Mannarino Doesn't Check Draws; His Next Surprise? A Wawrinka Showdown

  • Posted: Oct 03, 2022

Mannarino Doesn’t Check Draws; His Next Surprise? A Wawrinka Showdown

Auger-Aliassime to face stiff test against Bautista Agut

Adrian Mannarino will sleep well Sunday night on the eve of the Astana Open. He’s one of those tennis players who chooses not to dwell on what lies directly ahead.

“I don’t want to talk about the draw or who I’m facing or whatever because I’m not looking,” the 34-year-old said at the beginning of a Sunday interview. “The quality of the tournament? I don’t know anything.”

Given the formidable ATP 500 field gathered in Kazakhstan, it’s probably just as well Mannarino doesn’t know that he’ll be facing three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the tournament’s very first match (12 noon, local time) on centre court at the National Tennis Centre.

Yes, at the moment, you actually know more than he does. Mannarino is coming off a first-round loss in Tel Aviv, where he was the seventh seed, to fellow Frenchman Constant Lestienne. The good news? He beat Wawrinka in the only match they ever played in the second round of the 2015 Miami Open presented by Itau – prevailing in a pair of taut tie-breaks.

This is one of six first-round singles matches, featuring three seeded players, that will unfold Monday.

Following the opening match, seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz faces Francisco Cerundolo. The night session (6 p.m. local) kicks off with eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime versus Roberto Bautista Agut – perhaps the finest quality matchup in the first round. The nightcap is fifth seed Andrey Rublev against qualifier Laslo Djere.

The only doubles match: Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek against the Kazakhstani wild-card team of Grigoriy Lomakin and Denis Yevseyev.

The first match of the day on Court 1 has Botic Van de Zandschulp opposite Kazakhstan wild card Beibit Zhukayev.

Van de Zandschulp has a fascinating backstory. He’s played 58 matches so far this year at the tour-level – previously, he had only played 27.

The 26-year-old from the Netherlands is ranked No. 35, but a year ago he had to qualify for all four Grand Slam events. He went a searing 11-1 in those qualifying matches, reaching the main draw at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open. As it turned out, he got into the Wimbledon field as a lucky loser.

At last year’s US Open, the Dutchman became only the third male qualifier to reach the quarter-finals. There, he faced Daniil Medvedev – and was the only player to take a set from the eventual champion. He finished the season as the Netherlands’ No. 1 and has been adapting to this, his first full season on the ATP Tour.

“Yeah, I think I did quite all right,” Van de Zandschulp said in an interview. “It was pretty tough, actually, playing first time Cincinnati and Montreal, four matches in total. I was not ashamed to lose to [Cam] Norrie or [Daniil] Medvedev.

“Winston-Salem [semi-finals] was good. It’s still figuring out what the best schedule is for me. There’s ups and downs, and hopefully I can manage things to the end of the year.”

The Dutchman will play Astana and is scheduled for Antwerp, Basel and Paris. And then – after “a small vacation” – there is some unfinished business in Australia, where the Netherlands will play in the November Davis Cup quarter-finals. Van de Zandschulp was a big part of the victory in Glasgow, Scotland, where he and his team defeated Kazakhstan, Great Britain and the United States to win Group D.

This season, he said, has involved a steep learning curve. With access to so many tournaments, it’s been difficult to keep his schedule manageable. Previously, when he was playing Challengers, his travel was generally restricted to Europe, with two major trips to Australia and the United States. Traveling more and playing fewer matches – against better opponents – has been challenging.

“You learn a lot from the experience,” Van de Zandschulp. I want to finish the season strong and be in the Top 30 at the end of the year – seeded in Australia. That’s the end goal for the year.”

Unlike Mannarino, he fully understands what is at stake here in Astana. If he manages to defeat Zhukayev, 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic could await in the second round.

“On paper, Novak’s the toughest one in the draw,” said the Netherlands star. “Never played him before, and hopefully I can if I win my first match and he wins his. So, yeah, really looking forward to it.

“It’s always nice to play someone for the first time, especially him.”

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