Round 1 – February 13, 2018
What a thriller this turned out to be! Not bad for an 11am match to start the day on centre court. Karen’s serve put a lot of pressure on Philipp in the first set and Philipp barely had an answer. He grinded back into the match and surely but slowly managed to find a good rhythm. Philipp limited his errors and survived the must-win tiebreak surprisingly easy. Karen couldn’t shake Philipp off who kept chasing in the third set and eventually struck again in the tie-break.
It was nice to see Daniil in the main draw after he cruised through qualifying. This match had a crazy amount of deuce situations, I can’t remember seeing anything like it. Gilles struggled and was sloppy at times. One of those matches where limiting mistakes prevailed over hitting winners.
Daniil was distracted twice by people coughing in the crowd before serving. Indeed an unusual amount of people were coughing, resulting in Daniil shouting ‘Everyone is sick here!’. The ref also chimed in, advising a lady to drink some water. Solid performance by Daniil who took the close tiebreaker to seal the deal.
Rock solid David Goffin showed immediately who’s boss. Nicolas Mahut was the ‘Lucky Loser’ stand-in for Benoit Paire who retired pre-match. Goffin had no trouble adjusting though. Nico found his rhythm only early in the second set with some beautiful volleys and strokes. I saw him in Paris in November 2017 where he beat Carreno Busta. Nico’s singles game is decent but nearly not good enough to beat David today. David stepped on the gas whenever he needed and got the expected win.
Middelkoop/Haase had won two doubles tournaments already early in the year and are a good team. Clearly the favourites, they did what they had to do against Timmermans/Smit, who qualified for the Wild Card as “Supermatch” winners. The Supermatch is a tournament where the best national club duos get a chance to qualify for the main event in Rotterdam. An entertaining end to the day session.
First evening match and a match with two stories. Tallon Griekspoor is a 21-year old Dutch young gun ranked 259 in the world going in to this match. ‘Stan the man’ is returning from injury woes and if a stunt was ever possible for Griekspoor, it would be tonight. However that’s easily said post-match as nobody obviously counted on it.
Tallon started the biggest match of his career kind of shaky and Stan held serve quite easily. However it was obvious that Stan needs to get fitter as he moved slow at times and made more unforced errors. Tallon gained confidence, hit some good shots and was boosted by the crowd. For a moment he almost ruined his lead serving for the match, but in the end he finished in style with an ace and completed the stunt.
Evening session closer and the match I looked forward to: the debut of Felix Auger-Aliassime on the ATP Tour main draw stage. Just 17, the Canadian played Filip Krajinovic, a Paris Rolex Masters 1000 finalist last year.
It was an amazing match with everything one can expect from a youngster: fearless shots, at times erratic and early nerves. Felix has a huge forehand, solid double-handed backhand and the usual 200 km/h serve that most ‘NextGen’ players already have. Felix is a rough diamond and his game reminds me of Alexander Zverev a few years ago. He hit some amazing winners followed by unforced errors.
Felix has a calm demeanour and opened the match with a 199 km/h ace. Filip’s level went up and down but he too produced some gorgeous winners at times. He worked hard to come back after serious injury. I’ve seen him twice now (both victorious) and Filip is no fluke.
Felix saved three breakpoints in the third set, one with a winner, a 203 km/h ace down the middle and a 205 km/h ace outward. Krajinovic however took home the clutch points and a thriller win. An amazing match and I hope to see them again.
Round 1 & 2 – February 14, 2018