Emerging talent Skatov provides bright start

20.09.2021    Views: 210
Source: KTF press-service

Courtney Walsh

The former junior world No. 1 demonstrated the repertoire that had identified him as a player of the future when defeating Italian Andreas Seppi 7-6 (3) 4-6 6-1 in the opening round match.

«Of course, I feel really happy, because I did my first win at home in Nur-Sultan,» Skatov said. »(People) were not allowed here today but, anyway, there was really good support for me here.

«My teammates from Davis Cup and the people around who were supporting me, it really helped me get more confidence and energy and I think it was one of the main things that helped me win today.»

Playing in his second Astana Open, the wildcard entrant started slowly when dropping the first three games of the match to his vastly more experienced rival. But the 20-year-old showed great resilience to reel in Seppi, a winner of three ATP Tour titles, almost immediately. A lengthy service game at 4-5, when Skatov saved four set points, proved a crucial confidence boost for the local hopeful.

A double-fault from Seppi on the opening point of the tiebreaker gave the wildcard entrant the early advantage and he was able to clinch the first set when the Italian erred on an attempt at a forehand winner. Skatov, who is No. 280 on the FedEx ATP Rankings, carried the momentum into the second set when swiftly moving to a 3-0 lead.

But he lost concentration for a period and Seppi was able to level the match. But the Nur-Sultan resident rebounded immediately when breaking his 37-year-old rival in the second game of the deciding set and closed out a match lasting 2hr 56min with conviction.

«In the beginning, I did not start very well. I was a bit nervous and I was making a lot of mistakes but then I broke back and (in the) tiebreak it was a good fight and I won,» he said. «In the second set I was 3-0 up and then I do not even know what happened. Maybe I got nervous to close the match and I did not play with my rhythm.

«In the third set, after the toilet break, I was refreshed, and in the end, the match was for me.» The right-hander reached the final of an ATP Challenger tournament in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in June. 

He has also reached semifinals in Portugal, Italy and at his most recent tournament last month in an ATP Challenger event in Kiev, Ukraine. Skatov, who was beaten in the opening round of the 2020 Astana Open by Emil Ruusuvuori last October, said he needed time to build confidence when making the transition from junior ranks.

«I was number one in juniors and maybe I was not really ready for that. I put too much pressure on myself and I could not figure it out. I got some injuries and I wasn’t feeling well,» he said. «But, then I said, ‘OK. Where is the next step?’ Now I have more experience. I believe a bit more in myself. It is making me more confident that I can do good things on court.»

Jaume Munar also progressed to the second round when defeating Jiri Vesely 6-3 7-6 (6) in 1hr 48min. The Spaniard awaits the winner of a match on Tuesday between defending Astana Open champion John Millman and Kazakhstan qualifier Dmitry Popko.

World No.60 Miomir Kecmanovic gained a confidence boosting 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Fernando Verdasco to reach the Astana Open second round.

After clinching a tight first set, Kecmanovic made his move immediately in the second set when breaking the Spanish veteran to love in the opening game.

His weight of shot had Verdasco on the defensive, with the Serbian moving the left-hander around the court with regularity.

«It feels great, especially as I haven’t really won anything recently,» said the Serbian with a chuckle. «It feels good to get a win against a dangerous player.

«For sure I was nervous at the start, but I’m happy I played some decent tennis.»

The 22-year-old entered the draw in Nur-Sultan off the back of five successive defeats and has had to dig deep with the help of his coach and former world No.3 David Nalbandian.

«It hasn’t been an easy year for me. I’ve had a lot of changes, had a lot of tough, close defeats, where I feel like just one or two points were the difference. We’ve been working on certain areas and he believes, I believe, eventually all the hard work will bring results.»

Kecmanovic advances to the second round to meet home favourite and No.2 seed Alexander Bublik. 

«It’s definitely going to be interesting, we’re good friends off the court. I’m expecting everything,» quipped Kecmanovic. «We’ll see how it goes. He’s a great guy, a different character. He changes it up and it’s great fun to have him around. He’s an awesome friend and I’m really excited we can go through this journey together.»

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