Patrick Mouratoglou’s Ultimate Tennis Showdown mark 2 got underway at his academy located in Sophia Antipolis near Nice in the south of France on Saturday, where Richard ‘The Virtuoso’ Gasquet, more accustomed to the unusual format, cruised to a 4-0: 15-10 13-10 14-11 18-10 over Grigor Dimitrov.
I played very good, I played well. It was a big match. First time he’s playing here, it’s not easy, but it was a good performance. Richard Gasquet
A couple of new rules probably didn’t help World No 19 Dimitrov adjust to the format, while the singles court, with the tramlines removed, may also have thrown him off his rhythm.
Gasquet’s use of his UTS cards proved to be the key.
“Yeah, it’s a big advantage, I have more experience with the format,” Gasquet said. “I think I did well. Maybe I have more experience but he is a very talented player.”
Gasquet, who lost to Matteo Berrettini in the semifinal of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown 1 two weeks ago, raced out to a 6-3 lead in the first quarter.
Dimitrov drew level to 6-6, as Gasquet did not convert his ‘winner x3’ card, but the Frenchman regained the 4-point lead, opting to use the new ‘Next Point x2’ card, which gives the winner the chance to win two points, and converting it to take a 13-8 lead.
Both players were unable to convert their cards, but Gasquet cruised through to a 13-10 win in the second quarter before taking a 11-7 lead with 2 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.
Dimitrov played his ‘Winner x3’ card, but he could not find the winner that he needed and Gasquet clinched the third quarter, 14-11.
Gasquet eased through to a 18-10 win in the 4th quarter. when, again, Dimitrov played his ‘Winner x3’ Card on the return, but failed to convert.
“I played very good, I played well,” The Virtuoso commented. “It was a big match. First time he’s playing here, it’s not easy, but it was a good performance.”
Dimitrov, who was making his return to the court after testing positive for Covid-19 at the recent Adria Tour, was delighted to be back in action, enjoying the conditions and the sounds of DJ Bob Sinclar courtside, if not the result of the opening quarter.
“It’s great,” he said. “Wonderful to be back on the court, different circumstances, just enjoying it. I had to learn the rules pretty quick. It’s fun. That’s my name.”
Dimitrov rejected the idea of having a fun nickname for the event, like the other players. “ I’ve had way too many nicknames over the years, I didn’t want to have one,” he joked.
Feliciano ‘El Torero’ Lopez edged past Alexei ‘The Sniper’ Popyrin 3-1: 17-8 11-19 17-13 13-12, avenging his defeat against the young Australian in UTS 1.
“He was serving really good in the first match we played and I didn’t have much chance,” a delighted Lopez said.
“Today I think I served pretty good in the first two quarters, then I was starting to get tired towards the end but sometimes you have the luck. It would have been very hard for me to lose another match in sudden death. I had such a terrible experience in sudden death in UTS1, losing three out of three. I didn’t want to go there again.”
Popyrin started with a double fault and hit an ace on the second point.
Lopez hit a backhand lob to pull away to a 5-2 lead and used his ‘steal serve’ card at 7-2 to win the next 4 points, but Popyrin clawed his way back to 8-11.
Lopez won the next 3 points at 14-8 to seal the opening quarter.
In the third, the Spaniard clawed his way back to 7-7 using his ‘x2 winner’ card, but Popyrin used his ‘steal serve’ card to win both points and took a 9-7 lead.
The Australian extended his lead to 4 points and served well to win the second quarter, 19-11.
Lopez took a 6-3 lead in the third, but Popyrin used his ‘steal serve’ to draw level at 6-6.
Both players used their ‘next point two’ card winning 4 points out of 4 to draw level to 10-10 and Lopez took the crucial point on Popyrin’s serve to lead 13-11 with a forehand volley winner.
In the 4th, Popyrin hit a service winner to take a 11-10 lead, but Lopez hit a service winner and an ace to take a 12-11 lead.
Popyrin hit a service winner to draw level to 12-12 with 5 seconds to go, hitting an ace on his second serve to take the match to the sudden death, but it was called wide by the umpire.
“Today I think I served pretty good in the first two serves, then I was starting to get tired towards the end but sometimes you have the luck,” said Feliciano Lopez. “It would have been hard for me to lose another match in the sudden death.
“I had such a terrible experience in sudden death in UTS 1, losing 3 out of 3. I did not to go there again.”
In other matches, Benoit ‘The Rebel’ Paire outplayed Dustin ‘The Artist’ Brown, serving brilliantly and crunching some stunning backhands as he repeated his win over the German from UTS1, clinching a 3-1: 20-15, 21-13, 17-19, 21-15 victory.
“I was feeling much better on my serve, really happy about it,” World No 22 Paire said. “I was very focused on the game.
“I know the rules a little bit better, I made a good match, it was a good performance for me.
“UTS1 was not good performance for me, great entertainment but not the results I wanted. Honestly, I started a little bit better on this one. My goal is to win UTS2.”
Newcomer to the field Fernado ‘El Fuego’ Verdasco looked like he had done enough when he led by 2 quarters to 1, and 12-8 in the 4th, but Corentin ‘Tornado’ Moutet found inspiration just when he needed it to snatch the 4th and then win sudden death 3-1, saving a match point in the process to clinch victory, 3-2: 19-13, 13-16, 12-16, 16-13, [3-1].
“I don’t know how I won,” Moutet admitted. “He was playing so good, pushing me back on my backhand. I had to find a solution.”
Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger Aliassime are the top names at the UTS2, gaining direct entry to the semi-final stage next weekend.
A women’s tournament also takes place in the second week of the UTS, featuring Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova, Alizé Cornet, Ons Jabeur and 13-year-old Czech player Brenda Fruhvirtova, who is coached by Patrick Mouratoglou.