Coric, Haase, and Muller advance to round 2 @EstorilOpen Monday
Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Monday at the Estoril Open saw the last round of qualifying being played, as well as the beginning of the singles main draw.
The last of qualifying brought a lot of disappointment to the Portuguese players and fans as both Pedro Sousa and Frederico Gil lost in very close matches, faltering in the deciding stages. Sousa led in both sets against 22yo Constant Lestienne, but his terrible play on big points – including no points won on serve in the deciding set tiebreak – cost him dearly and it’s the Frenchman who advanced to the main draw, where he will face Pablo Carreno Busta on Tuesday afternoon.
Lestienne d. P. Sousa 7-5 7-6(3)
As for the 2010 finalist of this event, Gil, he won the first set and was up 4-2 in the decider before getting broken back and then getting broken from 40-15 up in the last game to give away the match in what turned out to be another disappointment result in his attempt to return to the level he once reached before illness derailed him. His conqueror, Martin Fischer, will be facing Albert Montanes in round 1 of the main draw.
Fischer d. Gil 4-6 6-3 6-4
First seed Kenny de Schepper and fourth seed Roberto Carballes Baena secured very comfortable, one-sided wins and advanced to the main draw as well; De Schepper will open up against home favorite Gastão Elias, who reached the quarterfinals of this event in 2013 and 2014, while Carballes Baena will take on his countryman and newly crowned Bucharest champion Guillermo Garcia Lopez.
De Schepper d. David Vega Hernandez 6-2 6-2
Carballes Baena d. Gerald Granollers 6-0 6-3
As far as main draw action is concerned, Robin Haase opened up the proceedings against Ricardas Berankis; it was a very tight affair throughout, with plenty of momentum swings and players getting tight on key junctures but in the end the Dutchman managed to book a round 2 date with the tournament’s #1 seed Feliciano Lopez, though not before another trademark tiebreak loss in the second set.
Haase d. Berankis 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4
Filip Krajinovic had little trouble disposing of Alejandro Gonzalez with his bigger serve making the difference in a match that featured a lot of long, tightly contested rallies; the Serb will now face either Nick Kyrgios or Albert Ramos in round 2.
Krajinovic d. Gonzalez 6-3 6-3
In what was perhaps the most anticipated match of the day, 18yo Borna Coric beat Jeremy Chardy in relatively straightforward fashion, avenging his Australian Open loss to the same opponent; as is often the case, Chardy hit his fair share of blistering winners but those were heavily outnumbered by the borderline ridiculous unforced errors; the young Croatian didn’t need to do anything all too special, the baseline consistency that we’ve come to associate with him was more than enough to prevail over Chardy’s inconsistent/erratic ballstriking. Next up for Coric is the winner of João Sousa vs Rui Machado, meaning that he must be feeling good about his chances of making yet another ATP quarterfinal.
Coric d. Chardy 6-2 6-4
In the final match of the day on Center Court, 20yo Portuguese hope Frederico Silva took on Gilles Muller in a rare battle between two lefties. In the first set, Silva conceded an early break and was powerless against Muller’s fantastic serve, but he fought back in the second set, taking advantage of a dip in Muller’s serving level to sneak a break and level the match. He seemed to carry that momentum into the third set and got an early break chance, but after squandering it with a missed second serve return he checked out from the match mentally and it was all Muller until the end. Though this a very rare claycourt winner for the Luxembourgian, his run might well not be over with Fischer/Montanes looking like beatable opponents in the next round.
Muller d. Silva 6-3 3-6 6-1
On Tuesday, Kenny de Schepper and Gastão Elias will open up the proceedings at 1pm on court 2; it’s a match where, given the surface and his history of good performances at this event, the Portuguese player has to be considered the favorite, though De Schepper’s huge serve always gives him a shot on a great day despite his general shortcomings on the clay; after that, Bucharest champion Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face Roberto Carballes Baena and although form and ranking suggest Garcia Lopez should win, it won’t be easy for him to get going again after such a great week in Romania, it is after all rare for players below the very top to string consecutive great weeks of tennis and there’s bound to be a physical and emotional letdown after winning a title. Not only that, but when these two faced last year in the Casablanca semifinals Carballes Baena pushed eventual champions Garcia-Lopez to the very limit; considering that, the good form Baena showed during the qualifying tournament and the challenge that it will be for Garcia-Lopez to back up a title run last week, an upset could very well be on the cards in this one.
Court 2 action will finish with Nicolas Almagro, who’s still trying to comeback to his pre-injury level, taking on Stephane Robert. Despite his unimpressive form, Almagro has to be considered the huge favorite here; Robert’s most memorable career moment was an unbelievable comeback from 0-2 down in sets against perennial top 10 player Tomas Berdych in the 2011 French Open, but aside from that one result clay has never proved a happy hunting ground for him
On court 3, Pablo Carreno Busta will take on qualifier Constant Lestienne; the Spaniard is the obvious favorite but he’s not immune to upsets against lower ranked players as we’ve seen multiple times in the past year, not to mention that due to the way he plays he’s always vulnerable to opponents playing good quality attacking tennis. Lestienne must feel he’s in with a chance to spring an upset here. After that match, the 2009 and 2010 champion of this event, Albert Montañes, will take on Martin Fischer; Montañes is heavily declined and a mere shadow of the player who claimed back-to-back titles on Portuguese soil – even beating Roger Federer in the semifinals of the 2010 tournament – but should still have the edge in this contest.
On center court, Richard Gasquet will make a long-awaited return from the injury he sustained against Michael Berrer in Indian Wells; though there might still be some question marks about his health and especially match fitness, the draw was quite kind to him, pairing him up with Marinko Matosevic in round 1, a player who is notorious for his lack of success on clay. Even if he’s still rusty, the 2007 and 2012 finalist (lost to Djokovic and del Potro) should make it through to round 2. At 4pm, the all-Portuguese clash between Sousa and Machado will take place; while Machado was once, not too long ago, the highest ranked Portuguese player of all-time, he’s nowhere near that level currently and Sousa has surpassed him in pretty much every regard and is the clear favorite for tomorrow, though Machado is not without his chances, especially if he can repeat the level he showed last year at this tournament.
The last match of the day will be between young Aussie Nick Kyrgios and Albert Ramos from Spain; Kyrgios turned 20 years old on Monday and he will be looking to celebrate his birthday with his first clay win of the year, but it will be a tough ask against a seasoned claycourter like Ramos. Kyrgios has of course the much bigger game of the two players, but clay is not his best surface and he’s bound to still be a bit rusty after returning only last week from the injury sustained during his round 2 match against Dimitrov in the California desert, and there are plenty of question marks regarding his form, especially considering his match against Ymer last week in Barcelona wasn’t shown on television or streamed.