Karatsev continues his epic year in Madrid

Antonio Arenas Men's Tennis, Mutua News

With the completion of the qualifiers and after the opening matches of the men’s first round, today was the turn of some of the biggest names on the ATP Tour to look for a place in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open. Together with five Spanish players who competed on Monday in search of a ticket to the next phase, players such as Grigor Dimitrov and Jon Isner also played their openers on the Madrid clay.

Of the three matches that opened the day’s play, the one in the Arantxa Sánchez Stadium was the first to name a winner. John Isner, who is back in Madrid after a three-year absence (he missed 2019), beat Serbian player Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 7-6(6) in one hour and 19 minutes.

A few minutes later, the Russian Aslan Karatsev did the same to Frenchman Ugo Humbert to claim his first win in the Caja Mágica and seal his passage to the second round of the Madrid Masters 1000. In his first appearance at the Mutua Madrid Open, the No. 27 in the ATP Ranking won 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 31 minutes.

The Russian player is enjoying a record year in 2021. Having reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in his first appearance in the main draw -he lost to Novak Djokovic, the eventual winner-, Karatsev beat Lloyd Harris (6-3, 6-2) in the final of the Dubai ATP 500. A few days before travelling to Madrid, he also reached the final of the ATP 250 in Belgrade, knocking out the world number one in the semi-finals, and eventually losing to the Italian Matteo Berrettini in three sets.

The Manolo Santana Stadium provided the stage for one of the most exciting matches of the day. In a clash that was close from start to finish, debutant Lloyd Harris sealed his first ticket to the second round of the Madrid tournament by seeing off the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5). The thirteenth seed saved as many as five match points, but the young South African eventually took the match after two hours and 31 minutes.

Harris is also another of the players who has had a stunning start to the season. His opening victory at the Mutua Madrid Open comes on top of the final at the abovementioned ATP 500 in Dubai. Before bowing out to Aslan Karatsev, the South African world No. 54 left players of the quality of Denis Shapovalov and Dominic Thiem in his wake.

Dominic Koepfer joined Karatsev and Harris by celebrating his first appearance on the Madrid clay with victory. The German saw off US player Reilly Opelka, No. 46 in the ATP ranking (6-4, 6-4) in one hour and 16 minutes. While the fans in Stadium 3 enjoyed  a tight battle, just as close were the first two sets between Daniel Evans and Jeremy Chardy.

After two hours and 46 minutes of play, the Briton beat the French player 7-6(6), (7)6-7, 6-2 on his return to Madrid after almost four years without setting foot on the clay of the Caja Mágica. The No. 26 in the ATP Ranking is another of the players to arrive in Madrid in fine form. So far in 2021, Evans reached the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 after defeating Novak Djokovic in the third round and took the ATP 250 title in Melbourne (Murray River Open) in February.

It was a different story for Spaniard Carlos Taberner in his encounter in the Arantxa Sánchez Stadium. In his first appearance in the main draw of the Madrid Masters 1000, the Valencian had Fabio Fognini against the ropes, forcing a tiebreak in the first set and winning the second, but eventually the No. 28 in the ATP ranking regrouped to pick up his first win at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open. The match ended 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 after two hours and 14 minutes.

Taberner, still outside the top 100 players in the world, can hold his head high as he leaves Madrid, despite losing in the first round. After coming back from a set down in the first match of qualifying against Australian player Jordan Thompson, the Spaniard beat Italian player Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-2 to earn a place in the main draw of the Mutua Madrid Open to add to the trophy he won in Turkey in February (Antalya Challenger II).

In the longest match of the day at three hours and 26 minutes, Marcos Giron beat Spaniard Pablo Andújar in three tight sets (6-7(8), 7-6(4), 7-5). In a match between two qualifiers, the American produced a meteoric comeback after losing a tough first set that lasted over one and a half hours.

The No. 91 in the world sealed the first victory in a clay ATP Masters 1000 in his career. Giron overturned a break in the fifth game of the third set to later break again in the eleventh to close out the match on his serve and set up a tie on Wednesday, at no earlier than 19:00 against Dominic Thiem (3) in the Manolo Santana Stadium.