SARASOTA, April 14, 2015
The Sarasota Open is one of the few ATP Challenger events taking place outdoors on green clay. This year it is held at the luxurious Lakewood Ranch Tennis Centre with two stadium courts featuring the newly constructed James T. Driscoll Centre Court Stadium. The tournament has been part of the Challenger Tour since 2009 and the list of past champions include some glamorous names like those of James Blake, Kei Nishikori, Sam Querrey and current world number 34 Nick Kyrgios, who claimed the title last year.
Some interesting players are also in this year’s main draw and stepped into action on Monday. Former world number eight Radek Stepanek started his comeback campaign after a back injury forced him to the sidelines following the US-Open in 2014. The 36-year-old Czech, who dropped in rankings to 110th position, lost his first round match against US-American young gun Jared Donaldson, who is only half of Stepanek’s age. The teenager, ranked 179 in the world, won 74% of his first service points and upset the seventh-seed winning 6-3, 7-6 in one hour and 36 minutes.
“I’d be lying if it wasn’t my biggest win to date,” Donaldson said. “It’s the best player I’ve ever beaten.” The youngster is coached by former world number 21 Taylor Dent. “He picked things out in my serve that nobody had ever even thought of or even looked at before. It’s funny; I spent three days not even hitting a ball. My technique was so off of what it needed to be. So I just practiced the motion. Now it’s still progressing after a year and a half, but I’m really happy where it is right now.
Second seed Federico Delbonis remained untroubled in his opening match beating Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4, 6-1 in 76 minutes. 21-year-old Australian Jason Kubler defeated Polish veteran Michal Przysiezny winning 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 in two hours and two minutes and Gastao Elias advanced through a 7-6, 6-2 victory over US-American wild card Dennis Novikov.
The tournament’s top-seed is world number 69 Tim Smyczek. The US-American, who has already claimed one ATP Challenger title in Dallas this season, received a wild card to face Facundo Arguello in the opening round. The one and only previous meeting between the two took place in Savannah 2013 with the better ending for the Argentine winning in straight sets.
The tournament also features some young guns. 17-year-old Alexander Zverev continues his US-swing in Sarasota after reaching the quarterfinal in Irving and the second round at the ATP Masters 1000 in Miami. The German teenager will face sixth seed Facundo Bagnis.
18-year-old Korean Hyeon Chung, who is seeded on eighth position, has already captured one ATP Challenger crown in Burnie this season. He will take on Horacio Zeballos for the first time.