After a weekend full of qualifying action, the main draw got underway in Halle with a packed schedule. There were plenty of matches and activities both on- and off-site on the first day of the main draw at the Gerry Weber Open.
Play began on centre court with Germany’s Florian Mayer defeating compatriot Jan Lennard-Struff in a fairly up-and-down match, as the two traded semi-blowouts in the first two sets. It was the veteran Mayer, who entered with a protected ranking, who got the job done even if it needed a tiebreak in the decider — 6-2, 0-6, 7-6(4)
At the same time, Donald Young and Borna Coric took up their first round encounter in the shadow of Centre Court. Both men had opportunities to break but it was the young Croatian who stroke first and held on to his service game to clinch the opener. In the second set, Young continued to let opportunities go by and also became increasingly rattled with some very close line calls but eventually seized his sixth break point of the set to open up a lead and carry it through to force a decider.
The final set saw the momentum shift back-and-forth several times with both players increasingly fired up; there was plenty of “Ajde”-ing, “Let’s go, D!” and very demonstrative fist-pumping. Coric quickly opened up a 3-0* lead and looked poised to go up the double break but the American was able to close back in. In the end the Croat’s consistency and depth, particularly off of the backhand, played a massive part in his first ATP main draw grass court victory — and he was pretty pumped about it.
The good day for the German players continued with young gun Alexander Zverev and grass court connoisseur Dustin Brown scoring straight set wins over Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen and Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer, respectively. After his match, Zverev was pretty happy to get another win under his belt, especially since it’s his first summer playing the ATP grass events.
“It was my first match here today,” Zverev said. “I think I got into the match okay, played and served pretty well, too. I’m just happy to win against a player like Jarkko and make it into the second round.”
The young German was also asked to compare the conditions and courts between Stuttgart — where he played last week — and Halle.
“Stuttgart was a lot more solid,” he said. “It was a little like a hard court, really — and it was more difficult to return in altitude. Both are beautiful grass courts, obviously, but I think Halle just notches it up a little.”
Brown was not only happy about his first round win here in Halle but was also pretty relieved about his appeal with regards to his Davis Cup appeal going through. During Roland Garros, the ITF announced that Brown will be allowed to represent Germany in the team competition, despite a clerical error on the part of the Deutscher Tennis Bund and Brown’s having previously represented Jamaica.
“I’m happy that it came through,” he said. “I think on my end, I did everything I was supposed to do in time to be able to be eligible. Because of a minor error, it cost me my Davis Cup debut and I hope that sometime soon in the future I’ll have a chance to play.”
After the official tournament opening ceremony, Roger Federer and Philipp Kohlschreiber contested the most anticipated match of the day. Federer was already aware of just the difficult the opening round would be — but it was a lot closer than the Swiss World No. 2 wanted it to be. Federer won the opening set by the slimmest of margins in the tiebreaker at 10-8; for the duration, both men played solid tennis and had set points in the opener.
While Federer is usually knows for his swift and efficient movement across the grass, he ended up slipping on several occasions today.
“It’s also the first day [of the week], in previous years I sometimes play on the Thursday,” Federer said. “It does make a difference, I admit. And also the court feels a bit different this year. Today, I slipped probably as much as I will during the entire grass court season and it takes you by surprise.”
In the second set, the No. 1 seed had a longer discussion with chair umpire Cedric Mourier over a late challenge by his opponent and his level proceeded to drop in the later stages. Facing break point, Federer sent a forehand volley long to give the break to Kohlschreiber and the German held serve to take the second set, 6-3.
“In that short phase, I was very disappointed with the umpire and then I told myself I didn’t come here to argue with the umpire,” Federer said. “I came here to play tennis. Hence, I tried to focus on what’s important, maybe a little too late but at the same time Philipp played really well during those moments. From my point of view the match was difficult — I got the impression that he had a better feeling on court that I did. He might’ve had the edge from the baseline but I might’ve had it with the first serve, particularly with the first serve — I think I served over 70 percent, which is really high and the longer the match went on the better I served.”
Kohlschreiber had chances to break the Swiss in the decider and led 5-3 in the tiebreak but the final four points went Federer’s way. The German felt he played a good match but was understandably disappointed with the result.
“I had my chances but I think at the end we both played very good level on both sides, in the crucial moments, he made the better decisions in this case,” he said. “Of course, it’s sad or tough to lose a match like this.”
Away from the courts, earlier in the morning, Tommy Haas visited the children’s hospital in Bethel, Bielefeld, continuing the long-standing tradition of having one of the players sign autographs for the children and hand over a donation from the Gerry Weber Open to the hospital.The 37 year-old will be one of the players in action on Centre Court tomorrow, along with Top 10 players Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych as well as crowd favorite Gael Monfils.
Until tomorrow — auf wiedersehen!