Singles QF and doubles SF – March 23
My first visit to the Play In Challenger Lille. I know the city a little bit but had never been to this tournament before. Interesting players signed up like Bernard Tomic, Yannick Maden, Tobias Kamke and some talented French youngsters. Unfortunately the local heroes Quentin Halys (2), Corentin Moutet (5) and top seed Nicolas Mahut suffered early exits. Surely that wasn’t a crowd booster.
The Tennis Club Lillois is a beautiful modern venue with many indoor and outdoor courts. Good atmosphere, cheap and good food and easy to reach from the highway. It was a three hour drive but well worth it. French local television interviewed me but I’m not sure they actually aired it.
SF: Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan & Purav Raja (IND/4) def. Luke Bambridge & Joe Salisbury (GBR) 7-6(2), 6-4
First match of the Friday programme. Early bird doubles usually don’t attract a lot of crowd. There were hardly any folks in the stands to witness this one. The seeded Indian couple proved just a notch more solid today than the young Brits in a not so spectacular match.
Both players received wild cards and are young talented French players. Both produced upset wins against seeded countrymen. Janvier (ranked 325) beat Halys (2) and Grenier (ranked 425) beat Moutet (5) in previous rounds.
Maxime is tall and serves hard. One clocked at 222 km/h and he was often in the 205-215 range. His strokes are good (forehand especially) but I found him breathing unusually heavy from the start on. He doesn’t look very quick on his feet but this can be deceptive with big guys. Either way I like his game. Surely Grenier can do better than he did today. He was sloppy and at times agitated. Grenier moved around pretty fast though. The match produced what can be expected from youngsters: wild shots, unforced errors and an occasional winner. They have a long way ahead. A comfortable win for Maxime.
Yannick Maden was the last seed standing in the quarterfinals. Yannick is ranked 137 (one spot above of his all time best). He played his 3rd match this week. David Guez is ranked 301 and it was already his 6th match, battling through three qualifying rounds.
David was nowhere to be seen in the first set. He played disastrous and missed a lot of shots. The skinny Maden moved well. Everything Yannick does looks pretty smooth and simple. David found his rhythm and managed to fight back. Maden should have finished the match earlier but failed to do so. He cleaned up in the tiebreaker though and reached the Play In Challenger semifinals.
Good old Stephane Robert teamed up with Tomasz Bednarek. They were no match to Nys and Pütz however. Pütz’ hard serve proved a great weapon and this definately helped winning this match as the opponents had no answer to Tim’s service games. Tim and Hugo looked like a solid team, communicating and moving well. Doubles as it should be.
Tobias Kamke is a player one would expect higher in the rankings. Even if you didn’t know he was once ranked 64 (2011). Now at 214, Kamke was solid overall and able to step on the gas when needed in the third set. What struck me is that both players only served around 195 km/h and varied a lot. Hoang’s first point was a second serve ace sliced outside. Power is not his strength. Antoine is ranked at a career high 251 and beat Bernard Tomic in round 1. Hoang climbed the ranks steadily but I’m not sure as to how far he can go. He’s got time though at 22 years of age.
Tobias started strong and aggressive. Antoine raised his level, but Tobias helped Antoine in set 2 with some odd mistakes and overly defensive play. Kamke was also agitated by crowd noise and the church bells outside. Tobias seems a perfectionist to me. The hair, his mannerisms on the court and his strokes. It all has to be perfect. A good German quality. Kamke advanced to the Play In Challenger semis.
Guillermo Olaso (ranked 420) slayed the top seed giant Nicolas Mahut. However he clearly did not have the same form tonight. I left the match at 3-0 for the long drive home and in those three games Gregoire Barrere (ranked 406) simply crushed Olaso. Although scores can be deceptive when you don’t see an entire match, this one doesn’t seem to lie. Barrere looks like a dude to watch. He was really impressive in the short time that I got to see him. It was a good day at the Play In Challenger in Lille!