TRIESTE, August 25, 2020
Alexei Popyrin has returned to the international tennis circuit with a straight-set win in the opening round of the Citta di Trieste in Italy. The top seed of the €88,520 ATP Challenger clay-court event defeated Frenchman Quentin Halys 6-4, 7-6(3) on a sunny Tuesday at the Tennis Club Triestino.
Popyrin sent down five aces on Campo Centrale and won 74 per cent of his first-service points to advance in one hour and 29 minutes. “My serve was key today,” Popyrin told Tennis TourTalk afterwards. “I got a break early in the second set but played a solid game to break back straight away. I kept my head cool, which is important to me in these tough situations.”
The 21-year-old, currently ranked World No. 102, has played his first competitive match since Dubai in February. “It feels great to be back. It was a weird situation, I missed playing matches and I am happy to return with a win.”
Popyrin did not travel to New York, as he decided to skip the US Open. He stayed in Europe and competed in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in Southern France. “Everything that was happening with the virus, I particularly didn’t like the idea of traveling that far to go play in a bubble, which looks intact. But it was just too risky for me at that time. I spoke to my team and I spoke to my family and it was the better decision to drive to Trieste in order to play this tournament,” the Next-Gen-ATP Australian explained.
Popyrin, who is seeking his second trophy on the ATP Challenger Tour following his maiden triumph in Jinan, China, will next take on Italian wild card entry Lorenzo Musetti.
Marterer returns to the tour
Over on Court 3, Andrea Collarini of Argentina knocked out No. 2 seeded Frenchman Antoine Hoang. The 28-year-old from Buenos Aires rallied back from a set down to secure a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory in two hours and 33 minutes. Up next for Collarini will be Maximilian Marterer. The 25-year-old German eased past Frenchman Hugo Gaston 6-1, 6-2 in his first match on the circuit since the Koblenz Open six months ago.
“I felt good on the court today,” Marterer said after spending 74 minutes on the clay. “During the tour’s suspension I played the national DTB German Pro Series, which helped me to maintain the rhythm. I was focused today from the beginning to the end. It’s a good feeling to start with a win again.”
Marterer, a former World No. 45, struggled with injuries in the past and entered the tournament with his protected ranking. About his further schedule, he said: “The plan is to start here and to continue in Cordenons followed by Aix-en-Provence or Prostejov, playing three weeks in a row.”
Later in the afternoon, Yannick Hanfmann, champion of last week’s ATP Challenger event in Todi, opened another campaign in Italy against the same opponent. While he defeated Croatian Viktor Galovic in Umbria in staight sets, the No. 3 seed from Germany had to go the distance at the head of the Gulf of Trieste.
Hanfmann fought past the lucky loser, who replaced injured Gian Marco Moroni of Italy, by the score of 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. The Karlsruhe native will oppose Mario Vilella Martinez of Spain in the second round.
Different picture here in Trieste 🇮🇹 compared to the @ATPChallenger re-start in Todi 🇮🇹 last week.
Only a few spectators wear masks. Players, staff and fans use the same entrance.
Feels different. Some of the players seem to be worried about the situation. pic.twitter.com/UcMsznt46r
— Florian Heer (@Florian_Heer) August 25, 2020
Kamke replaces Zverev
Tobias Kamke was another player, who entered the main draw at short notice. The 34-year-old German fell in the second round of the qualifying to Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, but took the place of compatriot Mischa Zverev, who was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to personal reasons.
Kamke confirmed to Tennis TourTalk that Mischa’s father and coach Alexander Zverev Sr. has been tested positive for COVID-19. According to the World No. 233 he showed mild symptoms with little fever and a cold, but seemed to be okay. Both left for Monte Carlo on Monday.
“Of course we hope that he recovers quickly and Mischa is able to return to the courts soon,” the German veteran said. Kamke won his first round match against No. 5 seeded Italian Roberto Marcora 6-4, 6-2 to meet Liam Broady of Great Britain on Thursday. The encounter lasted one hour and 23 minutes.