When Adam Pavlasek broke Jozef Kovalik in the very first game of their match Monday at the Pekao Szczecin Open, it looked like the Slovak’s terrible slump will continue. The 2018 Hamburg European Open semifinalist was looking very unsure of his game. His shots lacked any explosiveness and he was often sort of stopping the arm mid-stroke, afraid of overhitting.
However, he was the first person on the court to notice something. When pulled wide to the forehand side, Pavlasek would always be half a step late. Sliding deep to that half of the court the Czech made a few crucial errors and Kovalik was able to get the break back.
A left thigh issue
Soon it became evident that Pavlasek wzs in some kind of muscle pain. After a short sprint, the Czech grasped himself by his left thigh and a grimace of pain twisted his face. That one expression was enough for everyone to understand what was going on. But Pavlasek was far from acknowledging the loss.
Kovalik took notice and started abusing the Czech’s issue. Drop shot after drop shot, the former world No. 80 tried to make the most out of his opponent’s disability. Pavlasek tried his best, forced himself to run, but with his movement slightly hampered, he couldn’t stay with Kovalik for long.
Meanwhile, the Slovak grew confident. His not that powerful, yet effective, precise shots were good enough to bully an injured Pavlasek around the court. It seemed like with each game Kovalik is getting better and better. The second set was a straightforward affair and Kovalik took a 6-3 6-2 victory.
The 30-year-old Slovak has failed to replicate his last year’s success in 2019. His Hamburg European Open semifinal run as a qualifier got him to the Top 100 in the world, and it’s been a steep fall from grace this season. The Pavlasek win sees him rise to No. 300 in the ATP Race to London.
The Pekao Szczecin Open is shaping up to be a good chance for Jozef Kovalik to get some of his last year’s mojo back. The Slovak will now play sixth-seed Lorenzo Giustino, who is currently on a four-match losing streak, including getting out in his first-round match of the AON Open in Genoa against Giulio Zeppieri.
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