The Ultimate ATP Tournament has begun! Sound the trumpets and assemble the grounds crew! Let the raucous fans in! Pray that it doesn't rain!
Well, lucky for us, there won't be any rain.
If you've missed any portion of how the Ultimate ATP Tour will work, allow me to educate you.
First, the players will be seeded in this Utopian tournament as according to The Top 25 Greatest Male Tennis Players of the Open Era.
Second, the brief introduction to the tournament and how it will be played can be found here: The Ultimate ATP Tournament: Introduction
And finally, the entire tournament draw can be found here: The Ultimate ATP Tournament: The Draw
Now for the main attraction. The results are in for the fourth quarter of the tournament bracket, which includes Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg.
Match No. 26: Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs. Brian Gottfried (USA)
Result: Hewitt in five. 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4.
These two players have achieved very similar career results, with one major exception. Hewitt possesses two slams (Wimbledon & the US Open) while Gottfried has never won a slam.
Hewitt has a big advantage on hard courts...not because Gottfried is a poor hard court player, Hewitt is just too good. The agile Aussie takes Gottfried's biggest shots in style, frustrating him.
Hewitt's defense is instantly evident and Gottfried realizes he needs a miracle shot to beat him. Hewitt sails smoothly to a 6-3 victory and appears to be in total command of a rattled Gottfried.
Hewitt has never been a particularly strong clay court player, and Gottfried reached the French Open final in 1977, only to get annihilated by Guillermo Vilas.
Gottfried, still showing signs that Hewitt is in his head, falls behind early 3-0. Although he rights the ship after that, he can not break Hewitt back and the Aussie coasts to another 6-3 victory.
Gottfried got recuperated after the second set and came out firing for the grass. He was holding absolutely nothing back, and it took Hewitt by surprise.
The 2002 Wimbledon champ was on the wires and the momentum had completely began to shift. Gottfried was making spectacular shots, but the Aussie fought back and pushed the set near a tiebreak.
But Gottfried got a monstrous break and took the set 7-5.
Finally, a surface Gottfried had a distinct advantage on. His carpet pedigree was impressive. Hewitt came out flatter than he would have liked, and Gottfried, playing his best tennis of the match, strolled to an easy 6-4 victory. He was pumped up, and now tied at two all.
But the fifth set meant going back to the hard courts. Hewitt instantly found his swagger again, as well as new energy. He got an early break, responded with a "Come on!", and muscled his way past Gottfried 6-4.
Hewitt will face Jimmy Connors in the second round.
Match No. 27: Manuel Orantes (ESP) vs. Vitas Gerulaitis (USA)
Result: Orantes in five. 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7.
Oranteswas really the first of a generation of excellent Spanish clay court players. He took Bjorn Borg to five sets at the French Open, but never won it. He did however win the US Open while it was played on clay.
Gerulaitis proved he could win on pretty much every surface, just not consistently. Despite the two playing at the same time, they only met three times.
The two never met on hard courts, but the advantage would have to go to Gerulaitis if anybody. After nearly an hour of incredibly sloppy play, Vitas emerged as the victor after a tiebreaker. Both players finished the set with more unforced errors than winners.
Orantes must be thrilled about the clay. He was a dominant force, and had destroyed Gerulaitis in their meetings on clay. Orantes almost automatically turned all his errors into powerful winners. Gerulaitis had no answer for the pace of Orantes' shots and quickly found the match leveled at one.
Orantes wasn't a fantastic grass court player, but neither was Vitas. Vitas won the grass Australian Open, but he did so defeating John Lloyd, who came out of obscurity for the tournament and re-entered the unknown afterwards. Orantes continued to fight like he did on clay, and punished his way to a 6-4 set victory.
Carpet courts and Manuel Orantes didn't get along very well for some reason. However, Gerulaitis was much more at home on the carpet. Orantes looked like a fish out of water from the first serve and Vitas put the set in the books quickly, 6-2. All square at two.
Both players wanted this one equally as bad. Gerulaitis was confident after his first set win on hard courts, Orantes wanted to show his value off clay. They were locked in a dogfight that seemed like it would go to judgement day.
But a strange thing happened at 7-7: Gerulaitis dropped serve. Orantes rushed in on the opportunity and mustered his last bit of strength to put away the match.
Orantes will face the winner of Rafael Nadal/Andy Murray in the second round.
Match No. 28: Andy Murray (GBR) vs. No. 10 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Result: Nadal in four. 5-7, 6-2, 7-6, 7-5.
Two of today's common foes, Nadal has dominated the series to date, winning five of seven. But Murray is rising fast and can challenge Nadal.
Although Rafa just won the Australian Open, it isn't a secret that hard courts aren't his best surface. They absolutely are for Andy Murray.
The Scotsman comes out wielding his racquet like a sabre and matching it in intensity. Although Nadal was not making errors, Murray was taking the play to Rafa. Murray took the set 7-5 on a terrific ace out wide.
Now the judgment for Murray. How could he perform on clay against Nadal? Nadal manhandled him in Hamburg, and had even more reason to want this set now.
The Raging Bull was relentless, attacking every part of Murray's game en route to an easy 6-2 victory.
Murray now found himself in a must-win situation. If he wanted a real shot at taking the match, he would have to win on grass. It looked very good for him at first, breaking serve and jumping out to a 4-1 lead.
But Murray got his feet tied for the slightest second in the moment, and Nadal took advantage. He retook the lead at 6-5, but Murray would force a tiebreak.
Nadal turned it up another notch and Murray could not respond. 2-1 Nadal.
Heading to carpet, Nadal has never won a carpet tournament. Murray has, in St. Petersburg. But Nadal knew he couldn't let this match get back on hard courts, so he started throwing everything at Murray, playing more aggressively than at any previous point. It paid off, as Nadal grinded out a 7-5 victory. Game, set, match.
Nadal will face Manuel Orantes in the second round.
Match No. 29: No. 15 Arthur Ashe (USA) vs. Adriano Panatta (ITA)
Result: Ashe in four. 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.
The feisty Italian should not be overlooked in this matchup, as Ashe seems to be the heavy favorite. He achieved his best results on clay but could also do damage elsewhere. Ashe won all of his three Slams on grass.
Ashe starts out exactly where he wants to be, on the hard courts. Panatta is not nearly as adept, and Ashe flattens him 6-4. Despite Panatta grabbing four games, the set was never in doubt as to who was in command.
The scales were immediately tipped in Panatta's favor as they hit the clay. The Italian beat Bjorn Borg at the French Open, a feat nobody else managed to do, and he did it twice.
Panatta's clay dominance is shown very early as he commands nearly every point, gaining a 6-3 victory to even the match.
On paper, Ashe appears to have a major upper hand on grass, since he won three Slams on the surface. But don't count the feisty Panatta out.
The Italian jumps out early and forces Ashe to play catch up all set long, until it is finally taken to a tiebreak. Ashe has enough tricks in his bag to catch Panatta off guard and take the lead.
Ashe knows he has come to the telling point. If he can't win on carpet, he will probably not have enough left to take another set. Lucky for Ashe, carpet is one of his better surfaces. He charges out to a brilliant 4-0 start and holds on for the easy win.
He will face the winner of Djokovic/Nastase in the second round.
Match No. 30: Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Ilie Nastase (ROM)
Result: Nastase by retirement. 4-6, 7-6, 5-7, 2-0 RET.
Djokovic is the typical power-era player, incredibly good on hard courts. Nastase could win on any surface, especially clay and carpet.
Djokovic came out firing on all cylinders on the hard courts and Nastase had some trouble answering. Nastase finally was broken at 3-3 and the Joker banked it quickly after that with few problems.
The second set was a very different story. Djokovic, looking to grab a 2-0 lead, stepped onto a surface he had marginal success. Nastase had won the French Open before, and wanted to show his worth.
Both players began playing extremely well, holding serve through 6-6. The Joker however, came out flat and let the breaker get away from him. Nastase ties the match at one.
Both players are solid on grass as well. Djokovic hasn't yet won a grass title, but he has had plenty of good results. Nastase won the US Open on grass in addition to two others.
Again, both players began the set swing freely, but Djokovic seemed to be the one controlling play. Nastase was weathering the storm very well, until Djokovic sawed through his service at 3-3.
Nole took no time in cashing in from the break, taking the third 7-5 and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set spelled problems for Nole. He pulled up awkwardly in the third game down 2-0 after twisting his ankle. He summoned the trainers but it didn't make a difference, and he threw in the towel.
Nastase will play Arthur Ashe in the second round.
Match No. 31: Michael Stich (GER) vs. Tom Okker (NED)
Result: Stich in three. 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
Stich seems to be the clear cut favorite to win here. The big German didn't take no for an answer and continued to prove everyone wrong. He reached a Slam final on every surface. Okker, more known for his doubles play, also gave singles a shot.
Okker was not a particularly strong hard court player, and Stich realized this. He made all the right shots and didn't go for anything excessive, and it guided him to an easy 6-3 first set win.
The second set was much closer, because the talent gap on clay was much less. Stich was not as proficient on clay, but he changed up his strategy for this set.
He became instantly more aggressive, throwing Okker out of rhythm. This ploy ultimately assisted Stich in taking yet another set away from Okker.
Okker knew if he wanted to have a serious match, he would have to challenge Stich on grass. Stich plastered Boris Becker at Wimbledon in straight sets in 1991. Stich's ability to again change the game completely paid dividends for him. This time, he adopted a serve-and-volley tactic, going to the net much more. He walked with a 6-2 victory.
Stich will face Bjorn Borg in round two.
Now let's examine the second round of the fourth quarter.
- No. 7 Jimmy Connors (USA) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
- Manuel Orantes (ESP) vs. No. 10 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
- No. 15 Arthur Ashe (USA) vs. Ilie Nastase (ROM)
- Michael Stich (GER) vs. No. 2 Bjorn Borg (SWE)
Enjoy and stay tuned for the second round of the Ultimate ATP Tournament!