Nicolas Mahut wouldn’t be the first Frenchman to get on a roll at the Winston-Salem Open and go all the way to the finals.
Countrymen Julien Benneteau did it in the inaugural 2011 WSO, and Gael Monfils did it last year.
After dismantling third-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-1, 7-6 (0) in a second round match on Center Court Tuesday afternoon, Mahut was encouraged by the idea that he could follow in Benneteau’s and Monfils’ footsteps.
“Yes it’s true, Winston-Salem has been good for us,” Mahut said. “Maybe me or Edouard (Roger-Vasselin). So we’ll see and maybe we’ll talk about it Friday night.”
Mahut, who came into the tournament ranked No. 104 after reaching a career-best No. 37 back in May, beat Blaz Kavcic in his first-round match on Monday. He played well then, but he was even better on Tuesday.
He broke Robredo three times in the first set. Then after squandering a break and later two match points in the second set, he came back and completely dominated the tie-break.
“I was very happy with the way I played today, especially at the beginning,” Mahut said. “I knew he was tired from a tough week in Cincinnati, so I knew if I had a good start maybe it would be difficult for him. I played well first set. Second set was tougher, but still it’s a good win for me.”
The tiebreak was all Mahut.
“I was really upset after the two match points I had at 6-5, when I needed to be more aggressive,” Mahut said. “I said in the breaker, ‘OK, what happens is I have to be aggressive and play my game and see what’s going on. Even if I lose the set, then I will play a third set but still play my game.’ It was a good tiebreak.”
Mahut came to Winston-Salem after first-round exits in Cincinnati and Toronto. His best showing lately has been a trip to the quarterfinals at Newport last month.
Robredo came into the tournament ranked No. 20 after an impressive showing last week in Cincinnati. He beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round before exiting in the fourth round to fellow Spaniard and eventual finalist David Ferrer.
There was a twist to the match, as the chair umpire was Mohamed Lahyani, who was also the chair umpire in Mahut’s historic match against John Isner in 2010 that lasted 11 hours and five minutes over three days.
Mahut admitted that having Lahanyi work his matches in the past four years has caused some flashbacks at times, although he’s starting to get used to it.
“The first time he was in the chair (after Wimbledon) I was thinking about it, but it has been four years now and I see him at almost every tournament. So it’s not a big deal now.”
Mahut is scheduled to play doubles with Robin Haase in the evening session, and the heat and humidity at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex at BB&T Field gave him cause for concern.
“This is good prepare for the US Open and I’d like to do well here,” he said. “But I need to rest, because it’s hot and humid and not easy to play three today. So we’ll see how (it goes) tomorrow.”
In other second-round afternoon matches, second-seeded Kevin Anderson needed to go three sets before turning back Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 2-6, 6-4; wildcard David Goffin ran his winning streak to 24 straight matches by knocking off No. 4 seed Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 6-1; Jerzy Janowicz pulled out a third-set tiebreak in a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over No. 6 seed Joao Sousa; No. 11 seed Donald Young beat Frank Dancevic 6-1, 6-3; 14th-seeded Andreas Seppi beat Federico Delbonis 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2; and Roger-Vasselin beat Aleksandr Nedovyesov 7-6 (9), 6-7 (5), 6-4.