ATP Marseille: Shapovalov bows out. Tsitsipas, Simon and Humbert march on

Tennis - Matthias Bachinger defeated Steve Darcis while Gregoire Barrere secured a win over Jiri Vesely

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Marseille: Shapovalov bows out. Tsitsipas, Simon and Humbert march on

Heading to Marseille after a rough first-round Rotterdam loss to Damir Dzumhur, the top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has kicked off the campaign with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph over another youngster Hubert Hurkacz in 59 minutes. Stefanos won their match at the NextGen Finals in Milan in November and he dominated today as well, dropping just nine points on serve in nine service games and never facing a break point, mounting the pressure on his rival all the time.

Hubert gave away 45% of the points behind the initial shot and stayed in touch with the better-ranked Greek in the opening eight games before Tsitsipas seized control to cruise towards the finish line with three breaks. Settling into a fine rhythm on serve from the beginning of the match, Stefanos waited for a chance on the return and it came in game ten when Hubert sprayed a backhand error to hand the set to his opponent.

From 2-2 in the second set, Tsitsipas won 16 of the last 19 points to seal the deal, breaking the Pole at love in game six and again at 5-2 to secure the eighth win of the season. Back in 2007, Gilles Simon had won his maiden ATP title here in Marseille and he is in good form 12 years later too, entering the draw as the sixth seed and defeating Peter Gojowczyk 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 39 minutes to join Stefanos in the quarters.

Despite losing the opening set, the French veteran had the upper hand on the court, blasting 15 aces and dropping only 23 points on serve to fend off two out of three break points and play on a higher level in sets two and three to cross the finish line first.

Peter had to play against five break points and he suffered three breaks, unable to follow Gilles' pace in sets two and three to end his journey in the second round. The only break of the first set came in the tenth game when Gojowczyk broke the Frenchman after a forehand error from Simon, with nine good holds on both sides in set number two.

Simon lost just four points in five games and he forged the lead in the third game when Peter netted a backhand, keeping it throughout the set and blasting an unreturned serve in game ten for a 6-4. Gojowczyk lost all the momentum on the return and that put extra pressure on his serve, suffering a break at love in the opening game and once again with a backhand winner in game five for a 4-1.

Serving for the win at 5-2, a home favorite sealed the deal with a service winner, happy with the way he performed and hoping for more of the same against Benoit Paire or David Goffin. After losing to Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-final of Rotterdam, Denis Shapovalov suffered a defeat in the opening match in Marseille, falling 6-4, 7-6 to Mikhail Kukushkin and staying on just seven wins in 2019 so far.

Both players served at 70% and Kukushkin defended his second serve more efficiently, fending off two break chances in the fourth game of the second set and converting the only break point he created to seal the deal in straight sets.

Denis blasted 18 aces but he won just 50% of the points after missing the first and that cost him dearly, falling in the tie break and squandering a chance to send the encounter into a decider. The opening set saw nine easy holds and one loose game for Denis at 2-3 that changed everything and gave Mikhail the lead after a forehand error from the youngster.

Serving for the set, Kukushkin fired three winners in game ten for a 6-4 and he saved those two break points at 1-2 in the second set to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard. That was the only problematic service game in the entire set and Mikhail won the tie break 7-4 with three mini-breaks, firing an ace down the T line in the 11th point to seal the deal and move into the quarters.

Steve Darcis Gregoire Barrere Jiri Vesely