Defending champion Andrey Rublev produced an accomplished display to brush past Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the Russian’s first ATP Tour meeting with Laaksonen and the World No. 7 admitted he needed some time to work out his opponent in Rotterdam as a break in each set was enough to claim victory in one hour and 12 minutes.
“I didn’t know what to expect from Henri,” said Rublev after the match. “I know how tough he is because he had some great matches and great wins against great players. Even in Australia, he lost to [Daniil] Medvedev first round, and after the match Daniil told me he was super tough to play against. I didn’t know which level to expect, so I needed to analyse a bit. I’m happy with my performance and I’m happy with the way I was playing today.”
The eight-time ATP Tour champion offered few opportunities on his own serve to the Swiss, saving the lone break point he faced in the match when serving for the first set and completing the win having claimed 82 per cent (27/33) of points behind his first serve.
He is optimistic but also cautious about his chances of defending his title in a strong Rotterdam field. “I just try to focus match by match,” said Rublev. “This tournament is super tough, you have so many great players,” said Rublev. His next opponent will be either Frenchman Hugo Gaston or South Korean Soonwoo Kwon.
Home favourite Tallon Griekspoor saved two match points before going on to upset seventh seed Aslan Karatsev 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(0). World No. 14 Karatsev and No. 62 Griekspoor both occupy career high spots in the ATP Rankings, but Griekspoor has shown pedigree in Rotterdam before, having beaten Stan Wawrinka in 2018 and Karen Khachanov in 2019 for his only previous victories over Top-20 players.
It was the second first-round defeat in a row for Sydney champion Karatsev, having also lost his opener against Elias Ymer last week in Pune.
After Karatsev reeled off four games in a row to take the first set, the first meeting between the pair was decided by the Dutchman’s ability to up his game for the second and third-set tie-breaks. Karatsev’s trademark explosive style brought him 32 winners but also 37 unforced errors, and Griekspoor stayed solid to come through in front of a delighted home crowd.
It was the second first-round defeat in a row for Sydney champion Karatsev, who also lost his opener against Elias Ymer last week in Pune. Griekspoor now faces Filip Krajinovic or Marton Fucsovics in the second round.