Dudi Sela has had a tough time with tall, big serving players this year. He’s played John Isner once, losing in a third set tiebreak, and Ivo Karlovic three times, on each instance falling in straight sets with at least one tiebreak. Last week in Bogota, Columbia, after losing an incredibly tight match to Karlovic, Sela, who stands at 5’9, brought a chair to the net, stood up on it, and gave his good friend a hug. The tennis world embraced him for his sense of humor.
This week in Atlanta, he’s showing the tennis world that he’s not just a funny guy, but also a great player. He defeated Sam Querrey in dominant fashion, 6-2 6-4. The crowd attendance in Atlanta was fantastic(concert night), but Sela silenced them early, breaking the big serving American’s serve at 2-all in the first set. He was reading Querrey’s serve very well, and anytime Sam missed a first delivery, Sela was all over him. Querrey only won 6 of his 26 second serve points(23%) in the match, a shocking percentage for a 6’6 player.
Sela said afterwards that the game-plan was simple going into the match.
“When the rally is (extended), I think I am the favorite,” Sela said. “I tried to keep the ball in play, and when I had opportunities, I moved him around.”
Querrey is the second American that Sela has defeated this week; he crushed Atlanta favorite Donald Young 6-3 6-0 in the first round. The Israeli number one is a small guy, but has a beautiful one-handed backhand. He takes the racket back very high so he’s able to hit the high ball with the best of ’em. Anytime he has can set up that shot, his opponent is in trouble. The forehand is no joke either, with Sela generating a lot of pace for his size.
Looking at the scoreline, one would think that Sela was happy with his performance. However, he said he could still improve vastly in this tournament.
“I served terrible,” Sela said. “I’m going to practice my serve a lot tomorrow.”
He was rolling in first serves around 95 m.p.h., but was still in control of nearly every point from the baseline. Querrey could never find a rhythm, and was frustrated all night long.
“I couldn’t get anything going,” Querrey said emphatically. “It was pretty bad all around. Lately I’ve had days where I get up and nothing is working, and today was one of those days. I was struggling to make the most routine forehands.”
Querrey said he had felt the same way yesterday in his doubles match; he was unable to keep the ball in the court. His best chance to get back in the match was when he broke back for 3-all in the second, with the Atlanta crowd yelling out in support. Even then, Querrey knew he wasn’t playing well.
“It was a game where he had three errors. I was just pushing the ball in. It wasn’t a break-back game where I was aggressive and made a couple big forehands. It was still going to be a struggle from that point,” Querrey said.
From that point on, it was all Sela. He closed the match out by crushing a few backhands. Sela’s hilarious and touching embrace with Karlovic last week was seen worldwide, and even made SportsCenter. He talked more about that moment after his match wednesday.
“Ivo and I are very good friends. I was thinking of taking the chair and serving it from the baseline, but the match was too close,” he said laughingly. Just imagine how epic that would have been.
Sela will play Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the quarterfinals, and is looking to reach his first tour level final of 2014. Sela has reached many quarterfinals this year, and said that he thought he had been playing well all year, except for the clay season.
“It’s not my surface. We have not one clay-court in Israel,” Sela said jokingly.
He may not have been the crowd favorite wednesday night, but he sure won over some fans wednesday(including this writer) with his gorgeous backhand and great personality.