Great show of tennis in this Friday of second rounds at the ATP Masters 1000 of Rome
Thursday was the day of upsets on the WTA side of these Internazionali BNL d’Italia, while it is feels like it is this Friday to play the same game on the ATP draw: Felix Auger-Aliassime was the highest seed to face an early upset, but not the only one. Alex De Minaur, Sebastian Baez, Botic Van De Zandschulp and Sebastian Korda all suffered the same fate.
Quite the opposite start of the tournament for home-crowd favourite Jannik Sinner who proved to feel no rusty after opting to skip Madrid. The Italian came on court against Thanasi Kokkinakis in shiny form, leaving little to no chances to his opponent. With lightning winners and great court coverage, the Italian closed 6-1 6-4 in 1.19 hours.ù
Grigor Dimitrov was also one of the very seeds surviving this day, but though the Bulgarian needed just two sets to defeat Stan Wawrinka, it was not an easy opener. In what felt like a trip down memory lane for many tennis fans, two of the most beautiful one-handed backhands of the past few years delighted the crowd with plenty eye-pleasing shots and an overall high-quality match.
The 26th seed capitalized on the break he had taken in the very first game of the match to seal the first set 6-4. The second set looked like a deja-vu with Dimitrov breaking his opponent in the first game, but this time Wawrinka fought back and saved further break points until the tiebreak. The Bulgarian once again started better and the early mini-break proved fundamental in taking the victory 7-6(3).
The biggest surprise of the day so far came from the Grand Stand Arena where Alexei Popyrin kept his dream run started in the qualifications running after taking down world number 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime. Just like in Adelaide this January, the Aussie defeated the Canadian after coming into the main draw from the qualies, but this time it needed 3 sets and 3 hours and 18 minutes.
It all came down to few points in the decider, with Auger-Aliassime finding no answer to the Australian’s serve and eventually getting broken in the 11th game. Popyrin did not tremble and closed the match 6-4 4-6 7-5.
11th seed Karen Khachanov was also stunned on this crazy Friday at the end of a marathon match against Frenchman Gregoire Barrere. Being one set apiece, the Parisian kicked off the decider with a break that helped him flying to a 5-2 lead. Khachanov fought back and forced the match to a final tie-break, hoping to have crushed his opponent’s hopes with the comeback. Barrere had other plans and this time he did not hesitate, closing on return on the second set point 4-6 6-4 7-6(4).
But the upset that caused the loudest roar from the crowds today came by the hands of Fabio Fognini. The Italian defeated Miomir Kecmanovic in front of a full house on Stadio Pietrangeli. Soaking in the energy of a fired up public, Fognini played some brilliant tennis to close in straight sets despite missing a match point on serve in the tiebreak. The Italian kept his cool during the changeover after his forehand had slapped on the net denying him the victory. On his next chance, however, he did not hold back and with a marvellous winner he closed 6-3 7-6(6).