Verdasco Reaches Tenerife Challenger Second Round

Fernando Verdasco (photo: Brigitte Urban)

TENERIFE, November 2, 2021

Sun, sea and holiday might be associated by most of the people who are thinking about vacationing the Canary Islands. However, tennis professionals at the Tenerife Challenger faced a long day and a packed schedule of matches on a cloudless and hot day at the Abama Tennis Academy that left little time for relaxing by the sea.

Two Spanish veterans headlined Tuesday’s first-round action in Guía de Isora, a municipality in the western part of the island. Former World No. 7 Fernando Verdasco snapped a three-match losing streak by battling past Gian Marco Moroni of Italy, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

The 37-year-old wild card entry sent down nine aces and capitalized on eight of his 10 break-point chances to prevail after two hours and five minutes.

“I knew that he is a fighter with a lot of power in his strokes,” Verdasco said. “I started playing really well. I was struggling with my first serve in the second set and didn’t feel comfortable. He started to play better and everything changed. I was pretty pissed, but tried to calm down and to be aggressive again. I hit a couple of winners in the third set, which gave me confidence.”

Verdasco and the Challenger Tour

Verdasco, a winner of seven ATP Tour titles, lifted only one trophy on the Challenger Circuit on home soil at the 2007 El Espinar, Segovia tournament. Asked about the differences between competing in Challengers two decades ago and nowadays, the World No. 165 replied:

“It is true that I didn’t play so many Challengers, as I was lucky to pass that step very fast. As soon as I started to play tour-level events, I won matches and stayed there for many, many years. But Challengers were and still are tough tournaments. Here you will meet many players that also compete in Grand Slams or 250 events. There is not a big difference in terms of the level of tennis. For me it is totally the same.

“Sometimes it is even harder to play a Challenger, as there is no Hawk-Eye, everyone is hungry to win points and to step into the ATP Tour. I had two surgeries in one year and lost many points. There is not much of a choice for me. I wish that I could like Andy Murray receive wild cards for all the bigger events, but I was not No. 1 in the world and not a Grand-Slam champion. He is asking for wild cards and is getting them. Feli and I are asking and we are not getting them. So, we have to play Challengers and try to win matches.”

Here in Tenerife it might not be easy to gain ranking points but playing on home soil in a relaxed atmosphere is something enjoyable for Verdasco.

“This tournament here is amazing. It is in Tenerife, where the venue and the weather are amazing. But there are also some Challengers, which are not that great. Mentally it is often not easy,” added Verdasco, who has been named tournament director of this year’s Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals in late November.

Next up for the Madrid native will be Lorenzo Giustino of Italy, who beat Spanish teenager and reigning US Open junior champion Daniel Rincon, 6-3, 7-5 after one hour and 34 minutes.

“He was the better player, he deserved to win,” Rincon told Tennis TourTalk. “I started a bit nervous. I don’t know why. I played a few Challengers before but I am not used to these kind of tournament. Then, I started play more loose, trying to enjoy the match. There was only a small difference in the second set. I had my chances at 5-4. I am very with the second set but there are still a lot of things to improve.” 

Rincon, who is based at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, appeared in his fifth ATP Challenger Tour event and was seeking his first match win.

“Getting on the Pro Tour is not easy. I am not longer playing against 18-year-old guys. They are more experienced, they know how to manage the important moments better. That’s one of the big differences to the juniors,” said the youngster, who already has to deal with high expectations after his triumph in New York.

Many people expect many things from me. I try to forget about it, but it isn’t easy. I just try to enjoy every day of practice and tournaments,” said Rincon.

No. 2 seed Feliciano Lopez and Czech young gun Dalibor Svrcina played the last match of the day, which had to be suspended with the Spaniard leading 6-4, 1-6, 3-1 due to bad light.

Kuznetsov advances

Earlier on the day on Grandstand, Andrey Kuznetsov edged past Romanian lucky loser Filip Cristian Jianu 6-4, 6-2. The 30-year-old Russian broke his rival’s serve five times to seal victory in one hour and 23 minutes.

“It was not easy at all,” Kuznetsov told Tennis TourTalk. “I had a good start with two breaks but he then started to play better. The key was to focus on my own game, because in the middle of the first set it was very hard for me. He started to return better. At the end of the first set, I found my forehand, hit a couple of them down the line. In the second set, I was able to dominate the game.”

Earlier in the season, Kuznetsov captured his first Challenger title in six years at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. “It was an incredibly important win for me. I was ranked about 300 in the world and the US Open was coming. But it also helped me with the confidence,” said the World No. 281.

Kuznetsov will next face No. 4 seed Quentin Halys of France, who battled past Russian qualifier Alexander Shevchenko 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. The encounter lasted two hours and 22 minutes.