Day 1 Recap, Day 2 Preview @Portugal Open
Manuel Traquete, Tennis East Coast
Today at the Portugal Open, the qualifying tournament was concluded and the main draw started for both the men and the women. On the men’s side, after the top 8 seeds made the final round, the top 4 seeds advanced to the main draw. Leonardo Mayer will face Portuguese João Sousa today, Daniel Gimeno-Traver has been drawn against Colombian youngster Alejandro Gonzalez, Radu Albot will face yet another countryman in Victor Hanescu, and Taro Daniel will face Carlos Berlocq for a place in the second round of the Open.
Overall, you could say it’s been a pretty kind draw for the qualifiers and all of them have chances to progress further.
On the women’s side, Alla Kudrayatseva advanced to face the #1 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, Irina-Camelia Begu has been drawn against the Japanese Kurumi Nara, Timea Bacsinszky will face the #3 seed Samantha Stosur and Kristina Mladenovic will face the 8 seed Elena Vesnina.
As far as main draw action is concerned, the favorites prevailed on the men’s side, albeit not without some hiccups. Andrey Golubev and Adrian Mannarino played a very poor match, with unforced errors flying off both players’ rackets at an alarming rate and both players tightening up on key points. Eventually, the favorite prevailed in a match that the 10-20 people who were in the stands will surely not remember fondly. In the other ATP main draw match of the day, Pablo Carreno Busta seemed to be heading to a routine win when he served for the match at 6-1, 5-2 against a very erratic Mikhail Kukshkin, but things nearly went South as the Kazakh managed to take a set to a tiebreaker with a lot of help from PCB. In the end though, last year’s semifinalist superior consistency prevailed for a 6-1 7-6 victory.
On the women’s side, Magdalena Rybarikova won a tight first set against Lucie Safarova only to bizarrely proceed to totally implode and get double bageled for a 6-4, 0-6, 0-6 defeat. Yaroslava Shvedova prevailed in relatively comfortable fashion against Karin Knapp as expected, 6-2, 6-4, while the less successful Radwanska sister fought hard but couldn’t avoid a 10th consecutive defeat at WTA level, this time against Yanina Wickmayer. Home support wasn’t enough to spur Maria João Koehler to an improbable upset as she was routined 6-1, 6-3 by Ons Jabeur.
Finally, in the tightest and most interesting match of the day, Bojana Jovanoski prevailed over Monica Puig 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a match that lasted almost two and a half hours.
Tomorrow, two Portuguese male players will be in action on center court. Rui Machado takes on Dmitry Tursunov, and while the Russian is the obvious favorite, an upset isn’t totally off the cards considering Tursunov’s recent form, which includes a defeat to Inigo Cervantes – a player who was ranked outside the top 500 – in Barcelona. João Sousa, on the other hand, Portugal’s greatest ever player, will start as the favorite against qualifier Leonardo Mayer, but only slightly. Despite their respective rankings, it is clear that Mayer has the better weapons at his disposal and if he is on a good day, Sousa’s participation in his home tournament might be short-lived. Sousa’s own form isn’t encouraging, with consecutive clay losses to Carballes Baena, Fabio Fognini and Marinko Matosevic. He will need all the support he can get from the Portuguese crowd to get through this very tricky first round. The final match on center court between Teymuraz Gabashvili and Lukas Kubot really shouldn’t be much of a contest considering the players’ respective forms and ability to play on clay. Anything other than Gabashvili in 2 sets would be a considerable surprise.
On the secondary courts, some very interesting men’s matches are scheduled. Last week’s Barcelona finalist Santiago Giraldo will be looking to keep his momentum going against the 2009 and 2010 Portugal Open champion Albert Montanes – always a tough foe on clay and especially at the Portugal Open. Form suggests Giraldo, as does the 4-1 H2H in favor of the Colombian (2-1 on clay), but how often have we seen players not being able to follow up a great week?
For Giraldo, reaching the final in Barcelona was the highest point of his career so far and it remains to be seen whether he can back it up.
On court 1, Aleksandr Nedovyesov will face Pablo Cuevas – who, while lower ranked, is the vastly superior player on this surface and emerges as the favorite to progress to the second round. Carlos Berlocq and Taro Daniel will open up the day on court 2. On paper, Berlocq is the favorite, but Daniel has been making fantastic progress so far this season, especially on clay, and this might be another opportunity to make a breakthrough. A solid clay court player like Berlocq is far from an unwinnable proposition for the 21-year-old Japanese. Another match that’s very hard to call between a clay court veteran and a youngster is the one that opposes Daniel Gimeno-Traver to Alejandro Gonzalez; Gonzalez has played some excellent tennis at times this season though, more so than Gimeno-Traver, and this might be another opportunity to make a decent run and keep rising through the ATP rankings.
On court 3, arguably the most uninteresting match of the day will pit Matthew Ebden against Somdev Devvarman, two players who are reknowned for their lack of powerful weapons from the baseline and who are at their worst on clay. While the match is expected to be competitive, people attending the Portugal Open hoping to watch quality clay court tennis will almost surely be better served looking elsewhere.
Finally on court 4, Victor Hanescu will face Radu Albot in an all-Romanian matchup, with Hanescu the overwhelming favorite to book a round 2 date with Pablo Carreno Busta.
On the women’s side, the tournament’s top wild card, Eugenie Bouchard, will get center court honors against Alisa Kleybanova. Unfortunately for the Russian, the fact that her surname sounds like clay hasn’t really helped her develop an effective game on the surface and she shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to the #2 seed. On court 1, seeds Roberta Vinci, Samantha Stosur and Carla Suarez Navarro are overwhelming favorites to advance as the latter two drew qualifiers while Vinci’s opponent Alexandra Cadantu from Romania is ranked well outside the top 50. Kaia Kanepi and Svetlana Kuznetsova enjoy a similar edge over their opponents, Yvonne Meusburger and Shuai Zhang, and the same for Elena Vesnina against qualifier Kristina Mladenovic.
The tightest match of the day on the women’s side on paper will be contested on court 2 between Barbara Zahlavova-Strycova and Romina Oprandi; Zahlavova-Strycova has won both of their past meetings, but they’ve both been close 3-setters and neither on clay. On court 3, Polona Hercog is expected to defeat Stefanie Voegele without much difficulty, while Shuai Peng could very well encounter some problems against Spanish clay specialist Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor. Finally on court 4, Kurumi Nara and Irina-Camelia Begu will contest a match that seems like it could go either way. Slight advantage to the Romanian, who feels more comfortable on a clay court despite being the inferior player overall.