Round 1 – June 9
The 10:30 morning start was perfect given the sweltering conditions later today. However half an hour later the match was over as Jordan Thompson retired. I didn’t see any obvious injury, just the many errors he committed in the first set. Franko Skugor played a decent first set and advanced to round two of the Libema Open qualifying draw.
When I arrived to the match Smith had just won the first set. It was smoking hot on the court. Both players looked frustrated with the ball kids, especially Fratangelo. They did need a lot of guidance from the umpire and slowed down the match. First day of the tournament, they’ll be fine later on!
Fratangelo’s footwork was not up to standards either. He missed several easy shots because of bad movement. Smith is a lefty who has a weird service motion but it works for him. His slice serve outwards suits the grass courts perfectly. Bjorn didn’t give up and raised his level in the second part of the set. Surprisingly he just won one point in the resulting tiebreaker. Chalk one up for babyface JP, who at 29 is actually five years older than Bjorn.
Two lefties battling in this match. Home soil wildcard Niesten is ranked 666 in singles and mainly plays Futures. Chicago native Young is ranked 133 and can do way better than that. Not today though. In fact Donald was yelling and laughing at himself from the start. Indeed his level was very poor, with many unforced errors, some not even close to the lines. At 2-1 he exclaimed: “C’mon D! Let’s play b*tch!”.
But Niesten deserves credit. Some of his family members sat behind me. I heard them talking about the fact that he felt relaxed before the match. It showed, as he played some strong points and was not afraid to attack. It was clear he’s not at a consistent level to be near the top 100 though. At 29, he’s got a mountain to climb. Donald showed flashes of good tennis but not nearly enough. At one point he yelled something like “they say what he’s gonna do but it never happens, it’s just always the same”. Perhaps implicating he expected a different game from Niesten. Frustrated with mostly himself, unfortunately Donald sounded more of a rapper than a tennis player.
Australia is home to quite a lot of young pro tennis players at the moment and Max Purcell (20) from Sydney is one of them. I caught the start of this match and may have witnessed a “fastest-to-3-foot-faults” record by Bradley Klahn, a strong built American lefty trying to get back into the top 100. Bradley collected three errors within like five minutes. To his own disbelief he asked the ref: “Again?” I believe I saw many more foot faults around the courts today which linesmen were not calling. Purcell apparently didn’t waste any time advancing to the next round of Libema Open qualifying.
Match of the day (in hindsight) and another lefty vs righty affair. Wildcard and local hero Van de Zandschulp is ranked just inside the top 500 (495), Australian Alex Bolt is the lefty and found at 179. Bolt played well early. He hit good serves and deep returns and has a whopper forehand. The passionate Bolt lead a set and a break after dominating with solid tennis, but Van de Zandschulp did not let go. Botic took a very close set home 7-5 after two breaks.
The match stayed close and serve was broken often. After losing beautiful shot exchanges, Alex complimented Botic by saying “too good!” a couple of times, winning the sympathy of the crowd with sportsmanship. A tiebreaker needed to decide the winner. Bolt was just a notch more effective and converted an early mini break into a win. Unfortunately for Botic, another home soil qualifying loss after Rotterdam in February. The umpire may have been fine with that, as he could not properly pronounce “Van de Zandschulp” once.
Caught the final couple of games and the tiebreaker of this match at court 1. The mid day heat was serious. An always entertaining Dustin Brown was beaten by Bernard Tomic. Dustin fired some rocket serves at Bernard but it didn’t matter in the end. ‘Bernie’ was ranked 17 two years ago and grass is his favourite surface. I noticed that the players used Ricoh Open balls (last year’s title sponsor). There were probably some balls left from the previous edition. In the main draw players get to play with the official Slazenger Wimbledon balls so they can get used to them.
Final match of the day in the men’s draw of the Libema Open qualifying. Tim has been to top 100-country and is still close to it at 118. The big Spaniard is just 21 years old and I was curious to see him play. He is now at his highest ever ranking at 253. Bernabe has a big serve and a sort of ‘free swinger’ forehand. It is accompanied by a “double grunt”. One during the shot and one shortly after, probably to distract his opponent. Tim returned well though and did not look impressed.
The tiebreaker was one these where you had no clue of who would win it. Turned out Tim was the more solid guy. He hit some great shots in the second set (backhand mainly) and seized control. Bernabe probably doesn’t fancy the grass as much, his movement looks somewhat unnatural on it. He has an impressive physical presence though for such a young man. I wonder how far he can get! As for Tim, rock solid performance.