ATP 250 Montpellier (Indoor Hard) :
In what has been an impressive and inspired performance, Dustin Brown took down the top seed Marin Cilic 6-4 6-4 in just 61 minutes to advance to the quarter-final, his 12th in a career and the first since Gstaad last year.
Brown, who played in the semis here 12 months ago, had the match on his racquet, keeping his serve safe despite landing only 48% of the first in, and staying awake from unforced errors to avoid the break points. Marin couldn't penetrate his rival from the baseline or impose his shots, and he dropped his serve once in every set to find himself on the losing side, making the start of the season even worse for him, as he won just one match in total in Chennai, Melbourne and here in Montpellier! There were no deuces in all 20 games, hence, such a short match, and Dustin dropped only 12 points in 10 service games, which is a clear prove how well he played tonight.
Nothing could separate the players in the first 8 games but in game 9 Marin made some costly errors that to lose his serve and fall 5-4 down. Dustin sealed the opener with a 229 km/h ace on the T line, sending a clear message he means business and that Marin will have to raise his level if he wants to turn the match around.
The only problem for Croat was, he wasn't able to do it, as Brown still controlled the points and defend well, always making his rival play one extra shot. Cilic got broken again in the 7th game of the second set, following yet another wide groundstroke error and that was all Brown needed to clinch the match 3 games later, for his 4th Top 10 triumph.
The 5th seed Feliciano Lopez needed 2 hours and 7 minutes to take down another veteran, Julien Benneteau by 6-3 4-6 7-6. This was their 10th meeting on the Tour, with Benneteau now leading 6-4, but it could have easily been 7-3, as he wasted a match point in the 10th game of the final set. That took away all the focus from him, losing the tie break 7-0 to hand the victory to Spaniard who thus moved to the second round.
Both players had a lot of easy points directly from serve and they dropped serve twice each to stay engaged in a close battle all the time. Benneteau was the one who had to play against more break chances, after 7 double faults and some important points lost behind the first serve as well.
Lopez was the dominant figure in the opening set, finding his rhythm and breaking Julien in game 4 top open up a 3-1 lead that he carried home for a 6-3 set. Frenchman saved 3 break points in set number 2 to keep his serve intact and all out of sudden he got a chance on return in game 10, converting his lone break point to grab the set by 6-4 and force a decider.
They exchanged early breaks to stay neck and neck, and as we already said Lopez had to save a match point in game 10, which shifted the momentum to his side completely. In the deciding tie break, it was all about Feliciano, who capped the victory with a service winner.
German Mischa Zverev had a dream run in Melbourne, defeating world number 1 Andy Murray and reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final, but he will now have to prove his ranking position of the seeding player in these smaller events, which will not be easy.
In a clash between two good servers who like to play indoor, qualifier Kenny De Schepper defeated his coeval Zverev 6-4 6-3 in an hour for his first ATP win since Montpellier 12 months ago, when he also passed the qualifications. De Schepper served much better than Zverev, keeping the second serve composed as well, but he faced 8 break points, fending off 7 of those to stay in control.
Zverev, on the other hand, managed to hit only 51% of the first serve and he struggled to get away from the jail on vulnerable second serve, getting broken 3 times from 5 opportunities that Kenny had. Frenchman had to dig deep already in the first game, saving 3 break points there, and another 3 in game 7 to somehow stay unbroken.
After missing his chances, Zverev dropped his serve at love in game 8, but he bounced back very quickly, in the following game when De Schepper served for the set. Still, the set was over in game 10 when German again lost his serve without a point won, something which nobody could expect, especially not against Kenny.
De Schepper continued with his solid tennis in set number 2, gaining a huge 3-1 lead with a break (and yes, again at love) in game 4, and he converted his 4th match point to bring home an important win. In an all-French affair, Pierre-Hugues Herbert defeated 22-year-old qualifier Calvin Hemery by 6-3 7-5 in 80 minutes, earning his first ATP win since Metz in September.
Pierre-Hugues hit 14 aces and he lost just 14 points in 11 service games, saving both break points in the 6th game of the second set to avoid troubles in his games. Hemery couldn't keep that pace in his games, facing 10 break points, but he at least saved 8 of those to limit the damage as much as possible.
Herbert was off to a great start, losing just 4 points on serve in the first set, and he finally converted his 5th break point in game 8 to move 5-3 ahead, closing the set with a love service game a few minutes later. Both players had their chances on return in the middle of the second set but the result stayed with serve until game 11 when Hemery got broken, inches before securing a tie break (he had a game point).
That was all that Pierre-Hugues required to cross the finish line, notching a win with another good service game for a 7-5.
First round results:
[5/WC]Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs [Q]Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 4-6 7-6(0)
Malek Jaziri (TUN) vs [Q]Tristan Lamasine (FRA) 1-6 7-5 7-6(3)
[Q]Kenny De Schepper (FRA) vs Mischa Zverev (GER) 6-4 6-3
Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs [LL]Vincent Millot (FRA) 6-2 4-6 6-3
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) vs [Q]Calvin Hemery (FRA) 6-3 7-5
Second round results:
Dustin Brown (GER) vs Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-4 6-4
Results from Sofia are on the next page ALSO READ: ATP MONTPELLIER & SOFIA: Paire ousts Khachanov. Muller, Verdasco, Darcis also advance