Singles QF and Doubles SF – October 20, 2017
My first time at the European Open Tennis Antwerp in Belgium. It was about a 2,5 hour drive to the Lotto Arena in the outskirts of the city. I sat courtside as these tickets were pretty cheap. The action kicked off at noon with a semifinals doubles match and I was surprised to see hardly anyone in the arena. Even when home favourites Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin played, there still weren’t a lot of people watching. The matches were good fun though and made up for the lack of atmosphere.
Financial commitment: EUR 589.185
SF: Scott Lipsky & Divij Sharan (USA/IND) def. Ivan Dodig & Marcel Granollers (CRO/SPA/2) 0-6, 6-4, 10-5
On an almost empty centre court at 12:00 o’clock, Scott Lipsky and Divij Sharan ruined their first set against the favourite second seeds. They made silly mistakes on crucial points. In the second set they were much better and they kind of surprised Dodig/Granollers by taking over control. It was an ugly match without much of the spectacular play you expect from doubles matches. It doesn’t matter how you win them though. Lipsky and Sharan went on to win the European Open Tennis Antwerp. In all of their matches they needed a Champions tie-break to decide the match. And won it each time. That’s pretty.
Great 2+ hour battle between the home favourite Ruben Bemelmans and Joao Sousa. I had never seen Sousa live but he has a very aggressive style, intense mannerisms and verbal presence on the court. He started well and I enjoyed his game. Bemelmans didn’t give up though. There were many good rallies in the second set. Ruben took the tiebreaker after Joao lost his mojo and became more erratic.
The crowd got going and Sousa was visibly upset with himself and the Foxtenn hawkeye system. It has to be said that this new system was often very slow showing the results of a challenge. This was also the case in the other matches. Some ladies with Portuguese flags couldn’t help Sousa from losing the match. Joao hit too many unforced errors in the large amount of deuce games and break points. Ruben reached his first semifinal ever in an ATP-event. It’s always nice to be a witness when players experience such special moments.
A result one might expect but Benneteau gave Tsonga a good run for his money in the first set. Julien hit some nice backhands and managed to hang in the rallies. Tsonga was not happy with his game early on, which was clearly audible from his comments on the court. He missed some easy shots and looked flat at times. However Julien couldn’t punish him come crunch time.
Benneteau didn’t keep up with the pace in the second set when Tsonga picked up his level a bit. Jo-Wilfried is a popular player everywhere he plays and he successfully embodied that image in this match, firing up the crowd after a nifty exchange of shots at the net. Solid win for Tsonga.
After the match Tsonga was asked what he thought of the crowd. Which was kind of an awkward question as there weren’t many people in the arena at all. He kindly replied that the crowd was good when obviously it wasn’t. In fact I’ve never seen such a small crowd for an ATP quarter final match.
Wow, what a spectacular match! I got to see Stefanos Tsitsipas in action live for the first time and was looking forward to see his game. And he didn’t let the crowd down. Although it didn’t look that way in the first set, where Goffin was far superior and had Stefanos running all over the court, breathing heavy between points. Tsitsipas tried to gain some time between points and got a time violation warning for it. He also had an issue with a shoe and had it replaced.
Stefanos is a raw talent. His one-handed backhand is amazing and his forehand looks solid. He hits both pretty hard and flat. Tsitsipas has a decent 200 km/h first-serve speed but somehow his service movement looks kind of risky and I didn’t see a lot of spin on it. But this kid takes chances and is not afraid to play.
At one point in the match, Goffin got a serve whacked back at him by an amazingly hard and deep Tsitsipas forehand return. Standing a few feet from where I sat, I could see the little grin on Goffin’s face, which betrayed appreciation and awe. David enjoyed that shot even though he lost the point.
Stefanos started to play better in the second set and forced Goffin to a tie-break which he stunningly won quite easily. I was afraid that Tsitsipas’s energy level would drop but it was Goffin who increasingly looked flat. But both fought hard and produced some great shots from time to time.
Tsitsipas tore the shoelace of his already replaced shoe and needed one from his dad and coach Apostolos, who was glad to help his son continue his quest for a first win over a top-10 player. The battle continued and Goffin was in no mood to give in. Tsitsipas lost his temper after a missed serve. He angrily hit a ball into the upper deck and admitted in the post-match interview he felt the stress of the occasion. The third set ended in a close tie-breaker but Tsitsipas held his nerves for a historic win.
The match started late and I saw it until the first break by Schwartzman in the second set. It was pretty much the baseline battle you would expect from both. Diego is a small dude but his game is big. He produced deep and powerful strokes that hardly left room to counter attack. Ferrer is still going strong but he couldn’t break a hole in Schwartzman’s solid wall. In the end, the first set was quite close and Diego took it. Time for me to prepare for the journey home before public transportation services closed for the night. The European Open Tennis Antwerp was an enjoyable tournament but I was surprised with the general lack of interest.