Buenos Aires | Tennis campaign opens with upsets
The Youth Olympic Games got underway in Buenos Aires with the boys singles first round and the girls doubles first round played on Sunday.
Argentines David Nalbandian, a former World No 3, and Gabriela Sabatini, a former US Open champion, are both Athlete Role Models at Buenos Aires 2018.
Both have been speaking to players and media at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club where the tennis event is taking place.
Sabatini won the silver medal at Seoul 1988 and the experience remains one of her enduring tennis memories, while Nalbandian says his favourite times on a tennis court always came when representing his country in the Davis Cup.
On court, Ondrej Styler from the Czech Republic and Romania’s Filip Cristian Jianu scored opening day upsets in the boys singles on Court 3 where both the No 4 and No 5 seeds fell in their openers.
Jianu defeated 4th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 6-4 6-4 before Styler ended No 5 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia’s Youth Olympic dreams with a 6-4 6-2 victory.
For Jianu it was his first win against Musetti in his third match-up against the 2018 US Open runner-up.
“It’s amazing,” Jianu said. “My team is awesome, we hang out together every [day], all the Romanians from all the sports and the atmosphere is really nice, the courts are very good here. I love it!”
Styler, who spoke of his friendship with his opponent Mejia, is another player who is enjoying his time in Buenos Aires and his first round scalp has given him a taste for more success.
“I love it here,” said the Czech. “It’s a great atmosphere and I would love to go to Tokyo or Paris.”
The remaining six seeds in the boys’ singles progressed unscathed.
World No 1 Tseng Chun Hsin scored a 3 6-4 victory over Kazakhstan’s Dostanbek Tashbulatov and he seems undaunted by the prospect of being one of the players to beat at the Youth Olympic Games.
“I think I always focus on my court and just focus on what I want to do and what I can improve and just enjoy playing on the court and enjoy tennis,” he said.
Another player who will have plenty of pressure but also plenty of support from the home crowd is No 2 seed Sebastian Baez.
The Argentine avoided a potential banana skin against Chinese Taipei’s Ray Ho with a 6-4 6-1 win on Centre Court.
Like his fellow Olympians, Baez is loving life at the Games.
“The Olympic Village is incredible,” he said. “I am enjoying everything to the maximum. You don’t want to leave it because you’re having such a good time.”
France’s Hugo Gaston went into his opening round encounter against Dominican Republic’s Nick Hardt having lost three and won one of their previous matches.
In round two the Frenchman faces another player against whom he has an inferior head-to-head having lost his only previous match-up against Japan’s Naoki Tajima.
Adrian Andreev survived a three-hour thriller against Spain’s Carlos Lopez Montagud, eventually prevailing 7-6(4) 3-6 6-2.
The Bulgarian explained that he had lost three close matches with his Spanish opponent in the past, including ‘a crazy match’ where he was leading 6-1 5-1 and 30-0 before losing.
Americans Drew Baird won over Patrick Sydow of Aruba, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3, while Tristan Boyer lost to Yanki Erel of Turkey, 6-3 7-6(9).
The girls’ doubles first round also took place on the opening day with three of the four seeded pairings progressing unscathed.
The only seeded duo to fall was the Taiwanese team of Joanna Garland and Liang En Shuo.
Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina and Colombia’s Maria Camila Osorio Serrano teamed up to great success in the final match on Centre Court, overcoming Burundi’s Sada Nahimana and Guatemala’s Maria Gabriela Rivera Corado 6-4 6-4.
On Monday the Argentine and the Colombian will face off in the first singles match on Centre Court.
Carle said: “I think it’s going to be tough, bad luck because we are like 32 in the draw but tomorrow we play each other.
“One of us has to win so I think I will try to do my best and, if I have to win, I’m going to win. It’s going to be a great battle but I’m going to try my best.”
The two American girls in the tournament, Alexa Noel and Lea Ma, lost their first round match to Selma Cadar of Romania and Lulu Sun of Switzerland 6-4 6-1.
The girls singles, which begins on Monday, boasts three of the past four junior slam champion, with Xiyu Wang of China (US Open), En Shuo Liang of Taiwan (Australia Open) and Iga Swiatek of Poland (Wimbledon) in the field, along with Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, who has a WTA ranking of 197.
Swiatek(179) and Wang(182) also have Top 200 WTA rankings.
The Youth Olympic Games can be followed on the Olympic Channel at olympicchannel.com where there is a complete sport-by-sport guide to every event and is being streamed throughout the Games, as well as on buenosaires2018.com.
There is also a live show, YOG DAILY, on Twitter and Facebook every day of the Youth Olympic Games at 1pm Argentina Standard Time / 5pm UK Time, while the BBC provides some coverage via the red button.
The 2018 Youth Olympic Games brings 206 teams containing 4,000 athletes aged 15-18 to the Argentine capital.
The event is seen as a test-bed for future Olympic sports, with many of the sports to be seen in Tokyo in 2020 having been trialled at past Youth Games.
“This is the most important sporting event for Argentina since the World Cup in 1978,” said Argentine Olympic Committee President Gerardo Werthein, a former show jumper.
Despite Argentina’s ongoing economic struggles – they have a standby loan of $57 billion agreed with the International Monetary Fund – spectators to the Games will not be charged an entry fee.
“Our intention with these Games was that everyone should be able to take part,” said Werthein, 62.
“There was no question of calculating how much people would be able to pay for a ticket.”