Underdogs qualify in ATP Barcelona and Bucharest
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
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The last time a qualifier reached the last eight of the Barcelona Open was Stan Wawrinka at the 2005 tournament. Since then, many have tried and all of them have failed. Spearheading this year’s bid for the qualifiers will be the two highest ranked players from the qualifying draw.
German top seed, Jan Lennard-Struff, booked his place in the main draw without dropping a set. The world No.115 kicked-off his clay court season at last week’s Napoli Challenger where he suffered a shock first round loss to world No.325 Gianluca Mager. Struff recovered from his Italian disappointment by dismissing Spanish wildcard Pedro Martinez Portero in his first match at Barcelona. Awaiting him in the second round was French 11th seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin, a player who he has lost to twice in 2015. Struff ensured that he wouldn’t succumb to a trio of defeats to the Frenchman by winning 7-6(5), 6-2. During his Barcelona triumph against Roger-Vasselin, Struff won 81% of his first service points (25/31).
Following the top seed into the Barcelona main draw will be Russian second seed Karen Khachanov. Earlier this month, the 19-year-old reached a career ranking high of 135th and has already reached a Challenger final this year in Jonkoping, Sweden. Khachanov’s route to the main draw was one of the toughest. After seeing off India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan in three sets, he faced clay court specialist Marco Trungelliti. Aided by seven aces in the match, Khachanov required two hours and 20 minutes to defeat the Argentine 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), to reach his first ATP main draw since Chennai.
Czech veteran Radek Stepanek eased his way into the Barcelona main draw. The 37-year-old produced back-to-back straight sets wins over wildcard Gerard Granollers and former French Open boys’ champion Christian Garin. Stepanek has enjoyed success in Barcelona during his career. In 2005 he reached the semifinals of the tournament before losing to Rafael Nadal. This year will be his eighth appearance in the main draw of the event.
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The lowest ranked player to triumph in the two rounds of qualifying was Argentine world No.245 Pedro Cachin. Notching up only two main draw victories in 2016, the 21-year-old stunned third seed, Jozef Kovalik, 6-4, 7-5, in the first round. The unexpected win set Cachin up with a meeting against 10th seed Pedja Krstin, a player who won his maiden Challenger title on Mexican clay earlier this year. The Serbian was no match for Cachin, who won 79% of his service points to defeat Krstin 6-1, 6-2, in exactly an hour to reach his first ATP main draw.
Franko Skugor demolished his first round opponent to set up a showdown against Renzo Olivo. The sixth seed required only 49 minutes to race past France’s Yannick Jankovits (6-0, 6-2). Facing Olivo in the second round, the world No.148 encountered a much more testing match. After failing to save one out of only two break points he faced during the match, Skugor dropped the second set before taking the match in three sets – 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Barcelona will be his fourth appearance in an ATP main draw this year.
The final qualifier was Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, who coincidentally reaches his first main draw on the ATP Tour since his appearance at last year’s Barcelona tournament. His qualifying campaign began with a marathon match against Andrey Rublev, which lasted six minutes shy of the three-hour mark. Fucsovics had three match points in the second set, but failed to convert any of them. Saving 13/15 break points throughout the match, the Hungarian clinched the win 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-3. In his final qualifying match, the Hungarian recovered from a second set blip to win 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, against Spain’s Jordi Samper-Montaña.
First round matches
Q Marton Fucsovics HUN Vs Ernests Gulbis LAT
Q Radek Stepanek Vs Santiago Giraldo
Q Franko Skugor Vs Inigo Cervantes ESP
Q Pedro Cachin ARG Vs Ivan Dodig CRO
Q Jan-Lennard Struff GER Vs Alexander Zverev GER
Q Karen Khachanov RUS Vs Aljaz Bedene GBR
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Michael Linzer will play in his first ATP main draw after causing the biggest upset of the qualifying draw at the BRD Năstase Țiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania.
The 26-year-old, who has won five Futures titles on clay last year, recovered from a set down to stun Bosnian top seed Mirza Basic in the opening round of qualifying. Ranked almost 140 places below Basic, Linzer clinched the two-and-a-half-hour match, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4. He also endured a close second round match against Farrukh Dustov, a player who is yet to win back-to-back matches in a tournament this year. Dustov continued this disappointing trend after Linzer took the match 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4, to reach the main draw in Bucharest. The win elevates the Austrian to 266th in the world, 30 players below his 2012 career high. Since 2010, Linzer has won 16 Futures titles on clay.
Bosnian tennis fans still had something to cheer about after Aldin Setkic stunned second seed Maximo Gonzalez 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, in the final round of qualifying. Setkic saved 11/16 break points and won 57% of his first service points to seal the big win. The win over the world No.135 isn’t the biggest victory for the Bosnian. Last year he defeated world No.114 Dustin Brown at a Challenger tournament. Similar to Linzer, the 28-year-old will now play in his maiden ATP main draw.
The highest ranked player to successfully qualify was third seed Radu Albot. The Moldovan started his qualifying bid with a 6-4, 6-2, win over French wildcard Florian Valsot. The win took him to a second round meeting with German fifth seed Tobias Kamke. Converting 4/6 break points and 58% of service points, Albot claimed the win 6-4, 6-2. Albot, who reached a ranking high of 85th last year, will be hoping to end his run of first round losses. In three out of his four previous tournaments, the 26-year-old has fallen at the first hurdle.
The fourth and final qualifier is Italy’s Andrea Arnaboldi. The world No.171 has only managed to win three main draw matches this year with his best performance being a quarter-finalist at the Jonkoping Challenger in Sweden. He will now have a chance of increasing his winning number after defeating compatriot Federico Gaio 6-1, 6-4, without dropping serve.
First round matches
Q Michael Linzer AUT Vs Robin Haase NDL
Q Aldin Setkic BOS Vs Fernando Verdasco ESP
Q Radu Albot MOL Vs (8) Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA
Q Andrea Arnaboldi ITA Vs Taro Daniel JPA