Read & Watch: Molleker, 17, Earns Maiden ATP Win
Seventeen-year-old Rudolf Molleker earned the first tour-level victory of his career on Monday, blasting 26 aces to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 at the MercedesCup in one hour, 55 minutes. It was just the German’s second tour-level main draw match.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to earn my first main draw win on home soil,” said Molleker, the youngest player in the Stuttgart field. “It felt great to have the crowd have my back and I just enjoyed the centre court feeling. It’s a great experience for me and hopefully I can go on.”
It’s the second tournament in a row that Molleker has achieved a milestone, as the right-hander captured his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on his third appearance at the level last month in Heilbronn, Germany. Previously, he had never won a Challenger-level main draw match. But the teenager, then No. 497 in the ATP Rankings, became the lowest-ranked Challenger winner of the season.
To make his victory against Struff more impressive, Molleker, now World No. 303, had never played a professional match on grass before, whereas World No. 65 Struff took Roger Federer to a tie-break in the second set of their meeting at Halle two years ago.
“I came here quite early. I was practising the past four or five days here on grass,” Molleker said. “I was well-prepared, and I definitely wanted to enjoy the grass and just play some matches. I didn’t expect to end up like this, but even better for me.”
Molleker will next challenge No. 2 seed Lucas Pouille for a spot in the quarter-finals.
In other first-round action, home favourite Mischa Zverev defeated qualifier Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5), 6-3 to set a second-round clash against top seed Roger Federer. Argentine Guido Pella beat Aussie John Millman 6-2, 6-2 and 2016 Halle champion Florian Mayer ousted Yannick Maden 6-4, 6-1.
Did You Know?
#NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov will begin his grass-court season on Tuesday against qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran, while 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and No. 5 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber will also be in action.