Round 1 – August 11, 2018
The first match of the Stadtwerke Meerbusch Open qualifying rounds was played on “Yonex Court”, the showcourt in front of the clubhouse at 10am. It was a lovely partly cloudy but warm and windy day. This all-Russian encounter started terrible for Tyurnev (ranked 418), who played horribly early on. Evgeny quickly lost the first set to Slobodchikov, ranked 545. The second set was closer than the score suggested. Both players won some good rallies but it was a match of errors overall.
The ball kids made quite some errors too. Their level was far below standard the entire day. As if they had received no training at all (I arrived when they were actually receiving instructions). The referees needed to guide most of them at almost every point, sometimes shaking their head in desperation. This considerably slowed down all matches. Some kids were acting as linesmen. It’s not fun to say but this is unacceptable in a professional tennis tournament. Would you like to have unexperienced kids in your office making income-related decisions?!
Back to the match where Slobodchikov lost control over Tyurnev and himself. Ronald received a time violation which, in his defense, came out of nowhere and was unnecessary. Slobodchikov made too big of a deal out of it though, exclaiming “Is it because it’s just qualifying? So it doesn’t matter?” and started a discussion with the otherwise reasonable referee. Tyurnev started to serve better and broke serve a couple of times to win the set. He copy-pasted the second set to the scoreboard and won a sloppy match.
Surprised that this match was still going on, I arrived on a virtually empty court 6, behind centre court. For this tournament the court is named “GWS Grandstand”. Must be the first grandstand without seats I’ve ever seen! The third set was about to start and both players forced breaks. Alen came back from behind and clinched a clutch 7-5 third set.
Vit looked the more solid player at the start of the final set and honestly I wasn’t convinced at all that Alen could come back, yet he did. It was nice to see him again after he lost in Scheveningen Q1 earlier this summer. I also enjoyed seeing another player I had never heard of in Vit Kopriva (ranked 568). Vit has a funny serve motion where he lifts the racquet above his head first, then proceeds with the toss. Whatever works! Alen Avidbza advances to rund two of the Stadtwerke Meerbusch Open qualifying.
A lefty versus righty battle between two youngsters. The lefty is Yshai Oliel, an 18 year old Israeli ranked 586. The righty is local 17 year old junior Henri Squire, ranked 1332. His only ATP appearances so far have been in Germany, the last time also in Meerbusch in 2017, losing in R1 as a main draw wildcard.
Oliel has seen recent successes in Futures, but in Challengers he has not reached a single main draw this year yet. Today he set another first step, beating Squire with solid deep topspin strokes. The youngest of the two millennials shouted ‘das ist doch nicht normal!’ (that’s not normal) after some missed shots. Very polite compared to some of the profanity I’ve heard on the courts today. Yshai Oliel was clearly the better player today. Good to see two youngsters get a chance to compete in Stadtwerke Meerbusch Open qualifying. I’m curious as to how they will develop on the Tour.
The first of two Dutch-French encounters today. Jelle Sels (ranked 368) demolished Corentin Denolly (ranked 504) in one hour and one minute. Dominant all the time, Sels had Denolly under control throughout the match. Corentin served some double faults at crucial moments and Jelle rarely made mistakes.
Solid win for Jelle, who celebrated his 23rd birthday the day before and took on the Stadtwerke Meerbusch Open qualifying challenge with his fellow Dutch pro Gijs Brouwer. Jelle has made good progress in the rankings and is one spot away from his all time high rank of 367. Later that day coincidentally we chatted a bit about his life on the tour whilst we were rooting for Gijs Brouwer to win. The guys couldn’t afford to bring their coach with them on trips like these (only in larger groups) because it’s tough to cover the costs. Jelle explained you need to get deep in Futures (SF or F) and play out-of-ITF/ATP tour money tournaments in Germany or France to earn something extra. I hope Jell will continue to play well and rise in the rankings!
I went back to the lovely Yonex Court in front of the clubhouse to get ready for the next Dutch-French match-up, when I found out Chazal and Pena Lopez had not finished the second set yet. So I got to see a good deal of this almost 2,5 hour match. I had never heard of the Argentine Manuel Pena Lopez (ranked 519). He played long stretches of consecutive events in India and Uzbekistan this year and more recently in Austria and now in Germany.
Maxime Chazal is ranked 643 and plays almost only clay court events. Both players actually have a typical clay court game. There were some entertaining long rallies and in the end Maxime had the edge over Manuel in the final set.
Second Dutch-French match today and a very entertaining one. Tristan Lamasine (ranked 351) had the edge early on and hit some great shots, landing several balls on the baseline and showing good court movement. Gijs Brouwer (ranked 467) was sloppy and passive on the many breakpoint opportunities and couldn’t convert them. Also, Lamasine hit some miracle shots to save him from further trouble. The lefty Brouwer became frustrated but still showed flashes of brilliance. He kind of matches the profile of ‘mentally unstable genius lefty’.
Gijs’ ability to hit amazing shots though are crystal clear as he initiated a comeback in the second set just in time. He trailed 4-2 but managed to win the set 6-4. Lamasine though staid calm and Brouwer didn’t. Jelle Sels and I had been rooting for Gijs all match. We also laughed at some of his comments about bad bounces, which he did get on crucial moments. It has to be said the court was not in brilliant condition but it is not an excuse. At some point after Tristan hit yet another ball on the line to save a breakpoint, Gijs loudly exclaimed: ‘This man has so **** much luck on breakpoints it is unheard of’.
Lamasine dominated the third set. Brouwer hit some amazing balls but couldn’t keep up the consistency. Tristan won the third set 6-1 and showed some skillful tennis. It was time for the Dutchies to go to their hotel after a long day of waiting and intense tennis.
The first time I’ve heard anybody say to a player “you did 100% better than you aimed for!” after that player lost 6-0, 6-2. In fact, it was the mother of Roman Warias, a German wildcard who played his first (and last) ever match on ATP level. Roman won a tournament where the prize was 100 euros and a wildcard for the Meerbusch qualifying round. He said after the match that he was happy with his level and that his aim was to win one game off of an ATP pro such as Alexandre Muller (ranked 404, career high 302 in July 2017).
Roman has a full time office job and according to his dad didn’t train much due to a lack lot of time. The difference between both players was the tempo, physical fitness and amount of unforced errors (Muller made very few). The opening game took a while after many deuce situations. According to Warias that kind of ruined his chances in the games thereafter since he is not as fit as the pros. When Roman won his first game in the second set, he smiled and cheers came from the terrace of Yonex court. Sometimes the story is better than the match itself! Easy hour for Alexandre Muller, who is an impressive athletic presence on the court.
Final match of the day as the sun slowly sank behind the trees. A three set match would’ve been suspended due to darkness for sure. At well over 9 pm, Mathias Bourgue (ranked 321) claimed a straight sets victory over former top 50 player Teymuraz Gabashvili (now ranked 451).
A close encounter with tough rallies with neither player being very dominant. Gabashvili had trouble serving in the first set and needed treatment on his elbow. He also seemed to have some pain in his wrist. Bourgue didn’t play very spectacular but held serve when he needed the most. Neither player dictated the pace which resulted in a close match.
Late in the second set, a weird moment happened when the referee stopped a rally and said “correction, ball was good, replay the point”. Both players were confused, especially Gabashvili who was serving and in trouble. It appears one of the lineskids had stretched his arm to signify a ball down the line being out but the call wasn’t heard nor seen by either player. They hit two more balls when the referee ended the point. However when asked by Teymuraz, the referee wouldn’t check whether the call was correct because he didn’t have the mark. Gabashvili pointed the mark out but the referee wouldn’t come down the chair. The supervisor was told in perfect Spanish by Gabashvili what was going on but the supervisor wouldn’t oblige. In the end the referee said ‘come on Teymuraz, let’s play’ to calm down the situation and the match continued. It was a happy ending for Bourgue, who surely didn’t want a third set being played the next day.