Defending Champion Sonego Marches On In Metz

Lorenzo Sonego (photo: Moselle Open)

METZ/WASHINGTON, November 6, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

Lorenzo Sonego has won 17 of his 28 opening-round matches on the ATP Tour this year, something which has served him well as he has struggled in later rounds of tournaments. Fortunately for the 28-year-old Italian, he has always fared well at the Moselle Open, an ATP 250 indoor hard-court event in Metz, a city in northeast France situated at the confluence of the Moselle and Seille rivers.

On Monday afternoon inside Les Arenes de Metz, Sonego began a successful defense of his 2022 Metz title by winning an opening-round match for the sixth time in his last seven. The 49th-ranked Sonego rallied from a set down to beat No. 59 Marcos Giron of the United States, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in two hours and 14 minutes.

It was a tough first-round match for the defending champion, a three-time titlist at tour-level, but Sonego managed the situation well. He hit eight aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points and outpointed Giron 88-84 to level his 2023 season win-loss record at 28-28 with his comeback win.

“This was my first time [playing] Marcos. He’s an amazing player,” Sonego said of the 59th-ranked Giron during his on-court interview. “I’m really happy to reach the second round. I have a good memory [of winning the title] here. I’m happy to be playing on this court again.”

Next, Sonego will face either 215th-ranked Jordanian qualifier Abdullah Shelbayh or No. 83 Hugo Gaston of France, who play on Tuesday.

Also advancing to the second round were: No. 53 Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, who raced to 6-0, 6-2 victory over No. 81 Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain, in only 51 minutes thanks to five breaks of his opponent’s serve; and No. 63 Alexander Shevchenko, who defeated 271st-ranked qualifier Mathias Bourgue of France, 6-4, 7-5.

Plus, No. 90 Constant Lestienne beat fellow Frenchman No. 205 Calvin Hemery, 6-3, 6-2; 176th-ranked French qualifier Harold Mayot held off No. 79 Yosuke Watanuki, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4; and 19-year-old No. 70 Luca Van Assche of France rallied to beat No. 51 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), winning the final five points of the decisive third-set tie-break.

Thiem remains undefeated against lucky losers 

Dominic Thiem of Austria boasts a perfect record (10-0) against lucky losers on the ATP Tour. On Monday afternoon, the 95th-ranked Thiem defeated 299th-ranked French lucky loser Matteo Martineau, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 23 minutes to advance against another Frenchman, No. 4 seed Ugo Humbert on Tuesday. Thiem improved to 6-3 against players ranked outside the Top 100 this year after an 0-2 start.

A 2016 Metz finalist, Thiem won 80 percent of his first-serve points, converted three of nine break points and outpointed Martineau 61-47 to improve to 19-23 this season.

“It’s always very interesting and tricky to face a new opponent. It doesn’t happen that often,” Thiem said in his on-court interview of facing Martineau for the first time. “I was able to adjust very well and I’m happy with the first match here.”

Thiem has won eight of his last nine first-round matches at tour-level, which includes a run to the title match in Kitzbühel in August.

Around the Moselle Open

Pierre-Hugues Herbert won his first tour-level singles match in more than 20 months when he defeated fellow Frenchman Arthur Cazeux, 7-6 (7), 6-4, in an opening-round match between a pair of wild cards on Sunday. In his first Metz appearance since 2019, Herbert had not won a tour-level singles match since February 2022 in Marseille.

“It was a tough match today against a very good opponent. He had an amazing year, so I knew I had to play a great match to be able to win,” the 372nd-ranked Herbert said during his on-court interview. “For me, this win is quite special because I’ve not been playing this tournament for almost [four] years.

“I’ve had some difficult times so really, really happy. And being able to share that moment with this box is just amazing.”

Once ranked as high as No. 36, Herbert will play No. 2 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia in the second round. The World No. 12 is the highest-ranked player in the tournament after top seed Holger Rune of Denmark withdrew due to illness after the draw was made.

Also Sunday, No. 85 Gregoire Barrere of France defeated No. 7 seed Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, 7-6 (5), 6-4, to advance to the second round.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert is also entered in the doubles draw teamed with Fabio Fognini of Italy. The French/Italian duo won their first-round match Monday afternoon over Brazil’s Marcel Demoliner and Rafael Matos, 6-4, 6-4. Next, they will face No. 1 seeds Hugo Nys of Monaco and Jan Zielinski of Poland, who defeated Sander Arends of the Netherlands and Miguel Reyes-Varela of Mexico, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 10-1.

Monday’s Moselle Open results

Tuesday’s Moselle Open order of play

By the numbers

Stan Wawrinka is 3-6 since the US Open. He played Metz for the first time back in 2007 and is making his fourth appearance at this event (2007, 2015, 2022, 2023).

“Quotable …”

“It’s an amazing crowd [in Metz]. I like the support and I am liking every moment on this court.”

Defending champion Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, during his on-court interview after defeating Marcos Giron Monday.