‘King of Aces’ set for Malaysian Open debut tomorrow as second round matches commence
Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis overcome a spirited challenge from Spanish wild card Nicolas Almagro to win 6-3, 6-7(5-7), 6-1 in tonight’s featured first round match of the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2015 played here at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The world No.51 Baghdatis, making his fifth appearance in the tournament, showcased some sizzling form, serving up 18 aces and winning 5 out of 9 break points en route to victory.
“I think I started the match really well, serving big and putting a lot of pressure on his serve. I lost a bit of concentration in the second set and he did some great shots to win the tie break. I think I was more aggressive on the important points in the third set. It’s going be a tough match next against Pospisil, he’s a great young player with a great serve,” said the 30-year-old Cypriot, who made the finals here in 2011 (l. to Tipsarevic).
Earlier in the day, Moldovan Radu Albot (#107) caused the biggest upset of the first round as he overcame fifth seed and world No. 24 Victor Troicki 6-2, 7-6(7-5) in 1 hour and 30 mins on Centre Court.
The 25-year-old Albot, who is more of a doubles player on tour (won first career doubles title at Istanbul in May), reached the semifinals or further in seven different Challenger tournaments this year to reach a career high singles ranking of No.85 just last month.
“I still knew I could come back (at 0-3 down in the second set tie-break) because I played so hard the whole two sets. I was happy I could make it and used a couple of his mistakes. Against a player like Viktor, it’s always difficult. The plan was to be solid and not give him any chances,” said the Moldova number one, who is playing singles in only his third Tour Level tournament this year.
Sixth seed Jeremy Chardy of France (#26) suffered an early scare in his debut Malaysian Open match, but came back strongly to defeat 18-year-old German rising star Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
“Yes, I was a little bit worried (being a set down). It’s my first match since the US Open so it was tough to find my rhythm. But I knew I could come back because I was hitting the ball well and mentally I was strong. I’m playing good this year, especially the last two months. Today is good for my confidence and I hope I will continue to play like this,” said Chardy, who is on course to eclipse his career high ranking of No.25 last achieved in early 2013.
In other seeded first round singles matches played today, eighth seed Vasek Pospisil of Canada (#44) easily overcame the challenge of qualifier Yasutuka Uchiyama of Japan, winning 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes.
Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia (#95) moved into the second round after opponent Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan (#115) retired in the second set of their first round tie, with scores at 6-1, 1-0 to the Georgian. The other Kazakh in the main draw and their country’s best player, Mikhail Kukushkin (#48), fared better as he defeated wild card Indian Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-2, 6-2 in 71 minutes to set up a second round tie against Radu Albot.
Japan’s Tatsuma Ito (#116), who is in the Malaysian Open main draw for the first time this year after three previous appearances in the qualifying rounds, also made the second round with a 6-2, 7-6(7-3) victory over last year’s semifinalist Jarko Nieminen (#135).
In their doubles first round match today, the top seeded doubles pair of Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram pulled no punches in their 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Aussie wild card pairing Nick Kyrgios and James Frawley.
The South African-American team struck up a partnership in June this year and have already won the Gerry Weber Open in June and made the Metz semifinals earlier this month. Klaasen won the doubles title in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 (w/ Eric Butorac).
KING OF ACES IVO KARLOVIC MAKES DEBUT TOMORROW
The remaining first round singles and doubles ties, along with three second round singles matchups, will be played tomorrow as the Malaysian Open enters its fourth day.
In first round singles, Portugese Joao Sousa, the lone former winner in the draw (2013) and last week’s finalist at St. Petersburg, takes on qualifier Michal Przysiezny of Poland while another qualifier, Mischa Zverev, faces off against Rajeev Ram.
All eyes, however, will be on second round ties featuring third seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, sixth seed Jeremy Chardy and local crowd favourite Nick Kyrgios (seventh seed).
The 36-year-old ‘King of Aces’, who faces Georgian Basilashvili tomorrow, may make history at the Malaysian Open. Should he hit 67 aces or more in Kuala Lumpur, he will eclipse countryman Goran Ivanisevic’s world record for career aces, which stands at 10,237.
Having beaten Zverev earlier today, Chardy faces another German tomorrow in the form of Benjamin Becker. The pair met once before, with the Frenchmen beating Becker comfortably in straight sets at the 2013 French Open.
Tomorrow night’s featured match on Centre Court will see world No. 41 Nick Kyrgios, who made his first career final at Portugal’s Estoril Open in April, take on Tatsuma Ito of Japan. The 20-year-old Aussie, who has a Malaysian mother, is in the best form of his career and can look forward to strong crowd support as he aims to bag his first career title.
All remaining first round doubles ties will be played on Court 1 from tomorrow afternoon onwards.
There was plenty of activity off the court today, as no less than nine players took the time to interact with fans and media at several events around Kuala Lumpur.
David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov started the day with a visit to the Malaysia Tourist Centre in the morning for a signature photoshoot. The duo entertained the crowd with mini-tennis and tried their hands at playing the ‘gamelan’, a traditional Malaysian musical instrument.
Leander Paes later joined the duo at tournament hotel DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur for a press conference, while Canadian-Austrian doubles team Adil Shamasdin and Oswald Philipp were involved in autograph sessions at the stadium foyer later in the afternoon.
In the evening, the annual Official Player Welcome Party was held at the Doubletree Hilton ballroom, with special guests including tennis stars Ivo Karlovic, Benjamin Becker, Eric Butorac, Scott Lipsky and Jeremy Chardy.
Once again the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur is making the event affordable for all Malaysians. Entry from Saturday 26 September to Tuesday 29 September is free. Thereafter tickets will be between RM10 to RM620.
Tickets can be purchased now on-line via the tournament website www.MalaysianOpenTennis.com, at TicketCharge outlets or through the ticket hotline at TicketCharge Ph: 603-9222 8811.
The tournament would like to thank its suite of official sponsors. In addition to the distinguished support of the Event Patron, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia, Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of Youth & Sports, the event is proud to have prestigious commercial sponsors that include KPJ Healthcare Berhad, Rado, CNN International, the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur, Wilson, 100 Plus, the Albukhary Foundation, Astro and the ATP World Tour’s Premier Partner Corona.