In what is being described as the strongest field ever to be gathered for an ATP 500 event, Denis Shapovalov, the eighth seed from Canada, crashed out of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, to the Austrian wildcard Jurij Rodionov in straight sets for the biggest win of his career.
I have no expectations at all in Vienna. Just to give my best in every match and we will see what happens. I did already a really great, great season, so there is nothing to lose Andrey Rublev
To the delight of the home crowd, the 21-year-old, world ranked at 153, stunned the similarly aged Canadian 6-4 7-5 who ranked at 12, now has only a slim chance of qualifying for the season ending ATP Finals at the O2 in London next month.
Rodionov converted three of four break points and won 12 of 17 net points to mark a memorable debut appearance in his home tournament in Vienna.
The 6’3” left-hander dropped just two points behind his second serve in the second set as he maintained the pressure on his first round opponent whose serve proved his downfall, committing 10 double faults, two of which were made during the final game of the match.
Rodionov’s next opponent could be the British number one Dan Evans or the former Briton, now playing under the Slovenian flag, Aljaz Bedene who play Tuesday.
Four other matches were played on the opening day, which started with the 2018 champion, Kevin Anderson facing another local player, Dennis Novak, who, like Rodionov, was playing courtesy of a wild card but unlike his compatriot, just failed to oust the big serving Springbok despite holding three match points in the deciding tie-break.
The South African, who has undergone two knee operations, required the trainer on a couple of occasions to loosen up the joint, but any problems he might have faced were not evident on court, producing, when 6-3 down in the deciding tiebreak, five consecutive winners to claim a place in the next round 6-7(2) 6-4 7-6(6) after two-hours and 44-minutes.
Anderson will take on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta who advanced when his opponent, the game’s great entertainer Gael Monfls of France, retired when trailing 6-1 2-0 with an unspecified injury, much to the disappointment of all present.
Croatia’s Borna Coric made light work of Taylor Fritz, defeating the American 6-4 6-4 and will no doubt be happy to have conserved energy as he is expecting the world number one Novak Djokovic, a late entry and competing on a wild card, in the next round.
Djokovic first has to deal with his Serbian compatriot, Filip Krajinovic on Tuesday.
Finally Andrey Rublev started his campaign with a 6-3 6-2 win over qualifier Norbert Gombos of Slovakia, hitting 11 aces and converting three of four break points he held to improve his seasonal record to 35wins against just 7 losses.
The 22-year-old Russian is currently favourite to fill the last qualifying place for the ATP Tour Final at the O2, and on this form, it is clear to see why. He is currently chasing his third ATP 500 title and his fifth of the year.
“I was really lucky to start well from the beginning. It gave me more confidence. Each game I was playing better and better. At the end of the match I finished with a good level.
“I have no expectations at all in Vienna. Just to give my best in every match and we will see what happens. I did already a really great, great season, so there is nothing to lose”, he said following his win.
Meanwhile in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, at the ATP 250 Astan Open, British No.3 Cameron Norrie, lost in the opening round after failing to convert a match point against Australian Jordan Thompson, the eighth seed when he led 6-5 in the second set tiebreak.
Thompson recovered to go on and claim his second round spot 5-7 7-6(6) 6-2.
Also through are Frances Tiafoe of the US who beat Feanchman Corentin Moutet 6-3 6-2 while Spain’s veteran Fernando Verdasco won 6-4 7-6(5) against James Duckworth.
In the remaining matches played on Monday, American Tommy Paul, seeded 7, beat Italian Stefano Trafaglia 7-6(2) 6-3 and will face Moldovian Radu Albot who defeated the wild card local Dimitry Popko, 4-6 6-4 6-4.