The 2014 Australian Open starts Monday, Jan. 12, and one of the most exciting warm-up events is the Heineken Open from the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland, New Zealand.
This was the 39th edition of the tournament, and while the history of the event makes it memorable each year, the stacked field in 2014 had every tennis fan excited about the on-court battles.
With bona fide stars like David Ferrer, Tommy Haas and John Isner highlighting some of the most dangerous contenders, the action throughout the event and the matchups spawned was some of the best fans will enjoy all season.
The field was even more impressive before French star Gael Monfils was forced to pull out of the tournament due to fatigue, per Michael Brown of the Otago Daily Times. Monfils lost in the finals of the Qatar Open to Rafael Nadal on Saturday, Jan. 4.
The short turnaround—the Heineken Open started on Jan. 6—made the decision to withdraw from this event and focus on the Australian Open simple for the French athlete.
Despite the loss of Monfils, the talent remaining in the field was more than able to keep the fans entertained with plenty of elite on-court action.
There is no better way to prep for the first Grand Slam of the season than by winning the Heineken Open and building momentum, and that’s exactly what John Isner achieved.
No. 1: David Ferrer, ESP
No. 2: Tommy Haas, GER
No. 3: John Isner, USA
No. 4: Kevin Anderson, RSA
No. 5: Philipp Kohlschreiber, GER
No. 6: Benoit Paire, FRA
No. 7: Gael Monfils, FRA
No. 8: Robin Haase, NED
No. 9: Daniel Brands, GER
Click here to view the complete draw courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com.
Click here to view the daily schedule courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com.
Day 6 Scores
John Isner def. Yen-Hsun Lu; 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7)
John Isner has just capped off an epic 2014 Heineken Open men’s singles tournament with a title. The American star eliminated Yen-Hsun Lu in the finals, dispatching the Taiwanese challenger in straight sets.
It wasn’t an easy victory by any means, with both sets going to a tiebreak to determine a winner. The 6’9” Isner used his immense power to generate 23 aces, but his opponent did his best to make things difficult in Auckland.
There were no service breaks in the match, something Isner accounted for when describing the victory to ESPN.co.uk:
"This match was very tight, as every match I've played this week was very tight. I needed every bit of it to come out on top. I've spent a lot of time on this court this week, but as each match progressed, I was getting more and more comfortable."
Isner, the No. 3 seed in the event, has been hobbled with an ankle injury during the tournament. He was fortunate to have it hold up long enough to not be a severe bother in the finals, but that may not be the case in the upcoming Australian Open:
"I'd like to thank my chiropractor because I had a bit of a banged-up ankle coming in here and he spent tireless hours working on me," Isner told ESPN.co.uk. "Without him I wouldn't have been able to take this court."
The 28-year-old Yankee is staring down a potential fourth-round showdown with Andy Murray in the Melbourne-based Grand Slam. The Scottish star holds a 3-0 lifetime advantage over Isner, who must be at the top of his game if he plans to advance into the quarterfinals.
Winning the 2014 Heineken Open in New Zealand should definitely give Isner a boost in the Grand Slam. He first captured this tournament title in 2010, which precluded his advancement to the Round of 16 in the Australian Open before an eventual loss to Murray.
Isner will undoubtedly be looking to rewrite the ending to this story in 2014.
Day 5 Scores
Yen-Hsun Lu def. David Ferrer, 6-4, 7-6
John Isner def. Roberto Bautista Agut, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
The tournament's top player is gone. The No. 3 seed survived. The ideal championship matchup is no longer possible, but could a shocking winner emerge?
Yen-Hsun Lu continued his impressive run throughout the tournament, defeating top-seed David Ferrer in straight sets. It was the type of win that has left Lu with plenty of confidence, as he told ATPWorldTour.com:
My performance today was really amazing. At the beginning I just told myself to try to win the first point and try to win a game. Then go game by game. I kept going until the end and beat the No. 3 in the world today. It's my first final on the ATP World Tour. Beating a Top 10 guy gives me a lot of confidence.
Meanwhile, John Isner recovered from a poor first set behind 17 aces to defeat Roberto Bautista Agut. He nearly didn't make it, having to win a second-round tiebreaker just to keep the match going. It wasn't his finest performance, as he told ATPWorldTour.com, but he was proud of his ability to keep grinding:
I was a bit erratic. I felt like I made a lot of mistakes out there. I was missing some forehands that I don't normally miss. But at the same time, my opponent was simply playing better than me for the majority of that match. I just stuck with it mentally.
I was down 5-4 in the second set with him serving. I just told myself to play solid and that's what I did and I was able to turn the match around. I still believed I could get the match back to even.
Isner has won the only meeting between these two players. But Lu will be playing for a lot of firsts—his first win against Isner in his first final, hoping for his first ATP Tour title. If Isner doesn't start better in this match, expect Lu to accomplish all of those firsts.
Day 4 Results
John Isner def. Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5)
Yen-Hsun Lu def. Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4
David Ferrer def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
Roberto Bautista Agut def. Jack Sock 6-1, 6-3
While Day 3's action was filled with upsets, Day 4 saw the two highest remaining seeds reach the semifinals, though neither man had an easy time of it.
Top-seeded David Ferrer lost the second set to countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but the 31-year-old came through in the decisive third set for the win. Garcia-Lopez took two service games in the second set to force the third frame.
Ferrer said this of his opponent, per the Times of India: "He played unbelievable tennis. I'm very tired now."
Ferrer will face Taiwan's Yen-Hsun Lu who knocked off American Steve Johnson in straight sets. The 31-year-old Ferrer is looking for his fifth title in Auckland.
The next highest remaining seed is America's John Isner. He won a spirited match with Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber that saw all three sets go into tiebreakers. After dropping the first set, Isner took the final two frames.
The three-set match took two hours and 25 minutes to conclude. Isner said this after the mini-marathon had ended:
I was up against a gutsy opponent so I knew I have to give it everything I had. It wasn't necessarily pretty for either of us but when you're playing guys as good as him it comes down to a point here and there. I got a bit lucky today.
Isner is set to face Roberto Bautista Agut. The latter dispatched American Jack Sock in straight sets. His 6-1, 6-3 victory was the easiest win of the day for any player in the tournament.
Day 3 Results
Jack Sock defeated No. 2 Tommy Haas, 6-4, 6-4
Steve Johnson defeated No. 4 Kevin Anderson, 7-5, 6-4
No. 5 Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Horacio Zeballos, 6-4, 6-2
Yen-Hsun Lu defeated Bradley Klahn, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3
No. 3 John Isner defeated Lukas Lacko, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2
No. 1 David Ferrer defeated Donald Young, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1
Roberto Bautista Agut defeated No. 6 Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-4
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated Santiago Giraldo, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3
If I could use only one word to describe Day 3 of the 2014 Heineken Open, it would be upsets.
While No. 1 overall seed David Ferrer was able to advance to the semifinals, joined by No. 3 seed John Isner and No. 5 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, several tournament favorites were stunned on Wednesday.
The upsets began with No. 6 seed Benoit Paire dropping straight sets to Roberto Bautista Agut and getting flat-out overpowered, losing 6-3, 6-4. The same can be said for No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson, after falling to American Steve Johnson, 7-5, 6-4.
The biggest upset of the day was No. 2 seed Tommy Haas—the man many experts believed could win this tournament—being knocked off by unproven American prospect Jack Sock in convincing fashion, 6-4, 6-4.
Haas was not at his best Wednesday, but this matchup was more about Sock and the raw talent the young challenger possesses. With the ideal size and strength to be a force at the professional level, tennis fans may be witnessing the start of his meteoric rise to the top of the sport for the 21-year-old.
Thursday will feature four semifinal matchups. They will consist of Ferrer vs. Garcia-Lopez, Johnson vs. Lu, Isner vs. Kohlschreiber and Bautista Agut vs. Sock. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Heineken Open action thus far, the action is guaranteed to heat up.
Day 2 Results
No. 5 Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
Bradley Klahn defeated No. 9 Daniel Brands, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4
Yen-Hsun Lu defeated Igor Sijsling, 7-5, 7-6
Donald Young defeated Federico Delbonis, 7-5, 6-2
No. 6 Benoit Paire defeated Michal Przysiezny, 6-4, 6-2
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated No. 8 Robin Haase, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6
Steve Johnson defeated Marcos Baghdatis, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4
The first round of the 2014 Heineken Open continued as the ranked players who had not earned a bye were put to the test in their first matchups of the tournament.
Rain shortened the play on Tuesday and forced the remainder of the first-round games to be moved to Wednesday before the second round can commence.
Before Mother Nature made her impact felt, tennis fans were treated to some excellent action, as ranked players Benoit Paire (No. 6) and Philipp Kohlschreiber (No. 5) were able to hold off their competition and advance to the next round.
No. 8 seed Robin Haase was not so lucky, through, as he lost in heartbreaking fashion to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6.
With the conclusion of Round 1 and the start of the second round scheduled for Wednesday, the action in New Zealand is going to pick up considerably.
Day 1 Results
Jack Sock defeated Adrian Mannarino, 6-3, 6-4
Horacio Zeballos defeated Filippo Volandri, 6-0, 7-6 (1)
Santiago Giraldo defeated Albert Montanes, 6-1, 7-6 (3)
The first day of action at the 2014 Heineken Open featured the conclusion of several of the remaining qualifying matches, but it also saw also three of the first-round battles. Most of the top stars have yet to play, but the action to start the tournament has been excellent.
The biggest star of the opening day was American Jack Sock. French rising star Adrian Mannarino was the favorite to win this matchup, but Sock utterly dominated his opponent and left little doubt that he is an underdog who could make some serious noise in this tournament.
Horacio Zeballos and Santiago Giraldo also secured big wins in Round 1, and the event is shaping up to be one of the most exciting warm-up tournaments fans could expect.
With the top stars scheduled to play more often now, the action will only heat up as the tournament progresses.