Cressy Achieves First ATP Tour Semifinal In Melbourne

Maxime Cressy (photo: ATP Tour video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

After saving two match points in a tension-filled, third-set tie-break of his Melbourne Summer Set second-round win over fellow American and No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka a day earlier, Maxime Cressy probably wondered what he could do for an encore on Friday at Melbourne Park.

How about this: The 112th-ranked qualifier from the United States went out and earned a berth in his first tour-level semifinal. Cressy pounded out 10 service aces to beat No. 77 Jaume Munar of Spain, 7-6 (3), 6-4, in two hours and 25 minutes on John Cain Arena at the ATP 250 hard-court tournament Friday afternoon. He did so by playing a serve-and-volley game that suits his style just fine. Against Munar, Cressy won 76 percent (42 of 55) of his first-serve points and outpointed his opponent 90-82.

The 24-year-old French-born Cressy, who now resides in Hermosa Beach, Calif, has enjoyed a profitable week in Melbourne, winning a pair of qualifying matches to make the main draw, then stringing together three more victories to garner a place among the last four. Next week, he will make his Top 100 debut.

After the 6-foot-5-inch Cressy’s focused and determined triumph over Opelka Thursday evening, it earned him enough points to move from having to go through qualifying into the main draw of the Australian Open. It’s something which has the former UCLA collegiate star feeling thrilled by the accomplishment, and he delighted in talking about it following his 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) win over the 26th-ranked U.S. star.

“I just got in,” Cressy said, displaying a big grin on his face as he toweled off during his on-court interview. “It means so much to me because I’ve been working toward that goal for a long time. It means the world to me.”

Last year, Cressy compiled a 43-32 win-loss record in all competitions, dividing his time between the Challenger Tour and the main ATP Tour. His best result came near the end of the season, when he won an indoor Challenger in Forli, Italy. He also achieved back-to-back indoor finals in early November at Eckental, Germany and Ortisei, Italy. On the ATP Tour, he reached the second round of the Australian Open, US Open and BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

“Many more goals to come, but this is a big first step for me,” Cressy added. “I’m so proud of myself, so happy that I have an incredible team, and family and friends who give their full support. It’s paying off. It’s an incredible feeling.”

During a press conference after his win against Opelka, Cressy explained his decision to represent the United States instead of France. His mother is American, from Chicago, while his father is French.

“When I started the tour, playing Futures in 2019, I had to make a decision whether I was going to play for France or the U.S. because I knew that at any time if I have a big result, I didn’t want to change,” Cressy explained. “I made the decision very early on that I wanted to play for the U.S. because of my family origins. I’ve always seen myself more of an American mindset. It was just a feeling.

“I just see myself more American than French,” he said.

On Saturday, Cressy will face No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who saved two match points and defeated No. 57 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, 6-7 (5), 6-0, 7-5, in two hours and 45 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The 28th-ranked Dimitrov, who is seeking his ninth ATP Tour trophy, trailed van de Zandschulp 5-2 in the deciding set, then rebounded to win the last five games of the match. The Dutchman served for the match at 5-3 (40-15) in the final set and later was broken at 5-all during a 24-point, nine-deuce game.

Earlier this week, Dimitrov said in press that he’s ready for match play. “It’s just kind of good to see where you’re at, of course physically, and I think mentally, as well.”

Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain advanced to the semifinal round by walkover following the withdrawal Belgium’s Tallon Griekspoor. The 65th-ranked Belgian pulled out of Friday’s quarterfinal due to a foot injury.

The World No. 6 Nadal, who is playing in his first tournament since last August’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C., will face 22-year-old Emil Ruusuvuori, ranked 95th, the top player from Finland. Ruusuvuori advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 88 Alex Molcan of Slovakia. It will be the first time Nadal, 34, has faced Ruusuvuori.

Top three seeds through to Adelaide International 1 semifinals

The top three seeds in the ATP 250 Adelaide International 1 – No. 1 Gaël Monfils of France, No. 2 Karen Khachanov of Russia, and No. 3 Marin Cilic from Croatia – are through to the semifinal round of the outdoor hard-court in South Australia.

During Friday’s quarterfinals, the top-seeded Monfils continued his quest for an 11th ATP Tour title by defeating sixth seed Tommy Paul of the United States, 6-4, 6-1, in 69 minutes. Next, he will play unseeded 171st-ranked Australian wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis, who eliminated 94th-ranked wild card Mikael Ymer of Sweden, 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-4, in two hours and 45 minutes.

“It was a tough one,” the 21st-ranked Monfils said during an on-court interview. “I had a great start and he broke me back. I think I was rushing a little bit on my first serve, and … [I needed] a little bit more timing on my first serve to have free points. Then, it was just a battle. [I] felt great.”

Meanwhile, the second-seeded Khachanov, ranked 29th, placed all but one of his 78 first serves in play and beat 113th-ranked Belarus qualifier Egor Gerasimov, 7-5, 6-3.

The third-seeded Cilic, ranked 30th, eliminated Laslo Djere of Serbia in 68 minutes in back of a 6-3, 6-2 victory. The 2018 Australian Open finalist won 25 of 29 first-serve points against the No. 7 seed Djere, ranked 52nd.

“The match was very solid from start to finish,” Cilic said during an on-court interview. “I served really well. [The] courts here are quite quick. … I feel that’s good for my game. For me, these matches are incredibly valuable. [I’m] hoping that I’m going to keep going with wins. Definitely, it can grow into my confidence.”

By the numbers

Saturday’s semifinal matchups in Melbourne – No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal versus Emil Ruusuvuori and No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov versus qualifier Maxime Cressy – are all first-time meetings.

“Quotable …”

“I’ve been visualizing playing on these big stadiums for a long time, and it’s always been my desire to play on these courts consistently. It’s the best feeling seeing my vision becoming a reality. I’m just going to keep working and working that I’m able to play on these courts most of the time. That’s the goal.”

Maxime Cressy of the United States, ranked 112th, on what it’s like having success on the ATP Tour after doing well on the Challenger Tour.