Tiafoe Upsets Lajovic As European Open Begins

Frances Tiafoe (photo: European Open)

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

A busy Monday at the ATP 250 European Open at Lotto Arena in Antwerp, Belgium, featured four qualifying matches – won by Salvatore Caruso, Marcos Giron, Lloyd Harris and Emil Ruusuvouri – to determine the final four places in the 28-player main draw. The main draw also began with three matches. One of them went as predicted, won by No. 38 Ugo Humbert. One of them that was a toss-up on paper was won by No. 62 Feliciano Lopez. However, there was a surprise in the last of the trio. It was scored by No. 63 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, who upset No. 6 seed and 25th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

Playing on a hard-court surface for the first time since the US Open, the 22-year-old Tiafoe won 83 percent of his first-serve points and saved a pair of set points in the second set – including on his opponent’s serve – to win after one hour and 21 minutes. The victory advanced Tiafoe, a quarterfinalist last year in Antwerp, against either 77th-ranked qualifier Caruso of Italy or No. 34 Dan Evans of Great Britain, who play Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Spanish veteran Lopez, 39, hit 13 aces in his 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 59 Tommy Paul of the United States, and last year’s semifinalist Humbert from France defeated 172nd-ranked Belgian wild card Kimmer Coppejans, 6-4, 6-3. Humbert won all but two of his first-serve points and saved all three break points he faced.

• No. 8 seed Alex de Minaur from Australia highlights Tuesday’s order of play when he faces No. 54 Richard Gasquet of France on Center Court. Sunday evening, de Minaur defeated Gasquet 3-1 to capture the Ultimate Tennis Showdown 3 title. De Minaur also beat Gasquet at last month’s US Open, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-5.

• What they’re saying in Antwerp: No. 36 Kei Nishikori of Japan, who will face No. 55 Pablo Andújar of Spain in a first-round match on Tuesday, said: “I am very excited to be here in Antwerp. I’m still on my way back after an injury last year, but I’m eager to finish a good tournament.”  

Nishikori leads the career head-to-head with Andújar 4-1.

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What they’re saying

With Andrey Rublev achieving a new career-high ranking of No. 8 after he won his fourth ATP Tour title of the season at the St. Petersburg Open Sunday, Rublev told ATPTour.com: “I am proud and I am happy with the way I am performing. I try not to think about it. I try to focus on the things I still need to improve, because there are so many things I can improve – and that I have to improve – if I want to be at the same level or even better.”

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