2004 champion Feliciano Lopez saved a match point to upset the seventh seed Lucas Pouille 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, and secure his place in the second round of the Erste Bank Open. Lopez will now face John Isner in the second round.
Pouille was nowhere near his best in the first set and Lopez dictated, making the most of his opponents bad first serve percentage, to take the first set with relative ease. The momentum switched immediately in the second set as Pouille raced out to a 3-0 lead and eventually got another break to take the second set. Both players then found their best form in the final set. It was tough to call as nothing separated the pair until the penultimate game where Pouille had a lapse in focus that gave Lopez the crucial break and a place in round two.
Lopez takes control
Pouille survived a tough opening game to begin the match. Lopez followed with a battling hold of his own, with two aces from deuce giving him the hold. The Frenchman held from 0-30 down after Lopez missed an easy forehand that would have given him two break points, instead, Pouille reeled off the next four points to hold on and go ahead on the scoreboard at 2-1.
From there, Lopez had an easy hold of serve to level them up. The Frenchman wasn't having such luck on serve as he was still unable to find his first serve. Pouille was 40-15 up with two game points but a couple of loose errors brought them to deuce. They both battled to try and win the game but Pouille's poor first serve percentage allowed Lopez to attack the second serve and get the break to lead 3-2.
The break was consolidated after some huge serving from Lopez allowed him to dictate easily and use his signature serve-and-volley tactic to keep points short. A better service game followed for Pouille as he managed to find a couple more first serves but he was still having no luck on the return as massive serving from Lopez and far too many unforced errors from the Frenchman meant that he was unable to make the most of any opportunities.
Another hold from Pouille gave Lopez the chance to serve for the first set. The same pattern continued as Pouille got to 30-30 but once again wasn't able to get past that point. Lopez wrapped up the first set 6-4, the Frenchman finishing the set with a huge 22 unforced errors.
Comeback from Pouille
There were chances for Lopez to keep his momentum going into the second set at 15-30 on return and again at deuce, but Pouille managed to scrape through another hold of serve to keep hope alive. The Spaniard's serve-and-volley tactics started to work against him as Pouille hit two perfect passing shots to take a 0-30 lead on return. A backhand from Lopez flew wide to give Pouille three break points but in the end, he only needed the one as he upped the aggression to force an error from the Spaniard. Pouille then cruised to a love hold, already looking a far better player from the one that we saw in the first set.
Lopez halted the momentum with a quick hold to get his first game on the board at 3-1 and Pouille's better form from the first three games seemed to disappear in the next game as Lopez earned himself a break point. It was saved with a risky shot that found the line and a big serve got the Frenchman out of trouble to keep his lead intact.
The Spaniard cruised through on serve to put the pressure back on Pouille, that was dealt with in a much easier hold of serve to force Lopez to serve to stay in the set. Pouille started to play with much more confidence and impressed on the forehand and backhand side to earn himself two set points. Lopez hammered down the first serves to go back to deuce but a backhand return winner gave Pouille another set point. The Frenchman didn't have to do much to claim the set point as a failed drop shot attempt from Lopez sealed the set 6-2 to level the match.
Battle to the finish
Another momentum shift came at the start of the third set as Lopez showed off his impressive net skills to earn himself two break points. Pouille managed to fight back to deuce but another unforced error gave Lopez a third break point. The Frenchman continued battling and fought off the break point again to hold serve. A double fault from Lopez gave Pouille a breakpoint in the next game but a big serve quickly erased it and the Spaniard held on.
The Frenchman went back in front on the scoreboard with a quick hold. A perfectly placed backhand return winner gave Pouille a lead on return in the next game. The Spaniard was left struggling after Pouille turned up the aggression and found himself with two break points. Three massive first serves in a row gave Lopez a game point but an incredible return from Pouille took them back to deuce. Lopez kept fighting and held to tie the pair up at 2-2.
The battling holds of serve continued with both players approaching their best form making for an entertaining contest. Lopez got the first easy hold of the set as he aced his way to a love hold for 4-4. A beautiful drop shot followed by an ace gave Pouille the hold for 5-4 to force Lopez to serve to stay in the match. In the following game, the Spaniard raced out to 30-0 but Pouille battled to level the score at 30-30. A huge stroke of luck came for Pouille as Lopez raced into the net and Pouille hit a backhand that clipped the net and flew over Lopez to bring up match point. The Spaniard, however, brought out his best to save the match point and tie up the set.
Pouille raced to 40-15 on serve but an error followed by a double fault brought them to deuce. Lopez put the Frenchman under pressure as he rushed to the net and caused another error from Pouille to bring up a break point. Pouille saved the first but Lopez brought up a second with the same tactic as before and another error from the world number 17 gave Lopez the break that would allow him to serve for the match.
Lopez was made to battle hard as he was serving for the match. Pouille saved one match point with a huge return, but he took the second as a return from the Frenchman drifted long to seal the second set 7-5 and secure his place in the second round.