BARCELONA, April 24, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Tuesday was a packed day at the 2019 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell with the gentle sway of the opening day, giving way to the hustle and bustle that mark the middle of an event. Keeping in line with the theme of the busy schedule, the weather, too, decided to make itself known with rain, delaying start of proceedings before the sun shone bright – marking festivities of St. George’s Day (el día de Sant Jordi).
On the courts, the last remaining first round matches were played along with a few second round encounters, with tournament favourites both winning and losing some.
The biggest upset of the day was that of the second seed Alexander Zverev, who crashed out to lucky loser Nicolas Jarry 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5). The World No. 3 pocketed the first set and looked set to clinch an easy win but the Chilean turned it around. The deciding set was a rough ride with Zverev slumping down two early breaks before breaking back his opponent. The set eventually wound its way into the tie-break which Jarry claimed 7-5, saving a match point en route.
Prior to the start of the event, Zverev – who had taken a late wild card into the ATP 500 tournament – had said he was not at his best. He had also said that he was hoping his fortunes would change this week. But after his loss to Jarry, the despondent 22-year-old mused that everything was going wrong for him.
“I’m in a hole and I don’t know how to get out of it,” Zverev said in an address to a small gathering of the press. “I just play bad, it’s not a secret. I’m missing backhands all over the places, which is my best shot. I cannot make one impressive shot. I’m double faulting.”
All in all, it was not a great day for the Zverev family as earlier, Alexander’s older sibling, Mischa, also lost his match. The 31-year-old German went down to Spanish veteran David Ferrer, who claimed a 6-3, 6-1 win to set up a second round clash on Wednesday against France’s Lucas Pouille. Speaking of Spaniards, the country’s much-touted youngster Jaume Munar won the intra-generational battle against Frances Tiafoe in their second round clash. The 21-year-old also won in straight sets, wrapping a 6-4, 6-3 win over his coeval who, interestingly, was the first player to reach Barcelona and practice before the start of the event. One wonders as to what went wrong for the American.
Americans and Argentines tough it out
Much like the Zverevs, Americans in the fray, too, had a disastrous day. Prior to Tiafoe’s defeat, in the opening match of the day, Taylor Fritz lost to Kei Nishikori of Japan 7-5, 6-2 in the second round. Fritz had opened the match on a strong note, taking an early break but it went south for him as Nishikori found the range of his shots and his rhythm to wrest control of the match. The second set was quite one-sided even as Fritz needed some medical attention. Nishikori now awaits the winner between #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the third round.
At the end of play on Tuesday, Guido Pella was the last Argentine man standing on the day. Pella came from a set down to beat Joao Sousa from Portugal 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 and take his place in the second round, against Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
In the other matches featuring Argentinian players, Diego Schwartzman – who had complained about the inconsiderate scheduling at the event in making him play four matches on four consecutive days – lost to good friend Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3. Lastly, lucky loser Federico Delbonis was ousted by the 19-year-old home aspirant Nicola Kuhn 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2.
What they’re saying
In his post-match press conference, Dominic Thiem was asked about his partnership with his new coach Nicolás Massú. Here is what he answered: