PORTOROZ, August 10, 2015
Three first round matches took place on Monday at the Tilia Slovenia Open in Portoroz with two wild cards in action on centre court.
Only 19-year-old Turkish Cem Ilkel was granted an invitation and capitalized on it, beating Jozef Kovalik 6-3, 6-2. Ilkel won 71% of his first service points and converted five of his 12 break points to celebrate his only fourth main draw match win on the ATP Challenger Tour after 65 minutes of play. The world number 432 will take on the winner of the match between eighth seed Mirza Basic and Matteo Viola.
Second wild card Aljaz Radinski dismissed Hiroki Moriya, winning 6-1, 6-1. The world number 1167 from Slovenia, who played his only two previous matches on the Challenger Tour in 2013 and 2014 here in Portoroz, converted five of his eight break points to gain his first victory after only 59 minutes. Radinski will play the winner of the encounter between third seed Kimmer Coppejans and lucky loser Jonathan Eysseric.
Sixth seed Luca Vanni defeated Aslan Karatsev, winning 6-3, 6-2. The 30-year-old Italian saved all seven break points he faced and capitalized on three of his own to advance after one hour and 17 minutes meeting the winner of the all-Belgian-affair between Niels Desein and Germain Gigounon.
Earlier the day, the opening press conference took place on a footbridge, located right next to the venue. The organizers, local player Grega Zemlja and top-seed Marcel Granollers officially kicked off the third edition of the € 42,500 ATP Challenger event.
“It is a special tournament for me. I couldn’t play here last year, so it’s great being back. I didn’t play that many tournaments during this one year time but I am finally getting used to play tournaments every week. Maybe I am not at 100%, but with more tournaments and more matches, I am getting closer to my very best,” Zemlja told Tennis TourTalk.
“I suffered from mononucleosis. That was the reason, why I couldn’t get to my best and missed half of last year’s season. It was really hard going through this period. I had physical as well as mental problems with that but now that’s behind me,” the 28-year-old Slovenian explained. Zemlja dropped in rankings to 290th position and received a wild card in Portoroz, where temperatures of more than 35 degrees Celsius are forecast throughout the week.
“Conditions here are very specific. It’s very hot and humid but in the end it’s the same for all of the players. If you play night matches under floodlights, it will be really fine. So I am looking forward to that and I expect a lot of people to come, creating a great atmosphere,” Zemlja told facing Andrea Arnaboldi for his first round match on centre court on Tuesday evening at 7 pm.
The tournament’s first seed and world number 72 Marcel Granollers has come to Portoroz for the first time.
“Due to my current ranking, I didn’t make it into the main draw of Montréal and Cincinnati. Now I am happy to be here and want to achieve good results and my goal will be to win the tournament. Nonetheless, it will be very tough, having a difficult opening match against Donskoy, to whom I lost two days ago in Spain. Later, he even won the tournament in El Espinar and will play with a lot of confidence,” the 29-year-old Spaniard said.
“Conditions here are not easy, but I am used to play in the heat and it’s the same for everyone. But it’s really nice here and I am motivated to have a good and successful week,” Granollers added.
You can listen to an interview with Marcel Granollers (in Spanish):