The draw for the main event at the Pilot Pen has been made and Mark was not awarded a wildcard for the tournament. Nor did he attempt to qualify so it looks like he will be sitting out this week prior to the start of the US Open.
Mark has received the nod from Tennis Australia for their wildcard slot for the US Open. The US Open begins August 28th. With the US Open wildcard the chances increase that the organizers of the Pilot Pen may also grant Mark a wildcard.
Poor Mark just cannot seem to get a break. In his quarterfinal match on Thursday he injured the little toe on his left foot. He received treatment but it was still very painful to put weight on. He was able to make it through that match, but yesterday he withdrew from the semifinal match. The diagnosis is a severe bone bruise that if he keeps playing on before it heals could fracture. Mark is entered in the Bronx Tennis Classic that starts on Monday but it’s not yet clear whether the toe will be strong enough for him to compete. His potential first-round match up is with Jeff Morrison. Mark has also asked for a wildcard into the Pen Pilot tournament in New Haven that begins August 21st.
Unfortunately Mark’s winning streak came to an end today with a loss to Lee in the first round of the RCA Championships 4-6, 6-7 (3-7). Post-match Mark said it was the humidity and surface that cost him the match. After playing so much recently on grass he wasn’t prepared for the switch in play to hard courts. For a off-court glimpse of Mark check out Gimelstob’s Sports Illustrated blog where he talks about the match and his trip to Indianapolis with Mark. While there’s been no mention of where Mark will play next, it is likely he will try to qualify for the Los Angeles tournament at month’s end.
Mark has won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships! Way to go Mark! In a masterful display of tennis Mark made short work of Gimelstob 6-3, 7-5. Mark had the serve working and was hitting some beautiful groundstrokes. Some of those backhands were textbook perfect and he made good use of something we don’t see a lot of, the offensive lob – very effective against a player like Gimelstob who hugs the net. This was Mark’s 11th career title and the first since the Heineken Open in 2003. Along with a nice boost to his rankings, this win and the good level of play all week will give Mark a nice boost of confidence for the upcoming tournaments.
July 15, 2006: Newport is certainly turning out to be a good location for Mark as he advanced to the final today defeating Melzer 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-0. This is Mark’s first appearance in a final in almost 3 years! (The last was the Heineken Open in September 2003). Mark had a very slow start against Melzer with problems getting first serves into the court. Once he settled back and stopped trying to ace every serve he got more balls in play and was able to build to win the points. In the second and third sets Mark finally got his serve firing and practically steam rolled Melzer. In tomorrow’s final he’ll be playing Gimelstob whom he holds a 2-1 lead with their last match in 2000. Mark has also received a Special Exemption into the RCA Championships in Indianapolis starting July 17th. His first round opponent there will be Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea. A Special Exemption (SE) are given when a player who has entered the qualifying round for the a tournament is playing in the semifinals of the previous tournament (ie. Mark had entered the RCA qualifiers but can’t make them as he’s still playing in Newport, thus he gets a SE to the main draw). They’re not that common since usually the players who make it to the semis are ranked high enough that they wouldn’t need to qualify. (thanks to Vittorio and Ruth for the RCA info!)
July 14, 2006: Go Mark! For the first time since the Ordina Open in June 2005, Mark has advanced to the semifinals of a tournament. It may not be a Slam or Masters, but still it’s a good milestone. To advance Mark got some revenge on Fish for his past three losses, defeating him 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. He managed to overcome some erratic moments which is another good sign. Next up is Melzer, whom he’s only played once – a win at Wimbledon 2000.
July 12, 2006: Mark won his second round match in Newport today 6-3, 6-4 over De Voest. Mark’s opponent in the third round will be the winner of the Fish and Alvez match.
July 11, 2006: Mark has won another match! This time 6-4, 6-2 over Goldstein in the first round of the Hall of Fame Championships. Next Mark will play De Voest of South Africa (ranked 140) in the second round.