Swiss Open Offers Scenic Alps Backdrop And Red Clay Tennis

Roy Emerson Arena, Gstaad (photo: Brigitte Urban)

GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 18, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The city of Gstaad, home of the EFG Swiss Open, offers one of most beautiful backdrops of any ATP Tour tournament: the Swiss Alps. Situated in southwestern Switzerland, near the French border, Gstaad is a jet-set European ski resort in the winter. Come summer, though, the city of 9,200 situated 1,050 meters above sea level is home to a yearly ATP Tour 250 event on red clay.

This year, defending champion Casper Ruud of Norway has returned to Roy Emerson Arena after bowing last week in the second round of the Nordea Open in Bastad, Sweden to eventual champion Francisco Cerundolo. The World No. 5, who is looking to win his third tour-level crown of the season, will begin defense of his title later in the week against up-and-coming 20-year-old Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 76 Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina, on Monday evening.

Lehecka, who is enjoying a career-best ranking at No. 65, is sixth in the ATP Race to Milan among the NextGen ATP rising stars. He hit five aces against Etcheverry, dropped just five points on serve and converted four of seven break points. Lehecka outpointed his opponent 57-32 to move on against Ruud.


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In addition to Ruud, the 28-player main draw field includes: No. 2 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, No. 3 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, No. 4 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, No. 5 Pedro Martinez of Spain, No. 6 Cristian Garin of Chile, No. 7 Hugo Gaston of France and No. 8 João Sousa of Portugal. Also, 2015 Gstaad champion Dominic Thiem is entered, thanks to using a protected ranking.

Argentina’s Delbonis at home on red clay

Federico Delbonis of Argentina is at his best when he’s playing on red clay. Last year, the 31-year-old Argentine went 23-13 on his favorite surface while suffering an 0-11 win-loss record on other surfaces. He reached the fourth round at Roland-Garros, and qualified for all three Masters 1000 clay-court events (in Monte-Carlo, Madrid and Rome).

Recently, Delbonis dropped out of the Top 100 for the first time since September 2018, after he failed to defend his semifinal results from last year at Hamburg and Bastad from 2019 last week. He is 5-14 on tour-level since reaching the Buenos Aires semifinals in February.

On Monday afternoon, Delbonis took advantage of fast court conditions on Roy Emerson Arena to defeat No. 91 Mikael Ymer of Sweden, 6-4, 7-5, in an hour and 44 minutes, making his seventh appearance in Gstaad. The 31-year-old Delbonis overcame five double faults by breaking Ymer’s serve three times. He outpointed his opponent 79-67 to gain just his 10th win of the season.

“It’s always a pleasure to be here,” Delbonis said in an on-court interview. “I think my first ATP win was here many, many years ago. Of course, every year the conditions are pretty much the same.”

Next, Delbonis will play either No. 7 seed Hugo Gaston of France or No. 274 Dominic Thiem of Austria, who used a protected ranking to enter the main draw.

Swiss Open enjoys a peculiar history

There’s a peculiar history to the Swiss Open that brings back good memories. Twenty-time major titlist Roger Federer was once presented with a cow during a homecoming celebration in Gstaad in 2003 after he won his first Wimbledon title. Although he lost to Jiri Novak in that year’s title match, he returned the next year and won the 2004 final. Federer, the last Swiss to win the title (2004), made a long-awaited return in 2013 and guess what? He was, again, gifted a cow in a special ceremony.

Around the EFG Swiss Open

• Besides the Lehecka-Etcheverry match, there were three other main draw match-ups on Monday that included two seeded players. No. 5 Pedro Martinez of Spain, ranked 52nd, advanced over fellow Spaniard Carlos Taberner, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 40 minutes. Martinez broke the 106th-ranked Taberner four times – twice in each set – and outpointed his opponent 60-53.

Also, 190th-ranked Swiss wild card Alexander Ritschard earned his first ATP Tour main draw win as well as his first victory over a Top-100 opponent with his 6-3, 6-3 upset of No. 8 seed João Sousa of Portugal in a featured evening match that lasted one hour and 31 minutes. Ritschard broke the 58th-ranked Sousa four times in seven tries and outpointed him 73-51.

“It’s an incredible feeling [to win],” Ritschard said in his on-court interview after beating Sousa. “I played really well – my opponent was really tough – but I hung in there. I’m pretty happy.”

Ritschard said that his aggressive demeanor on the court was a key to winning. “Honestly, I just don’t like to run,” he admitted. “The sooner I can end the point the better. That’s what I build my game after. The goal was to play my game, be aggressive, find the net.”

Next, Ritschard will face either No. 63 Jaume Munar or No. 81 Bernabe Zapata Miralles, both from Spain.

• Monday’s opening day included four qualifying draw matches to filled out the final four places in the 28-play main draw. Earning promotion to the main draw were: No. 118 Nicolas Jarry of Chile, No. 152 Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, No. 131 Elias Ymer of Sweden, and No. 115 Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru.

Next, Jarry will face Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, Hanfmann will play No. 6 seed Cristian Garin of Chile, Ymer will oppose Benoit Paire of France and Varillas will take on Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Monday’s EFG Swiss Open results

Tuesday’s EFG Swiss Open order of play

By the numbers

Pedro Martinez broke a six-match tour-level losing streak on clay that dates back to April at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Before Monday, Martinez’s last clay-court win came against Ugo Humbert in the first round at Monte-Carlo.

“Quotable …”

“It was a really warm day [on the court]. At least, today I passed the first round and felt good. I know Carlos a lot. We are good friends. It was a difficult match for both [of us]. I was glad to get the win.

“I didn’t start well – it was 3-0 for [Taberner] – but then I realized I had to stay a little bit back to control the bounces. It is quick. I think my game adapts well to the altitude. I’m comfortable. That’s why I came here, to win, to get to the next round.”

– No. 5 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain, during his post-match on-court interview, on adapting to the high-altitude conditions at Gstaad.