were having fun…they seemed to have the intensity of a practice or exhibition match at times.
After a break (which gave us time to check out those food vendors…the chicken on a stick was good), we watched Taylor Fritz from SoCal play Akira Santillan who plays for Japan but lives in Australia. Both players are only 19. Fritz was the last direct acceptance into the main draw; Santillan won two qualifying matches including a beat down (61 62) of Benjamin Becker in the final qualifying round; he’s ranked 193 to Fritz’s 112. Fritz is listed at 6’4, Santillan at 5’11; Fritz has a 2-handed backhand, Santillan a one-hander. Santillan is strong and very naturally quick around the court; Fritz lankier, with great hands and improving speed. The crowd grew somewhat for this match; USTA coaches Jay Berger and Mardy Fish were watching along with Taylor’s mom Kathy and Larry Riggs (Bobby’s son).
Fritz just seemed more mature as an ATP player than his opponent, at least tonight, and was better able to make inroads on his opponent’s serve. He made some nice backhand down the line winners on a couple of big points and had more easy power. Santillan though has a lot of power for a smaller player…he had multiple serves in the 130 mph range (not all went in though), and is fast. It will be interesting to see how these players develop in the future.