The day started off overcast, blustery and chilly as the USA F2 Tamarac 10K semifinals kicked off in the form of unseeded American qualifier Phillip Simmonds, a former Australian Open junior doubles champ, meeting the third-seeded Alex Bogdanovic, the only seed remaining in the tournament. The first semi was played, counter-intuitively enough, on Court 2, where gusts of wind blew little showers of leaves all over the court. In addition to the leaves, linespeople and ballkids also dotted the court – in some cases just as randomly – for the first time all week.
Mr. Simmonds won the toss and elected to receive. Which didn’t work out so well for the 24 year-old, as the British Boggo (not to be confused with the American Boggo, Alex Bogomolov Jr.) only paused for a few chairs to blow over on his way to a quick four-winner (three forehand, one service) hold. Boggo was rocking the inside-out forehand early, as he knocked off his third of the match on Simmonds’ first service point.
The Bogman Unleashed
At 15-all, some elderly country club yokel started shouting “HELLO! HELLLO!” to tournament director Damon Henkel mid-point, resulting in a netted Simmonds backhand and a sour Philface, the American as distracted at the outset as the Brit was plugged in. Three points later, Bogdanovic had broken to 2-0 on a forehand down-the-line passer.
The 26-year-old ball-striker par excellance was not leaving a single shot in his bag in the first set, throwing in an ace, a couple of successful net ventures and a nifty half-volley drop shot winner on his way to a quick 3-0 lead. Simmonds made it all the way to deuce in his next service game before he was passed by another forehand from the Bog Monster and then unceremoniously dumped a forehand into the bottom of the net (I find it’s always better to do one’s forehand dumping in a ceremonious fashion, but that’s just me).
The Sky Is Falling – Simmonds Shields Himself From A Collapsing Universe
The American deuced it up again in the next game but then netted a backhand after a 20-shot rally and promptly self-flagellated with his ball cap (and here, Phil gets it right: if you’re going to self-flagellate, by all means be prompt about it). More shots were hit, as sometimes happens in tennis matches, and before you knew it, Bogdanovic had the first set in his posession, 6-1, with no intention of ever giving it back.
A fairly sizable crowd of advanced-aged weekend warriors had assembled by now, fresh from their morning doubles outings, and one particularly hilarious (and balding) gent shouted at a Valderrama-haired ballboy, “Jonathan, give me back my hair!” Jonathan looked up and waved guilelessly. The ballkids today, unschooled though some of them were, were superstars, by the way – most of them under 10 years old and taking it on the chin a number of times without so much as a complaint. Solid effort from them.
Simmonds started the second set serving and held from down 0-30. See how easy that was, Phil? If only you’d elected to serve in the first place. Unforced errors crept into Bogdanovic’s game and Phil found his range to break to 2-0. With Simmonds serving at 15-all, he’s passed by a forehand crosscourt. “You know that. You know that,” he admonished himself, meaning – presumably – that he’s picked up on a passing shot pattern and should’ve moved to cover it. On the next point, he covered it. 30-all. Alas, he followed up that lesson learned with a forehand into the net and a shanked forehand long to cede the Bogback. One step forward… “Didn’t make him earn it,” Phil narrated helpfully. You know, one of the best things about reporting on tennis over other sports is a lot of players will help you along with some brutally candid self-analysis as they go. Certainly makes my job easier. Of course, Boggo uttered nary a insightful word the entire match, the cad. Now, some might say that it’s smart not to tip your opponent as to your every innermost thought, but me? I just think it’s selfish.
Back on serve, it looked like we were headed for four straight love holds at 3-all, as Simmonds served at 40-0, but then a rash of errors gave the gift of renewed brokenness to Boggo, who would now serve up 4-3 in the second.
As dejected as the American looked at the change of ends (hint: very), down a set and a break, to his credit he fired himself up again and at 30-all cut off a (predictable?) Boggo pass with an assured forehand volley and a “C’MON!” Game on. 4-all. Toward the latter portion of the match, Simmonds was getting a better read on Bogdanovic’s inside-out forehands, and sprinting to make ably defensive retrievals instead of being caught flat-footed as he was in the first set. All of which held him in better stead as he kept things even and forced a tiebreak.
From 1-all in the breaker, three forehand errors from the Brit gifted Phil an early 4-1* lead. But then the Bogman cracked a serve up the T and put away the short reply, Simmonds sliced a backhand long after a solid rally on the next point, and then netted a forehand to bring Boggo back into it at 4-all. They traded errors to 5-all, and then Simm City came netwards again to put away a forehand volley. On the subsequent set point, he came in again but this time floated his first volley to midcourt and watched helplessly as Bogdanovic flicked a boghanded pass down the line (NOT crosscourt, you see?), cool as ya like. 6-all. “Good volley,” Simmonds commented, “Good volley on set point.” My keen analyst’s ears pick up trace levels of sarcasm there.
Two points later, and we were done. A sliced Simmonds backhand into net and a forehand long did the trick. “YES! C’MON!” said the suddenly loquacious Bogdanovic, as a dejected Phil tossed his racquet into the ground. Bogdanovic advanced to the final 6-1 7-6(6). But who would he face? Well, lucky you have me to tell you these things now, aren’t you?
The next match featured the player whom I’ve found most impressive this whole tourney, the bombastic Brit Dan Smethurst against the talented ball-striker Daniel Garza of Mexico. Play had switched over to Court 1, the sun was out now and, ironically, Smetty had finally gotten the umbrella he requested yesterday.
Smetty Gets His Umbrella
Smethurst won the toss and elected to receive (since that obviously worked out so well for Simmonds, you know). Garza held to 15 (told ya).
A Smethurstian smorgasbord of shots littered the stat sheet in the 20-year-old’s first service game. Inside-out forehand winner? Check. Inside-out drop shot winner? Check. Service winner up the middle? Check. Inside-in approach shot and volley winner? Sure, why not? 1-all.
At this point, a considerably loud and opinionated older couple sat down behind me and decided to offer up some fairly noteworthy opinions. Some decent tennis is playing out in front of my eyes, but I’m mostly being distracted by the words being uttered behind me: “They came from Mexico and England to play in this? I wouldn’t come from Cleveland!” “Only $1300 to win the tournament? Good thing I went into law and not tennis!” One woman had some particularly withering commentary about Smethurst, the guy who I thought had been playing so well: “His serve isn’t very reliable.” “Why doesn’t the Mexican kid play to his backhand – it’s an obvious weakness.”
Anyway, this got us up to 4-all in the first, where Smethy got some revenge on the very naysaysers he couldn’t even hear. At 30-all, Garza came in on a nice forehand approach to the Brit’s backhand side, but he sliced an intelligent reply low and Garza missed the volley. On the next point, Smethurst carressed a backhand dropper over the net to convert the break point, a smart play on clay that worked well against Garza’s deep positioning. He then closed out his serve and the set quite easily, the only further point against him a double fault. First set 6-4 to Dan S., unreliable serve and all.
Smet About To Deal
In the second set, Garza tried to come forward more and force the issue in the forecourt. He had some success with it early, too, coming in a half dozen times on his first service game, saving a break point and then holding after five deuces to start things off.
At 2-all, things got all topsy-turvy-like. Garza served at 40-0 and watched a string of three straight Smethy forehand winners fly by to deuce up the game a tad. Then Dan (Smethurst variety) stuck a backhand pass off the net cord to gain break point, and on said break point was there for a forehand pass but opted to put up a lob instead. It was short, and Dan (Garza variety) overheaded it away and held for 3-2*.
The very next game, a Dan S. backhand wide, two double faults, and a missed forehand volley conspired to give Dan G. the break. The critical woman who had sat behind me might’ve felt vindicated with all the DS DF’ing and backhand-missing, but she was long gone. And she wouldn’t have felt vindicated for long anyway.
With Garza serving at 4-2 deuce, Smet had the 25 year-old dead to rights as the Mexican man came charging netwards behind an approach that ticked the top of the tape, sitting up nice as you like, but the Brit’s FH pass clipped the net too and carried out. The net cord giveth, and the net cord taketh away. No matter though, Garza celebrated his reprieve in questionable fashion: double faulting and erroring the break away, then whacking his racket against the back fence a few feet away from a cowering ballgirl’s head. Yikes. Survey says? Unsportsmanlike conduct code violation, warning, Mr. Garza. (For some reason, my recaps have all the ch/umps talking like they’re at Wimbledon, when they really haven’t been – it’s just that the English have taken over Tamarac, people. It’s cultural osmosis.)
Still more drama: Smethurst’s service game went from 0-30 to 40-30 to deuce, in ways you shall never learn. Smetty forehanded into the net and suddenly he’s down break point again. Service winner wide: problem solved. The next point featured the biggest moment of the day, as Garza scrambled to retrieve a Smetherhead Smash and biffed a poor lineskid in the sternum as he did so. Not intentionally, mind you, but it was a biffing nonetheless. The little bugger, who turned out to be tourney director Damon’s nephew, was really brave about it, shook it right off even as he shook the tears from his eyes. Aw. Meanwhile, Smethurst inside-inned a forehand on the next point to even the second set at 4-apiece.
It was all Smethy’s match from there. Passed a serve-and-volleying Garza on the first point, backhand return winner on the next, a footcuffing return to the feet of Garza on the third, and the Mexican had hit his limit at that point, double faulting to give the final gift of breakage to the Brit, who served it out “with aplomb.” (TM Jason Goodall) 6-4 6-4, and it will be an all-British final in Tamarac. Boggo and Smethurst have met once previously, with Alex taking Dan to the bakery/woodshed at Queens quals last June in a 1&0 thumping. But I suspect this is a very different Dan now, and what with Boggo going from his best surface to his least fave (and maybe vice versa for Smethy), I think the final will be quite competitive.
Meanwhile, I have tons to tell from my two USA F3 Weston visits, but will be saving those for a Monday post. In the meantime, brace yourselves (and try not to faint) as I actually start writing about *gasp* Challengers on Challenger Tennis. Shocking, I know.
Hey, people. I’m reporting all this swingin’ Florida swing as official media for Tennis Panorama News in addition to my own stupendous site. Go on over and check ’em out now, y’hear?