Rublev in his hand
Andrey Rublev did not tremble. Unlike Félix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov in particular, he was not trapped for his first ocher match of the year. The quarter-finalist of the US Open got the better of the Argentinian Facundo Bagnis, 135th in the world but specialist in the surface, in two well-controlled heats (6-4, 6-4) and 1:38 of play Tuesday in Rome. The Russian will face Hubert Hurkacz, winner of Daniel Evans (6-3, 3-6, 7-5) in the second round.
It often takes a few weeks to fully acclimatize to clay after playing a few hard tournaments. But in this extraordinary 2020 season, it is a luxury that the players will not have. Barely Flushing Meadows behind them, they must continue with a mini season on ocher with the climax of Roland-Garros in less than two weeks. With that in mind, Andrey Rublev may be satisfied with the way he handled this brutal transition. The Russian started off with a bang, then managed his business well for his entry into the running in the Italian capital.
After making a double entry break (3-0), Rublev saw his opponent come back a little, but kept a serve in advance to turn in the lead. Intense as usual in the rally, he found someone to talk to from the baseline. But his average level, his experience and his confidence this season have allowed him to better manage the important points. With 3 games everywhere in the second set, he made the decisive difference, even if he had to dismiss 4 debreak balls afterwards. He was also able to increase his percentage of first balls to take cover and get his 20th success this season.
Alex de Minaur in Rome in 2020
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Difficult transition for De Minaur
For Alex de Minaur, however, the return to earth was brutal. Still not badly started, he was overthrown by the German qualifier Dominik Koepfer (3-6, 6-3, 7-6) in 2:33. Also quarter-finalist at the US Open but less at ease on ocher, the Australian nevertheless led by a set and a break, but he conceded 6 consecutive games of 3-6, 1-3 to 3- 6, 6-3, 1-0.
The third set was marked by many reversals. De Minaur served for the match at 5-4 but was unbreaker. And it was Koepfer, more daring and slayer of Gilles Simon before in qualifying, who beat him to the post during the decisive tie-break. The Australian called a number of faults far too high (44) and unusual for him, and a percentage of first balls too low (52%). The German, for his part, will therefore find Gaël Monfils in the second round.
Denis Shapovalov in Rome in 2020
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Shapovalov confirms his current form
Later in the day, Denis Shapovalov proved to his advantage against Guido Pella. While just coming out of his first quarter-final in a Grand Slam, the Canadian left no chance for the Argentine, sweeping him in two dry sets (6-2, 6-3) and 1h25 of play. In legs and still as impactful, he quickly took the measure of his opponent who is definitely going through a complicated recovery after being excluded from the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati (because of a positive coronavirus test from his physical trainer) and eliminated in the 1st tour of the US Open.
Shapovalov put on the show with a few one-handed backhands he knows the secret of. The left-hander was especially very serious and consistent from the baseline, and almost impregnable on his first ball (85% success behind). For his next match, he will start as favorite against the Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, 109th in the world, who offered the scalp of Sam Querrey (6-3, 7-6).
Raonic solid against Mannarino
Back on the courts after having observed a quarantine in New York, Adrian Mannarino came up against the entry (6-7, 2-6) on the Canadian Milos Raonic, the number 13 seed. The French (38th world) held up well in the first set, saving several break points to push the Canadian to the tie-break. Milos Raonic, crumbly so far, tightened his game and took advantage of a double fault from Mannarino to make the difference. Broken quickly in the second, the 32-year-old Frenchman was no longer going to return in this match which was interrupted at the start of the game by rain for nearly an hour.