By John Delong
Lukas Rosol has flown under the radar for much of this year’s Winston-Salem Open, but no longer.
The 29-year-old from the Czech Republic punched his ticket into Saturday’s finals with an exciting 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu in the semifinals on Friday afternoon.
Rosol got the break he needed in the ninth game of the third set for a 5-4 lead, then held serve to book his spot in his third ATP World Tour final of the year. He has also reached the finals at Stuttgart and Bucharest this year.
Rosol, currently ranked a career-best No. 33 and headed for the Top 30 regardless of the outcome on Saturday, is playing his first summer hard court tournament this week. He stayed in Europe to play clay court events after Wimbledon, and skipped Toronto and Cincinnati.
That makes his success here a bit of a pleasant surprise.
“It’s a nice feeling to be in the finals,” Rosol said. “At the beginning of this week I was trying to get after the clay court season ready for the hard court and the practice matches were not good for me, I did not win any sets. But I’m happy with this result and I hope it’s not finished yet.”
Rosol, the tournament’s seventh seed, has had good fortune on his side along the way.
He won his second-round match against Ryan Harrison when Harrison was forced to retire in the second set. He then beat Pablo Andujar in the third round, and won his quarterfinal match in a walkover when top-seeded John Isner was forced to withdraw because of a sprained ankle.
“Of course it helps,” he said. “You can save your energy and I was able to practice two hours yesterday and work on some shots, so it gives you always an advantage. But today I played two hours and now I can play again in the finals.”
Rosol trailed 4-1 in the first set, but he broke Lu twice from there and won five of the last six games. He fell behind an early break in the second, and after getting back on serve, was broken in the final game to lose the set.
Rosol had three break points at love-40 in the third set but Lu fought back and held, and the two remained on serve until the ninth game. This time, Rosol converted on his third break opportunity, and from there it was a matter of serving out the match.
“The match was up and down,” Rosol said. “That’s the way it always is. I just had to think to stay with the mind on the court and stay focused all the time.”
Rosol’s lone ATP World Tour title came last year at Bucharest. He said his goal now is to continue to climb up the rankings and surpass his coach, Slava Dosedel, who reached No. 26 back in 1994.
“I hope it’s not the end yet,” Rosol said of his climb up the rankings. “I have some work in front of me. My coach was 26 career high, so I need to work on it to get higher. I’m trying to find levels, and reach the highest possible level for me to reach. If it’s going to be this year like this, I’m pretty happy. But I think I’m not finished yet.”
For Lu, the ninth seed who came into the WSO ranked No. 38, it was a bitter defeat. The 31-year-old from Chinese Taipei was hoping to get the first tour-level title of his career this week.
“We both had many, many chances,” Lu said. “It was a very close match and I wish him luck tomorrow. I have nothing to complain, say I played bad or this. Of course I had some points I could have done better, but of course he deserved to win today. So now I am trying to get ready for next week.”