Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Tennis: Clash of the counter punchers

David Ferrer. Photo / Sarah Ivey
David Ferrer. Photo / Sarah Ivey

If today's David versus the Giant-killer final has half the drama of yesterday's semifinals, Stanley St is in for a sparkling finale to what has been a watery fortnight.

World No 5 David Ferrer meets No 68, the unseeded Olivier Rochus, in the final of the Heineken Open. It's a clash of two counter-punchers, men whose scampering feet and court sense are their biggest weapons.

Ferrer has more pedigree. They've met seven times on tour and the Spaniard leads 5-2. On hard courts it's closer, 3-2, and in their only previous meeting here, in 2006, Rochus whipped Ferrer 6-2, 6-0.

"It will be difficult," Ferrer said. "He has played unbelievable tennis this week. I will have to play my best tennis to win."

While top seed and defending champion Ferrer mopped up compatriot Fernando Verdasco with relative ease, the first semifinal had wild momentum swings, challenging conditions, questionable line calling and an embarrassing case of poor crowd etiquette.

Belgian Rochus prevailed, winning a two-and-a-half hour thriller 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4 against another big little man, Philipp Kohlschreiber. He has become the marathon man, battling a cold to slog away on court for 10 hours this week, close to twice as long as Ferrer who had a first-round bye.

The first semifinal was never brilliant - gusty conditions prevented that - but it was enthralling and, like a good soap opera, the drama distilled into an epic last game.

Twice Kohlschreiber was hurt by line calls that could have gone his way. Rochus hit a forehand that looked a smidgen wide, while Kohlschreiber appeared to smudge the junction of the base and sideline on a drive that was called wide.

That was but a minor irritation for Kohlschreiber, who was battling himself as much as Rochus from the second set on. At deuce in the pivotal 10th game of the final set, the German was upset by a phone conversation in a courtside hospitality box.

Kohlschreiber loudly remonstrated with the box-goers after framing a routine groundstroke, which gave Rochus match point.

Rochus converted the match point, Kohlschreiber ripped off his wrist band in disgust and hurled it in the direction of the offending box, storming off the court without acknowledging the crowd.

A member sitting in the box said Kohlschreiber yelled at them "stop talking on your f***ing phone".

While the Weekend Herald was speaking to the corporate guests, Tennis NZ chief executive Steve Johns visited the box to give them a timely reminder of tennis etiquette. They were eventually asked to leave.

The conditions also caused frustration, but the Belgian found it easier to keep calm and carry on.

"The conditions were very tough and Philipp got more annoyed than I did with the wind," he said.

"The last game I was [serving] against the wind, it was blowing so much the ball was going everywhere. I just had to play the best I can, but so much stress, pressure."

The diminutive Belgian, who considered pulling out earlier in the week, was feeling surprisingly good despite the tough run of matches. "I think my body is getting used to playing a lot so I should be okay."

Verdasco and Ferrer had to come back on at 11am yesterday, Verdasco to complete his quarter-final, while the top seed had to start his.

Ferrer looked in trouble in the third set but reeled off five largely untroubled games. Verdasco never pushed Ferrer as hard, but that was due to the top seed's quality.

"It was my best match of the week," Ferrer said.

Olivier Rochus

Belgium
Age: 30
Style:
Right handed, one-handed backhand
ATP ranking: 68
Career titles: 2
Career prize money: US$4,409,973

Tournament:

1st round:
bt Tobias Kamke 7-5, 6-4
2nd round:
bt Thomaz Belluci 7-6 (6), 5-7, 7-6(5)
QF:
bt Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(4)
SF:
bt P. Kohlschreiber 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-4


David Ferrer

Spain
Age: 29
Style:
Right-handed, two-handed backhand
ATP ranking: 5
Career titles: 11
Career prize money: US$12,639,747

Tournament:

1st round:
Bye
2nd round:
bt Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-4
QF:
bt Alejandro Falla 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
SF:
bt Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 26 Dec 2014 13:35:30 Processing Time: 245ms