Above: Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka
Friday August 22nd, 2014 - Really nice day at the US Open Qualifying Tournament. Clouds kept the heat index at a comfortable level, and there was a breeze stirring. Around 3:00 PM, a ceiling of dark clouds settled over the Tennis Center, and just as Yoshihito Nishioka finished signing autographs after his win, the rains came down. I had really wanted to see the end of Hiroki Moriya's match and to see Tatsuma Ito, a player I realy like and whose first two matches I missed this time around. But the rains were heavy enough to send the crowds scurrying, and it was obviously more than just a passing shower. I knew that even if play resumed within an hour, it would take an additional hour or more to dry the courts. So I left, though I didn't really want to.
I started my day watching Japan's Taro Daniel (above) in a hard-fought match against the experienced Canadian player Peter Polansky. Polansky took the first set convincingly, and Taro was showing visible frustration and fatigue in the second set when I had to walk away so as not to miss any of Steve Darcis' match on Court 17. I was a bit surprised to find - after the truncated Darcis match - that Taro was still playing: he had apparently pulled himself together and taken the second set, and he was just a couple of games away from winning the third. He played really well, and the crowd was loving him. After the final point, he sank to his knees in disbelief. He had to sign a ton of autographs.
Above: Taro Daniel after his win
Over at Court 17 (above), I was totally psyched for the Darcis match. I found a nice seat very high up with no one in my immediate vicinity and a breeze to keep me cool. Tennis heaven! Steve played a stupendous first set. His opponent Emilio Gomez of Ecuador simply couldn't get anything going against the Darcis Machine. Gomez managed to take one game in the first set but otherwise it was all-Darcis, all the time; Steve won the first set in 23 minutes, concluding with a superb passing shot.
Steve won the first game of the second set and then Emilio walked over to the chair umpire and asked for the trainer. After a long wait the trainer showed up, taped Emilio's ankle, and play resumed. But as soon as Steve finished the second game, Emilio limped off the court and retired. So Steve's victory, however assured, was a bit bittersweet. Nevertheless, it's good he's into the main draw and I hope he has a success.
Above: Steve Darcis of Belgium
After watching the end of the Taro Daniel/Peter Polansky I went over to Courts 4/5/6 where four Japanese players were to be playing their matches in succession. Yuichi Sugita was over-powered by Germany's Matthias Bachinger today. Yuichi didn't show the same energy as he had in his previous match. He had the trainer out during the second set for his ankle; though hobbled, he was still able to play out the match. Hiroki Moriya, following his thrilling match on Wednesday, seemed subdued today as he met the powerful Swiss Marco Chiudinelli. Marco thoroughly dominated the first set, but Hiroki came out swinging for the second set and fought hard to take it in a tie-breaker. However, he could not sustain the momentum and in the end Chiudinelli was the winner.
Yoshihito Nishioka (above) held the Japanese banner high with a stunning win over Turkey's hard-hitting Marsel Ilham. Like Sugita and Moriya, Nishioka is small of stature. But he was able to answer Marsel's blistering strokes with well-placed, authoritative hitting. Nishioka only had one patch of trouble: a long service game where he kept being stalled at deuce. But once past that it was smooth sailing for the Japanese boy. The lopsided score (6-3, 6-1) does not really reflect the threat posed by Marsel Ilhan. But the crowd was over-joyed to celebrate Nishioka's win, and he was engulfed by fans at the end.
Above: Yoshihito Nishioka signing autographs after winning his match
The rain prevented me from seeing Tatsuma Ito; I'm following his match now on the website.