Things got off to a riproaring start Monday in Meknes (or, if you’re Denis Gremelmayr, a R.I.P. roaring start, perhaps) as the top-seeded Gremel was deep-sixed by Guillermo Olaso in the very first main draw match of the tournament. (Actually, he was deep-seven-sixed and then deep-six-twoed, if you wanna get technical about it.) Olaso only served 47% first serves all match, too, if the stats are to be believed, plus he was broken in the first game of the match, and missed two chances to break right back.
He waited until Gremelmayr was serving for the first set at 5-4 to get the breakback, but get this: Gremel then broke a second time to secure another chance to serve it out. But you know how that went: no go. Olaso saved a set point, then broke for the breaker and came back from 2-4* down to win the last five points of the TB, winning the match 7-6(4) 6-2. This win alone might not be enough to take the 22-year-old to the next WATCH List, but another one certainly will. I’m really annoyed I didn’t wake up early enough to see this match, by the way, because the ATP lists his playing style as “Ambidextrous” and that’s something I’d like to verify with my own eye, TYVM.
So in my preview, I said that second seed Simon Greul would have a “less tricky” first rounder against Matteo Viola than Gremelmayr would have against Olaso; and my prescience was more than borne out, as Greul cruised to a 4-6 7-6(5) 7-5 victory. (What? It’s certainly “less tricky” than losing, no? It’s all relative.) The 29-year-old German only had to save a break point at a set down and 4-all, another one at 5-all, and then break in the crucial thirty-fourth game of the match and serve it out. Easy peasy.
But do you want to hear something shocking about this whole sordid affair? Here’s something: despite there having been 10 breaks of serve and 31 break points total, neither player was broken from 3-all in the second set until the penultimate game. Put another way: there were nine breaks in the first fourteen service games. Yikes.
I also wrote, in my preview, that the match between Nikola Ciric and seventh seed Augustin Gensse would be “a tough one to call”. Then I proceeded to call it anyways, in favor of Gensse. Of course, that sealed it right then and there, and Ciric went on to win 7-5 7-6(6), winning the last four points of the breaker from double set point down.
Other than that, there were no upsets on the day (although losing the first, second and seventh seeds out of only eight matches played on the first day should really be enough for most of you, honestly). Heilbronn champ and sixth seed Bastian Knittel initially had a tough time with Attila Balazs before drumming him out of the tournament 4-6 6-1 6-1. And I’m sad to report, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows how infantile I can be, that wildcard Anas Fattar laid an egg against fifth seed Alessio Di Mauro, getting blown out of the singles 6-1 6-3. But he’s still alive in doubles (possibly because he hasn’t played his match yet – he’s up against the top seeds, don’tcha know. Poor Anas.)
On Tuesday, I slept through most of the action (sorry – timezones, and my body clock has only just recently recovered from the thorough thrashing I gave it during the Australian Open), but I awoke in time to see a very poor mental showing from one of my Players to Watch, Evgeny Donskoy, as he faced off against “The Martian” Reda El Amrani.
Donskoy was broken early but broke back to 4-all in the crucial eighth game. He was even within two points of the first set at one point.
Visual Proof of my Above Claim
Then the weather, which suspended play soon after the end of this match, started to turn bad. As did the Russian’s play. The wind kicked up and kicked a Donskoy forehand wide at 5-all 15-all, and then he started making errors all over the place. Didn’t win another game until down a double break down 0-3 in the second, when El Amrani double faulted at 30-40 to give him one of those breaks back.
Reda missed a backhand wide at 0-30 to go down triple break point serving at 4-3…
…but he saved them all and Donskoy was all but dead meat from there. El Amrani 7-5 6-3.
In other fairly newsy news, the tournament lost its third seed today – in emphatic fashion – as 23 year-old Croatian qualifier Franco Skugor destroyed 29-year-old Frenchman Eric Prodon 6-2 6-1, proving (?) that Skugor’s win on clay 3.5 years ago in Banjaluka was not, in fact, a fluke. It’s the first time Skugor’s advanced past the first round of a tourney this year, though, while the Bucaramanga (BUCARAMANGA!) Challenger champ takes his first loss of 2011. I suppose it’s worth noting (so I’ll note it) that Skugor would’ve been seeded for this shindig, too, had he initially entered and not made his way into the main draw via qualifying, which makes this upset ever more slightly less shocking (assuming you were shocked in the first place).
The newly IMG-ified Andrey Kuznetsov fought off a stiff challenge from a worthy challenger (within a Challenger), defeating Portugal’s Leo Tavares 4-6 6-4 6-4. Weirdly enough, this one followed virtually the same pattern as the Gruel-Viola clash – 9 breaks in all, but with no breaks from halfway thru the second set until the second to last game of the match. Thus, all but one of those breaks occurred in the first 15 games of play. Plus, the loser of the first set became the eventual winner. As a result, my advice for Wednesday’s play is: if there’s a ton of breaks in the first set of any match, bet on the guy who loses the first set to win the match. Can’t fail! (warning: might fail.)
And now, I bring you the bad news: Meknes has lost both its Ouahab and its Ouahabi from the singles draw. That’s right: fourth seed Jaroslav Pospisil routined Lamine Ouahab 6-1 6-1, while Kevin Kim notched his second win of the new(ish) season by bidding ta ta to Talal Ouahabi in a 6-3 6-4 kind of way. But take heart: both Ouahabi(i) are still alive in the doubles draw. So there’s that.
Other results from today that merit only a passing mention: Ivo Klec shook off some kind of a something (jet lag? hangover? melancholy? ennui?) for an asinine-seeming 0-6 6-4 6-4 win over local wildcard Yassine Idmbarek (whom I’m tempted to look up on imdb). And “Little Granola” Gerard Granollers-Pujol went down to Guillermo Alcaide in straight sets, which did little to surprise me.
Perhaps you feel otherwise?