Round 1 – June 8
When I learned that 17 year old talent Jannik Sinner was admitted into the qualifying draw, it was an easy decision to sit at court 3 for the 11:05 AM start. Where last year the heat was sweltering and the slightest breeze would be welcome, today the sky was mostly grey and the wind pounded the courts, with nasty gusts affecting play considerably. Some rain was forecasted in the next four hours and I anticipated some delays.
Both players were pretty much equally matched as the tiebreak scores suggest but both had their fair share of unconverted breakpoints. I was impressed with Sinner’s strokes, especially his double-handed backhand. He can hit them nicely in a pretty low stance. Sinner’s serve is decent which could not be said from Lacko’s in the third set. Lukas lost his mojo and double-faulted on a key moment to give Jannik a break. Sinner didn’t really show a lot of obvious emotion but celebrated discretely between points. At times erratic like most very young players, Jannik looks more calm and balanced than other teenage players I’ve seen. He moves around the court well too. A bright future lies ahead for the young Italian. See photos and a video of Jannik Sinner versus Lukas Lacko in the gallery.
I quickly sneaked out of the Sinner-Lacko match after set 1 to catch a few games from this match, while checking the live scores. Finnish wildcard talent Ruusuvuori (world ranking 404) had won the first set of the 308 places higher ranked Fabbiano. I just had to catch a glimpse of Emil’s game. He struck me as tall yet flexible. It appeared Thomas was changing the match around. He succesfully kept Emil deep into the court with mid-high topspin balls. It didn’t really look like grass court tennis but how should that be defined nowadays? Fabbiano was the more solid player in the uneventful one set and a bit that I witnessed. Time to quickly get back to Sinner-Lacko. See photos of the Fabbiano vs Ruusuvuori match in the gallery.
The expected rain started exactly when Jannik Sinner converted his match point. Giron had won the first set of this confrontation and when play resumed some hour and a bit later, the court basked in the sun. Or so it seemed. When the court was declared dry, the wind brought more dark clouds and a small drizzle started. The Italian referee smilingly exclaimed one of the worst Italian cursewords which I shall not translate. But this time the sun returned quickly. Just before the Giron and Jung rejoined the court, the referee joked around with Fernando Verdasco (passing on his way to a training court) in surprisingly perfect Spanish. According to the ref, Fernando spends more time on the road with him than with his wife.
When Marcos Giron and Jason Jung (or ‘Jay’ as his support crew called him) resumed play, the wind still played a vital role. The players repeatedly had to abort their serve toss and the ref was easy on them concerning the serve clock. Jung fought his way in the second set and took it after some bad shots by the strong built Californian Giron. It was a sloppy match with many unforced errors and quick momentum switches. In the end Jung faulted a bit more than Giron on deciding points and the American advanced to Q2. See photos of this match here.
The tall Belarusian took on the dynamic American. Both players have huge serves in contrasting styles. Paul’s is very intense where Gerasimov’s is more smooth. Tommy’s style and movement are funny to watch. A bit comparable to Frances Tiafoe. Paul’s forehand is big and he employs a technique that strikes me instantly as ‘typical American’, holding the racquet flat and with a short swing. Both players were vocal on missed occasions or – in their view – wrong calls. Early in set two, the match was briefly suspended for a short drizzle that lasted just a couple of minutes.
Tommy stayed the dominant and more steady player and Egor had trouble breaking ‘TP’. Paul’s style is sometimes wild but fun to watch. Despite many errors, the match was fun to watch and Tommy Paul surprisingly pulled a rabbit from Michael Chang’s hat, serving underhanded at game point to lead 3-0 in the second set. Gerasimov, clearly surprised, missed the return and Paul won the game. I actually filmed that service game by chance. Apparently Nick Kyrgios is not the only one to use it from time to time. Photos of the match are in the gallery.
Battle of two lefties. Last year Bradley Klahn lost quickly in Q1. It didn’t look like a repeat in the first set this time. Klahn dominated the first set and served well. Arnaboldi got frustrated over some calls. Both players have big forehands which they used a lot. In the second set, suddenly Klahn got trouble on his serve and many breaks followed. He argued one call on the baseline with the Italian umpire saying “Are you kidding me? I got three people over here [his support team] telling me it’s way out.” To no avail. The second set was exciting with many entertaining rallies, volleys, passing shots and a lot – a whole lot – of slice backhand exchanges and deep, big forehand shots. More regular backhands may actually have been hit in the warm-up.
Slowly, Arnaboldi started to push Klahn’s game into a swamp. After a baseline call in the third set Bradley exclaimed “I give you the other one, I might’ve been wrong on that other call but this one is wide like this [gestures]”. Again it didn’t help. The wheels came off of Klahn’s game and Arnaboldi secured a quite surprising win in the end. As the sun sunk behind the trees, they couldn’t have timed it better. Time to go home. See pictures of this match here.