Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky produced the biggest upset on Monday on the first day of the ATP and WTA Kremlin Cup, ousting Portuguese seventh seed Joao Sousa in straight sets.
The 27-year-old Ukrainian — who gained his biggest ever scalp at Wimbledon this year when he beat Roger Federer for his first ever win over a player ranked in the top 10 — beat 24-year-old Sousa 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour, 17 minutes.
Sousa, ranked 50th in the world in comparison to his opponent’s 98th, started the match confidently, taking a 4-1 lead. However Stakhovsky, who won the last of his four ATP titles in 2010, was unfazed and stormed back to break Sousa twice and rattle off five consecutive games to win the first set in 37 minutes.
In the second Stakhovsky underlined his supremacy when he broke Sousa, who last month became the first player from Portugal to win an ATP title when he claimed the Malaysian Open, twice again in the second set to clinch the match.
“I was a bit nervous to start with and experienced problems at the beginning, but later in the first set I managed to regain my concentration and dominated the rest of the match,” Stakhovsky said.
In the next round he faces French journeyman Edouard Roger-Vasselin who beat Czech rival Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.
The 29-year-old Roger-Vasselin looked more focused from the start breaking his rival’s serve twice to take the first set in 32 minutes.
They traded breaks throughout the second set as it went to a tie-break, which 20-year-old Vesely won to tie the match.
Roger-Vasselin came up with the decisive break in the eighth game of the third set and won the match in 2 hours, 16 minutes.
The women’s tournament saw France’s 26th-ranked Alize Cornet, who is seeking her fourth title, beat Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 7-5, 6-3 in 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Cornet booked a date with either seventh seed Samantha Stosur of Australia or Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in a clash for a place in the quarter-finals.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded eighth, advanced into the second round on the back of a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be forced to push on this week with a fragile knee as the final rush to the ATP year-end event enters the last three weeks of qualifying time for the eight-man wrap-up in London.
Tsonga has returned to the Austrian Open for the first time since his debut appearance which resulted in a 2011 title. Though he might prefer to rest his knee, last week’s Shanghai Masters semi-finalist knows that only a determined effort indoors at the Stadthalle will suffice.
Tsonga stands provisional ninth in the points race to the World Tour Finals starting on Nov. 4.
He has a bye in the Vienna first round — all the better to help him recover from his day-long flight from Asia — and will play the winner of the match between German Daniel Brands and Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurur in the second round.
“If I want to go to London, I have to play,” Tsonga admitted before leaving Asia after his loss to eventual Shanghai champion Novak Djokovic. “I will play, and that’s it.”
“I just have to play and try to win as much as possible. That’s it,” he said.
The former Australian Open finalist is in a slightly better position than he lets on, with Scot Andy Murray already qualified, but not playing at the year-ender as he recovers from February back surgery. That development means that at the moment, the leading nine point earners — including Tsonga — would enter the London field.