Astana Open Enters Crucial Stage

Astana Open (photo: Florian Heer)

ASTANA, September 30, 2023

The late summer Asian tour of the ATP calendar is in full swing. While most eyes are on China, where a total of four tournaments are being held, these days also mark the fourth edition of the Astana Open. After two successful events in 2020 and 2021, the tournament in Kazakhstan’s capital city became a permanent ATP Tour member last year. In 2022 it was staged as an ATP 500 event when Novak Djokovic captured his 90th career title.

Home favourite Alexander Bublik as well as Grand-Slam champions Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem headline this year’s tournament, which is taking place inside the Beeline Arena at the National Tennis Center of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation.

Thiem survives Giron scare, meets Ofner

While Wawrinka fell in the opening round to Marcos Giron from the United States, Thiem and Bublik advanced to the second round. After taking a second-set tie-break against Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru in his first match, Thiem edged past Giron on Saturday, winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2). The 30-year-old Austrian withstood 11 aces from his opponent and showed his best tennis in the tie-break of the final set to prevail after two hours and 20 minutes.

“It was a very close match again. It’s obvious that here with these fast conditions there are many close matches, so many tie-breaks as well,” Thiem explained after reaching his 76th tour-level quarterfinal. “I was expecting a really tough one. I was starting very well, very aggressive, so that was good. Second set he started to play much better and the third set was a very close battle. I played a very good tie-break. This was the best part of the match.”

Next up for Thiem will be his compatriot Sebastian Ofner, who knocked out third-seeded Bublik 6-4, 6-2. In the pair’s first meeting, the World No. 58 saved both break points he faced and capitalized on three of his own six break-point chances to secure victory in one hour and 10 minutes.

“I returned very well right from the beginning and dominated my own service games,” Ofner told Tennis TourTalk. “I was focused and played a very solid match in general. I am very pleased with my performance, as it’s not easy to play against a player like him. But I knew what to expect.”

Ofner, who is physically fine after he was forced to retire at the Saint-Tropez Open two weeks ago due to a heel injury, is enjoying his time in Astana.

“The city is very nice,” he said. “Everything looks clean and tidy. You can see that it is a pretty new city. I was here before competing in Challenger events and we went out, visiting some really nice restaurants. The hotel is really great. There are not that many hotels on the tour like the Ritz Carlton here and I appreciate it.”

Griekspoor starts title bid with three-set win

The field at the Astana Open is led by Tallon Griekspoor, who opened his title bid with a 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-1 second-round victory over Japanese qualifier Sho Shimabukuro. The struck 17 aces and won 86 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after two hours and 13 minutes.

“He played a really good match but I am happy how I played in the third set. I didn’t play my best in the first two sets,” said Griekspoor. “It was my first match after a while and I needed to get used to the court and the balls but I am happy with the win. I am ready to come back tomorrow.”

The World No. 24 claimed his first two tour-level titles this season in Pune, India and on home soil in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and is the top seed of an ATP Tour event for the first time in his career, and first from the Netherlands since Sjeng Schalken at 2003 Moscow.

“For sure it’s a little bit of pressure, maybe that’s why I didn’t play my best today. Being seeded first is something special and a good sign. Hopefully, it will happen more often in the future and I can capitalize on it this week,” said Griekspoor, who will next take on Sebastian Korda. The No. 5 seed of the United States beat Nuno Borges from Portugal 6-4, 7-6(4) in one hour and 24 minutes.