Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard: From Qualifier To First ATP Main Draw Win At European Open

Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard (photo: Tennium/Belga)

ANTWERP/WASHINGTON, October 17, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

In a matter of about 48 hours, 20-year-old Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard of France has gone from being a little-known qualifier to reaching the round of 16 at the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp, Belgium.

First, the big-serving (6-foot-8, 216 pounds) righty with the one-fisted backhand from Lyon won a pair of straight-set qualifying matches on Sunday and Monday to earn a berth in the main draw, breaking a four-match losing streak that stretched over four tournaments – three of them suffered in the first round. Then, Mpetshi Perricard eliminated sixth seed Roberto Carballes Baena, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in just under two hours Tuesday afternoon inside Lotto Arena’s cozy Court 1 to earn his first career ATP Tour main draw victory.

It all represents quite a nice turnaround for Mpetshi Perricard, who earlier this season won an ATP Challenger 75 title on a hard court in Leon, Mexico, and has compiled a respectable 36-24 win-loss record in all competitions in 2023. He made his ATP Tour debut at the French Open as a wild card.

The 226th-ranked Mpetshi Perricard struck 31 winners against No. 64 Carballes Baena, including 13 aces. Plus, he won 70 percent of his first-serve points and saved a match point in the third set at 4-5 (40-Ad). The acrobatic Mpetshi Perricard been very successful in three-set matches this year, winning 16 of 23. This was the ninth time he has come back to win after losing the first set.

The victory advances Mpetshi Perricard to the second round against 105th-ranked Belgian favorite David Goffin on Center Court Wednesday evening.

Hanfmann eliminates Antwerp’s Blockx, making ATP Tour debut

No. 5 seed Yannick Hanfmann of Germany overcame 18-year-old hometown favorite and qualifier Alexander Blockx of Belgium, who was making his ATP Tour debut, 6-4, 7-6 (3), in a featured match on Center Court Tuesday evening.

Hanfmann, 31, who now resides with his girlfriend in Antwerp, took advantage of the only service break of the one-hour and 38-minute match, in the first set. He put away the victory over the 646th-ranked Blockx, 13 years his junior and nearly 600 places separating them in the rankings, with a driving volley winner – his 23rd winner of the first-round match, for his 22nd tour-level win of the season.

“The crowd was definitely enjoying this match,” Hanfmann said in an on-court interview. “It was a really good atmosphere. Alex is a hella player. He’s already so good and so young. I was prepared, I’ve been practicing with him here. I knew going in it wasn’t going to be easy. It showed in the score. I thought it was a tough match and I’m happy to get through it [with a win].”

Next, Hanfmann will face No. 86 Dominic Thiem of Austria, who overcame a slow start and rallied from a set and a break down to beat 133rd-ranked wild card Luca Nardi of Italy, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, in two hours and 28 minutes. Despite being outpointed 100-99, Thiem came on strong in the final set and found the right stuff to break an eight-match losing streak against Italian players on tour-level going back to 2019.

Marterer earns second Top 100 win of the season

Behind 11 services aces, 127th-ranked German qualifier Maximilian Marterer beat No. 7 seed and 2016 champion Richard Gasquet of France, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and nine minutes for his second Top 100 victory of the season.

The 28-year-old Nuremberg native broke his French opponent once in each set and aced the 62nd-ranked Gasquet on match point, his 36th overall winner. He outpointed the 37-year-old Gasquet 60-51 to advance against either Nuno Borges of Portugal or fellow German Dominik Koepfer, who play on Wednesday.

“From the first day I arrived here I have been feeling good,” said Marterer, who defeated Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands and Titouan Droguet of France to reach the main draw. He has not lost a set in his three matches at Lotto Arena. “I’m happy I could show a [good] level today and play well in the important moments. There were some where I really needed to play good tennis today. I’m happy to get through. … Let’s see how far I can go.”

Around the European Open

World No. 84 Alexander Shevchenko of Russia gutted out a two and one-half hour 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3 comeback win over 89th-ranked qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in his Antwerp debut – just his fourth career tour-level win on a hard court – in back of 10 aces and 46 winners to advance against No. 8 seed Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru. Shevchenko, 22, improved to 10-14 in tour-level matches this season. It was his first ATP Tour win since Barcelona in April.

The No. 69 Varillas downed No. 65 Fabian Marozsan of Hungary, 7-6 (7), 6-4, in an hour and 51 minutes. Marozsan, fresh off his quarterfinal run in Shanghai last week, was able to only convert two of 11 break-point chances and was outpointed 89-83.

Tuesday’s European Open results

Wednesday’s European Open order of play

By the numbers

Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann is 13-7 in opening rounds this season. He has a 7-3 tour-level record against players ranked outside of the Top 100 in 2023.

“Quotable …”

“It’s going fast but I don’t want to stop on that. I will try to make the best out of this year. Hopefully I can improve.”

Alexander Shevchenko of Russia, on his rise in the ATP rankings, from Top 300 in April 2022 to Top 100 a year later. Shevchenko achieved a career-best ranking of No. 83 in August of this year.