By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Get ready for a rematch of last year’s Winston-Salem Open final.
Defending champion Lukas Rosol made that possible on Monday afternoon as he beat Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Stadium Court to move into second-round action on Tuesday against Jerzy Janowicz.
Rosol fought off two match points in scorching heat last August to beat Janowicz 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 in the championship match, in what went down as an instant classic.
Rosol insisted that he would not have any flashbacks to last year when he sees Janowicz across the net, but he’s expecting a fierce battle once again.
“Jerzy’s playing good tennis now, this month, so it’s not going to be easy,” Rosol said. “Always against him it’s going to be big serving, because I’m serving well and he’s serving very well as well. So I’ll have to wait for my chances and see what he gives me. I’m going to have to play very good tennis again. I think maybe I have a little advantage because I just had a match and he didn’t have a match.”
Janowicz received a first-round bye as the No. 16 seed.
Against Gulbis, Rosol gained a bit of revenge after Gulbis pulled out a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory in the second round at Montreal two weeks ago.
The 30-year-old Czech served well throughout the match, finishing with 14 aces and constantly keeping the pressure on Gulbis.
The key point in the match came with Rosol serving for the first set at 5-4. He dug out of a love-40 hole and had to fight off a total of five break points before eventually winning the game.
Then in the second-set tie-break, he got his mini-break in the first point, and was able to serve out the match from there.
“It’s not always easy to defend a title, and to beat Ernests first round was not easy because two weeks ago I lost to him in Montreal,” Rosol said. “But every match is different. I like the surface here in Winston-Salem, I was here practicing since Thursday and it’s a little different, and I got used to it. In the second set I was serving very well. So I’m happy to continue my winning streak in Winston-Salem and to continue in the tournament.”
Rosol is currently ranked No. 86, falling 29 spots in the rankings this week because his 250 points for winning here last year have already come off the books. He had exited in the first round in five of his previous seven tournaments, although he had a win over Kevin Anderson in the first round at Montreal before losing to Gulbis.
Rosol’s best showings this year have been the fourth round at Indian Wells and the third round at Miami and Roland Garros.
So he’s hoping to do as he did last year here, build momentum as the week goes on and see where it leads.
“I like it here,” Rosol said. “It fits good into my schedule and I always play good tennis here. It’s nice to come here, before the US Open, because a lot of good players come here every year and the competition is good.”
He expects to rise back up in the rankings in the coming weeks. After winning the WSO last year, he lost in the first round of the US Open and wound up losing nine of his final 10 matches of the year.
“It’s a good thing because I have nothing to defend the rest of the year,” Rosol said. “I am free to play now and have no pressure. So this is a good thing. I’m (just) happy to stay in the Top 100. I have a not very good season so far, but I try to finish it at a good level.”
In other afternoon matches completed before rains halted play at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex, qualifier Martin Klizan defeated Marsel Ilhan 7-6 (1), 6-2; Simone Bolelli beat Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-3; and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 6-2.