2015 ATP Stuttgart Day 1 Qualifying Report
Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
The first ATP grass tournament takes place in Stuttgart and begins at the first June weekend just like the ATP tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. First of all, welcome to Stuttgart! The city of the eternally lasting building lots, cranes form the skyline here and political demonstrations fill the streets.
Far away from the noise of the city, the whole tennis complex Weißenhof is behind small forests on a mountain. ATP Stuttgart’s tennis tournament, after its official sponsor called Mercedes Cup, was held for the first time in 1898. Hence it is very famous for its tradition and is popular among tennis professionals because of the friendly atmosphere and the good organization. Though the surface was traditionally clay, this year they changed it to grass as another preparation tournament for Wimbledon to have a more stellar field. It worked, as Cilic, Monfils, and Rafa Nadal are confirmed to play.
Qualifying Day 1
It was a very hot day, the hottest after quite a while here in Germany, so fitness and stamina were very important. However, a lot of matches demonstrated many players, even ball kids couldn’t handle the heat. Robin Kern for example, who was 0-6 and 0-4 down, gave up and could barely move due to a minor injury, sending Jan Choinski into the second round.
A lot of matches were played between Germans at the first qualifying round, one of them was the opening match between Peter Gojowczyk and Andreas Beck. Both players have good resumes and it should have been a good match, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Gojowczyk was dominant in the points and his serve was strong. Beck created just one break point chance, while Gojowczyk broke him twice and he could have broken him even more than that. However, these two breaks decided the whole match. Beck struggled with many service games, in contrast to Gojowczyk. So Gojowczyk won the match deservedly 7-5, 6-4 and he remains a favorite to reach the main draw.
Dustin Brown played right after Gojowczyk likewise on the Mercedes Court, the second biggest court here, and didn’t have any problem against Sebastian Sachs. The young German is outside of the top 2000 currently and hadn’t any chance to threaten Brown’s next victory on his beloved grass (6-2, 6-1). Germany’s new Davis Cup member Brown didn’t display his best tennis, though his groundstrokes were constantly good and he hit some great winners. His serve-and-volley was very sharp today and he has very good chances to get one of the qualifiers spot apart from some inattentive unforced errors.
Way more hairsbreadth was Filip Krajinovic’s victory. As today’s top-match between the first seed and an in-form Daniel Brands featured highlights as expected. Brands won the first tiebreaker in clutch fashion, though he served for the set at 5-4 and wasn’t clutch there. He was more often at the net and hit some great volleys, while Krajinovic was too passive at the deciding moments and stood on the baseline. Both played very well in the second set, too. Service games were held with ease, just Brands had a few problems with his last service game in this set. Both played some great Serve-and-Volleys and both hit many aces. A typical good grass-tennis match, details decided the second set’s tiebreak.
Brands destroyed his hopes of winning the set with a Double fault at 5-5 and Krajinovic could win his first set with a cross forehand winner after his opponent’s short shot. The tension rose from there, Brands broke Krajinovic’s serve after a very long and intense rally with a beautiful forehand-volley right to the baseline’s corner, just to get re-broken because of so many forehand UEs. Brands was obviously very disappointed and couldn’t raise his level. Krajinovic broke Brands’ hard fought service game (four times deuce) and end the game with a service winner (6-7(3), 7-6(5), 7-5). Brands got very disappointed by this match he almost won and walked as fast as he could back to the players’ restaurant.
Another one who has to be mentioned here is Matthias Bachinger who surprised me a lot with his tennis. He defeated Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 7-5. Bachinger was very dominant in the first set, not giving Devvarman many opportunities and especially his forehand troubled the Indian too much. Bachinger held his service games with ease after he lost his first one in the first set. However, Devvarman lost three times his serve in the first set and didn’t have any clue how to stop the German. Bachinger’s key was his fitness: He moved very well on the baseline, he could defend a lot of dangerous shots and could combine it with good volleys and even better serves. The second set featured longer rallies (a bit rare for grass) and Devvarman was at least on eye-level with the German. Though he lost his first service game, Devvarman could raise his level to break the Bavarian again.
Devvarman played more offensively and was more often at the net with his superior volley game. Bachinger struggled with Devvarman getting better and better, had many problems to hold his last service, but managed to win it with some impressive passing shots. As everyone expected a tiebreaker, Devvarman suddenly lost the control of the game, had some mishits. 30 all, Devvarman served very well, hit a very good forehand down-the-line Bachinger barely reached, hit a forehand-volley to the other side, but the German reached the ball running very fast and won the match with an overwhelming backhand-dtl-passing shot, amazing. Facing the matchpoint Bachinger returned Devvarman’s second serve with a beautiful backhand down-the-line-winner to end the match.
Michael Berrer defeated Frank Dancevic in a very close match 6-7 (7), 6-0, 7-6 (3). Dancevic hit many great shots and his forehand worked today quite well, his problem was the inconsistency. He explained his loss due to lack of grass matches, just started to train at the same day on grass and stated Berrer served too well. He’s right, especially in the second set Berrer served very well after a short rain delay during the second set and Dancevic made mistakes you normally don’t do if you know how to play on this surface. Still, the Canadian raised his level again, could compete on a high level and called Berrer out, but the hometown boy was too clutch especially in the tiebreaker and had even opportunities to close the match earlier.
Mischa Zverev had to play against Tim Puetz and Sascha’s older brother managed to win the match after he lost the first set 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Tim Puetz didn’t play very well in the first set, though Zverev couldn’t do better. Right after Tim lost his first serve in the second set (0-2), it began to rain and that helped Mischa. Zverev hit winners after intensive rallies (especially cross) and Serve-and-Volley worked in contrary to the first set, when he hit some unforced errors. “Grass courts are fine and well-prepared” he told me after the match and “the [weather-]conditions here were fair for us”. Talked about his next opponent, Grega Zemlja, he emphasized he really looks forward to it, as “it will be the first meeting and [I] never played him”. A self-confident Zverev could certainly beat Zemlja who won in two close sets against Farrukh Dustov 7-6 7-5.
The last match I watched, that was moved to another court was between Nikoloz Basilashvili and Alejandro Falla. I only caught the third set in full, but it was already enough! A roller-coaster. The Colombian seemed to have everything under control in the match, but the Georgian discovered the power he has in his forehand and broke Falla’s service game while he served very poorly. In the third set it was a match on eye-level, some great net approaches and some fantastic winners; one of them was a very long and intensive rally, Falla played as a leftie with angles and Basilashvili couldn’t leave the backhand-side till the Colombian hit a beautiful down-the-line forehand winner after a too short bh-shot to the middle of the court.
Everything was fine for Alejandro, but he suddenly lost his serve again at 4 all due to a poor backhand error. Those who stood behind his wife (just like I did), witnessed the meltdown the Falla-clan had. Thanks God they said, Basilashvili couldn’t hold the game, as he served for the match and Falla broke him to love after three genuine unforced errors and a double fault. Falla held his serve, Basilashvili had even game point when serving, but a fh dtl-ue, a double fault and a forehand into the net sealed his fate. Falla didn’t even earn his match point, but I have to say it was very windy and not easy to play. Problem was Basilashvili still tried to overpower the Colombian with his forehand; it often worked, but at the end didn’t. This match would be the classical definition of a choke. Falla’s wife didn’t care and vamosed her husband over and over, Falla’s coach was just relieved.
Basilashvili told me after the match: “I didn’t play well today, made too much errors.” Having the impression he tries to say he did everything wrong he added: “My next step is London (Queen’s), hope it will be better”. Hanging his head when he walked very slowly back to the players’ lounge, he ignored my positive comments on his play. I couldn’t fathom then why he was so disappointed, but being at home I just start to understand why and wish him the best. Match ended 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 for Falla.
Other Round 1 Qualifying Results
Remi Boutillier def. Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4.
Ilija Bozoljac def. Adrien Bossel 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Dmitry Zhyrmont def. David Vega hernandez 7-6(1), 7-5.
Yuichi Sugita def. Ante Pavic 7-5, 6-2.
Mate Pavic def. Philipp Petzschner 6-2, 7-6 (6).
Michal Przysiezny def. Vijay Prashanth 6-3, 6-2.
Martin Fischer def. Jimmy Wang 6-2, 6-4.