By Sahan Bidappa/Doha
For a player, who plies his trade mostly in the ITF Futures and Challenger tournaments, every victory at the ATP Tour is a matter of joy. And if you haven’t even won a set against a top-10 player, then the victory over the fancied opponent is etched in your memory forever.
World No. 94 Illya Marchenko experienced just that when he knocked out defending champion David Ferrer from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open yesterday at the Khalifa Complex. Needless to say, it was the Ukrainian’s first victory over a top-10 opponent (1-4 lifetime). Marchenko should have won in straight sets but he will take 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-2 over the fourth seed Ferrer any day.
“I got a lot of texts from a lot of people, from some people I didn’t even talk to for years. Of course it happens when you get a result like that. I’m used to it,” said Marchenko, clearly basking in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, second seed Rafael Nadal looked to go Ferrer’s way after he lost the first set to fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, before he recovered to win 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1.
Marchenko broke Ferrer in the very first game and should have wrapped up the opening set while serving at 5-4. But Ferrer fought back to take the set, which lasted one hour and eight minutes, in a keenly-fought tie-breaker, which he won 10-8.
Marchenko, having now got the belief of being able to stretch a player of Ferrer’s stature, grew in confidence. It did help him though, that the Spaniard’s serving was mediocre, as he committed as many as nine double faults in the match.
Last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych serves to Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
In the second set, Marchenko broke Ferrer’s serve in the first game itself and never looked back thereafter as the defending champion unusually lost confidence and his movements.
While the nerves crept in for Marchenko at the doorstep of victory, the 28-year-old closed out the victory in style. He forced a weak backhand from Ferrer with a booming serve and shut out the match with a ferocious forehand coming to the net.
“I feel great, obviously, beating a guy ranked that high. And I have really huge respect for David. I enjoy his matches, how he fights on court, and it’s a huge moment for me,” said Marchenko, who in the second round will face Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili.
“The only problem in the first set was that I couldn’t believe that I can make it, and I improved that side of my game a lot last year. So I was just continuing fighting for every point, and then when I got a break, it was early in the second set. I got my confidence back that I can actually fight and can actually turn it around still,” he added.
Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, had early problems against the 67th ranked Busta, whom he had beaten in their only previous meeting last year. Busta looked to hit deep to Nadal’s backhand and was successful in the first set. But overdid it for the rest of the game, and committed far too many unforced errors allowing Nadal to settle down. Nadal will next face Germany’s Robin Hasse today in the second round.
Nadal was pleased to have won the match, despite conceding the first set. “I began well but then I think he played well in the closing stages of the first set. I came back strongly, went for the points more and closed out the match. I am happy with the way I finished it,” the Mallorcan said.
Earlier, last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic kept his clean sheet against Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky intact. Berdych, the third seed, had never lost to the 62nd ranked Stakhovsky in the last six meetings and he made it 7-0 with a 7-5, 6-4 win in 78 minutes.
Despite continuing his domination over Stakhovsky, Berdych said it was never easy to play the 29-year-old Ukrainian. “It’s always tricky to play him,” said the Czech, who will face Damir Dzumhur in the second round today.
“He’s one of the few who like to come to the net a lot, playing a lot of slice and a lot of variation in the game. I just took my chances in the first set and... in the second. It was quite a solid game today... It would be great to leave with the trophy in the end.”
In the other matches, Spain’s Pablo Andujar came through a two-hour test against Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, while Gabashvili saved five of seven break points in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Simone Bolelli of Italy.
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