SALZBURG, July 4, 2021
The ATP Challenger Tour has returned to Austria for the first time since 2011 with the inaugural Salzburg Open hosted by the TC GM Sports Anif. The Sports Resort with eight outdoor clay courts and six indoor carpet courts as well as a restaurant and a tennis shop is run by former professional Gerald Mandl.
The venue is located at the southern city limits of Salzburg, Austria’s fourth-largest city, with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. Anif is one of the smallest municipalities in the state of Salzburg by area with about 4,000 inhabitants.
The ATP Challenger Tour is back in 🇦🇹 for the first time since 2011.
Servus, Anif, servus Salzburg Open! 👋 pic.twitter.com/KTtGMq9gYf
— Florian Heer (@Florian_Heer) July 4, 2021
The €132,280 clay-court event kicked off in perfect weather conditions on a sunny Sunday with the opening round of the qualifying.
In front of his home fans, Austrian tennis hope Lukas Neumayer made his debut on the ATP Challenger Tour. The 18-year-old wild card entry lost to fellow teenager and No. 2 seed Jiri Lehecka from the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2.
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“To experience a match at Challenger level was the most important thing,” Neumayer told Tennis TourTalk afterwards. “Jiri showed a great level today and played really well. The serve made the difference. I was also a bit nervous competing in front of so many spectators.” Neumayer, currently ranked World No. 1159, was born in Salzburg but also practices at the Tennis Academy of Günter Bresnik in Vienna.
Lehecka struck nine aces and won 80 per cent of his first-service points to secure victory in one hour and 14 minutes. The 19-year-old Czech is enjoying the best season of his young career so far. “I am happy that I could win in two sets today,” Lehecka said. “My opponent was good and played with some confidence today. It was a good match. It is also a really nice site here. Fans are here. That’s great to meet them again and to get some support.”
The World No. 267, a winner of two ITF World Tennis Tour Events this season, will next play 19-year-old Filip Cristian Jianu of Romania, who beat Serbian veteran Miljan Zekic 7-6(5), 6-3, for a spot in the main draw.
“My goal is to reach the qualifying of the Grand Slams. I don’t know if I can make it to the US Open but for sure I want to play these tournaments in 2022,” said Lehecka.
Ejupovic overcomes Miedler
In the most entertaining match of the day, Elmar Ejupovic of Germany fought past No. 7 seed Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(11). The 28-year-old from Wolfsburg needed to save match points in a topsy-turvy tie-break of the final set to prevail after almost three hours.
Up next for Ejupovic will be Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who cruised past local wild card entry Bjorn Nareyka 6-1, 6-1 in only 55 minutes.
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In other action, Jeroen Vanneste from Belgium knocked out top seed Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 6-3, 6-2. The World No. 400, who plays team competition for TC GM-Sport Anif, converted five of his nine break-point chances to advance after one hour and 14 minutes. Vanneste will next take on Austria’s Alexander Erler, who defeated French alternate Sadio Doumbia 7-6(3), 7-5.
“It’s great to have the Challenger Tour back in Austria. The atmosphere is great,” Erler said. “I was down in the second set but I managed to come back. He has an unusual game but I am happy to win in the end.”
Denis Yevseyev from Kazakhstan edged past No. 3 seed Michael Vrbensky from the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 and will oppose Andrey Vatutin of Russia, who needed three sets to down unranked Austrian wild card entry Benedikt Emesz 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. The encounter lasted two hours and 10 minutes.
Tennis action in Salzburg will continue on Monday with the final round of qualifying as well as the start of the main draw, which is led by two South Americans. World No. 81 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil is the tournament’s top seed. Second favourite is Pablo Cuevas from Uruguay.