First Ball In, 7/14: Generation Next

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 /by

Cars could be casualties in Hamburg someday, but the port city embraced a youthful rush hour today.

Seventeen-year-old German wild card Alexander Zverev dismissed Dutchman Robin Haase, 6-0, 6-2, in just 58 minutes to earn his first career ATP victory in his hometown tournament. Zverev is the youngest man to win an ATP 500-level match since a 17-year-old Grigor Dimitrov upset Tomas Berdych at the 2009 Rotterdam tournament.

“I had the feeling that the crowd was behind me," Zverev, who faces No. 5 seed Mikhail Youzhny next, told ATPWorldTour.com. “He played well in the second set, but once I got the break I played better.”

The 2013 junior world No. 1 opened the year winning the Australian Open boys' title. Zverev has accelerated through the learning curve, defeating Andrey Golubev and Paul-Henri Mathieu to claim his first career Challenger title on clay in Braunschweig earlier this month. He followed it up reaching the doubles semifinals in Stuttgart last week.

While Zverev took the energy-efficient route into round two, Dominic Thiem took a two hour, 28-minute trek into the round of 16. The 20-year-old Austrian withstood a match point and fought back from 3-5 down in the decider, attacking the ball and winning four straight games to dispatch eighth-seeded Marcel Granollers, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. It was Thiem's second win over the Spaniard this season and his third win over a Top 30 player this season; he surprised world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in Madrid after beating No. 23 Gilles Simon at Indian Wells.

Both Zverev and Thiem are the sons of coaches. It shows in their details: Attention to footwork, striking on balance and playing the score to pressure the opponent. Zverev's older brother, Mischa, reached five quarterfinals and a career-high ranking of No. 45 in 2009. The brothers actually faced off in Houston qualifying in April with Mischa holding a 7-5, 4-6, 3-2 lead when Alexander, then ranked No. 822, retired.

The two youngest men in the field both exhibited drive today, but both must get stronger to continue the climb.

"It's tough. I expected it would be tough," Thiem said about life on the circuit. "All of the players are quite on the edge physically and mentally. The traveling soaks out the energy from you so you have to regenerate a lot. Also the time at home it's very important these few days to give your body back all the energy. But I think if you make good plans you can make it."

Photo credit: Tennis Championships am Rothenbaum Facebook

*****

Bounced in Bastad

Seeds bit the dust in Bastad today. Four seeds—No. 1 Alize Cornet, No. 4 Yaroslava Shvedova, No. 5 Anna Schmiedlova, and No. 8 Polona Hercog—were bounced out in the opening round.  Sixth-seeded German Annika Beck is the only seed still standing in the top half of the draw.

While seeds were sent packing, Estonians excelled. Qualifier Anett Kontaveit exploited 13 double faults from Cornet to earn her first career WTA victory and make history in the process. Cornet's 7-6 (3), 6-3 defeat marked the first time in tournament history a top seed lost in the first round.

Kontaveit's Estonian compatriot, Kaia Kanepi, was down a double break at 5-2 in the decider when she ran off five straight games to dispatch two-time Swedish Open finalist Johanna Larsson, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. Kanepi, who collected an ITF title on clay in France last week, has won 10 of her last 11 matches—after starting this month with just 10 wins all season. Watch world No. 161 Kontaveit's delighted reaction to her upset here:

Photo credit: Swedish Open Tennis Facebook

*****

OOP Analysis

See Wednesday’s Order of Play for Bastad and Istanbul here, and for Bogota and Hamburg here.

Bastad

(6) Annika Beck vs. Lara Arruaberrena: They squared off last week, with the 120th-ranked Spaniard rallying for a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Beck in Bucharest. Beck will want to forget the 15 double faults she clanked in that match; Arruaberrena will try to attack the German's second serve. She won 28 of 39 points played on Beck's second serve in her comeback victory.

Istanbul

Francesca Schiavone vs. (7) Bojana Jovanovski: The flatter-hitting Serbian will try to stretch the 2010 Roland Garros champion in cross-court rallies and beat her down the line. Schiavone once described her game as "like Capricciosa pizza" and her ability to create acute angles, mix her heavy, topspin with the low slice and close at net give her the ingredients to displace Jovanovski—if she can avoid playing off her back foot. The 34-year-old Italian has won back-to-back main-draw matches just once all season, beating Eugenie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza to reach the Rome round of 16.

Hamburg

(4) Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Jerzy Janowicz: Shotmakers with a shared devotion for the drop shot meet for the second time this year. Dolgopolov controlled rallies with his cross-court forehand and did not face a break point dismissing Janowicz in 57 minutes on hard court in Sydney last January. Both should be highly motivated. Janowicz, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year and inspired a hip hop mix of his "How Many Times!" Australian Open rant, retired with a left foot injury in suffering his ninth opening-round exit in Bastad last week. Rio runner-up Dolgo is 2-5 in his last seven clay-court matches and will want a quick start: He is 21-2 when winning the first set this season.

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