HEILBRONN, May 10, 2016
The ATP Challenger Tour has returned to Heilbronn for the third edition of the Neckarcup, held at the venue of the local Tennis Club am Trappensee this week. The tournament’s total prize money has increased to €64,000 plus hospitality, featuring a prominent and interesting list of players with world number 55 Ricardas Berankis as the top-seed.
While Heilbronn’s defending champion Alexander Zverev was overpowering Grigor Dimitrov in his opening match at the ATP Masters 1000 Rome – the German youngster has achieved a new career high 44th position in the meantime – two of the tour’s veterans headlined Monday’s first round action in one of the most popular vine-growing regions in Baden-Württemberg.
Florian Mayer, who qualified for the main draw of the BMW Open after a long period of injuries, received a wild card for the Neckarcup. The 32-year-old from Bayreuth battled past second seeded Argentine Horacio Zeballos 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Mayer withstood 12 aces, hitting three of his own to prevail in two hours and 15 minutes.
“I won, that’s the main thing,” Mayer simply stated afterwards. “I was suprised that he played that aggressively. The second set was very close and he wasn’t far from victory.”
The former world number 18, who dropped to 232nd position, will take on with 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe, one of the most interesting young guns in the next round. The US-American teenager, who won last year’s USTA Pro Circuit wild card into Roland Garros, rallied from a set down to overcome Colombian clay court fighter Alejandro Gonzalez 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Tiafoe, who appears in his first tournament on German soil, sent down five aces and converted four of his nine break point chances to advance in one hour and 53 minutes.
Next Generation star Andrey Rublev was not that successful, losing to Franco Skugor 6-2, 6-2. The 18-year-old from Russia couldn’t find his rhythm into the match on centre court and the world number 188 from Croatia saved three of the four break points he faced, breaking Rublev’s service five times. Skugor secured victory in one hour and seven minutes.
He will take on Jozef Kovalik in the second round. The in-form-Slovakian already captured the Napoli Challenger title this year and made it into the quarterfinals in Munich. Kovalik knocked out fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka, winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. The 23-year-old from Bratislava won 62% of his first service points and capitalized on six of his 10 break point opportunities to secure victory in exactly two hours of play.