Taro Daniel and Facundo Bagnis Triumph During Rio Open Qualifying
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As the Rio de Janeiro Olympics swiftly approach, players will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the Brazilian climate at this week’s Rio Open. Headed by the Spanish duo of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, qualifying for the main draw of the tournament was a tough task in itself for the 16-strong field.
France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu was the top seed in the draw. The 34-year-old entered the tournament with good form after recently reaching the final of the Montpellier Open, the tenth ATP final of his career. Unfortunately for Mathieu he failed to win his first ATP title since 2009 after losing to Richard Gasquet.
Switching from hard to clay didn’t appear too troublesome for Mathieu in his opening match against Brazilian world No.155 Andre Ghem. Despite dropping his service twice (one in each set) the top seed broke his opponent four times to secure the 6-3, 6-4, win. The win moved Mathieu to a showdown with Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Traver has played in 21 ATP Challenger finals, 20 of which has been on clay. Mathieu’s Brazilian journey came to an unfortunate end after he retired at 2-2 in the second set due to a yet to be confirmed injury, elevating Gimeno-Traver to the main draw.
There was better news for Japanese second seed Taro Daniel. Daniel, who has an American father and a Japanese mother, started his Rio campaign against Brazilian youngster Orlando Luz. The 18-year-old won the Wimbledon Boys’ doubles title in 2014 and is also a two-time Youth Olympic medalist (gold in doubles and silver in singles). The world No.94 was made to battle in both sets before winning 6-3, 6-4, after 90 minutes on the court. Next up for Daniel was clay court specialist Facundo Argüello. Unlike many other players, the Argentine has played on clay continuously since the start of 2016. Arguello reached the second round after defeating Blaz Rola 3-6, 6-2,6-1. The final encounter was a roller coaster journey for Daniel, who recovered from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Argentinian pride was restored by third seed Facundo Bagnis, who survived a two-hour opening match. Facing compatriot Maximo Gonzalez, the world No.97 battled to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The next opponent for him was Spain’s Albert Montanes. The Spanish sixth seed also endured a testing opening match, winning 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-0 against Brazil’s José Pereira. The opening set between Bagnis and Montanes was highly competitive as the Argentine broke his opponent for the second time of the match to seal the opening set. Bagnis then had to fight back at the start of the second set after being broken to love. Staging a successful comeback, the third seed broke Montanes twice in the second set to lead 6-4, 5-2, before his opponent surprisingly retires. Similar to Mathieu, there were no details concerning the nature of his retirement.
Grabbing the final spot was Portugal’s Gastao Elias. During the Argentina Open the world No.113 produced some outstanding tennis against Dominic Thiem. The problem for the Portuguese player was this his inconsistent play got the better of him as Thiem clinched the win in three sets. Elias continued his encouraging form in Rio with a first round win over Chile’s Hans Podlipnik (6-2, 6-2). The reward for his was a showdown with home favorite Rogerio Dutra Silva. Silva appeared on course to a crushing win after taking the first set in 34 minutes, however, Elias triumphantly battled back to win 1-6, 7-5,6-2. Elias won 56% of his service points, firing six aces against Silva.
First round matches
Q Taro Daniel JAP – Inigo Cervantes ESP
Q Facundo Bagnis ARG – Pablo Cuevas URA
Q Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP – Juan Monaco ARG
Q Gastao Elias POR – Santiago Giraldo COL