Falla, Bolelli, Rocket Into Main Draws in Halle and London Queens As Qualifiers
Steen Kirby and Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Grass court qualifying in two places, both 500 level events with two rounds of qualifying action, took place over the weekend, as some interesting names booked their place in the main draw.
ATP Halle Qualifying
In Halle, defending finalist Alejandro Falla is the strongest of the qualifiers. Last year Falla made a surprise run to that final and he’s also reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon previously in his career. The veteran lefty has a game built for grass and he comfortably defeated Janko Tipsarevic and Tim Puetz, without dropping a set, to qualify.
Another of the four qualifiers in total is lefty Jarkko Nieminen who beat Filip Krajinovic and Tatsuma Ito without dropping a set. Nieminen isn’t a grass court specialist by any stretch of the imagination but he’s fast on his feet and plays aggressively.
A pair of talented but underachieving players also qualified, Slovak Lukas Lacko, now 27,has an aggressive and powerful game built for grass and he beat two solid opponents, Peter Gojowczyk and Jurgen Melzer in three sets to qualify. Lacko faces Falla in round 1. 24 year old Ricardas Berankis upset Austin Krajicek in three sets, and Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-3 to qualify. The undersized ball striker was a top junior but has been a bust as a pro.
Berankis will have a winnable round 1 match against Tommy Robredo in round 1, while Nieminen could also advance as he faces Alexander Zverev, a wild card, in round 1.
ATP London Queens Qualifying
Sixteen players participated in the qualifying competition at the Aegon Championships, which is held at the Queen’s Club in London.
Italian world number 56 Simone Bolelli was the top seed in the qualifying draw and experienced little trouble. After a straight sets win over Lucas Pouille in the first round, he faced France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Frenchman produced an impressive performance at the tournament last year when he reached the third round in the singles draw as well as the semi-final in the doubles. Bolelli however, experience no trouble as he dropped his service once on his way to winning 7-6 (4), 6-3.
In the main draw the Italian faces a tough encounter against Richard Gasquet. Bolelli has played Gasquet on five previous occasions and has lost all of them. Their most recent match was earlier this year at the Doha Open where Gasquet eased his way to a 6-3, 6-2, win. Gasquet could face pressure but I presume he’ll prevail.
Rendy Lu was pushed hard during his match against Denis Istomin. The second seed produced a straight sets win over the talented Luca Vanni in the first round whilst Istomin edged his way past Go Soeda. During the match there was only two breaks of serve, one each, as both sets went into tie-breaks with Lu winning 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5).
The reward for Lu is a first round showdown against top seed Andy Murray. He has beaten Murray once before which was in the first round of the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Since then, Murray has won their two most recent encounters (both in 2013) without dropping a set. Murray should blast through the weaponless Lu to reach round 2.
The biggest surprise was the impressive run by 18-year-old wild card Jared Donaldson. The American knocked out third seed and fellow countryman Tim Smyczek in the first round to face Tobias Kamke. Kamke has experienced a disastrous 2015 so far with only one main draw win to his name. His sole win was against Vincent Millot in Montpellier last February. The misery continued for the German as Donaldson cruised to take the match 7-5, 6-3. Donaldson is currently at a ranking high of 152 in the world and won his first Challenger title in Maui at the start of the year.
Donaldson, the American number 12, will play America’s number 1 John Isner in the first round. Given Isner’s experience, he should win comfortably.
Finally hopes of a British winner in the qualification draw were ended after Paul-Henri Mathieu beat Brydan Klein during the battle of the wild card’s. The former world number 12 produced a three sets win over 4th seed Chung Hyeon in the first round. Mathieu, who hasn’t won a title since 2007, required just over an hour on the court to break the British world number 188 6-3,6-2.
Mathieu will play Stuttgart finalist Viktor Troicki in the first round. Troicki’s run to the final in Germany has clearly demonstrated that the Serbian is currently in impressive shape, especially with his serve. On the other hand, there will be questions about how tired he will be coming into Queen’s. The two players have been drawn to play each other on three previous occasions but none of the matches got completed with one of the retiring (Troicki twice and Mathieu once). Presuming Troicki doesn’t retire and keep up the trend, his superior form should win him the day.