There may have only been three matches on the schedule, but the ATP clay court season got off to a cracker of a start at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston on Monday with some high quality matches. The home fans had something to cheer for with Denis Kudla in action, while two men at opposite ends of their careers also battled through an epic. Here’s what happened on day one in Houston.
Chung Outlasts Estrella Burgos
The first match of the day would very much set the tone. There was no first round match more intriguing that the battle between South Korean teenager Hyeon Chung and veteran Victor Estrella Burgos. With sixteen years between them, this match was the epitome of old school against the new generation.
Chung was only six years old when Estrella Burgos turned professional, but he would be the one to come out of the gate quicker. The young Korean saved the lone break point that he faced, while converting his only break point chance of the set, which would prove to be enough to claim the opening set. But the two-time Ecuador Open champion showed why he is at his peak on clay, continuing to battle in the second set and holding his nerve to claim the second set in a tiebreak.
But his fight fell short, as he was unable to carry the momentum over to the final set. Chung showed no signs of nerves himself in the decider, and broke his veteran opponent three times to end the two hour and 20-minute match with a bagel, winning 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-0.
Kudla Dominates Tiebreaks to Advance
Denis Kudla was the lone American in action on day one, and did not disappoint the home crowd, battling to a tight three set victory over Mischa Zverev. Big serves rained down on Zverev from Kudla’s racquet all match, resulting in 14 aces from the American. This did not stop the German from breaking serve six times, but it would not be enough as he fell short in both tiebreaks, eventually succumbing to the American 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(2).
Zverev dominated the opening set, not allowing his opponent a single break point opportunity in the opening set, while converting both of his chances to claim the opening set. The following two sets would follow near nearly identical scripts, with the pair exchanging breaks before Kudla claimed the tiebreaks 7-2 both times, the second to clinch the victory. Zverev led 4-2 in the third set, but could not hold on.
Monaco Survives Wild Finish
Juan Monaco was also forced to fight in the final match of the day, eventually emerging victorious over Gerald Melzer. Monaco poured the pressure on the Melzer serve, holding five break point opportunities in both sets. Two breaks saw him grab the opening set with ease, but he only converted one chance in the second set and Melzer, the younger brother of former world number eight Jurgen Melzer, converted his lone break point to keep the set tied and force a tiebreak. After falling behind early, it was the Austrian who raced ahead to claim the tiebreak 7-3 and force a deciding set.
The Argentinian did not let losing the set phase him, and immediately continued to attack his opponent’s serve. He would grab a pair of breaks and served for the match at 5-2. But Melzer was not finished and reclaimed the first break. But he would not complete the comeback, as Monaco held the second time to advance in two and a half hours.
Round one will continue tomorrow, and the home fans will have even more to cheer for with seven Americans in action.