By Florian Heer
(June 12, 2014) PRAGUE – The second round of the Prague Open took place again in hot conditions and the focus remained on the local heroes. Top-seed Lukas Rosol faced Jordi Samper-Montana for the very first time. After an untroubled opening round victory, the Czech seemed to get another walk in the park. At least in the first set Rosol dominated the encounter at will and took the set in the seventh game. The Spanish world No. 277 found his rhythm in the following set winning it in the tie-break. Yet Samper-Montana still wasn’t able to really cope with the Czech’s powerful game, who also took advantage of serving in the final set first. Rosol advanced into the quarterfinal winning 6-1, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 17 minutes.
The two Czech youngsters were also in action. Wild card Adam Pavlasek, who supports with Slavia Praha another football club of the capital city than the local club Sparta, took on Ze Zhang. So far, the only 19-year-old has confirmed his good results during the last couple of weeks, where he could win two Futures titles and reached the semi-finals at Prostejov Challenger. Today, however, he seemed to be a bit shaky in the decisive situations. Zhang played a solid game with flat and aggressive baseline shots. Consequently, the world No. 205 from China advanced into his fourth Challenger quarterfinal of the season winning 7-5, 7-5 in one hour and 52 minutes.
“It was a very competitive match today. Unfortunately I had some injury at my forefinger, which hindered me at my service. So I made a couple of double faults. I will get some treatment tonight to recover for Friday,” Zhang told me. “For men it is very difficult to get to the top. Every match is so close and you have to compete with the European guys on clay. In Asia we don’t have that many clay courts. Nonetheless, it is a big chance for me to improve as my confederation supports me to travel the tour,” the Chinese No. 1 player explained. “Of course I like hard courts but if you want to play the Grand Slams, you’ll have to be good on every surface,” Zhang added and said that it was a great experience to play Fernando Verdasco in the opening round at this year’s Australian Open. It was also the first time a male player from China qualified for a major.
Second-seed Jiri Vesely, who received the ATP Newcomer of the Year Award at the end of the last season at London’s 02 arena, faced Gerard Granollers for the first time and he was tested more than in his opening round. The 20-year-old Czech produced a couple of mishits and unforced errors and seemed also a bit surprised by the strong performance of the Spaniard.
“I didn’t expect him to play that well. His backhands were with a lot of spin and I couldn’t really find my rhythm throughout the match today,” Vesely told me afterwards. Nonetheless, in the end the second-seed emerged victorious winning 6-3, 7-6 in one hour 42 minutes. “I still have a bit of a cold and I’m feeling that I’m not as that fit compared to last week. So I wanted to close the match as soon as possible and therefore I showed some fighting spirit today. I’m happy that I won the match,” the Czech added.
Two unseeded players met in Prague for the third time on the Tour when Steven Diez faced Adrian Sikora. The latter took out defending champion Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the opening round and also made an impressive start into Wednesday’s match. The Slovakian bagled his opponent in the opening set in only twenty minutes. Diez, who was born in a small town near Toronto but moved with his family to Spain at the age of six and practices in Barcelona, improved in the following sets significantly and eventually advanced into the quarterfinal winning 0-6, 6-1, 6-1 after one hour and 29 minutes.
Lorenzo Giustino took out a second Spaniard in a row winning 6-3, 6-3 against Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in 80 minutes. The Italian’s big advantage was his solid baseline game from where he hit a couple of punishing forehands.
“It was a really tough match today. Playing Adrian is always hard. Like most of the Spanish guys, he is very good on clay court,” Giustino told me afterwards and said that he is actually good friend with all of the Spaniards on the circuit due to the fact that he has been practicing in Barcelona for several years. “I tried to change some tactic things on court. Before I was more a kind of a defensive player. Now I’m trying to take the ball earlier and also going to the net more often. I also try to put more variety into my game and I’m quite happy that the improvements have worked out so far here,” the Italian added. “Actually I don’t care about my next opponent but of course it will be a great experience to face a top 60 player,” Giustino was looking forward to his quarterfinal match against Rosol.
Another Spaniard made it into the quarterfinals, though. Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo defeated 2012 Roland Garros junior champion Kimmer Coppejans in a classy clay court fight, where the service seemed to be more a disadvantage than an advantage, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 after two hours and 27 minutes.
“It was a very tough match today. Kimmer played really well and we made a couple errors with a lot of breaks on both sides. In particular my service wasn’t very good, as there was a problem with the sun on one side of the court. Nevertheless, I was still fighting for every ball and I’m happy with the victory,” the 36-year-old winner from Alicante said afterwards.
Two qualifiers were also still in action and both prevailed. Michael Lammer, who has qualified for an ATP Challenger main draw for the first time this year, upset seventh-seed Matteo Viola winning 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 51 minutes to meet Roberto Marcora in the quarterfinal. The 24-year-old Italian, who recently won three Future events in a row all at one place in Santa Margherita di Pula, beat an uninspiringly acting Henri Laaksonen in only 59 minutes 1-6, 2-6.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit. Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.