Jared Donaldson and Yoshihito Nishioka Battle to Main Draw @MemphisOpen
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The first American ATP event of the year will get underway in Memphis this week. Headlined by defending champion Kei Nishikori, the field for the event consisted of four American seeds, two Australians and a Bosnian. Prior to the first round, 16 players battled for four places in the main draw of the event.
American fans were not disappointed in the qualifying draw after two of their home players was triumphant. Seventh seed Jared Donaldson started his qualifying bid against compatriot Tennys Sandgren. 24-year-old Sandgren has been ranked as high as 183rd in the world and has won one Challenger tournament in his career (Champaign Open 2013). It was a tough opening match for Donaldson, who had to battle from a set down to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. Following his opening round triumph, Donaldson faced the potentially tricky Irishman James McGee. McGee shocked fourth seed Tatsuma Ito 6-2,6-1, in his opening match. Despite the encouraging first round performance from the Irish player, he was no match for Donaldson. The 19-year-old eased his way to a 6-0, 7-6(0), victory in an hour and 19 minutes.
The other American triumph came in the form of wildcard Michael Mmoh. Mmoh is 18-years-old and is currently ranked 20th in the junior rankings. Last year he won two titles on the Futures circuit. Mmoh faced sixth seed Dennis Novikov in his first match. Novikov recently reached the third round of qualifying at the Australian Open before losing to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita. Despite being ranked over 200 places below Novikov, Mmoh battled to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in just under two hours. Next up for the young American was second seed Bjorn Fratangelo. Franteglo won his first Challenger title last year in Launceston. The encounter between the two players was a nerve-wrecking experience, lasting a fraction short of three hours. The world No.387 edged his way past the second seed 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6). The double victory will now take Mmoh into his first ATP World Tour main draw.
Another surprise of the tournament was Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen. The Swiss player has experienced a disappointing start to 2016. After losing in the first round of his three opening tournaments this year, Laaksonen grabbed his first win of 2016 against Marek Michallcka at last week’s Dallas Challenger. The world No.188 began his Memphis journey with a 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4, win over Australian fifth seed John-Patrick Smith. The reward for the Swiss player was a showdown with top seed Radu Albot. Albot defeated Andrey Rublev in his first round match. After narrowly losing the first set, Laakson battled back to stun the top seed 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-1. The duo of gutsy wins has earned the world No.188 his first main draw appearance on the ATP World Tour since the 2015 Swiss Indoors. It will be his first non-Swiss ATP main draw tournament since the 2014 Stockholm Open.
Completing the qualifiers was third seed Yoshihito Nishioka. The world No.130 began qualification with a straight sets win over British world No.649 Joe Salisbury (6-2, 6-3). Next for the Japanese player was Spanish eighth seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras. After suffering a second set blip, Nishioka won 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. During the two-hour match, the world No.130 won 66% of his service points.
First round matches
(Q) Laaksonen SWI vs Ebden AUS (Q)
(Q) Jared Donaldson USA vs (Q) Nishioka JPA
(Q) Mmoh USA vs Taylor Fritz USA