Kohlschreiber Off To Winning Start; Fognini, Paire Advance
Veteran claims all-German showdown; defending champ Vesely ousted
Sixth seed Fabio Fognini was taken the distance in his first match of the 2016 ATP World Tour season, surviving a third-set tie-break to edge Joao Sousa 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(3) in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland on Tuesday.
The Italian notched his first win in Auckland in three visits as he prevailed in one hour and 56 minutes, converting six of his seven break points to improve to a 3-1 lead over Sousa in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Fifth seed Benoit Paire also advanced, dismissing New Zealand wild card Michael Venus 6-4, 7-6(4). The Frenchman fired 11 aces and saved the five break points he faced to claim victory in 87 minutes. The 26-year-old Paire opened his 2016 campaign last week with a semi-final showing in Chennai (l. to Wawrinka), propelling him to a career-high No. 18 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
There’s something about the hard courts at the ASB Classic that agrees with Philipp Kohlschreiber’s game. The 34th-ranked veteran has posted some impressive results over the years in Auckland, winning the title in 2008, and reaching the final in 2013, the semi-finals in 2010 and 2012, and the quarter-finals on four other occasions. The 32 year old improved to 25-8 at the tournament, downing countryman Benjamin Becker in a rain-delayed all-German affair 7-6(8), 6-3 to move into the second round.
The 34-year-old Becker, a qualifier ranked No. 98 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, had the better serving day when it came to aces (8/4), doubles faults (2/5) and first-serve percentage (72%/52%), but couldn’t close out the first set in the tie-break. Kohlschreiber, who had won their only previous meeting in Vienna in 2014, carried the momentum into the second set and went on to cap the match in 84 minutes.
Kohlschreiber moves on to face No. 2 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
Joining the German in the second round will be No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut after the Spaniard dethroned defending champion Jiri Vesely 6-3, 7-5 in 76 minutes. Last year, Vesely qualified for the main draw and beat fellow lefty Adrian Mannarino in the final. It was his first ATP World Tour title.
Leading 6-7(5), 7-6(10), 2-1, Sam Querrey advanced to the second round when Great Britain's Aljaz Bedene retired with a leg injury. The American saved five match points in the second-set tie-break to level the match.
Wednesday’s second-round action will see doubles partners and good friends, Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil, face off for a quarter-final berth. It will be the pair’s first meeting.
"It will be a fun match," said Pospisil. "Obviously Jack and I know each other quite well. We've practised a lot together. I don't think there will be any surprises going into that one; we know what to expect from each other.
"Once the match starts, we'll just try to keep our friendship to the side. We both want to do well and win, but it will be an interesting dynamic. It will be quite different seeing him across the net and trying to beat him."