Misolic Wins Memorable Kitzbühel Debut

Filip Misolic (photo: Brigitte Urban)

KITZBUHEL/WASHINGTON, July 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The 54th edition of the Generali Open began under beautiful sunshine Monday in Kitzbühel, Austria, nestled 800 meters above sea level in the Austrian Alps. While World Cup alpine skiing has put Kitzbühel on the map, mid-summer tennis on red clay in this city of 8,000 residents has been around a long time, too. Both are good for tourism.

With top seeds Casper Ruud of Norway (shoulder) and Matteo Berrettini of Italy (fatigue) withdrawn from the ATP 250 event following their title match in Gstaad Sunday afternoon – and with only one seeded player on the opening day schedule – the attention on Center Court at the Kitzbühel Tennis Club focused on a pair of young Austrian wild cards, Filip Misolic and Jurij Rodionov. Both gave winning performances.

First, the 205th-ranked Misolic, a native of Graz, made his tournament and ATP Tour debut a successful one against No. 215 Daniel Dutra da Silva of Brazil, a 34-year-old veteran of the ATP Challenger Tour circuit. While both were vying for their first victory at tour-level, it was Misolic who triumphed, 6-2, 7-6 (6), in an hour and 52 minutes – taking the scenic route to the finish line.

Misolic, who at age 20 is one of two #NextGenATP players in the draw, won a Challenger event in Zagreb earlier this season. He’s also a six-time titlist on the ITF Tour – so, he knows what it takes to win – and, in the end, he didn’t throw away his shot.

“It’s unbelievable to play here on the Center Court,” Misolic said during his on-court interview after beating Dutra da Silva. “I want to thank the crowd for its big support. In the key moments and at the end of the match, it was big pressure. I’m happy to win.”

Against the left-handed Dutra da Silva, Misolic broke his opponent twice and won nearly half of his return points en route to winning the opening set 6-2. Then, Misolic broke Dutra da Silva in the third game to push ahead and things looked swimmingly well until it was time for the young Austrian to serve out the win. It was there that Misolic suddenly faced break points from the Brazilian, quickly falling behind 0-40. Although Misolic saved the first two, he was broken on the third one. It showed that there a massive mental hurdle for Misolic to overcome.

Soon, both competitors found themselves battling in a tie-break to decide the second set. Dutra da Silva jumped ahead 4-1, then Misolic mounted a nifty comeback. From 2-5 down, he won four straight points to gain a match point, ahead 6-5. Although Dutra da Silva saved it, thanks to a forced error return, Misolic scrapped back and earned a second match point thanks to an untimely double fault. Finally, Misolic put away the win with a solid backhand winner down the line that capped an exciting and hard-fought 15-shot rally.

Misolic completed his first tour-level win by hitting seven aces while winning 82 percent of his first-serve points. He converted three of nine break points and outpointed Dutra da Silva 80-65.

During his interview, Misolic was asked what he’ll remember about his first Kitzbühel Center Court experience. The Austrian No. 5 quipped: “It doesn’t happen too often. I have to win more matches to have other chances.”

On Wednesday, Misolic will face either No. 9 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy or Spain’s 98th-ranked Pablo Andujar in the second round. Don’t be surprised if Misolic garners another chance to play on Center Court in front of his home country’s fans. He’s earned it.

Rodionov adds another Austrian victory

The 145th-ranked Rodionov followed Misolic’s Center Court success with a victory of his own. The 23-year-old left-hander from Matzen defeated 321st-ranked qualifier Hernan Casanova of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 21 minutes to earn his first Kitzbühel win in three tries. It was the Austrian No. 1’s second tour-level triumph of the season.

Rodionov, who won all nine of his service games and dropped just two first-serve points, broke Casanova three times and outpointed him 67-52. The 28-year-old Argentine was making his ATP Tour main draw debut.

“It’s always special to play on home soil,” the German-born Austrian Rodionov said during his on-court interview. “I came into this match well prepared. I have a lot of confidence because I know I am a very good player and can play very good. Today, maybe, wasn’t my best day but I think the important points I was able to win.”

Rodionov reached a career-high ranking of No. 124 two months ago after winning an ATP Challenger Tour title in Mauthausen against Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic. The two could meet again later in the week if both reach the quarterfinal round. Next, though, Rodionov will oppose No. 3 seed Roberto Baustista Agut of Spain, the highest seed remaining in the tournament after the withdrawals of top seeds Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.

Around the Generali Open

• No. 8 seed João Sousa of Portugal, the only seeded play in action on Monday, advanced with a 90-minute 6-1, 7-5 win over qualifier Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic after converting five of nine break-point chances. Next, he will play No. 68 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who struck 10 aces and defeated No. 67 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

• No. 73 Federico Coria of Argentina, playing in his 12th tour-level clay event of the season, won for the 13th time in 24 matches with his 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 71 Cristian Garin of Chile. The 30-year-old Coria’s season has been highlighted by a semifinal run in Marrakech and three quarterfinal runs, at Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Lyon. This was the second straight first-round loss for Garin on clay.

• No. 80 Dusan Lajovic of Serbia advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over 265th-ranked lucky loser Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine. The Serbian outpointed his opponent 82-73 in their first meeting. Next, Lajovic will face No. 4 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia.

• No. 109 Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru, a quarterfinalist at Gstaad last week with wins over Lorenzo Sonego and Roberto Bautista Agut, began anew with a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 111 Carlos Taberner of Spain. Next, Varillas will play No. 5 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, a Gstaad semifinalist who was placed at the top of revised Kitzbühel draw following the withdrawal of top seed Casper Ruud.

• No. 1 doubles seeds Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus of New Zealand advanced to the quarterfinal round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Austrian wild cards Sebastian Ofner and Lukas Neumayer.  Other teams advancing include: Hugo Nys of Monaco and Jan Zielinski of Poland, and Pedro Martinez of Spain and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Monday’s Generali Open results

Tuesday’s Generali Open order of play

By the numbers

João Sousa broke a seven-match losing streak across all levels with his first-round win on Monday. It was his first win since defeating No. 108 Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan in the first round at Roland Garros.

“Quotable …”

“I’m very happy with this match. It’s always great to be back here in Kitzbühel. I’ve been here two times. This is my third time. I have great memories from 2017, I made the final [against Philipp Kohlschreiber]. The crowd is always good – cheering for the one who is losing. I was happy with my performance today. In the end I was able to win and that’s what matters.

“Most of the guys here came from Gstaad. We know each other very well. It’s always great to be back here. It’s a great tournament, great atmosphere. Playing great matches is my goal. I played a great match today. I’m happy with it.”

– No. 8 João Sousa of Portugal, during his on-court interview after winning his first-round match against Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic.