Nikolay Davydenko took advantage of an abrupt shift of tennis scenery for last weekend’s Johannesburg champion Feliciano Lopez, defeating the Spaniard 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the ABN-AMRO World Tennis.
Second seed Davydenko had spent four days at the Ahoy stadium getting used to the faster conditions of a newly-laid court. Lopez, who claimed his career second title with victory in South Africa, had just hours to make the venue switch and paid the price in a 75-minute defeat.
“He tried to play like he did last week in South Africa, I was surprised, but I knew it wouldn’t work,” said Davydenko, sixth in the world. “He also didn’t have enough preparation time (a day) to be able to play well on a new surface.” Fourth seed Gael Monfils had lost to Lopez last Saturday in South Africa, giving himself an extra 24 hours to make it back to Europe.
But the flamboyant Frenchman had to shrug off illness to advance in his opener with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Belgian Olivier Rochus.
German Michael Berrer followed up his weekend final in Zagreb against Marin Cilic with a marathon performance to put out France’s Arnaud Clement 7-6 (18-16), 4-6, 6-4 in two hours, 40 minutes.
Austrian Jurgen Melzer went through as Serb eighth seed Viktor Troicki quit when trailing 6-3, 3-0 due to an arm injury.
2009 Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling reached the first quarterfinal spot with a win over Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
Monfils admitted he felt bad in the hours leading up to his contest with Rochus and did not hesitate to tell the world via Twitter.
“I certainly didn’t feel 100 per cent,” confessed Monfils. “I couldn’t train last night due to a fever and I woke up this morning feeling less than 100 per cent.
“It’s a big change from South Africa (30 Celsius) and minus-five here. I’m still sick but I hope to wake up better each day.” Monfils improved to 4-2 in Rotterdam as he plays for the third year. He next faces a Davis Cup re-match with Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands, who beat him last September in their only meeting.
Monfils called his condition against Rochus “so-so.” “I took more risks to try for the win, I stayed calm and found a solution.” Soderling trailed 0-4 in the opening set tirbreaker against Sijsling, with the Dutchman missing on two set points.
“I always expect tough matches from qualifiers,” said the Swede. “In the second set I played better and his level dipped.
“But I have to work on so many things in my tennis, I’m far far away from my best. I started the season well but then I relaxed. I didn’t feel good at all in Australia (first-round Open loss). “But I’ve now had more than two weeks of good training.”