TTI returns to on-site coverage with its first tournament in 2016 – the Open 13 Provence. With a field belying its 250 status, the indoor-event in France’s second biggest city features three Top 10 players, a bunch of promising youngsters and a field of well-known veterans. René Denfeld wraps up the Monday in Marseille.
Acte Une – Qualifications
The list of names in contention for a spot in the main draw had already been whittled down from 16 to eight on Sunday but another four players would face the chop in the final four encounters in qualifying. First up on Centre Court was Julien Benneteau, who received a wildcard into the tournament. The French veteran, who is still coming back from a long injury lay-off, made proper use of it, ousting Tristan Lamasine in straight sets — by frequently exposing the weaker backhand wing of his 22-year-old compatriot.
It was the first of a duo of all-French battles for the remaining tickets into the main draw, with Vincent Millot coming through in the second match against David Guez; Millot dished out a breadstick (or baguette) in the decider and destroying the even-level playing field that had been present for much of the first two sets. Millot will meet yet another Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, in his opening round.
Meanwhile on the smaller Court 1, fellow French lefty Kenny De Schepper prevailed in a tough three-set match against Peter Gojowczyk despite taking a medical timeout early in the third set. The German was able to fend off the first match point, painting the line with an overhead but another unforced error sealed his fate. Gojowczyk lost his serve to get broken for the match and De Schepper became the
Afterwards, Mischa Zverev put on an indoor clinic on Court 1, taking out Marsel Ilhan 6-3, 6-1 in less than 50 minutes. The German landed almost 80 percent of first his first deliveries inside the court and lost a mere six points behind his serve in total, never giving his Turkish opponent a look at a break point. The luck of the draw was kind to the 28 year-old, as he evaded meeting his younger brother Alexander in the first round. The 18-year-old will face Benneteau in a clash of the generations whereas the older of the Zverev brothers will take on Indian wildcard Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Act Deux – Main Draw
Before the opening first round matches between Joao Souza and Robin Haase got underway on Centre Court, Stan Wawrinka sat down with the media for a chat. The Open 13 Provence is the first tournament for the Swiss after his fourth round loss at the hands of Milos Raonic in Melbourne and the 30-year-old is eager to step back into action.
“I came back home [after the Australian] and was a little sick, so I had to take care of that,” Wawrinka said. “Then I had two weeks of fitness preparation — I worked quite a lot fitness wise, so I’m happy to be back, start the competition again and be back in a tournament. It’s one of the best tournaments in the 250 category and the organization is taking good care of us.”
Out on Centre Court, Haase got off to a winning start after losing in the first round of his past three events, taking out Souza 6-4, 6-0. Afterwards Benoit Paire was also looking to snap a losing streak that started in Melbourne. The No. 6 seed eventually prevailed in a tough opener against Simone Bolleli 6-4, 7-5. The second set turned out to be a topsy-turvy affair as the enigmatic Frenchman lost his early break advantage within the blink of an eye and looked to be on the verge of being forced into a third set. A late surge eventually saw Paire through and the 26-year-old was relieved to buck his recent trend of first round losses.
“I’m really happy with the win and how I dealt with things together on court,” Paire said. “When it got difficult, I kept my calm. I hope I’ll continue winning so I can get some more confidence.”
The final match of the night featured one of the up-and-comers of the men’s game, Chung Hyeon and one of the new Top 20 stalwarts, David Goffin. The first eight games of the match were tightly contested and the young South Korean was able to hang with his more experienced opponent; however, when the Belgian broke Chung for 5-3 in the opening set, it felt a little as though the 18-year-old’s resilience was broken and Goffin cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory. However, the scoreline of the match does one of the youngest members of the Top 100 a little bit of a disservice.
“[Chung]’s doing really well for the moment, ” said Goffin post-match. “He’s 18, 19 years old and physically he’s really good. He still has room to improve everything in his game and maybe his serve, he didn’t put a lot of first serves in today but he’s got everything to get to the top. Mentally he’s got the right attitude, so he has to keep going like this. I’m sure in the future he will be a really good player.”
Last year posed a challenge for Goffin in so far as that he had to back up his spectacular rebound from wrist surgery in 2014, when he surged up the rankings from outside the Top 100 into the Top 20. After he confirmed his place in the upper echelons of the tour — what are the Belgians goals for this year?
“I started the year really well with the fourth round at the Aussie Open, [so] of course I have a lot of ambition for this year,” he said. “You never know where you’re gonna be Top 20, Top 30, you never know — but I’ll focus on my game. I think I still have to improve my serve, move forward from the baseline to the net and be aggressive. I think today it was a really good match to start this tournament and in my season, I’ve been really offensive. One of my goals in my career is to be maybe Top 10 and I will give everything to be there but in tennis you never know. I’ve just got to continue improving everything.”
This wraps up Day 1 of our Marseille coverage! A bientót