With Room To Improve, Huesler Excited For Next Year

Marc-Andrea Huesler

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

While Lorenzo Musetti of Italy and Carlos Alcaraz from Spain were among the breakout stars of the 2020 ATP Challenger Tour, another who raised a few eyebrows this year was Marc-Andrea Huesler.

The 24-year-old native of Zurich, Switzerland, who idolized Roger Federer as a kid and turned pro in 2016, is currently ranked 148th after beginning the year at No. 277. That’s a pretty significant jump considering that the left-handed Huesler was sidelined with a foot injury that kept him off the courts until the end of August.

When Huesler returned, he began to make up for lost time due to both his injury and the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered pro tennis tours for five months. In September, Huesler won back-to-back ATP Challenger Tour titles in Sibiu, Romania, and Ismaning, Germany, on outdoor clay and indoor carpet, respectively. Then, in October, he reached the quarterfinals in Eckental, Germany, also on indoor carpet.

Meanwhile, competing on the ATP Tour, Huesler went from qualifying all the way to the semifinals in Kitzbuhel, Austria, with back-to-back wins over top seed Fabio Fognini (then-ranked No. 12) and Feliciano Lopez. He finished the season by reaching the second round of the Sofia Open in Sofia, Bulgaria, before losing to eventual champion Jannik Sinner.

In all competitions, Huesler went 21-7 during 2020, a considerable improvement over his 27-33 mark a year earlier.

Looking back on his loss to Skinner, his final match of the season, Huesler called it a tough match. “He was attacking my second serves very well, giving more pressure,” he said. “I knew I had to get my first serves in. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot. In important moments, I dropped my level a bit. At the end, it made a difference and I lost.”

During a one-on-one virtual interview with Tennis TourTalk, Huesler admitted that he felt like he had room to play better.

“[The loss] motivates me a lot. It showed me that even against good players like Jannik – one of the best players at the moment – I can improve even more and have a long journey in front of me.”

Looking back on his Sofia Open experience, his second ATP Tour event of 2020, Huesler was knocked out in the final round of qualifying. However, he found his way into the main draw as a lucky loser. And guess what? He won his first-round match against 39th-ranked Nikolaz Basilashvili, who was the No. 7 seed, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6) – saving a couple of match points along the way – which advanced him to face to Skinner.

“I didn’t have that much time to think [about being a lucky loser],” Huesler said. “I didn’t think I was going to get in because there were two players ahead of me. The next day, I got in. It happens sometimes and it’s worth staying just to be prepared, wait for your chance. Sometimes, getting a second chance … When you get in, you can play without any pressure at all because you’re given a second chance to compete.”

When Tennis TourTalk asked Huesler to describe the difference between playing Challengers and on the ATP Tour, he explained: “I haven’t played that many ATP tournaments in my career. Each time I play one, I feel like I have nothing to lose. I just try to play my best tennis. Honestly, I think the level is close to each other. You’re playing the same game.

“All of the players who play the events have proven themselves. They can play well. I think the most important thing is that over the whole year you have to have the consistency to do well in these events – and if you do well, you’ll get your chance to play bigger events. Once you’ve established that, it might be easier to keep yourself in the ATP Tour.

“The level is high. It’s a process for me, too. Wins for me in Kitzbuhel showed me I can beat any player. However, you go back to the Challengers, again, it’s not the same thing. I think I have to win the match and, sometimes, it’s not easy when you don’t play as well because there’s no pressure. Pressure is something players struggle with. I’m very happy with my season after I came back from injury. I’m very excited for next year.”

Huesler said a goal of his is to be able to compete in the Grand Slams. “My [current] ranking [No. 148] right now means I have a good chance to play all four next year. I’m really looking forward to that.

“It’s hard to say where my limits are as a player, but I’m very motivated with myself. There are a lot of tournaments that went very well. I haven’t really played my best at all, which shows me there’s lots of possibilities if I keep working hard and believe in myself. It’s not always going to be easy. There will be tough weeks. This season I made a really good step in the right direction.”

Hercog highest remaining seed at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge

Second seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia, the highest remaining seed at No. 2 in the ITF Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, reached the semifinal round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands on Thursday afternoon in Dubai.

Hercog enjoyed seven easy serve holds and broke Rus three times. In Friday’s semifinals, she will face No. 86 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who upset No. 6 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3.

The other semifinal will pair No. 5 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic against 177th-ranked qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania. Siniakova defeated No. 3 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain, 6-2, 7-5, while Ruse advanced over No. 77 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 6-1, 6-4.

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Remembering Alex Olmedo

Alex Olmedo was a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, who died of cancer on Dec. 9 at his home is Los Angeles. He was 84. Born in Peru, Olmedo moved to the United States and became a tennis star in the 1950s and ’60s. He won NCAA singles and doubles titles in 1956 and 1958 at the University of Southern California, led the United States to a Davis Cup victory, won Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Championships and Wimbledon and won a doubles title at the U.S. Championships.

Tennis writer and historian Joel Drucker wrote an appreciation of Olmedo that was published by Tennis.com on Thursday.

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