Dubai: Staying fit is top priority for two-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship semi-finalist Richard Gasquet, who made the second round after breezing past Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in straight sets at the Aviation Club Tennis Complex.
Frenchman Gasquet admitted fitness had been a concern lately as he was asked for his thoughts on claiming what was a 550th career success and one that seemed to have been achieved relatively easily at the expense of Cecchinato, whom he beat 6-4, 6-2 in straight sets in an hour and 10 minutes.
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Gasquet is sixth on the list of active players with most career match wins, way behind leaderboard topper Roger Federer, who has 1,243. Spaniard Rafael Nadal (1,008) and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (943) are second and third respectively.
Unseeded Gasquet, semi-finalist here in 2009 and 2011, will take on Poland’s 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round. And the 34-year-old said he will look to pick up momentum going forward and stay healthy at the same time.
“I feel great here. I did well last year and I know this court. It’s nice and fast and it’s important to serve well here I was feeling confident winning the first set and was feeling better in the second set,” said Gasquet, who fell at the first hurdle at last month’s Australian Open in Melbourne and arrived in Dubai having suffered a second-round defeat at the Qatar Open.
“It’s been a difficult start to the year and I need confidence and to feel better on court and happy. I couldn’t play in Australia. It’s been very difficult for me and I’m trying my best to recover and when I am fit I think I can play very well but at the moment, I need to work on it.
“I hope I can be better tomorrow, running well and feel more confident with my body. It’s the most important thing for me right now and I can play well after that. For me the most important thing is to try and feel healthy and be fit and try and win tomorrow.”
Gasquet’s French compatriot Jeremy Chardy came back from a set down to beat Australia’s ninth seed Alex de Minaur 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and become the first player to advance to the third round. Chardy came back strongly in the game after losing the first set tamely and put De Minaur under pressure, with the latter forcing a cross-court forehand wide to hand victory to his French rival. Chardy said: “It’s always easier to play when you are confident and if you play a bad set it’s never finished so I tried to stay positive and didn’t give up.”
In other first round matches, Germany’s Jan Lennard-Struff served 16 aces in his 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan. The world No. 39 will face third seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada next.
South African Lloyd Harris also progressed, recovering from a set down to oust Australia’s Christopher O’Connell 6-7, 6-4, 6-1. Harris will meet top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain booked his second-round spot against Serbian Filip Krajinovic with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Radu Albot, while Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori faces second seed Russian Andrey Rublev next after getting the better of Australian Jordan Thompson 6-3, 7-6.
It was a bad day for Aussies with John Millman falling 4-6, 4-6 to Spaniard’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, while Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri also fell, losing 6-3, 1-6, 4-6 to Aljaz Bedene.
In doubles action, Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot joined forces to beat Marcelo Melo and Juan-Julien Rojer 6-4, 0-6, 12-10, while Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek combined to beat Marcelo Arevalo and Matwe Middelkoop 3-6, 7-5, 15-13. In the third doubles match played yesterday, Croatian pair of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic cruised past Belgian duo David Goffin and Joran Vliegen 7-6, 6-2.