Medvedev Begins Race For No. 1 With Win In Acapulco Debut

Daniil Medvedev (photo: ATP Tour video)

ACAPULCO/WASHINGTON, February 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 2 and top seed Daniil Medvedev made his Acapulco debut at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC Tuesday evening – and it was a winning performance.

With an inside track at becoming No. 1 in next week’s ATP rankings, the 26-year-old Russian took on No. 49 Benoit Paire of France in his first match since losing the Australian Open final in five sets to Rafael Nadal.

Paire, who came in 7-45 lifetime against Top-10 competition, put up a bit of a tussle. However, Medvedev found a way to win and did just that, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 41 minutes on Estadio. It was the Russian’s third career victory over Paire in three meetings.

Although Medvedev struggled at times – committing nine double faults and losing his serve once early in the second set – for the most part, he was the better player. Medvedev converted four of nine break points – including on match point – and hitting 23 winners to 20 unforced errors. Meanwhile, Paire finished with 17 winners and 23 unforced errors. Medvedev outpointed the Frenchman 80-61. Next, he will face No. 66 Pablo Andújar of Spain, who defeated 22-year-old Mexican wild card Alex Hernandez, ranked 566th, 6-0, 6-1.

“It’s always not easy to come back after some rest and some time off competition,” Medvedev said during a post-match interview. “Sometimes better, sometimes worse. I felt like my sensations were not at the top today, but I managed to fight until the end against a very tough opponent and I’m happy that I managed to win.”

If Medvedev wins the title this week in Acapulco, he’s guaranteed to surpass Novak Djokovic for No. 1 in the ATP rankings regardless of how the Serbian fares this week in Dubai.

“If Novak would not be playing, then maybe it would be a little bit more in my mind because it would only be me that it depends what I can do,” Medvedev said.

Nadal improves to 11-0 to start 2022 season

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, in his first tournament action since winning his 21st major title in Melbourne last month and just third tournament of 2022, is back in Acapulco for a sixth time and is a three-time champion (2005, 2013, 2020) of the ATP 500 outdoor hardcourt event. He took on 100th-ranked American lucky loser Denis Kudla, bringing a 20-2 win-loss record in Acapulco into the match, and won 6-3, 6-2. Nadal, who dropped just four points on his serve, was in command throughout the one-hour and 16-minute match. The victory improved his win-loss record to 11-0, which matches his best start to an ATP Tour season.

“The start of the year has been infinitely better than I could ever have imagined,” Nadal said during a pre-tournament press conference. He arrived in Acapulco undefeated and with two titles already won. “Winning in Australia was deeply satisfying. Not so much because of reaching 21 Grand Slams, but because it came at a very difficult time for me.”

After the match, Nadal said: “It has been a positive match. I think I started playing well, a good victory in straight sets. That’s always very positive for the confidence.”

Next, Nadal will play Monday’s practice partner, 130th-ranked lucky loser Stefan Kozlov of the United States.

“I’m simply happy to play tennis,” said Nadal, the winner of 90 ATP tournaments. “I’m really excited to do so after playing so few tournaments recently. That’s why I’ve come here, and because I’m excited to still be competing, not just about results.”

Zverev expelled for unsportsmanlike conduct

Defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany was thrown out of the Abierto Mexicano tournament for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after his doubles loss Tuesday night. Zverev and Marcelo Melo of Brazil had just lost their first-round match to Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliovaara of Finland, 6-2, 4-6, 10-6. Coming off the court, Zverev repeatedly assaulted the umpire’s chair with his racquet and came very close to hitting umpire Alessandro Germani in the feet while arguing with him over line calls.

“Due to unsportsmanlike conduct at the conclusion of his doubles match on Tuesday night, Alexander Zverev has been withdrawn from the tournament in Acapulco,” the ATP Tour said in a statement.

After striking the umpire’s chair three times, Zverev sat down for a moment before getting back up. Then, he yelled at the umpire that he “destroyed the whole (expletive) match.” Zverev struck the chair once again with his racquet as Germani climbed down. The umpire had pulled his feet back out of the fear of being hit.

Zverev was scheduled to meet fellow German Peter Gojowczyk in Wednesday’s second round. Instead, 95th-ranked Gojowczyk will get a walkover and advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

On Wednesday morning, Zverev issued an apology on his Instagram page:

Around the Abierto Mexicano Telcel

Day Two of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel at Arena GNP Seguros was loaded with big names, including No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy and No 6 seed Cameron Norrie, who two days earlier won the Delray Beach Open in Florida.

• No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece garnered his 200th tour-level win with his 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) victory over No. 51 Laslo Djere of Serbia, advancing in two hours and 15 minutes.

“It was very challenging. There were a lot of tight moments today,” Tsitsipas said during an on-court interview after his milestone victory. “It was not easy coming in and trying to adjust, but I felt much more comfortable game after game. There was a point where I was getting ahead and playing my best tennis. He put up a great fight and he wasn’t easy to crack. But those two tie-breaks I managed really well and managed to execute my game plan.”

Tsitsipas, 23, won his first ATP Tour match in October 2017 against Karen Khachanov at Shanghai. Since then, he’s won seven tour-level titles and risen to a career-high World No. 3.

Next, Tsitsipas will play 209th-ranked qualifier J.J. Wolf of the United States, who saved a match point and defeated No. 21 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2.

• No. 39 Tommy Paul of the United States advanced over No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy by retirement due to an abdominal injury. Paul dropped the first set 6-4 and was leading 5-1 when the Italian retired after 72 minutes. Paul will face first-day winner Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in the second round.

• No. 6 seed Cameron Norrie, just two days after winning his third ATP Tour title in Delray Beach, Fla., extended his winning streak to five matches with his 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over 84th-ranked qualifier Daniel Altmaier of Germany. The World No. 12 Norrie has won seven straight sets over two tournaments. Next, he will face 23rd-ranked American John Isner.

• Qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, ranked 103rd, defeated 114th-ranked wild card Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4, in two hours and four minutes, Next, Nishioka will play No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States.

• No. 59 Marcos Giron of the United States won by retirement over Australia’s John Millman leading 7-6 (3), 2-0. The 80th-ranked Millman was hit in the eye during a ball return and was unable to continue after playing an hour and 32 minutes. Next, Giron will face No. 8 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain.

Tuesday’s Acapulco results

Wednesday’s Acapulco order of play

By the numbers

The three longest matches in Abierto Mexicano Telcel history took place on Monday. First, John Isner defeated wild card Fernando Verdasco, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), in three hours and 13 minutes. Then, lucky loser Stefan Kozlov downed Grigor Dimitrov, 7-6 (8), 5-7, 6-3, in three hours and 21 minutes. Finally, No. 2 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev and Jenson Brooksby took the court at 1:35 a.m. local time and played for three hours and 20 minutes. Zverev clinching a 3-6, 7-6 (10), 6-2 victory after saving two match points in the second set. He converted his own match point at 4:55 a.m.

According to the ATP Tour, it set the record for being the latest finish to a men’s tennis match, breaking the previous record set in 2008 at the Australian Open by Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis, who completed a third-round match at 4:34 a.m.

“Quotable …”

“The fans are really engaged, and they love tennis here. A lot of the players are getting old support including me and it is electric out there on court. It is one of the best atmospheres at an ATP 500 I have played.”

– No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, commenting Tuesday night following his win against Laslo Djere on the Acapulco atmosphere.