European Open Cinderella Story Ends For Bergs … For Now

Zizou Bergs (photo: European Open)

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The Cinderella story of Zizou Bergs came to a close Thursday evening in Antwerp, Belgium, but not before he brought the Belgian fans to their feet one last time.

The thoughtful and articulate 21-year-old Bergs, who entered the main draw of the European Open as a 528th-ranked wild card, lost his second-round match to World No. 17 Karen Khachanov, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. It took a service break to do the trick.

The No. 3 seed from Russia overcame Bergs, who was playing in his first ATP main draw this week, and broke the young Belgian to close out the two hour and 22-minute inside Antwerp’s Lotto Arena. Khachanov will face 35th-ranked Dan Evans of Great Britain in the quarterfinal round on Friday.

Although Khachanov outpointed Bergs 103-98, it was a match high on excitement in which the margin for error was thin. Khachanov was broken just once and Bergs only twice. By winning, Khachanov achieved his second straight quarterfinal-round berth after reaching the last eight at St. Petersburg last week.

After Khachanov secured match point, he met Bergs at the net and exchanged a racquet tap. Then, he tapped Bergs on his shoulder in lieu of being able to put his arm around him as if to say “well done, Zizou.”

Shortly afterward, Bergs saluted the crowd with a heartfelt wave of his raised left arm while tapping his heart with his right hand. He was definitely appreciative of the support he received, both Tuesday night during his first ATP Tour victory and also Thursday evening.

What an experience for Bergs, who was attempting to become the first player outside the Top 500 to earn an ATP Tour quarterfinal berth since Andy Murray at the 2019 China Open, after earning his first tour-level victory against Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday evening.

When Bergs sat down for his virtual press conference, he seemed in awe of the number of media who were plugged into his Zoom videoconference. He’s fluent in three languages – English, French and Dutch – and was ready to answer questions in each language. He began in English and Tennis TourTalk was recognized first.

Bergs was asked to comment about what he learned about himself from his competing in his first ATP Tour main draw tournament this week – especially competing in front of fans in his home country. He spoke in a soft but clear tone of voice and took his time to carefully articulate his thoughts.

“What I learned is the game I can play, that I can play matches on a big stage with – I wouldn’t say pressure – a lot excitement,” Bergs said. “The crowds have been unbelievable. I think for the future it’s definitely going to help. I think I have to build [from this week]. I know I have the game. It’s just a matter of a mental way of bringing it day in and day out, week in and week out.

“I’m working hard every day, trying to improve my level. I think it’s clear that I need to work more on the mental part and bring it more often. I’m just super happy with the way I played … it’s how I want to play. It will take time and we will take it step by step.”

When Bergs was asked by another reporter how much confidence it brought him in that he pushed a Top 20 player (Khachanov) as well as he did, he said:

“For sure, it’s a boost. … A lot of people are believing a lot in me, that is an enormous boost that I don’t take for granted, for sure, because when things go bad they might go away again. For myself, it is an enormous boost. I knew I could do it though, because when I started, I was really confident and I was just happy I could bring it in the matches. 

“Beating a Top 50 player in [Albert] Ramos-Vinolas and pushing Khachanov to a really tight match, which I had opportunities in, is a great boost I will keep building on.”

Despite Thursday’s loss, Bergs has climbed 70 places in the provisional rankings, from No. 528 to No. 458.

As it turns out, Bergs has a big fan in fellow Belgian pro Elise Mertens, who is ranked No. 21 in the WTA Rankings. As it turned out both Bergs and Mertens were sitting for their respective video conferences at the same time, in different locations in Europe. Mertens was asked about Bergs during her videoconference Thursday evening following her singles and doubles victories at the WTA Premier J&T Banka Ostrava Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic. As soon as Tennis TourTalk mentioned Bergs’ name, she beamed a smile.

“When I was younger, he practiced with me at the same academy,” she said. “So, I know him. He lives just 10 minutes from where I live.” 

Top seed Goffin sent packing

American qualifier Marcos Giron, ranked 94th reached his first ATP Tour main draw quarterfinal by stunning World No. 14 and top seed David Goffin, 6-3, 7-5, Thursday evening. It was Giron’s first Top 20 victory and it puts him in Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 8 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia.

Goffin, who was appearing in his first tournament match since testing positive for Covid-19 following his first-round loss last month at the French Open, struggled during the one-hour, 40-minute Center Court match. He hit just one ace and committed six double faults, placed only 48 percent of his first serves in play and saved just three of the eight break points he faced. Goffin converted just three of 13 break-point opportunities against Giron. The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-native outpointed Goffin 76-59.

“I was fighting the whole match and I think [there were] a lot of ups and downs,” Goffin told a videoconference audience of media, as quoted by the ATP website. “Sometimes [I played] some good games, sometimes I was playing well, sometimes [I was] aggressive. Sometimes in the game I was completely down with three unforced errors for no reason. It was like that the whole match, so if I … just erase some mistakes, it will be better and better match after match.”

As of now, Goffin is entered to play both next week in Vienna and the week after at the Masters 1000 in Paris.

Raonic, Harris advance to quarterfinals

Milos Raonic improved his 2020 season win-loss record to 19-8 and reached his fifth quarterfinal of the year with his 7-5, 7-6 (4) win over No. 70 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. The fifth seed from Canada fired 19 service aces and lost just four points on his first serve (34 of 38) to win in one hour and 49 minutes. This is the second straight week the 19th-ranked Raonic has reached the quarterfinals of an indoor event. Last week, he was a semifinalist at the St. Petersburg Open. On Friday, Raonic will face No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov, ranked 20th.

• Ninetieth-ranked South African qualifier Lloyd Harris upset No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, 7-5, 7-6 (3), to reach Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 38 Ugo Humbert of France. Harris hit 12 service aces and won 82 percent (46 of 56) of his first serves. He was not broken during the one hour and 53-minute match.