Both top seeds came away with wins late on Thursday at the 2011 SAP Open. Fernando Verdasco advances past Ivo Karlovic with little incident, while Gael Monfils beat a very game Robert Kendrick in three sets.
Ivo Karlovic showed off his big serve potential early on against Verdasco, taking his first service game of the night. Verdasco came back and took his though, too. It was a slow start for Verdasco, failing to take advantage of subsequent second serve opportunities in the second first and third games, and it likely cost him the third game as the players held serve. It was closely contested throughout the match, each set of games taking place much like described above. Karlovic held serve, but it was often close, and Verdasco seemed to cruise through his service games without much issue. In the end, Verdasco was too much for him and evened the series between himself and the Croatian at 2-2.
Kendrick and Monfils got things off the right way, a huge opening game with one long rally showed that these two were going to entertain. Kendrick kept things close until it was two-all, but then he dropped four consecutive games. It was a combination of big, big mistakes on his part and stellar play from Monfils when he wasn't making said mistakes. After dropping the first though, things got interesting.
They got to 2-2 again, then 3-2 Kendrick, and things started looking a lot like the first set. Soon, Kendrick started to break through and we all saw the dark side of Gael Monfils. He started with the wacky facial expressions, the mental battle going on in his head, and Kendrick scored a break on him to go up 5-3. We've seen it before happen to Monfils, and he started to show questionable effort.
Until he decided that he was going to fight for every point when he fell down and still returned a hard shot from Kendrick before getting up and running across the court to return a smash, before turning around again to return another smash, but he wasn't able to get it done. It didn't matter though, as Monfils set things right by breaking him back and we were at 5-4.
The American wasn't having any of it though, working to a double set point on Monfils, threatening a break at 40-15. A few great serves from Monfils later though, and he's sitting with advantage over Kendrick. Monfils put him away with a very deceptive backhand dropper to tie it at 5-all. A service game that was won in straight points for Kendrick followed, and then another Monfils service game that saw Kendrick go up 40-15 followed that. This time though, he powered through it and took the second set 7-5.
After breaking Kendrick to start the third set, Monfils called out the trainer and had a lengthy break while being attended to. It's basically a staple for matches involving the Frenchman. He comes back and fights off a break point to go ahead 2-0. A few games later, and Monfils is serving at 5-4 for the match. He was successful, winning it 6-4.
Verdasco is now playing Denis Istomin in the quarterfinals on Friday. Istomin worked his way through a hard-fought match Michael Russell, winning two tiebreak sets in a row. Monfils will be taking on Tim Smyczek in his quarterfinal matchup. Smyczek beat Kei Nishikori in three sets.