Montanes To Battle Struff In Heilbronn Semi-Finals

Albert Montanes moves on at his first Neckarcup

HEILBRONN, May 13, 2016

Two seeds are left in the draw at the €64,000 Neckarcup, facing each other in Saturday’s semi-final in Heilbronn.

The tournament’s number three Albert Montanes ended the winning streak of Belgian lucky loser Yannik Reuter with a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 victory. The 35-year-old Spaniard saved two of the three break points he faced, converting four of his own to advance in 73 minutes.

“It wasn’t that easy as the scoreboard might tell but I played very well and stayed concentrated, which was the key today,” Montanes was pleased with his performance.

“It’s really nice here. The courts, the player’s lounge as well as the hotel are very good,” Montanes is satisfied with his first appearance in Heilbronn.

“Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been that nice and I haven’t had the chance to see anything from the city.”

Montanes will take on 2014 champion Jan-Lennard Struff, who emerged victorious from the all-German-affair with Florian Mayer in the final match on centre court.

The sixth seed won 71% of his first service points and capitalized on five of his eight break point opportunities to seal a 6-2, 6-3 victory in only 57 minutes.

Jan-Lennard Struff

Jan-Lennard Struff

It was a good match, maybe my best of the season. I played unbelievable,” Struff said afterwards and still had a five minutes practice session right after the encounter.

“This is not anything unusual. I just wanted to work on particular backhand shots with my coach.”

Struff will play Montanes for the second time. The only previous meeting, however, was four years ago at a Challenger in Madrid.

“Back then, Albert was a seeded player and he didn’t know me. I think that I took him by surprise. Since then, we have never practiced together,” the world number 107 from Warstein remembered.

Struff won 11 of his last 12 matches at the Neckarcup but captured his last title in Orleans last year.

“I am not happy with the results this season but my goal is to get back to the top 100 as soon as possible.” 

Jozef Kovalik

Jozef Kovalik

Earlier the day, Jozef Kovalik eased past Carlos Berlocq, winning 6-1, 6-4. The world number 127, who is currently ranked on a career high, lost his service only once, breaking his opponent four times to reach his third semi-final of the season after one hour and 21 minutes.

“The first game was pretty tough for both of us but then I started to play more aggressively, hitting more winners. I played a decent first set,” Kovalik was happy after his match with took place in light drizzle.

“Actually I prefer to play in hotter conditions but it’s quite normal at this time of the year in Europe,” the champion of his this year’s Napoli Challenger said. His girl-friend supports him in Heilbronn this week and maybe will join Kovalik for his next tournaments as well.

“I am going to play Roland Garros qualification next, then one week off before playing the Challenger in Fürth. I didn’t play well in Prostejov in recent years and do not really like the conditions on centre court with the roof. So I chose to compete at another tournament in Germany,” Kovalik, explained. “I grew up on clay but I also enjoy playing on hard court.”

After some stretching and another practice session in the afternoon, Kovalik will continue to follow the Ice-Hockey World Championships taking place in Russia.

“Of course I support the Slovakian team but my home team is Slovan Bratislava from the KHL.”

Nikoloz Basilashvili

Nikoloz Basilashvili

Kovalik will take on Nikoloz Basilashvili next. The world number 125 from Georgia battled past eighth seed Igor Sisjling 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Basilashvili withstood six aces, hitting three of his own to prevail in one hour and 33 minutes.

“It was a bit rainy out there but the courts are great and I enjoy playing in those conditions. I do not like too much of heat,” the 24-year-old from Tbilisi told afterwards.

Basilashvili played his first Australian Open this year, facing Roger Federer in the opening round but lost in straight sets.

“It was unbelievable playing Roger on centre court in Melbourne but I was struggling a bit with a hip injury,” he told about this experience.

“I wasn’t in great shape during the last month but it has worked well so far this week,” told Basilashvili, who could only gain one win last month. “I stopped working with my coach one month ago and I am travelling alone at the moment, which can be also nice sometimes.

My goal is to take care of my health. I do not expect great results but getting to the top 80 in rankings would be fantastic. I still have a bit of a problem with my injury but it’s ok at the moment. Playing on clay might be softer but you also have to move more on this surface,” Basilashvili explained and added about his next opponent:

“We know each other pretty well from the tournaments but we haven’t played before.”

Semi-finals will start on Saturday at 2pm local time and the sun is also expected to return to Heilbronn.