Gasquet Stuns Medvedev At Geneva Open

Richard Gasquet (photo: Augusto Tomassetti, Gonet Geneva Open)

GENEVA/WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev returned to competition for the first time in six weeks at the Gonet Geneva Open in southwestern Switzerland Tuesday evening. His 2022 debut on clay, before a packed Center Court crowd of about 4,000 fans, didn’t quite turn out the way he had hoped or expected.

Instead, the top seed in this ATP 250 French Open tune-up on clay was upset by 75th-ranked Richard Gasquet of France, 6-2, 7-6 (5), in an hour and 29 minutes.

Medvedev had been idle since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals at the Miami Open in March. However, Medvedev said during his pre-tournament press conference that he felt great after undergoing a “small procedure” to repair a “small hernia” following Miami.

“I feel great,” Medvedev said. “[I] managed to get around I would say two weeks of good practice and one week of full practice. [I] decided that it’s going to be good to prepare [for the] French Open, to get some matches here. Some matches, hopefully more than one.”

As it turned out, Medvedev’s first opponent, the former Top 10 player Gasquet, had other ideas. The Frenchman, who came in 1-36 against Top-2 competition – his last Top-2 victory was against then-No. 1 Roger Federer at Monte Carlo in 2005 – looked ready to play from first ball to last ball.

Meanwhile, the 13-time tour-level champion Medvedev, who was seeking his first title of the year this week in Switzerland – as well as a first career crown on clay – looked uncomfortable and out of sorts throughout, especially in the opening set. He committed three double faults and was broken twice by Gasquet, who earlier advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 93 John Millman of Australia on Monday.

Then, Medvedev fell behind early in the second set as well after being broken for the third straight service game. Gasquet, it seemed, was making all of the right decisions and winning points with flair and panache, both with his forehand and one-fisted backhand. Soon, Medvedev finally got on track and broke even at 3-all. Then, he consolidated the break with a solid love hold, going ahead with a second-serve ace to take a 4-3 advantage. Medvedev extended his lead to 5-4 with his sixth ace on game point.

Had the pendulum finally swung in Medvedev’s favor? Maybe. It seemed that the Russian was finally giving the fans the match they had come to see. However, Gasquet wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and concede. He held his serve twice to get the set to a tie-break. Then, the 35-year-old French veteran broke Medvedev three times, including on match point, when the reigning US Open champion served a double fault.

Gasquet won 74 percent (26 of 35) of his first-serve points and broke Medvedev three times in five opportunities. Although Medvedev finished with seven aces, he also served up seven double faults. Gasquet outpointed him 74-58 to move into Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

Medvedev’s brief Geneva appearance represented his first foray on clay since he lost in last year’s Roland Garros quarterfinals against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Now, it’s on to Paris a little sooner than expected.

“It’s tough. I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts. I know that I am capable of making some good results as I did in the past,” Medvedev said during his post-match press conference, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “But for this, I kind of need to be in the zone, which I was not today. When I’m not in the zone on hard courts, sometimes during the tournament, during the match, I can try to turn it around and sometimes it doesn’t happen.

“On clay [it is] much tougher and usually from what I remember most of the matches — not all of them, but most of them — I’m losing because it’s tough for me to turn something around unless everything goes well straightaway and that’s what happened today.”

Next, Gasquet will face No. 81 Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, who eliminated 134th-ranked qualifier Marco Cecchinato of Italy, 6-2, 6-3, in an hour and nine minutes for his second win of the tournament after upsetting No. 8 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan on Sunday. It’s Majchrzak’s first trip to a clay-court quarterfinal. Previously, Cecchinato was an upset winner over Austria’s Dominic Thiem in Monday’s opening round.

Nikles truly a hometown hero after first ATP Tour win

Geneva-born Johan Nikles received hearty congratulations after he secured his first ATP Tour win Tuesday afternoon at his home club, Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives.

The 317th-ranked Nikles, saved six match points against fellow Swiss Leandro Riedi while trailing 5-4 in the second set and went on to pull out a satisfying 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory in a two-hour and 31-minute Swiss derby that took place on Center Court. It was their first meeting.

Nikles, who qualified for the main draw over the weekend with victories against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, was seeking his first tour-level win in his third attempt after receiving two main-draw wild cards at Gstaad, in 2016 and 2021.

For a while, things looked bleak for the 25-year-old Nikles. However, he turned the match around during a 14-point tenth game of the second set, after fighting off six match points by the 20-year-old Riedi.

Against the 237th-ranked wild card from Zurich, Nikles saved six of the 10 break points he faced and broke Riedi four times in eight attempts. Total points were tied at 118.

The victory advanced Nikles to face No. 67 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, who advanced earlier in the tournament with a win over No. 6 seed Tommy Paul of the United States.

Around the Gonet Geneva Open

• No. 5 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia moved into the second round by retirement over 98th-ranked qualifier Facundo Bagnis of Argentina, ahead 6-4. Next, he will face No. 79 João Sousa of Portugal, who defeated last year’s semifinalist, No. 83 Pablo Andújar of Spain, 6-1, 6-4.

• Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell, ranked 124th, beat No. 42 Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, 7-6 (5), 6-4 and will play No. 4 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States in Wednesday’s second round.

• No. 85 Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia took out No. 52 Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-4, 6-3, to advance against No. 7 seed Federico Delbonis of Argentina.

Tuesday’s Gonet Geneva Open results

Wednesday’s Gonet Geneva Open order of play

By the numbers

Thanasi Kokkinakis played his first tour-level match on clay Tuesday since losing in the first round at the 2018 Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo. His win over Fabio Fognini was just his third career tour-level victory on clay in 10 tries.

“Quotable …”

“It’s never been easy for me on clay courts to straightway start good.”

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, top seed in this week’s Gonet Geneva Open, during his pre-tournament press conference.