Defending champion survives significant challenge

21.09.2021    Views: 103
Source: KTF press-service
Astana Open defending champion John Millman has survived a significant challenge in the opening encounter of his 2021 campaign in Nur-Sultan.
The Australian struggled to find his range early against Kazakhstan qualifier Dmitry Popko and was challenged late when prevailing 4-6 6-1 6-4. The fifth seed for this year’s Astana Open was errant off the ground early against the local hopeful but was able to find his range in the second set. The third set was testing for the defending champion. 
Popko broke his rival in the opening game of the deciding set, only for Millman to retrieve the service break midway through. Millman saved two break points when serving at 4-all and was able to break the 24-year-old to close out the match in 2hr 8min.

«I am hoping I can build on that match,» Millman said. «It was a little bit scrappy from my end. To credit to my opponent, he came out having played a couple of matches in those conditions and was probably a little bit better from the start. «Once I found my feet, I felt a little bit more comfortable.»

The No. 48 in the FedEx ATP Rankings will play Jaume Munar in the third match on center court on Wednesday in what Millman expects will be another testing affair. The 32-year-old said the indoor hard court is playing slower than in 2020 and believes the Spaniard will be well suited to the conditions.

«It’s like a clay court without the sliding. I was just thinking that as I came off the court, that these are the best hard court conditions for someone like Munar,» added the Australian. 
«There won’t be many free points, I’ve got to be a little sharper. One like today can give you a bit of confidence, getting a tight one like that under your belt can do you the world of good.»

Earlier on Tuesday in Nur-Sultan, Ilya Ivashka continued his fine season when defeating qualifier Elias Ymer 6-2 6-4 in 1hr 35min. The 27-year-old, who won his first ATP Tour title in Winston-Salem in August, posted his 26th win from 39 matches in 2021 and will now play Kazakh wildcard Timofey Skatov for a quarterfinal spot. After reaching the third round of the US Open, Ivashka recuperated for a few days before turning his attention to finishing the year strongly. The first two games of the match took 21 minutes to complete. But from 1-2 in the opening set, the Belarusian seized control when reeling off five games in succession. The second set was tighter, but Ivashka had more firepower than his Swedish rival.

«I think I have improved my game and played well in many, many tournaments, especially in the States, which was a great performance for me,» Ivashka said.

Lorenzo Musetti will play seventh seed Laslo Djere on Wednesday after edging qualifier Marc Polmans 6-4 2-6 6-4 in a quality encounter. The critical game in a match resplendent with variety occurred in the deciding set came when Musetti managed to hold serve to lead 3-1.

«It was a really tough match but I played good. He was really solid and he was not missing a ball, so it was not easy to (win) the point,» he said. «In the third set, I broke him in the third game, a really tough game, and that game was a turning point of the match, so I am really happy with the win.»
World No.97 Egor Gerasimov counts Nur-Sultan as a «second home» having competed here since the Futures. Now the Belarusian is into the second round, recovering from a break down in each set for a 7-5, 6-4 victory over No.6 seed Benoit Paire

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