Stricker Wins Swiss Open Derby Among Friends

Dominic Stricker (photo: Fabian Meierhans/Swiss Open Gstaad)

GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 20, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Imagine spending nearly two-and-a-half hours staring across the net from your doubles partner, with whom you won a title together a year ago on the very same court situated in the Swiss Alps. Only this time, it’s 12 months later and you’re facing each other in the singles draw, chasing after the same prize: a first-round main draw victory. Only one player will leave the court totally satisfied.

That’s the predicament that a pair of Swiss wild cards, 180th-ranked Dominic Stricker and No. 99 Marc-Andrea Huesler, experienced at the EFG Swiss Open in Gstaad Tuesday evening.

“It’s tough to play Huesler here,” Stricker admitted Monday during a pre-tournament press conference for the ATP 250 event on red clay. “We’re playing doubles again – we’re really good friends. It’s going to be a tough match but I think we’re both motivated.”

Coming in, the 26-year-old Huesler from Zürich was the No. 1-ranked Swiss male player and joined the Top 100 after defeating Denmark’s Holger Rune last week in the first round at Bastad, which was also his first ATP Tour victory this season.

Meanwhile, Stricker, a 19-year-old from Münsingen, arrived in Gstaad with a 1-2 tour-level win-loss record after winning a round at Stuttgart earlier this summer, then losing respectably in straight sets to World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas. This time, persistence paid off for Stricker against Huesler. He pulled out a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory in two hours and 26 minutes on Roy Emerson Arena to advance to the second round against No. 4 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain on Thursday.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Swiss Open Gstaad (@swissopengstaad)

Although Huesler politely shook hands with Stricker after their singles tussle, it must have hurt him deep inside, knowing that a straight-set triumph was within his grasp. Yet, he just wasn’t able to close out the victory after squandering three match points in the second set. Certainly, it will go down as a learning experience for both Swiss players.

Looking back, during the 10th game of the second set, Stricker strung together five straight points to fight off elimination – and it became the definitive turning point of the match. It began with Stricker saving a trio of match points, one after another, after trailing 5-4, 40-0 on his opponent’s serve. After Huesler failed to successfully close out the match, it provided Stricker with valuable momentum going forward. It enabled him to level matters after he won a second-set tie break by the same score as the first-set tie-break that he lost.

By the conclusion of their 205-point first-round match, Stricker had struck 11 aces and won 78 percent of his first-serve points. He converted both of his break points against Huesler and outpointed him 105-100.

In the final game, Stricker maintained his cool and steadiness and showed great maturity. From 30-15, he hit a down-the-line forehand that Huesler barely got his racquet on. Then, he followed with a third-shot forehand winner for an extraordinary victory over his doubles partner, with whom he teamed with to win last year’s Gstaad title.

Looking back, this Swiss Derby among friends included action, it had emotions, and the Swiss fans who filled Roy Emerson Arena provided a nice atmosphere surrounding the participants. The two will be back in action on Court 1 Wednesday afternoon as they begin their doubles title defense against popular Swedish brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Swiss Open Gstaad (@swissopengstaad)

In a tennis-hungry country such as Switzerland, in which Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka have dominated the landscape of the men’s game for a generation, Stricker was asked this week how he’s handled the pressure and expectations coming up through the junior ranks. He responded in a matter-of-fact tone of voice when he said: “No pressure, really. There’s a little pressure, but I think it’s good pressure. I played pretty good in the juniors and started pretty good in the Challenger Tour and kept playing pretty well. I’m happy with how it’s been going.”

Indeed, Stricker, who won the French Open junior boys’ singles and doubles titles in 2020, last year captured an indoor Challenger Tour title in Lugano, Switzerland, and earlier this season added another Challenger crown at an indoor hard-court event in Cleveland, Ohio. His 2022 early-season results lifted him to a career-best ranking of No. 155. Recently, Stricker was rewarded with an upcoming main draw wild card entry into the Swiss Indoors in Basel, along with Federer, Carlos Alcaraz and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“There’s been good support from Roger and Stan [Wawrinka]. I’ve practiced with both of them and they’ve given me a lot of help,” Stricker said. “They’ve given me a lot of tips.” Useful ones, no doubt.

“It’s been a good year. I’ve won one Challenger in the U.S. I’m still [playing] on a good level.”