The trophy for the Vietbay tournament arrived today, coinciding with the quarterfinal stage of the tournament. Shortly before their matches, the players had a chance to see what will become their possession if they win the next 3 matches. The trophy is spun from sterling silver, with hand-crafted ornaments, including a figure of a tennis player standing. As they were admiring the trophy, Vietbay tournament director Minh TT made a revelation that a whooping third of the money spent on the trophy was due to shipping cost. But that was because the tennis player figure standing on top is in pure 24-carat gold and this made the trophy too heavy. It's a very beautiful trophy indeed.
First-up today was the quarterfinal between Binh and Hung. Probably even more inspired to win the enticing trophy after having a close look at it, Binh went out and played some flawless tennis. He routed his opponent 6-0, 6-0 in less than 40 minutes as he booked a spot in the semifinal. Binh was very agile, sending winners from everywhere in the court. He's in the form of his life heading to the semifinal.
In the other quarterfinal, Minh Tran reconfirmed his winning credential by rolling past Cuong Pham 6-1 in the first set. It seemed a bad match-up for Cuong Pham— he looked rather laggard; his shots were not penetrating enough and Minh was ready to pound. Minh served fantastically as usual, with one serve recorded at 125 mph.Their match will be continued next week.
The highlight of the day is the clash between Viet and Minh Dang. In a mouse-and-cat game that features many "near captures" and "repeated escapes", the players brought out the best in each other. Viet was slightly more consistent early on, with his heavy top-spin posing some trouble for Minh; and he took the first set 6-4. Minh, however, composed himself and started to play more aggressive. 4-5 down, Viet was serving to stay in the match and had a game point, put Minh played with some amazing defense that ended with a lob leaving Viet flat-footed at the net. Two points later, Minh roared as he claimed the second set 6-4.
The deciding tie-break was no less dramatic. The two traded some heavy ground strokes and quick slices before Viet built a 4-2 lead. After that, Minh mixed up his play and sent Viet scrambling to retrieve every ball. With the second double-fault from Viet in the tie-break came two match points against him as he fell behind 4-6. He played with great courage in some grueling ground strokes, which ended in a winner--first match point was overcome. Minh wasted another match-point with some erroneous play at the net and then fell behind 6-7. After another long, strenuous rally, Viet emerged the winner when Minh sent the ball into the net. It's a setback for Minh—he was so close to making it to the semifinal. It was just a point here and there that separate those two, but Viet handled the big points slightly better.
As revealed in the semifinal draw taking place today, Binh is to face the winner of the Minh-Cuong match while Viet is to play to winner of the Viet-Phuong match. After this news, the odds for Binh dropped significantly and he's now the clear tournament favorite at most betting houses. The reason for this change is probably due to his great performance today, and also because he will most likely face Minh Tran in his semifinal, whom he defeated 6-2 in the round robin while Hai and Phuong will still have to battle it out first for a semifinal berth. They are not far behind in the betting list though, with Hai just slightly more favored. Expect to see some fireworks in their quarterfinal clash—so much is at stake and there's a champion in the making.