Defending champion Dominic Thiem seeded two at the Erste Bank Open, an ATP Tier 500 event, found himself struggling at first when he faced Vitaly Sachko of the Ukraine in his opening round in Vienna.
I had problems getting into the match, lost my serve too many times. Dominic Thiem
Sachko, ranked 529, making his tour debut, was a late replacement for Kei Nishikori who was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury and while there may have been a gap of 526 ranking places between the two, the 23 year-old surprised the Austrian world No.3 and US Open champion, with some fierce and determined play to pull himself back into the match when trailing 5-1 down in the first set.
Having twice failed to serve out for the opening set, Thiem made no mistake when breaking Sachko in the tenth game.
Thiem also lost a 4-1 lead in the second set but regained control at 6-5 with a powerful backhand passing shot to progress into the second round 6-4 7-5.
“I had problems getting into the match, lost my serve too many times. But in general I am happy, and the last couple of games had the right intensity,” Thiem said after claiming his 10th straight win on Austrian soil having won at Kitzbuehel and Vienna last year.
While he had been startled by his first-round opponent’s play, Thiem must have been more surprised at later learning his second round wouldn’t be against Stan Wawrinka as expected, but Cristian Garin from Chile who produced the upset of the day by eliminating the powerful Swiss player 6-4 6-7(9) 6-3.
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic struggle initially before making his expected progress into the second round.
Playing his good friend and Serbian compatriot, Filip Krajnovic, he was forced to draw on all his experience to quell a very spirited performance from an opponent who had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Krajinovic will rue the opportunities he had especially when he found himself poised to take the first set in the 10th game only for Djokovic to break back and level and wrapping up the opener in the eventual tiebreak.
The second set went more according to plan and he closed out the match after nearly two hours of play, 7-6(6) 6-3.
“I was lucky in the first set… We are good friends, we train a lot [together] and it is never easy to play someone that you are very close to,” the world No.1 said after the match.
“He is a very nice guy and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him, I tried to be there as a friend, as a mentor. We go back a long way.
“We practised a few times [together] before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone that you know very well.”
Reflecting on te match itself, the 17-time grand slam champion added:
“[In the] first set, I think he was the better player. He was serving for the first set and I was lucky. He missed a smash at 6-6 in the tie-break.
“A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match. In the second set, I stepped it up, I played better and I am just pleased with the way I finished the match.”
Awaiting the title favourite is the Croatian Borna Coric who won through on Monday.
Dan Evans was also in action on day two in what was an intriguing match against the former Briton Aljaz Bedene who having been denied a GB Davis Cup place by the ITF, reverted to the nationality of his birth, Slovenia.
The match ended prematurely with the British No.1 leading 6-3 4-5 when Bedene retired with a right thigh injury which he had picked up early in the match.
Until that point the two were involved in a tight match with Evans claiming the solitary break in the opening set, and fending off several break-points in the second.
Evans goes on to play the Austrian wildcard, Jurij Rodionov who claimed Denis Shapovalov’s scalp on day one.
In other action Hungary’s Grigor Dimitrov, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz and Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego all had straight-set wins.
Dimitrov took out Russia’ Karen Khachanov 7-6(6) 6-3 after two-hours and 23-minutes; Hurkacz made light work of Hungarian Attila Bal, a qualifier, 6-3 7-5 ; and Sonego, a late replacement for Diego Schwartzman, the sixth seed from Argentina, defeated Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-4 6-3.
At the Astana Open, an ATP 250 event being played in Nur-Sultan, Kazakkhstan, Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori who came through the qualifying competition, secured and excellent victory over the local Timofey Skatov making his debut on the tour.
The Finn required just an hour to dispatch the 19-year-old 6-2 6-0 to progress to the next stage.
In a battle of two qualifiers, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita ousted Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur 6-1 5-7 6-4 in two hours and seven-minutes, saving seven out of ten break chances and securing five breaks.
The Italian veteran Andreas Seppi defeated Russia’s Aslan Karatsev 6-3 1-6 6-3 in just under two hours, while Jiri Vesely prevailed against the fifth seeded Tennys Sandgren of the US 6-4, 7-6(7) in an hour and 40-minutes.
Belarussian Egor Gerasimov defeated South Africa’s Lloyd Harris 6-3 3-6 7-6(3) in just over two hours.