Win Or Lose, It’s Been A Great Week For Nikles In Geneva

Johan Nikles (photo: Augusto Tomassetti, Gonet Geneva Open)

GENEVA/WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

With No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev eliminated from the ATP 250 Gonet Geneva Open in his first match back on Tour in six weeks, the focus Wednesday shifted to the remaining top seeds, such as No. 2 Casper Ruud, No. 3 Denis Shapovalov and No. 4 Reilly Opelka, as well as to others like 25-year-old qualifier Johan Nikles.

As the only Swiss left in the 28-player draw, the 317th-ranked Nikles from Geneva earned a coveted slot on Center Court at Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives against 64th-ranked Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, after winning two rounds of qualifying and garnering his first ATP Tour main draw victory in the first round. The Genevois received an enthusiastic welcome from the local fans, who came out to support him at his home club on this sunny, warm afternoon in southwestern Switzerland.

Griekspoor came in 1-4 against players ranked outside of the Top 100 on tour-level this season and was seeking his second Tour quarterfinal after winning eight ATP Challenger Tour titles last year and reaching a career-high No. 54 ranking. Meanwhile, Nikles saved six match points against fellow Swiss Leandro Riedi on Tuesday. Now, he was seeking his biggest career win and second Top 100 triumph following his victory over No. 97 Peter Gojowczyk of Germany in qualifying last weekend – and with a win against Griekspoor in their first career meeting, Nikles could move up 50 spots to No. 267.

As it turned out, it wasn’t meant to be for Nikles, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 291 last month following runs to two ATP Challenger Tour quarterfinals earlier this year at Bengaluru, India and Gran Canaria, Spain, and previously won four ITF Pro Circuit titles. He was beaten by Griekspoor, 6-3, 7-5, in their second-round match. But not without putting up a good fight.

The young Swiss, who brought a career 14-16 record on the Challenger Tour (including 5-6 this season) into the match, came out attacking against the more experienced Dutch player and held in his opening service game at love. However, Griekspoor humbled him two games later. He broke Nikles on his second break-point opportunity, and soon closed out the 29-minute opener 6-3 with another break off a powerful forehand winner.

In the second set, Nikles showed a glimmer of hope when he broke Griekspoor on his second opportunity in the third game for a 2-1 lead after his opponent pounded an 11th-shot forehand into the net. Immediately, Nikles did a fist pump and raised his arms in an attempt to get the crowd fired up. At the changeover, he looked calm and relaxed as he toweled off and enjoyed a few sips of water to stay hydrated.

However, Nikles wasn’t able to consolidate the break or sustain the momentum he had gained in the previous game. Instead, Griekspoor leveled the set at 2-all with a break on his second try. To his credit, Nikles wasn’t quite ready to back down. He broke back and won a 10-point fifth game after Griekspoor sailed a cross-court backhand far and wide, one of the few bad hits the Dutchman made against Nikles. This time, Nikles did consolidate his second break of Griekspoor with a fifth-shot overhead smash for a 4-2 advantage.

Soon, Nikles held again for 5-3 with a backhand winner that stunned Griekspoor and saw the Swiss player leaping in celebration. Then, he gained four set points through shear hustle and determination. Each time, though, Griekspoor rose to the challenge and eventually held serve on the 14th point of the game after Nikles netted a forehand.

With the set on Nikles’ racquet, it was time for the more experienced Griekspoor to dig in and he broke on his third try to even the set at 5-all. The momentum had shifted in his favor after he had won three of the last four games.

Quickly, Griekspoor held serve and found himself leading 6-5. In the next game, he gained a match point after jumping ahead 0-40. Although the young Swiss fought back, Griekspoor put away the victory on his second match-point opportunity after Nikles netted one final return to close out the one-hour and 28-minute tussle.


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Griekspoor, who outpointed Nikles 75-59, won 71 percent (37 of 52) of his first-serve points, converted five of 10 break-point opportunities and saved five of seven break points he faced.

In the end, Griekspoor got the job done and advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinal round. He stayed calmed and didn’t get overly frustrated after he was broken a couple of times in the second set. Saving four set points proved to be a big game-changing moment for both him and a disappointment for his opponent. There will be better days ahead for Nikles, who left the Center Court with his head held high and waving appreciatively at the home crowd who applauded his hustle and effort.

Next, Griekspoor will play No. 4 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States, who hit 14 aces, won 83 percent (25 of 30) of his first-serve points and advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win over 124th-ranked Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell in an hour and 28 minutes. It was the World No. 18 Opelka’s first win on European clay this season after consecutive losses in Munich, Madrid and Rome. Also, it was Opelka’s first success in Geneva after bowing in the opening round last year.


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Ruud: “Nice to be back!”

Defending champion Casper Ruud of Norway, the only former Geneva titlist in this year’s field, began his final French Open tune up against tempestuous Benoit Paire of France, ranked 67th. The World No. 8 and second seed scored an easy 55-minute 6-3, 6-1 victory to move into Thursday’s quarterfinal round after winning nine of the last 10 games.

Paire, who reached the second round with a three-set opening-round win over Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, was no match for the Norwegian.

Ruud had never lost to Paire in three previous meetings, including their most recent head-to-head last year at Gstaad that went the distance. This time, Ruud was efficient and quick on the draw. He served five aces, won 62 percent (18 of 29) of his first-serve points and converted five of 10 break-point opportunities. Ruud outpointed Paire 56-33. The loss dropped Paire to 7-47 lifetime against Top-10 opponents (including 2-15 on clay).

After Ruud secured his 21st victory of the season and improved to 5-0 lifetime in Geneva, he wrote on the camera lens: “Nice to be back!”

Next, Ruud plays No. 85 Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, who upset No. 7 seed Federico Delbonis of Argentina, ranked 62nd, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 in two hours and 27 minutes. Kokkinakis hit eight aces, won 76 percent (38 of 50) first-serve points and outpointed Delbonis 91-85.

Around the Geneva Open

• No. 79 João Sousa of Portugal earned his biggest win in three years with his 6-4, 6-2 victory over World No. 25 and fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. It advanced Sousa to his 35th tour-level quarterfinal and 19th on clay. Sousa hit eight aces and 25 winners overall and the 25th-ranked Basilashvili committed 24 unforced errors during the one-hour and 23-minute match. He outpointed his opponent 68-50.

Next, Sousa will play No. 50 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, who upset World No. 15 and third seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3, without losing his serve or his nerve over the course of the two-hour and 16-minute match. Ivashka withstood nine aces from Shapovalov and converted two of eight break points. He outpointed the Canadian 96-95.

• No. 1 doubles seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia, fresh off their title run in Rome three days ago, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Sander Arends of the Netherlands and Szymon Walkow of Poland. Next, they will play Fabrice Martin of France and Romain Arneodo of Monaco.

Meanwhile, three quarterfinal-round matches took place. Advancing to the semifinals were: Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Hunter Reese of the United States; Pablo Andújar of Spain and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands; and João Sousa and Francisco Cabral, both of Portugal.  Sousa and Cabral upset No. 3 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador, 7-5, 3-6, 11-9.

Wednesday’s Gonet Geneva Open results 

Thursday’s Gonet Geneva Open order of play

By the numbers

Casper Ruud of Norway, the defending Geneva champion, is the only former tournament champion in the field. After his victory against Benoit Paire, he improved his lifetime record against French players on tour-level to 9-6, and has won eight of the last nine matches.

“Quotable …”

“I made a lot of errors; a lot of double faults Just was not playing good enough to win. Had maybe some small bright moments in the second set, where I maybe could have won the second set. But, again, I don’t feel as confident on clay as on the other surfaces. That’s why I lost 7-5 in the tie-break, finishing with a double fault.

“It is disappointing, but I’ve had tougher losses in my career and I just need to try to do better next time.”

– World No. 2 and top seed Daniil Medvedev, following his 6-2, 7-6 (5) loss to Richard Gasquet Tuesday. It was Mededev’s first match in six weeks after returning from hernia surgery.