From Lucky Loser To Citi Open Semifinalist – All in One Week

Peter Gojowczyk (photo: Michael Dickens)

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

While Peter Gojowczyk isn’t recognized as the face of German tennis – that distinction goes to World No. 5 Alexander Zverev and then, perhaps No. 35 Jan-Lennard Struff – the 122nd-ranked native of Munich has strung together one of his most successful weeks on tour in recent memory. Currently without a coach and with no better place to be since his ranking wasn’t good enough to get into next week’s Rogers Cup in Montréal, why not get lucky?

The 30-year-old Gojowczyk, who turned pro in 2006 and has bid time on both the ATP and Challenger tours, scored a first-time win over No. 13 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, ranked 34th, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, on Friday after to advance into the semifinal round of the ATP 500 Citi Open at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in northwest Washington. It represents Gojowczyk’s first ATP Tour semifinal of the season. Next, he’ll face third seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who eliminated sixth seeded Marin Cilic from Croatia, 6-4, 7-6 (7), for his 33rd win of the season.

“It’s an incredible week for me,” Gojowczyk said during a news conference after he beat Edmund for the first time in three tries. “Yeah, I beat some good guys.” He has wins this week against No. 49 Andrey Rublev (who was a finalist at Hamburg last week), Atlanta champion Alex de Minaur (a Citi Open finalist last year now ranked 25th) and No. 8 seed Milos Raonic (2014 Citi Open champion who is now ranked 24th) in straight sets. “I know these guys. I have a game plan.”

What’s memorable is that Gojowczyk’s run of good fortune has come as a lucky loser. Meaning, he’s been one who loses in the qualifying round of a tournament, then enters the main draw because another player withdraws after the tournament has started because of injury, illness, or other reasons. In his case, credit Aussie bad boy Bernard Tomic, who bowed out with a finger injury, for enabling Gojowczyk another opportunity after American Donald Young beat him in the final round of qualifying in three sets last Sunday.

“I’m happy to beat Kyle this time because I lost twice against him,” said Gojowczyk. “This one goes for me now.”

And, by beating Edmund on his fifth match-point try, it should bring Gojowczyk’s ranking back under 100 and get him into the Rogers Cup after all with a special exemption.

“I was thinking, ‘Okay, you have the chance … for Montreal.’ Now … I’m very happy to have it,” Gojowczyk said. When he was asked by a reporter if he considered himself a pretty luck guy away from tennis, he replied, “Yes, why not? I don’t know; what can I say? I think everyone has some luck, yeah. This week, I’m the one.”

During Medvedev’s news conference, he was asked how much he knows about Gojowczyk’s game. The Russian replied, “I know him quite well, in fact. … I know that he can play really good when he’s in good shape. I saw his match today. He was playing high level tennis. I just need to try to show my best. That’s how I can win.”

In-the-know tennis fans may recognize the German Gojowczyk’s name even if they can’t always spell it or pronounce it (Go-YOV-check) correctly. Just call him Gojo – and everything’s all right. Or, if you want win a trivia contest, consider that, as one reporter reminded Gojowczyk during his news conference, his name has the highest point value of any ATP or WTA player’s name in the board game Scrabble: it’s worth 38 points.

A Tsitsipas-Kyrgios showdown

World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas moved into the semifinals for the second straight year with an easy 7-5, 6-0 win over No. 10 seed Benoit Paire from France. The #NextGenATP star has yet to lose a set this week in the nation’s capital and, with his win, moved a step closer to his third title this season.

The second set of of the Tsitsipas-Paire quarterfinal match was punctuated by a shoe wars incident, when the top-seeded Greek requested time during a non-changeover game – to change his shoes due to faulty shoelaces that kept breaking because of friction. Paire complained about the matter with the chair umpire, then came over and decided to change his shoes, too.

“There is nothing I can do about it,” Tsitsipas said about his shoelace problem that only affects his left shoe. “I’m not doing it on purpose. It always happens in crucial moments like this when I’m really trying hard, giving everything out on the court, trying to get every single ball back. That’s when it happens.

“It’s very irritating for me to keep playing with a shoe that’s not tight. It can fall off at any moment during the rally.”

Faulty shoes aside, the outcome of the match was never really in doubt. Tsitsipas outpointed Paire 70-48, thanks to winning 71 percent of his service points, and he broke the Frenchman’s serve five times.

At the end of the match, Tsitsipas and Paire shared a fun exchange at the net. Everything seemed OK between the two and Tsitsipas confirmed that for reporters during his news conference. “Yeah, we’re good friends with him. I know him. We live in the same region, the south of France. He’s different on court when he plays than when he’s off court. There was nothing. He even told me there was nothing between me and him with the shoelace thing.”

Next, Tsitsipas will play his doubles partner, Nick Kyrgios, ranked 52nd in singles, in Saturday evening’s featured semifinal match. “He’s a nice guy, I like him off court. He can do stuff sometimes on court, which some people don’t understand. It’s just a matter of not dealing well with frustration and his nerves.

“Everybody’s different. I’m going to have to treat him as a different opponent.”

In Friday’s nightcap, the entertaining but enigmatic Aussie ended the dream-week run of 137th-ranked lucky loser Norbert Gombos from Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3, in 57 minutes. Gombos, 28, whose live ranking unexpectedly improved 19 spots by reaching the quarterfinals, produced some of his best tennis in the past 48 hours by earning wins over Adrian Mannarino of France and Miomir Kechmanovic from Serbia after he was added to the draw as a replacement for injured fourth seed Kevin Anderson on Wednesday.

Krygios fired 19 aces, captured 82 percent of his service points, and didn’t have his service broken. He outpointed Gombos 58-39.

“Tonight was fun,” said Kyrgios during his news conference. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. … Tsitsipas is playing some great tennis. He’s a professional who is putting in the hours.”

No seeds left in women’s singles draw

No. 4 seed Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, the only remaining seed who made it to the quarterfinals of this WTA International event following the early departures of the top three seeds – Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Sofia Kenin – lost to American upstart Catherine McNally, 6-4, 6-3, on the Grandstand Court. The 150th-ranked wild card McNally, who has has been doing double-duty this week by playing both singles and pairing with American teen phenom Coco Gauff to reach the finals in doubles, will now face 62nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy in the semifinals on Saturday. Giorgi, who missed three months dealing with a wrist injury, beat No. 84 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-2.

“I didn’t put any expectations on myself this week,” said McNally. “I mean, I’m not really surprising myself because I know that I’m capable of doing this. So, I’m just supper happy that I’m going out there, enjoying it, executing my game plan really well.”

Earlier Friday, another American, Jessica Pegula took out 75th-ranked compatriot Lauren Davis, 6-2, 7-6 (2). The 79th-ranked Pegula will face 160th-ranked qualifier Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, who reached her first WTA Tour semifinal this year after beating Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. It was her first victory in her third attempt over the 49th-ranked Frenchwoman.

Pegula described in her news conference how tough the playing conditions were, where the outside temperature was 85º Fahrenheit. “It was hot, it was tough. The match was really physical,” she said. “I’ve played Lauren before. I knew going in it was going to be physical. She always makes it physical. She competes really well. Actually, two years ago she beat me in the semis here. I needed a little revenge. I got it.”

Kalinskaya was asked by Tennis TourTalk why it was her day to beat Mladenovic and not before. She said, “I played twice against her, and I didn’t play my best. So, today I really wanted to play good and enjoy the moment, play point by point. I’m happy that I won. It’s a nice feeling.”

Murrays and Bryans both out in doubles

It wasn’t a good afternoon for brotherly doubles teams. Both the Murrays – Andy and Jamie – and the Bryans – Bob and Mike – lost their quarterfinal-round matches. The Murrays, from Great Britain, lost to the No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), 10-7, who will now face No. 2 seeds Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo from Brazil in one Saturday semifinal.

Asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe their takeaways from this week, Jamie Murray responded, “It was obviously disappointing to lose at the end after having match points, being up in both tie breaks. … We played a lot of good tennis. I mean, it’s good fun to play with Andy again, see him out there competing, fired up to play, and playing really well.

“For me it was a positive week. Disappointing obviously to lose the way we did. But that happens in doubles sometimes.”

The other brothers, the Bryans from the United States, were eliminated by JeanJulien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau from Romania, in a match of unseeded teams, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 10-8. The winners advanced to play unseeded Aussies Alex de Minaur and John Peers in the other semifinal.

By the numbers

• While Kyle Edmund of Great Britain attained his 100th career win earlier this week, lucky loser Norbert Gombos of Slovakia has just nine tour-level victories – and was bidding for his 10th career win against mercurial Nick Kyrgios Friday night. His victories over Adrian Mannarino and Miomir Kecmanovic represent his first ATP 500 wins.

• Of the eight men’s quarterfinalists, Marin Cilic owns the most career titles with 18 followed by Nick Kyrgios with five.

What they’re saying

• World No. 10 and third seed Daniil Medvedev on winning consistently and reaching the final eight at the Citi Open: “It’s definitely already a good week. I’m sleeping good, I’m eating good. I’m feeling healthy, I’m playing good. Of course, I want to back it  up with some more wins. … Tennis is a really difficult sport with a lot of confidence. I think first of all, I see the game good. I choose good tactics against different players, and I choose a game that I try to make my opponent kind of suffer, to make more mistakes. … The most important thing is the hard work that I’ve been putting in the two last years. I was always working hard, but the last two and a half years I really dedicated my life to tennis, and it really worked out.”

• Top seed Stefanos Tsitipas was asked after his third-round win on Thursday if he noticed the beautiful sunset over the main stadium at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. His reply: “I saw the sky. I saw the pink. I thought about it during the match that – just before the sun set, I could see the colors in the sky … it was beautiful.”

All of Tsitsipas’ matches in Washington have been at night. After his Friday night match, he told Tennis TourTalk, “I like night. I like night sessions because I feel like the energy is always different on a night session than on a day session. I’ve got plenty of Greek supporters out there today. They looked very excited, very pleased to see me do well out on court.

“Fans always bring a good energy when you’re out on the court.”

• Hsieh Su-Wei, who until she lost her quarterfinal match to 19-year-old American Catherine McNally was the highest-remaining seed at No. 4 in the women’s draw. She was asked what she thought about all of the young players coming up. Take for instance, 19-year-old Varvara Gracheva of Russia, whom she beat Thursday night: “The new generation (is) different than my generation because now they are more powerful and they have better assistants to help them, and you can see there are so many young girls coming on the tour that play really well. They know every shot, they can serve with speed. I don’t want to see the number on the board.”

Friday’s results

Men’s singles quarterfinals
No. 1 Stefanos Tsitsipas d. No. 10 Benoit Paire, 7-5, 6-0
Nick Kyrgios d. LL-Norbert Gombos, 6-3, 6-3
No. 3 Daniil Medvedev d. No. 6 Marin Cilic, 6-4, 7-6 (7)
LL-Peter Gojowczyk d. No. 13 Kyle Edmund, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3

Women’s singles quarterfinals
Camila Giorgi d. Zarina Diyas, 6-3, 6-2
WC-Catherine McNally d. No. 4 Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-4, 6-3
Jessica Pegula d. Lauren Davis, 6-2, 7-6 (2)
Q-Anna Kalinskaya d. Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2

Men’s doubles quarterfinals
Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau d. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 10-8
No. 3 Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus d. Andy Murray/Jamie Murray, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), 10-7

Women’s doubles semifinals
WC-Coco Gauff/Catherine McNally d. No. 3 Anna Kalinskaya/Miyu Kato, 6-1, 6-2
No. 4 Maria Sanchez/Fanny Stollar d. No. 2 Wang Yafan/Yang Zhaoxuan, 6-3, 6-3

Saturday’s schedule

Stadium / from 1 p.m.
Jessica Pegula vs. Q-Anna Kalinskaya
Camila Giorgi vs. WC-Catherine McNally
Not before 7 p.m.
No. 1 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Nick Kyrgios
Not before 9 p.m.
No. 3 Daniil Medvedev vs. LL-Peter Gojowczyk

John Harris Court / from 1 p.m.
Alex de Minaur/John Peers vs. Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau
No. 3 Raven Klaasen/Michal Venus v. No. 2 Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo
WC-Coco Gauff/Catherine McNally vs. No. 4 Maria Sanchez/Fanny Stollar