Aisamul Haq Qureshi and his doubles partner Jean-Julien Rojer eased into the second round of the Madrid Open with a convincing 6-36, 7-5 win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Ivan Navarro in their first-round match yesterday.
Aisam and Rojer, who won the Estoril Open doubles event in Portugal on Sunday, will now face top-seeds Mike and Bob Bryan, the opponents to whom Aisam and then-partner Rohan Bopanna lost the 2010 US Open men’s doubles final.
Defending champion Kvitova dumped out
Meanwhile, defending champion Petra Kvitova crashed out of the Madrid Open when she was upset by Czech compatriot Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-3 in the second round.
The world number four and seeded third this year, Kvitova used her 2011 success at the premier clay event in the Spanish capital as a springboard for a first grand slam singles title at Wimbledon and went on to triumph at the season-ending WTA championships.
The graceful left hander has yet to win a title this year after claiming six last season, and had her serve broken five times by Hradecka, ranked 105th in the world.
There were no such problems for Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who leap-frogged Kvitova to number three in the latest rankings, in her second-round match against Sara Errani.
World number one and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who lost to Kvitova in last year’s Madrid final, plays her second-round match against former number one Ana Ivanovic later on Wednesday.
Cilic topples Isner in battle of giants
American eighth-seed John Isner became the first significant casualty at the Madrid Open when he was pipped 7-6 7-6 in the second round by fellow big-serving giant Marin Cilic.
Unseeded Croat Cilic, who stands at 1.98 metres to Isner’s 2.06 metres, delivered when it counted in the tiebreaks on the blue clay at the Magic Box Arena, winning the first 7-4 and the second 7-3 to set up a meeting with former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro or Mikhail Youzhny.
Neither player managed to break the other’s serve as Cilic followed up his five-set victory over Isner at last year’s Australian Open, their only previous meeting, with another narrow success.
Isner refused to blame the reverse on the blue clay, a controversial innovation at this year’s edition of the Masters event that has prompted harsh criticism from players including world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic and number two Rafa Nadal.
“I lost because I didn’t do what I should have done out there and he was better than me,” Isner told a news conference. “I always felt that this tournament even with the red clay was the most slippery I have ever played on,” added the 27-year-old. “It’s tough for a big guy like me but my opponent was also a big guy and like I said he was just better and deserved to win and I did not deserve to win.
“I just didn’t play particularly well today which has nothing to do with the courts.”
Djokovic fuming after debacle on blue clay
Novak Djokovic scraped and slid to an opening victory at the Madrid Masters but then let loose with a blistering appraisal of the event’s controversial blue clay courts.
“That was not tennis, either I need football shoes or some advice on how to play on this court,” said the Serb top-seed. “I cannot find the words to describe this court. It’s really tough to play like this on a centre court. We cannot change anything this year, but my first impressions are not good. I don’t want to be the one complaining, but I say honestly what I feel.
“We need serious discussion about the future of this blue clay.”
The blue-clay plan was put into action by the tournament’s billionaire impresario Ion Tiriac, the man who brought catwalk models onto court as ball-girls in another experiment that has paid public relations dividends for the ATP-WTA Masters 1000.
“Blue is actually my favourite colour and this makes things a bit different. The blue court seems a bit faster than when it was red earlier. But we will only know who handled the blue clay the best when the tournament is over.”
“[Before her loss] I haven’t practised on them enough yet to say, but I think they are something new for us. In my opinion they look very nice, very cool. I like the colour, so I’m looking forward to playing on them.”
“I was feeling good before and during the match. And now after it as well. It’s my first tournament in Europe this year and I hope I can keep up the form that has seen me do so well in my career.”
“I felt like I lost a little bit of my concentration during the match while playing on the blue surface. I’m glad I could stay in control and finish the match off with a win. However, there is more room to improve.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.