13 Jan 2020

Battle Royale to open Men’s week

by Rhonda Karl
Battle Royale to open Men’s week

Fiery Frenchman Benoit Paire lit up centre court in his first-round match against Italian youngster Jannik Sinner.

In the match of day Frenchman Benoit Paire and Next Gen Finals winner Jannik Sinner of Italy put on an absorbing three-set tussle under the lights on centre court. The entertaining Frenchman is known for his all-court game and hot-temper and they were both on show tonight. He needed all his experience to outlast Sinner who is playing his first full year on the ATP Tour.

In the first set the fifth seed and world No. 24 was unstoppable on serve – not offering up a single break point chance. In the second set Sinner found his form forcing Paire to defend 11 break point chances. Sinner was able to break Paire three times as his silky movement and smooth groundstrokes gave him the second set 6-2.

The 30-year old Frenchman recovered from two code violations and broke Sinner early in the final set. Both players produced stunning rallies in the third set with Sinner threatening to break Paire’s serve in the eight game of the set. However, Paire survived the challenge of his 18-year old opponent easing a backhand into the open court on match point to set-up a second-round clash with Brazilian qualifier Thiego Monteiro.

Defending champ Tennys Sandgren sent down 15 aces in a hard-fought straight set win over kiwi wildcard Michael Venus 6-4 6-3. The American has special memories here after a storming run to the title last year. Sandgren scored the crucial break at 5-4 after a loose game from Venus to win the first set. The kiwi who you’ll usually find on the doubles court – put up a valiant fight but Sandgren proved too potent on serve and too solid from the baseline. Sandgren's serve will have to continue to be a weapon in his next round as he takes on his compatriot and two-time former champ John Isner in the second round.

Brazilian qualifier Thiego Monteiro was in top form springing an upset over 2019 finalist Cameron Norrie of Great Britain 7-6 (3) 6-2. The first set was a tight affair with both players struggling to gain the ascendancy as the set went to a tie-break. Ex-pat Norrie, who had strong home crowd support behind him in Auckland, tightened up in the tiebreak as Monteiro blasted a forehand down the line to seal the set. The Brazilian kept the momentum going in the second set gaining an early break advantage which he held on to win the match.

In a battle of the young guns on tour Frenchman Ugo Humbert outlasted Norway’s Casper Ruud 7-6 (3) 2-6 6-3 on Grandstand. Both players were facing off for the first time and they pushed each hard in the 2 hour and 18-minute battle. However, the 21-year old Humbert was able to win more free points on serve hitting 13 aces and saving all the break points he faced in the deciding set.  

Two more Next Gen players battled it out under lights tonight with Francis Tiafoe against Qualifier Mikhail Ymer. Despite Big Foe being ranked higher it was Ymer looked more composed and match ready after coming through qualifying. The Swede won the tightly contested match 6-4 5-7 6-1.

The sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz was too solid for Italian Lorenzo Sonego winning 7-5 6-3. The 22-year old Pole is another emerging young talent on tour currently sitting at a career high rank of 33.