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.
However, Tsonga has to watch his fitness after sitting out from Wimbledon through to Metz last month with his knee worries. This week in the Austrian capital marks his fourth event in the last five weeks, a heavy stress on even a fully-fit player,
Tsonga remains optimistic.
“I’m going better and better, and I know I can play a lot better. I’ll continue to work, I think I’m on a good way,” he said.
Monday’s opening day featured an ulta-light schedule with just two main-draw matches set.
Both involved Czech seeds, who are using the last three weeks of the regular season to prepare for next month’s Davis Cup final in Belgrade against Djokovic and Serbia.
Veteran Radek Stepanek defeated Austrian Martin Fischer 7-5, 6-3, while eighth seed Lukas Rosol produced a mirror-image victory 6-3, 7-5 over Jesse Huta Galung of the Netherlands.
Both matches also took an identical 65 minutes, with Rosol firing 13 aces in his victory.
The tournament is missing two-time champion Juergen Melzer, who was forced to pull out and end his season due to a shoulder tendon injury. The 32-year-old won his fifth career title at Winston-Salem in August.
His absence will be a body blow to the tournament which thrives on imported big names plus local Austrian players, like 2009 and 2010 winner Melzer.
Stepanek, 34, and playing the tournament for the sixth time, had never faced wild-card Fischer. The Austrian has lost four first-round matches in Vienna dating to 2006.
Sixth-seeded Benoit Paire of France advanced to the second round of the Stockholm Open on Monday by beating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-4.
Paire broke Giraldo twice and lost his serve once in both sets to wrap up the win in 1 hour, 10 minutes. He will next face Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, who advanced when Jurgen Zopp of Estonia retired with an injury at 5-5 in the first set.
In Monday’s other first-round match, Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands beat Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-4, 6-2.
Top-seeded David Ferrer of Spain has a bye into the second round, as does No. 2 Milos Raonic of Canada.
Fifth-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated China’s Peng Shuai 7-5, 6-4 on Monday to move into the second round of the Luxembourg Open.
Safarova converted her only break point in the first set and added two more breaks in the second to wrap up the win in 1 hour, 32 minutes.
In another first-round match, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium beat Heather Watson of Britain 6-0, 5-7, 6-2, breaking her opponent seven times even though the Briton landed 81 percent of her first serves compared with just 49 percent for Wickmayer.
Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, No. 2 Sloane Stephens of the US and third-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany were all due to open their campaigns yesterday.