With another week of European clay court tennis happening this week, there are also two hard court tournaments in Nanchang, CHN, and Atlanta, GA, as well. Rain halted first round play in Bastad, SWE, for the women; last week the ATP Tour had a stop here. Second seed Anastasija Sevastova, who went out in the quarterfinals of Bucharest, ROU, last week managed to get her match in before the rain took over. Taking on Anna Blinkova, ranked 115, Sevastova actually came in with a losing record against the young Russian. However, playing with more experience and confidence now, Sevastova came out strong and never looked back. In her 6-3, 6-1 victory, Sevastova won 69% on first serve points, and was also aided by nine double faults from Blinkova. The other match that was completed today included former top 10 player Sara Errani and up and coming player, Tamara Korpatsch. After a heavily contested first set, Errani winning it in a tiebreak 13-11, rain delayed play for some time. After the rain delay, Errani found another level, and easily won the second set 6-2. Errani’s game is built for the slow, red clay. Her topspin forehand and high first serve percentage make her a dangerous competitor on the clay no matter what rank she holds.
Plenty of first round matches were completed in the extremely hot Nanchang; play does not even begin until 5:00 p.m. there. Lots of Asian players come to this tournament not only for its location, but also because it offers valuable ranking points and prize money that are up for grabs since big name players usually stay away (the jet lag from this tournament back to the States for the U.S. Open series would be a big obstacle). Second seed Peng Shuai had to really dig deep for her second round place. Taking on Kurumi Nara of Japan, Peng battled for nearly three hours in the heat, eventually scraping out a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory. This match had so many breaks. Nara broke Peng 8 out of 18 times, and Peng broke Nara 10 out of 21 times. If Peng wants to win her second WTA title here, she’s is going to need to step up her game. Other notable wins include: fourth seed Wang Qiang taking out qualifier Harriet Dart 6-4, 6-1; Taiwanese doubles star Hsieh Su-Wei holding off Gao Xinyu 6-3, 7-6(7-4); Japanese qualifier Eri Hozumi upsetting seventh seed Zheng Saisai 2-6, 6-2, 6-0; and big serving Liu Fangzhou, who hit seven aces in her 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over fellow Chinese You Xiaodi.
With the defending champion not in the draw, the tournament in Hamburg, GER will have a new champion this year. That champion could be fourth seed Gilles Simon. A former top 10 player, Simon took on wildcard Maximillian Marterer. In a match lasting two hours, Simon won 73% on first serve points despite only getting 53% of first serves in. On the other hand, Marterer got 66% of first serves in, but only won 61% of those points. Simon’s play on break point opportunities was also better, winning 5 out of 10; Marterer set up only five break point opportunities, but broke three times. This match was very see-saw, but with Simon’s mental game being very strong, he held off the German world No. 121, winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. The other two seeds that played today, fifth seed Benoit Paire and sixth seed Diego Schwartzman both won in straight sets. Paire took out Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 6-2, while Schwartzman won by the reverse score, 6-2, 6-3 over Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Rain affected play in Atlanta as well. So far, only one match has been completed. The No.4 seeds in doubles Purav Raja and Divij Sharan defeated Treat Huey and Robert Lindstedt 7-6(7-2), 6-7(2-7), 10-4. Over in Gstaad, SUI, no seeded players took the courts, but Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan won his match over qualifier Lorenzo Giustino of Italy 6-3, 6-2. Istomin knocked out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the second round of this year’s Australian Open. Swiss wildcard Antoine Bellier unfortunately lost today to qualifier Gleb Sakharov 6-3, 7-6(10-8). The young Swiss offered up too many break point opportunities and did not return well today. But it is always interesting to see how wildcards do at tournaments. The tournament director gives the wildcards to either local or native players, or talented youths that the world wants to see play.
Hope you all are staying cool. Let’s also hope the rain holds off tomorrow in Bastad and Atlanta. Until then, bye!