Dubai: Crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis won the battle of wild cards even as two qualifiers made their way to the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.
On a day when outsiders seemed to thrive, Daniil Medvedev became the third seed to fall as Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis won the biggest match of his career while sending the eighth-seeded Russian toppling out with a 6-3, 6-3 win to set up a meeting with Denis Kudla.
The opening day had seen the departure of two seeds — No. 4 Karen Khachanov going down to Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 7 Milos Raonic falling to Jan-Lennard Struff. They were joined by No. 8 Medvedev after the Russian wilted in the afternoon heat and against an opponent who displayed plenty of grit and resolve.
Belarussian Egor Gerasimov became the second qualifier going through when he accounted for big-serving Dutchman Robin Haase 7-6, 7-6 to set up a meeting with either fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Matthew Ebden.
In the battle of the two wild cards, it was former semi-finalist Baghdatis, who clawed his way back from a set down to beat Mohammad Safwat 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Cypriot will now await the winner of the match between Gael Monfils and third seed Marin Cilic that was scheduled to be played later on Tuesday.
Baghdatis, the 2016 runner-up in Dubai, was relieved at getting past Safwat. “The match could have gone either way. The conditions helped him a lot with his game and I couldn’t hit the ball very clean,” he said. “But I managed to stay focused and calm and played pretty well in the important points of the match.”
Medvedev was never at ease against his Lithuanian opponent, who thought he was at the top of his game against a better-ranked player. “I was feeling good today. I am really happy with my game. I was able to make the whole plan, what I was planning to do before the match. And the good thing is that it worked out,” Berankis said later.
“The plan was to stay as close as possible to the line and not to get in his game, which is to get into those long rallies which he loves. Actually towards the end, he was able to start doing that, but he was going full power, so it was quite risky from his side. I stayed against it,” he added.
Berankis got off to a solid start with a break in the first game. There was no stopping the Lithuanian as he raced off with the set 6-3 in 39 minutes. In the second, Lithuania’s best player got his first break in the fourth and then held for 4-1. But Medvedev, who already has a title this season after winning the Sofia Open, broke back in the seventh and then held to pull back to trail 3-5. However, it was a bit too late as Berankis served out for set and match.
“Of course, I was nervous at the end,” Berankis said. “Plus he made those quite tough shots. The whole match he was not making it. Now with those long rallies, lobs over the centre court, it’s always tough.”