Hassan Wins Opening Match At Toulouse Challenger

Benjamin Hassan (photo: Florian Heer)


Benjamin Hassan headlined Tuesday’s first-round action at the Internationeaux de Toulouse. The World No. 293 knocked out Frenchman Alexander Muller, third seed of the ATP Challenger Tour 80 clay-court tournament hosted by the Stade Toulousain Tennis Club, 6-1, 6-3.

On a sunny day in Southern France, Hassan broke his rival five times and won 59 per cent of the total points played to succeed in 69 minutes. The 27-year-old, who was born in Merzig, Germany but plays under the Libanese flag, the home country of his parents, seems to be good shape.

“This is my first time here in Toulouse and I arrived at night. Actually, I should have competed in the qualifying, but I have entered the main draw as an alternate because a few players withdrew. The courts look very good and the weather is nice,” Hassan told Tennis TourTalk ahead of his first match on Sunday.

“My season has been very good, since I had a short low, especially last year. I was in 500th place and had a lot of doubts about whether I would still want to do it. But I kept going and hired a mental coach because I had given up a lot of encounters. I wanted to attack again and since then it’s been going very well.”

Hassan made headlines last week at the Srpska Open in Banja Luka when he came back from 4-6, 1-5 down and saved 12 match points to eventually outlast Austria’s Lucas Miedler in the first-round.

“I didn’t really realize it,” Hassan explained and laughed. “It was a tough match. I didn’t play well and Lucas made it difficult for me. I made too many unforced errors lost the first set 4-6 and I was down 1-5 in the second set. But I stuck with it and played with this ‘all-or-nothing attitude’. I said to myself ‘Hit it again’ and then I hit a few winners straight away. Of course, to fend off 12 match points, you also need a good portion of luck. All you have to do is hit a ball with the frame and that’s it and you lost. But it was also a little bit about the attitude not to give up despite the deficit.”

Hassan will next take on Louis Wessels. The 24-year-old German battled past Johan Nikles from Switzerland 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in two hours and 29 minutes.

Taberner begins Toulouse campaign

Earlier in the day, top seed Carlos Taberner opened his title bid with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory over local wild card entry Mathys Erhard. The World No. 116 capitalized on four of his eight break-point chances to advance in one hour and 44 minutes. Taberner will next play Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal.

Fourth-seeded Italian Gianluca Mager booked his spot in the second round with a 6-3, 7-6(8) win over Russian qualifier Andrey Chepelev. The 27-year-old Sanremo native sent down six aces and won 88 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after one hour and 45 minutes. Up next for Mager will be Frenchman Maxime Janvier, who beat Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-4, 7-6(9) in one hour and 40 minutes.