Scheveningen (@Sport1Open) Challenger Update
Chris de Waard, Tennis East Coast
A solid field has landed in Scheveningen (The Hague) this week to play the Sport1 Open, with a total of twelve current and former top 100 players being in the mix to take Jesse Huta Galung’s crown, who beat Robin Haase in last year’s final.
We might see an early repeat of that final, since the two are projected two play each other in the second round. For that to happen, Haase needs to get past Croatian qualifier Dino Marcan, while Huta Galung is up against fellow Dutchman Boy Westerhof, who entered this tournament on a wild card.
As I walked onto the venue to catch the action of the first day it immediately struck me how casual Challengers are compared to ATP events. I barely passed the entrance and I had already bumped into Taro Daniel, who was hanging out and talking to someone before his match. As I collected my press badge, Robin Haase queued up behind me for his own and his brother’s credentials. Haase entered the doubles tournament with his 33-year-old brother Eric, a very competent amateur player, but they couldn’t pull out the win and lost 6-3, 6-1 to another Dutch couple, Stephan Fransen and Wesley Koolhof. Throughout the day, I kept seeing players all around me as I walked around the venue.
The first day started out with an encounter between two young Belgians, fifth seed David Goffin and Kimmer Coppejans, which ended in a blow-out victory of 6-1 6-3 for the older of the two, Goffin, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2012 as a qualifier, but now is ranked outside of the top 100 yet again.
In the second round, Goffin will face Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who beat Dutch wild card Tim van Rijthoven 6-2, 6-4. 17-year-old Van Rijthoven looked completely out of his element in the first set, which isn’t surprising when you realize he made his debut at Challenger level and was still playing at Wimbledon three days ago, where he lost in the quarterfinal of the junior’s tournament. Unfortunately, his biggest weapon display before the second set was hitting a ballboy in the face with his serve during warm-up, who had to be substituted. In the second set, he finally seemed to have adapted to the radically different conditions, but it’s clear he isn’t ready for this level yet, although he showed a lot of potential and I’m sure we will see more of his blistering single-handed backhand in the future. This should please Davis Cup captain Jan Siemerink, who was watching him from the stands and is in dire need of promising youngsters.
Over at court 1, a very high quality affair was developing between Italian Matteo Viola and Japanese Taro Daniel, who played a first set that would’ve been more at its place at ATP 250 level. 21-year-old Daniel is the least stereotypical Japanese you will ever see. A 6’3’’ clay court specialist who was born in New York and lives in Valencia is something that immediately tickles your interest. The two offered a vintage clay court match with many grueling rallies, which unfortunately only stayed interesting in the first set. Daniel went down *1-4 in the first set and managed to fight himself all the way back 5-5* 40-0, at which point Viola played some of his greatest points of the match and topped it off with an exquisite dropshot to save the final break point against him.
In the tiebreak, a similar scenario developed with Daniel once again going down *1-4 and fighting himself back, eventually saving three set points before winning the tiebreak 9-7. After that, the match went out like a candle with Daniel’s movement looking hampered, something he took a MTO for in the third set to receive treatment on his upper right leg. One has to think he needs to do some serious work on his physique before he can really do damage at the ATP level. It shouldn’t be a problem as his ground strokes are very sound already. It’s clear he has the talent and strokes to become a factor at the highest level. However, his serve will need some work to fulfil the potential of his height. Nevertheless, Viola ended up winning the match 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-1 and he will play third seed Thomaz Bellucci or Yannick Mertens in the second round.
Over at Center Court, the day ended with seventh seed Andreas Beck never being in doubt against Martin Alund (6-2 6-4), who seems a long way from the time he took a set off Nadal on the surface, which was only a year and a half ago. He made a show out of his loss though, constantly swearing, complaining and making fun of himself, getting some laughs from the crowd. Day one action ended with fourth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov, who beat Federer/Wawrinka in doubles at their Davis Cup meeting in April, taking on 30 year old Dutch wild card Matwé Middelkoop, who has been out of the running for over six months due to major shoulder surgery and made his comeback at a Futures event two weeks ago. Middelkoop played to his abilities, gave everything he had and almost managed to take the match into a decider, but eventually Nedovyesov came through in straights, 6-2, 7-6(5).
Day two seems to be very promising and includes the following clashes: Ignatik – Herbert, Bellucci – Mertens, Schwartzman – Crivoi, Huta Galung – Westerhof and Haase – Marcan. The match of the day in my eyes will be played between Horacio Zeballos and Steve Darcis, who last year both made a name for themselves by beating Nadal. Zeballos pulled it off in the final of Viña del Mar in February, while Darcis ousted him in the first round of Wimbledon. Darcis didn’t come out of that match unharmed, as he hurt his shoulder and has been struggling with it ever since. He had surgery in October, was out for eight months and made his comeback last month. Hopefully the former world number 44 stays with us in good health for many years to come.