It’s not every day you can spend ten hours at an indoor tennis club in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, watching a $20k combined event amongst a small number of tennis-loving friends.
At the main venue, today’s action included 12 matches, seven of which made up the men’s second round in the Switzerland F1 Futures. They featured everyone from top-200-ranked 29-year-old Bastian Knittel to unranked 17-year-old Swiss wildcard Daniel Valent. Here are reports on some of the highlights and some of the rest.
George Von Massow (GER) d. (2)Peter Torebko (GER) 6-4 6-3
Torebko is a veteran of Challengers and ATP qualifiers; like many of the seeds this week, he’s not someone you’d expect to see in a Futures event. Alas, he wasn’t rewarded for dropping down a level.
The 25-year-old is steady, with perhaps the best defensive game on display all day. Alas, the conditions featured an explosive indoor hard court that rewarded huge weaponry, and Von Massow had more of that. The final scoreline disguises how close the match felt, especially until Von Massow sealed the first set. For several games, Torebko withstood the firepower with a nice combination of flat and slice backhands, waiting until his younger opponent made errors.
Then Von Massow stopped making so many errors. While Torebko hit his share of service winners, especially slices wide, he could only watch while his countryman’s unforced errors turned into winners. A smarter player–or any player on a slower or less predictable court–probably could have gotten Von Massow off track, as the German looked awkward whenever he had to strike a ball outside of his hitting zone. But he took advantage of the indoor conditions and kept his form long enough to get through to the quarters.
(Q)Bastian Wagner (GER) d. (7)Adrian Bossel (SUI) 6-4 6-4
Wagner is a David Goffin-sized 18-year-old from Germany with a game to match. He swings hard, with a two-handed backhand he’s willing to hit anywhere, but he doesn’t seem to be that strong. Unless he found a perfect angle, he rarely hit winners. His saving grace was Bossel’s inconsistency and apparent indifference.
It’s unclear whether Bossel’s performance today was due to an injury–he knelt over in pain in mid-game early in the first set and took a medical time out. In any event, plenty of errors came off his racquet when he failed to bend his knees for rallying shots, and he refused to play much defense. The Swiss is a tall lefty who takes advantage of his height to hit flat groundstrokes, but even with that advantage, he netted plenty of shots he shouldn’t have.
He also didn’t seem to use his lefthandedness for positive effect. Wagner’s backhand took time to get zoned in–the German made at least four errors off that wing in the first two games alone–but once it did, the result was a foregone conclusion. Wagner won 6-4 6-4, a line that says more about Bossel’s weakness than Wagner’s skill.
(6)Antoine Benneteau (FRA) d. Riccardo Maiga (SUI) 6-2 6-4
Protip: If you’re at a Futures event and looking for Antoine Benneteau, try to find the guy who looks like Julien Benneteau. If Antoine shaved his beard, you might not be able to tell them apart.
Alas, the difference is evident when Antoine steps on the court. In a day of aggressive indoor play, the Frenchman may well have been the most aggressive of all. His serves could probably be heard outside the complex, and on the return, he often stepped well inside the baseline to respond to Maiga’s offerings–which were hardly weak.
While Maiga adapted to the indoor conditions–he played the second set much better than he did the first–he seemed like someone who would be more comfortable on clay. In the first set, he rarely took the offensive, settling for topspin groundstrokes that gave Benneteau openings to grab the initiative. What’s odd about Antoine’s style of play is that, once he settles in for a rally, he can be quite passive, camping a few feet behind the baseline, oblivious to openings. But if the slightest opportunity appears within his first two or three shots, it’s a guarantee that the Frenchman will end the point (one way or another) immediately.
(3)Martin Fischer (AUT) d. Hugo Nys (FRA) 6-4 6-4
Another protip: If you’re trying to find Martin Fischer, look for the spitting image of Alan Ruck, the guy who played Ferris Bueller’s sidekick. It’s eerie. Fischer’s impenetrable demeanor on the tennis court even matches what Cameron’s might be.
This match was a study in contrasts and the most interesting of the day. Fischer knows how to play indoors, but can’t overpower anyone; Nys is the most dynamic player who showed up in Frauenfeld.
Like his countryman Benneteau, Nys can be hyper-aggressive, going for second-shot winners, even stepping in and taking a swing against a first serve. Particularly against Fischer’s second offerings, Nys would refuse to play defense, aiming for corners and often hitting them.
Alas, Fischer was too smart. Strangely enough, the Austrian isn’t particularly steady; my notes are filled with references to types of shots he missed that he should have made, especially mid-court. But he was steadier than Nys, who came unhinged after losing the first set on a late break of serve. The Frenchman took lower and lower percentage shots, and one could sense Fischer getting increasing patient, realizing that he could just wait for errors.
All that said, the 22-year-old Nys has plenty of potential. He plays aggressive tennis all over the court, with a powerful serve to set up sharp angles from both his forehand and a flashy one-handed backhand. As with anyone ranked outside of the top 600, the odds are against him, but the talent is there.
(1)Bastian Knittel (GER) d. (Q)Maximilian Abel (GER) 7-5 6-3
Knittel is ranked within the top 200 and the #1 seed in Frauenfeld. Based on the power he displayed today, it’s surprising that he hasn’t strung together a few solid challenger results and snuck into the top 100. Alas, his peak so far is 157, and at 29, his opportunities for bettering that mark are slipping.
I don’t have many notes on this match–it’s tough to remember a single point that went beyond four shots. Both players are huge servers with huge groundstrokes, and Abel was sufficiently inconsistent to keep points very short. Abel has also peaked in the top 200, but that was 10 years ago. He’s now a 31-year-old outside of the top 1000 in the world rankings, a minor obstacle for Knittel en route to a title that should go to the #1 seed.
Edoardo Eremin (ITA) d. (5)Victor Galovic (ITA) 6-4 6-4
This battle of Italians was a noisy one, full of huge serves and almost-as-huge forehands. It was also tough to keep track of, since most of it took place while the women’s doubles final was played between the crowd and their court.
Galovic, ranked in the 300’s to Eremin’s 500’s, is the paper favorite, but he played a bit like Bossel, not moving as well as one would expect of a top-level player and relying on obvious opportunities to hit winners. Neither player was particularly imaginative, settling in for crosscourt forehand-to-forehand rallies that, while impressive, hardly served to separate the two.
Ultimately, Galovic made a few more errors. Neither player showed any notable talents except for the typical big-serve/big-forehand combination that, alone, gets so many guys into the top 500.
(4)Sandro Ehrat (SUI) d. (WC)Daniel Valent (SUI) 6-1 6-1
The match of the day, between two Swiss players, was a dud. Ehrat, a highly-touted 21-year-old ranked in the top 350, is the best home hope to win the event. Valent, merely 17 years old, is a wildcard who managed to beat yet another native son, Alexander Sadecky, the first round.
Valent doesn’t yet quite belong at this level, and worse, he doesn’t appear to believe he belongs at this level. He was quickly broken in the opening game of the match, looking like he was in awe of his older and more accomplished opponent. Whenever he seemed to be getting into the match, he got tight. After nearly every winner, he pumped his fist; after every error, he swung his racquet as if he was about to smash it. It was exhausting to watch.
Valent has a big game. He looks like he has some growing yet to do; with another few inches, his game could be even bigger. More important, though, is that he learns some defensive skills. Ehrat is hardly a counterpuncher, but Valent made him look like one. The older player hit only a few flashy shots, generally withstanding the occasional ace or winner from Valent’s racquet and watching the games pile up on the teenager’s errors.
It’s a shame–I had hoped to see what the fuss is about. Ehrat did look rather smooth and his serve appeared to be a bit tricky to read. Those two qualities, combined with his nationality, are enough to generate some dangerous Federer comparisons. For the time being, though, Roger’s spot on the Swiss Davis Cup team is safe.