Qualifier Rodionov Keeps On Winning In Dallas

Jurij Rodionov (photo: Dallas Open/Alex Smith)

DALLAS/WASHINGTON, February 9, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

With only two seeds in action during Tuesday’s second day of the ATP 250 Dallas Open – No. 6 Maxime Cressy and No. 7 Marcos Giron – fans were treated a couple of quality matches involving both of these up-and-coming American players. Plus, there were other Tour veterans in action hoping to make a good run in North Texas this week, each with an eye toward cracking or returning to the Top 100.

While No. 7 seed Giron succeeded in his first-round match and won, No. 6 seed Cressy didn’t and became the first seeded causality when he was upset by unheralded qualifier Jurij Rodionov of Austria in a match that lasted three sets. Rodionov is no stranger to Dallas. He won the last ATP Challenger Tour event held in Dallas back in February 2020.

An all-American clash began the afternoon on Stadium court inside the Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex. It featured the 70th-ranked American Giron, seeded for the first time at a tour-level event but still in search of his first victory of the season after achieving a personal-best 23 wins last year. He faced No. 163 Tennys Sandgren, once ranked as high as No. 41 three years ago, who began this season left out of playing any of the Australian summer events due to being unvaccinated. Instead, Sandgren stayed behind in the U.S. and competed in a pair of ATP Challenger Tour events in Ohio with mixed results, both while being seeded No. 1.

In the first meeting between these two former collegiate players, it was the 28-year-old Giron who wrapped up a 6-4, 6-4 win in 90 minutes by being the more consistent player. He garnered his first 2022 victory with a solid forehand winner on his first match-point opportunity.

“I’m really happy with how I played the big points [today],” said Giron during his on-court interview after his victory. When he was asked how important it was to finally secure his first win of the season, Giron responded: “It’s huge. I’m going to enjoy it and hopefully I can keep going.”

Giron won the 48-minute opening thanks no less to capturing 92 percent (24 of 26) of his first-serve points – including six service aces – while saving all four break points he faced from the 30-year-old Sandgren. A break of Sandgren’s serve in the seventh game proved the difference in the opening set. Then, Giron broke his burly opponent twice more in the second set and finished strong, outpointing Sandgren 75-58.

Next, Giron will face 121st-ranked qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain, who defeated Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, 6-1, 6-4, to move ever closer to the Top 100. Broady was not broken during the match and the 97th-ranked Gojowczyk became the highest-ranked player he’s beaten this year.

Then, French-born American Cressy, who came in with an eight-match winning streak in first-round encounters and a career-best No. 59 ranking, took on the 153rd-ranked qualifier Rodionov, who on Monday qualified for his first tour-level main draw since 2020 at Roland Garros after 12 unsuccessful tournament qualifying efforts.

Cressy has become quite a Tour anomaly because of his serve-and-volley style of play. He’s parlayed his success to an impressive 9-3 start, which included reaching the Melbourne Summer Set final before losing the title match to Rafael Nadal. Then, he followed it with a quarterfinal finish in Sydney and a fourth-round run at the Australian Open.

However, Rodionov proved to be the more steady player over the duration of the two-hour and 11-minute match. He came on strong to beat Cressy, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1, to advance against 150th-ranked Vasek Pospisil. The Canadian qualifier won for the third time this week as he easily beat unranked American wild card Caleb Chakravarthi, 6-1, 6-0, in 56 minutes. Chakravarthi, who plays collegiately for Southern Methodist University in Dallas and had a large cheering section, was making his ATP Tour debut.

As the Cressy-Rodionov match unfolded, neither player was able to break the other’s serve, which meant the 53-minute opening set would be decided by a tiebreaker. It favored the left-handed Rodionov, who won it 7-3. He withstood seven aces and outpointed Cressy 41-37. Then, the six-foot-six American rallied with a key break of serve in the ninth game of the 46-minute second set and consolidated it with his 17th ace of the match – and 10th of the set –to wrap it up 6-4. Cressy won nine of the last 10 points and it was on to a decider.

In the third set, Rodionov pressed Cressy and broke him for the first time in five attempts to go ahead 3-1. He consolidated the break with a love hold and found himself just two games from advancing. Then, Rodionov hustled his way to a double-break lead. With the match on his racquet, he secured the victory on his second match-point opportunity with both hard work and a calm and cool demeanor.

While Cressy finished with 20 aces, he also hit six double faults and won just one return game. Meanwhile, Rodionov hit six aces, won 81 percent (47 of 58) of his service points and outpointed Cressy 98-85. While still new at winning main-draw matches, Rodionov showed an upbeat personality during his on-court interview.

“I didn’t know that I was calm and collected,” said Rodionov, when complemented by the interviewer, Blair Henley, for his on-court poise. “I’m glad it looked like that from the outside. From the inside, I was pretty emotional, I think. You know, it’s always tough to play against such a talented player like Maxime, who did his best to disrupt my rhythm. I’m glad I made it through to the second round.”

Meanwhile, 147th-ranked American wild card Jack Sock, a former Top-10 player, made his ATP Tour season debut in singles Tuesday afternoon after teaming with John Isner to win their first-round doubles match Monday night. Sock began 2022 with a trio of Challenger wins in Ohio but also gave up a walkover and retired from another match.

In his return to the Tour, Sock faced No. 84 Oscar Otte of Germany, who is enjoying a career-best ranking but hasn’t made it to the second round of a tour-level event since Cologne in 2020. As it happened, Sock won 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 21 minutes to collect his first tour-level victory since beating Alexander Bublik in five sets during the second round of last year’s US Open. Sock hit four aces and won 87 percent of his first-serve points to advance against the tournament’s top seed Taylor Fritz on Wednesday evening.

Following Pospisil’s win against Chakravarthi, Japan’s 108th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka closed out “College Night” at the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 166th-ranked American wild card Mitchell Kruger to advance against Wedneday’s winner between No. 5 seed Adrian Mannarino of France and No. 93 Steve Johnson of the United States.

A friendly Texas welcome from the players

Tuesday’s Dallas Open results

Wednesday’s Dallas Open order of play

Around the Dallas Open

The Tuesday afternoon matches on the Grandstand court featured a host of tour veterans including 40-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, ranked 102nd, who took on No. 83 Jordan Thompson of Australia, in their third career meeting. As he did in their two earlier matches, Thompson, 27, proved to be the better player, again, and beat Lopez 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 28 minutes. He outpointed the Spaniard 71-53 to advance against No. 8 seed Brandon Nakashima of the United States.

Also, 231st-ranked qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany beat No. 105 Denis Kudla of the United States, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, in two hours and 34 minutes. Next, Stebe will face No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States.

“Quotable …”

“Obviously, it’s my goal to win tournaments. I like Dallas and winning two tournaments [here] would be a good indication that I really like the city. I’m glad to be here and I thank everyone for cheering for me.”

Jurij Rodionov of Austria, who two years ago won the last ATP Challenger Tour event held in Dallas with a 7-5, 7-6 (10) victory over Denis Kudla.