Unstoppable Mikhail Youzhny Continues Unbeaten Run In Dubai Qualifying
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
As Novak Djokovic makes his final preparations for this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, there were mixed fortunes for the seeded players in the qualifying draw.
Heading the 16-player field was Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The former world No.8 has climbed 49 places in the rankings this year after winning three consecutive Challenger titles across Asia (two in Bangkok and one in Manila). Youzhny, who reached the final of the tournament in 2007, kicked-off his campaign against Ireland’s Sam Barry. The Irishman is currently ranked 399th in the world and recently won a Futures title in Sunderland, Great Britain. Barry was no match for Youzhny as the world No.78 overcame a close opening set to win 7-6(1), 6-2.
Awaiting the Russian in the final qualifying round was Georgian fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Belgium’s Yannick Mertens in straight sets during his opening round. Despite struggling with his first serve, the top seed booked in place in the main draw with a 6-2, 6-4, win. Getting 43% of his first serves in, Youzhny claimed 69% of his service points to extend his 2016 winning streak to 17.
Speaking about Youzhny performance, tournament vice-chairman Colm McLoughlin spoke of his delight for the Russian.
“We are delighted that Mikhail Youzhny has successfully negotiated the qualifying rounds here, and he did so without the loss of a set to emphasise that he is very much back in form after a disappointing season last year,” McLoughlin said.
Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano produced a surprise win to reach the first round in Dubai. Starting against Turkish wildcard Cem İlkel, the world No.142 endured a second set scare before winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The reward for the Fabbiano was a meeting with second seed Ivan Dodig. During their marathon encounter, which lasted 13 minutes short of three hours, Fabbiano converted 6/10 break points to win 6-7(1), 6-4,6-2. The Italian will now play in his third ATP main draw this year.
Kyle Edmund’s hopes of continuing his strong start to the year was ended by unseeded Croat Franko Skugor. The Brit reached his first ATP quarterfinal at the start of the year in the Doha Open and claimed his fourth Challenger title in Dallas, USA. Edmund began his Dubai quest with a 6-3, 6-4, win over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek. Meanwhile, Skugor defeated eighth seed James Ward 6-3, 6-4.
Despite there being over 100 places separating Edmund and Skugor, the Croat saved 5/5 break points to seal a straight sets victory (6-4, 6-2). The score appears one-sided, however, Skugor won just 11 points more than his opponent (63 to 52).
Finally, Lucas Pouille dropped just six games in his successful qualifying campaign. In his first match the Frenchman played a little-known Dutch wildcard Roy de Valk, winning 6-1,6-0, in less than 40 minutes. After his easy opening match, Pouille faced fifth seed Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian was forced to dig deep in his three sets win over Mischa Zverev in the first round. The first round efforts invested by the fifth seed had an effect on him during his match against Pouille. The world no. 91 fired 7 aces and faced no break points during his 6-2, 6-3, triumph.
Brazilian joy for Facundo Bagnis and Gastão Elias in Sao Paulo Qualifying
After the trials and tribulations of the Rio Open, the focus remains in Brazil at this week’s ATP 250 tournament in Sao Paulo. Headlined by France’s Benoit Paire, the tournament will feature six top 50 players. Prior to the main draw getting underway, a series of epic matches occurred during the qualifying draw for the tournament.
Top seed Facundo Bagnis secure his place in the main draw with a duo of wins over fellow Argentine players. Four Argentine players featured in the qualifying draw, three of which was drawn in the same section as Bagnis. In his first round he faced world No. 156 Nicolas Kicker. Kicker recently came close to winning his first Challenger title after reaching the final at the San Domingo Challenger. His recent form continued in São Paulo after taking the first set against Bagnis before the top seed battled back to win 5-7,6-4,6-2.
The next Argentine for Bagnis was fifth seed Facundo Arguello. Arguello defeated Brazil’s Orlando Luz 6-4,6-2, in his opening match. Converting 4/9 breaks point against Arguello, Bagnis eased to a 6-3,6-3 victory.
Portuguese sixth seed Gastao Elias endured two three-set battles to reach the main stage of the tournament. At last week’s Rio Open the world No.141 qualified for the main draw before losing to surprised finalist Guido Pella.
Elias’ second Brazilian qualifying campaign started with a tough 3-6,6-3,6-2, triumph over wildcard Jose Pereira. Impressively the sixth seed won 80% of his service points during the first round. Next up for Elias was Chile’s Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who stunned second seed Rugerio Dutra Silva in the first round. In a three-hour marathon, Elias edged past the Chilean player 7-6(5), 5-7,6-2.
Another Argentine success occurred for eight seed Maximo Gonzalez. His opening match against Italy’s Filippo Volandri came to an unfortunate end. After over two hours of play, the Italian retired at 5-5 in the final set due to an abdominal tear. Awaiting Gonzalez in the final round was Spanish third seed Roberto Carballes Baena. Baena produced a three sets win over Brazil’s Joao Souza in the first round. After dropping the first set, Gonzalez converted 5/7 break points to stun the third seed 4-6,6-3,6-3 to progress to the main draw. There was some consultation for Baena after he received a lucky loser position in the main draw following Guido Pella’s withdrawal.
Completing the quartet of qualifiers is seventh seed Blaz Rola. The Slovakian was four points away from losing in the first round before he achieved his marathon win over local talent Andre Ghem – 7-6(4),4-6,7-6(3). In the next round he played world No.218 Gianluca Nasco, who upset fourth seed Andrej Martin. Nasco won six Futures titles on clay last year. The Italian was on course to producing another surprise win after taking the opening set against Rola. Despite the promising start, Rola recovered to seal the win 3-6,6-0,6-4.