There were screams of all kinds on the ITF Tour courts of the National Tennis Centre of Sunderland on Day 1 of the main draw. There were screams of delight, screams of anguish, and screams very much directed at the unfortunate soul sitting on “that” chair just above the court.
It was the first round proper of the tournament and players knew that they faced a very early journey home if they lost today. Some, like British wild cards Daniel Little, Henry Patten, and Grace Piper, may have been prepared for their fate, but others certainly weren’t.
Day 1 at ITF Sunderland: Opening Day Defeats
Swedish 2nd seed Markus Eriksson went down in three sets to the unseeded Dutchman Gijs Brouwer. It was an excellent performance from Brouwer who outplayed his higher-ranked opponent over the final two sets and thoroughly deserved his win. The Swede later returned to the court in the doubles and won so he will have to stick around in Sunderland a bit longer, albeit knowing that his paycheck will now not pay for his week.
One man who is totally free to leave is Bulgarian World #567 Alexander Donski. After losing in straight sets to British wildcard Mark Whitehouse, he repeated the trick with Kristjan Tamm of Estonia a few hours later. This made his stay in Sunderland last just one day. He was not best pleased (more on this later).
Eriksson was actually the only seed to fall on the opening day of action. Most of the favourites progressed with varying degrees of ease.
Jana Fett, Pemra Ozgen, and Richel Hogenkamp all outclassed their opponents, but #1 seed Viktoriya Tomova really had to fight to eventually get past Victoria Muntean of France in three sets.
In the Men’s Draw, Dutch former World #52 Igor Sijsling showed much of his class in a straight-sets win over Evan Hoyt; 19-year-old talent Jesper De Jong also won a battle of Holland vs Great Britain but had to endure three difficult sets against World #1440 Daniel Little.
19-year-old Aiden Mchugh was being watched by GB Davis Cup captain Leon Smith as he took on World #548 Alexis Gautier of France. Gautier is ranked only 6 spots below the Scot so a close match was expected.
The cross-court forehand of the Scot was causing huge damage to his opponent and it was this weapon that produced the first break of the match in the third game. Despite a couple of wobbles on serve Mchugh managed to hold his single break to the end of the set.
The Scot was much more assured in the second set. He again gained an early break and despite further chances had to be happy with just the one. This was just fine as the young Scot’s serve was beginning to purr at this stage and Leon Smith looked suitably impressed as he wrapped up the match 6-4 6-4. He goes on to meet Igor Sijsling in the second round.
The funny side of ITF Tennis
Honourable mentions go to Evan Hoyt, who was so impressed with (yet another) beautiful single-handed backhand pass by Igor Sijsling that he let out a spontaneous “woo-hoo-hoooooooo” as it flashed past him into the corner. The fact that the point was at deuce in the final game of the match made it even more impressive…and funny.
It was also funny to see 19-year-old Briton Ali Collins’ attempts to destroy her own racket. Sensibly she waited until the end of the match for this, but after losing to 14-year-old Eva Shaw she decided that the racket needed to pay. It survived being thrown to the floor, then withstood a kick and finally was shoved in her bag with all the force Collins could muster up. The racket survives to let her down another day.
Top 3 moments
In fact, the standout motif of the day was anger and pressure. Tennis can be such a tough game, if you are looking for someone to blame for losing then your only choices are yourself, or the officials. These were the top three piques of anger displayed at ITF Sunderland today:
3rd – Jesper De Jong having a two-minute long “conversation” with his umpire about how terrible the let call he just had was. An impressive level of both attitude and English shown by the 19-year-old Dutchman!
2nd – Yannick Mertens may have been the most experienced player on court, but that didn’t stop him belting a ball across the entire arena. This stopped play on all four courts until the ball was eventually recovered and returned to the Belgian 32-year-old.
1st – The aforementioned Alexander Donski did not take his defeat to Mark Whitehouse very well. My tweet gives you all the context you need to know here…
?If anyone ever doubted that the ITF tour doesn’t mean a great deal to the players, check out Alexander Donski’s reaction to losing to Mark Whitehouse in the first round in Sunderland today… ? #ITFSunderland #LTAHomeSeries @LastWordTennis pic.twitter.com/YlBQeKiwkp
— Andy Watson (@andywatsonsport) February 26, 2020
Main Photo from Getty.