• Auckland quarterfinals follow epic second round

    1/14/09 7:19 PM | Ricky Dimon
    Auckland quarterfinals follow epic second round Robin Soderling, Sam Querrey, and David Ferrer will be in action at the Heineken Open on Thursday. Spots in the semifinals are at stake.

    All eight second-round matches at the Heineken Open went the three-set distance. What will the quarterfinals hold in store for the encore? Juan Martin Del Potro headlines the last eight against Victor Troicki, but the other three quarterfinal showdowns are similarly enticing.

    (3) Robin Soderling vs. John Isner

    Big serves and short points will be the order of the day in this one. John Isner does not like playing baseline rallies of any kind, while Robin Soderling likes finishing them as soon as possible. The fast hard courts will suit both players, who achieved almost all of their career success on the hard stuff. Isner won five straight third-et tiebreakers en route to the final of the 2007 Legg Mason Classic. The 6'9'' American went on to reach the third round of the U.S. Open that summer. It's been mostly a struggle for Isner since then, but this week he qualified for the main draw and has taken out Albert Montanes and Robby Ginepri in a third-set tiebreaker. Soderling made it to four indoor hard-court finals last season and he finally secured a title late in the year in Lyon. In the first week of 2009 he reached the quarterfinals of Brisbane before losing to Radek Stepanek. The Swede got a bye in round one this week and took out Bobby Reynolds in three sets on Wednesday. Unless Isner is absolutely on fire with his serve, Soderling should win this in straight sets.

    (6) Sam Querrey vs. Nicolas Almagro

    Nicolas Almagro's favorite surface is clay, so big-serving Sam Querrey will relish the opportunity to contest this one on fast hard courts. The American stands 6'6'' and he is up to No. 36 in the world rankings. His 2008 highlights included the semifinals of Delray Beach, quarterfinals of the Masters Series Monte-Carlo, the semifinals of Indianapolis, and the fourth round of the U.S. Open. Querrey got a tough draw last week in Brisbane and lost to Soderling in the first round, but he has defeated New Zealand's Daniel King-Turner and Gilles Muller of Luxembourg so far in Auckland. Although he prefers clay, Almagro is no slouch on hard courts and he owns a surprisingly big serve. The Spaniard reached the third round of the U.S. Open and was one point away from reaching the fourth, but Muller outlasted him in an epic. Almagro, ranked 18th in the world, did not play the first week of this season and he beat Yen-Hsun Lu in his first match of the year on Wednesday. Querrey will be a more difficult proposition, and Querrey in three is the pick.

    (5) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (2) David Ferrer

    The head-to-head series between Philipp Kohlschreiber and David Ferrer is about as even as it can get: 3-3 overall and 2-2 on hard courts. They played three times in 2008; Ferrer took the first won but Kohlschreiber has won the past two, including most recently at the Masters Series Paris. That ended Ferrer's Masters Cup hopes and continued his downward slide throughout the second half of 2008. He is down to No. 12 in the rankings after being a Top 10 mainstay throughout 2007 and the first half of last season. Kohlschreiber didn't do much, either, in the latter stages of 2008 but he playing well now. The Auckland defending champion, ranked 33rd in the world, fared relatively well in his season-opening event last week in Doha. He won two matches at the Qatar Open before falling to Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6(6) in the quarterfinals. In the first round this week he destroyed Hopman Cup hero Dominik Hrbaty in just 52 minutes and then he survived Juan Carlos Ferrero in a third-set tiebreaker. Ferrero also struggled in round two, outlasting Marc Gicquel in three sets. Count on another three-setter, with Kohlschreiber emerging victorious.

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Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
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