Dream Draw For Belgium’s Bailly At Antwerp

Gilles Arnauld Bailly and Dick Norman (photo: Belga/European Open)

ANTWERP/WASHINGTON, October 16, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

While the draw for the upcoming European Open in Antwerp, Belgium includes five of the current Top 25 players – World No. 11 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Florence finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime are the top seeds – it will also feature three Belgians with the possibility of three more home-grown players emerging from the qualifying draw.

The 28-player draw ATP 250 indoor hard-court event at Lotto Arena, whose field also includes Great Britain’s Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and Frenchman Richard Gasquet, begins main-draw play on Monday with two days of qualifying starting on Sunday in the capital city of Antwerp Province located in the country’s Flemish region.

While wild card David Goffin, 31, is the most well-known of the Belgian players who will compete this week, two other wild cards from Belgium worth keeping an eye on are Gilles Arnaud Bailly, ranked No. 1185, who was drawn to face Goffin in the first round, and No. 267 Michael Geerts, who will play Austria’s Dominic Thiem. No. 136 Zizou Bergs of Belgium is injured and is not competing in this year’s tournament. Last year’s titlist, current World No 12 Jannik Sinner of Italy, is also sidelined with an injury and unable to defend his title.

Bailly, 17, and Goffin will be featured on Tuesday evening. The young Belgian, who is currently the No. 2-ranked junior boys’ player in the world and was a finalist this year at both the US Open and French Open junior boys’ events, was a guest for Saturday’s draw ceremony. Facing the 58th-ranked Goffin is “dream come true,” he admits.

“I was hoping for two names beforehand to play against: Murray and Goffin,” Bailly said. “It’s fantastic to come out against David. I have already learned a lot from him. I also look up a lot from him and I followed him with special attention during the Davis Cup, for example.

“We have a bit of the same style of play. Such a draw does create a lot of adrenaline. It was also a bit of a wait until my name came out, but I am so hugely satisfied with this opponent.”

Tournament director Dick Norman, who was seated alongside Bailly, front and center, during the draw ceremony, said: “With Goffin and Bailly, the two greatest Belgian talents are coming into action against each other right away. They are two strong baseline players who will make for a brilliant match.”

Sunday’s European Open qualifying order of play

European Open notes

• Besides Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime, the other seeded players include: No. 3 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 4 Karen Khachanov of Russia, No. 5 Daniel Evans of Great Britain, No. 6 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, No. 7 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, and No. 8 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan. The top seeds in doubles are Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia.

• There are three Belgians in the 16-player singles qualifying draw: wild cards Alexander Blockx and Ruben Bemelmans and alternate Yannick Mertens. Bemelmans and Blockx will team in doubles and former Belgian great Xavier Matisse has received a doubles wild card and will team with Diego Schwartzman.

• There is a total financial commitment of €725,540 for this year’s European Open. The winner, who will be crowned on Oct. 23, will earn €98,580 and receive 250 ATP Rankings points.