Day 2 at The Boodles: Del Potro and Kyrgios on top form
The sun continued to shine at Stoke Park on Wednesday, with Juan Martin del Potro and Nick Kyrgios among the players who turned up the heat with some top class tennis.
After closing the day with victory on Tuesday, Great Britain's Liam Broady opened Wednesday's action with another triumph: this time over the Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-5 4-6 10-2. The 24-year-old, who will compete in both singles and doubles at Wimbledon via a wildcard, played a dominant match tiebreak to defeat his experienced opponent.
“I'm feeling great,” the world no. 175 enthused. “I've not had many wins coming into this week, so it's important the week before Wimbledon to be able to come here and try and find a couple of wins for confidence on the grass.”
Stakhovsky, who won the Fuzion 100 Ilkley Trophy, an ATP Challenger event on Sunday, is most famous for shocking Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon in 2013.
“I don't remember much after the match, but I remember some points, key points,” Stakhovsky reflected. “It was a pretty deep memory.”
The 32-year-old is also a recipient of a Wimbledon wildcard, courtesy of his victory in Yorkshire – where he saved four match points in the first round.
“I qualified for Wimbledon last year and lost to Nishikori in the second round, but I qualified with an 8-6 win in the fifth set,” Stakhovsky recalled. “I'm really happy to skip it this year, because it's a really rough place. Everybody's fighting, everybody can play.”
An even closer battle followed Broady and Stakhovsky onto court, with world no. 4 Juan Martin del Potro saving match points to edge out 20-year-old Taylor Fritz of the USA 6-4 4-6 15-13.
“I was feeling good today,” the Argentine, who also competed at The Boodles last year, shared. “My game is adapting to the grass courts, and I think I'm going to be ready for Wimbledon.”
Del Potro was playing in his first match since facing Rafael Nadal in the French Open semifinals.
“I never thought I could play at this level again after all my wrist problems,” he confessed. “But I keep surprising myself in every tournament. I have a great connection with the fans at all tournaments, and I think you can see when I play that it's something special for me with them. They make me so happy even if I lose.”
Fritz, who has risen exactly 60 spots in the rankings since Wimbledon last season, relished the opportunity to face off with his childhood hero.
“It was just a really fun match to play and be on the court with Juan,” he shared. “Unfortunately I wasn't able to win, but it was a lot of fun. He's someone I've looked up to when I was younger, growing up – all my life.”
The insanely talented Nick Kyrgios was third up on Wednesday, taking down giant slayer Sam Querrey in a close straight-sets encounter 6-4 7-6(7). The Aussie expressed how important the action at Stoke Park is to his Wimbledon preparation.
“I think the courts play well, they play similar to Wimbledon,” he said. “It's fun, laid back, it's a great atmosphere. I'd rather play matches than practice, so it's another opportunity to get some time on the grass.”
When the competition at SW19 rolls around next week, Kyrgios will be aiming high.
“I'm looking forward to it,” he shared. “Last year I was injured, didn't perform well. It's one of my favourite tournaments and I'd like to do much better than last year. I feel very confident.”
He added: “I definitely have expectations. I'd like to do very well, second week would be great. Any further for me is where I'm expecting myself to go.”
While he fell just short on Wednesday at Stoke Park, Querrey is the man responsible for beating Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2016, and Andy Murray at the same event last year.
“Exhibitions work for me, I can work on things I can use in an official match,” the American said. “So even though I lost I'm pretty happy.”
Despite his success on grass in recent times, Querrey is shrugging off the pressure ahead of the next fortnight.
“Last year was fine, but this is a new year so I'm putting that behind me,” he stated. “I don't really have expectations for Wimbledon, I'm just going to go out there and play the best that I can.”
In the final contest of the day, local star Marcus Willis pushed Malek Jaziri – ranked almost 800 spots above him in the rankings – to the brink before going down 6-4 6-7(1) 10-6 in the match tiebreak.
“It was difficult out there in the conditions, playing against a really good player, as well,” Willis reflected. “But I got a set and he played some fantastic tennis in the match tie-break, so I was really happy with the way I competed out there.”
The 27-year-old – who rocketed to national fame after qualifying for Wimbledon and reaching the second round in 2016 – has been sidelined by injury for several months already this season, and is slowly making his way back to the game.
“Since January I've had a problem with my elbow, I had an MRI and it wasn't looking good,” the Brit explained. “But two weeks ago I started playing matches again, and I'm playing without pain now, which is nice.”
Jaziri, the current world no. 61, reached his first ATP final earlier this season, and is playing some of the best tennis of his career at the age of 34.
“It was an amazing atmosphere today, I really enjoyed it,” Jaziri enthused. “It was unbelievable weather, really sunny and I played good tennis..”
Of his rise, the Tunisian shared: “The most important things is that I keep working with my coach, and keep learning. Every year I try to learn from the other players who are better than me, learning to improve my shots. And the most important thing is to enjoy tennis.”
Results - Wednesday 27th June 2018
Liam Broady (GBR) d. Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) 7-5 4-6 10-2
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-4 4-6 15-13
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d. Sam Querrey (USA) 6-4 7-6(7)
Malek Jaziri (TUN) d. Marcus Willis (GBR) 6-4 6-7(1) 10-6
Order of Play Day 3 - Thursday 28th June 2018 - 12.30pm Start
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v Monica Puig (PUR)
Alexander Zverev (GER) v Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
not before 5pm
Taylor Fritz (USA) v Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)