Second round of ATP 500 tournament in Barcelona got completed on Wednesday, while some interesting action took place in ATP 250 event in Banja Luka as well. The play in Munich did not went as planned, because of the weather which tormented all the matches scheduled for today. The first match of the day between Aslan Karatsev and Daniel Altmaier got suspended during the progress of deciding set. The rain did not allow to resume it and all of Wednesday's matches got rescheduled for tomorrow.
Wednesday's action in Barcelona was a cakewalk for the favorites, as all the 11 matches ended up in straight sets with all the seeds moving into round of 16. Stefanos Tsitsipas was the highest seed to appear on court today and make his job done by winning against Pedro Cachin 6-4 6-2. Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman played between each other in a second tournament in a row. Last time, the Argentinian needed to pull out during the match because of the shoulder injury. This time, Sinner earned his win in fully completed match, winning 6-2 6-4. Some of the matches were really one-sided, ended up with crushing scores. For instance, Alex De Minaur defeated Alexander Shevchenko 6-0 6-1 and Cameron Norrie gave away just 3 games to Pavel Kotov, winning 6-1 6-2.
The day without which did not deliver any big emotions, but proved a decent form of all the contenders, foreshadows a delightful round of 16, which starts tomorrow. It's pretty unusual, that as many as 15 out of all the 16 seeds are in, setting up an immense line-up, where every match seems to be very interesting and worth to wait for. The only one unseeded player there is Emil Ruusuvuori who eliminated 5th seed Frances Tiafoe in an amazing three-sets battle on Tuesday. The Finn will play against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Other matches which are difficult to predict and seems to be a material for an open and high quality on-court battle are Cameron Norrie vs Lorenzo Musetti, or Alex De Minaur vs Grigor Dimitrov. Stefanos Tsitsipas will play against Denis Shapovalov, who won his first clay match of the season against Jozef Kovalik. The Canadian tries to bounce back from a miserable season so far, as he lost 6 out of 8 matches before coming to Barcelona. Home fans will surely wait for the all-Spanish clash between Carlos Alcaraz and Roberto Bautista Agut. The current world's number two is a clear favorite against his super experienced fellowcountry there.
Here are the Wednesday's highlights from Barcelona:
While all today's matches in Barcelona were straightforward, much more exciting action was brought by the matches played in Banja Luka. Novak Djokovic started his week from the surprisingly tough match against Luca Van Assche. The Frenchman denied superstars clash between Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, defeating the Swiss 1-6 7-6(4) 6-4 in first round, after exciting battle which took 2:44 hours. Nole was a banker favorite before this match, but started it quite slowly. Van Assche was playing really well and did not allow the world's number one to create any single breakpoint till 10th game, while he broke his favorized opponent for the score 5-4 himself. Djokovic denied losing the set, leveling the score to 5-5 by his first created and converted breakpoint. While everything was preceeding that Van Assche will not get another chance to make surprise in this set, the Frenchman defended 3 setpoints within own serve in 12th game, forcing a tiebreak after holding the longest game of this match. His fighting spirit got awarded in tiebreak, as he surprisingly won it 7-4, moving up to a set lead after 75 minutes of intense battle. Djokovic needed to bounce back in second set to deny the huge upset, and did it well, routining his much lower ranked opponent 6-3 with two breaks. Despite it, decider started well again for Van Assche who broke Djokovic in opening game. That was the end of his achievements in this match though, as Djokovic focused himself and regrouped well, winning 4 games in a row and securing the victory after 2:42 hours.
Djokovic shared his thoughts about surface conditions in post-match interview: “It was not easy. This would probably rank as the slowest court, slowest conditions I have ever played in, to be honest. I could not penetrate through the court and put any ball past him. He was on every single ball for 1.5 sets until I started to get some rhythm going. I am happy with the way I finished the match. Of course I can always play better, but a win is a win."
Here are the match highlights:
It was not the only one interesting match today in Banja Luka, as the fans could enjoy two other three-setters which were a true marathons. Laslo Djere eliminated tournament's third seed Borna Coric after 3:17 hours, winning 6-4 6-7(1) 6-4. It was not a big upset though, as Coric plays a horrible season so far and Djere was a pre-match favorite with an odd 1.66 despite being ranked 57 places behind the Croatian. Coric is currently on streak of 5 losses in a row, and it is fifth first round exit for him in 2023, including 4 the most important tournaments of the season so far - Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami Open and Monte Carlo Masters.
Another long and exciting match was played between Alexei Popyrin and Alex Molcan. Both players were unseeded and it was no clear pre-match favorite there. On-court action proved the similar level between them, which resulted in long and interesting battle. Deciding games of third set were a highlight there. Popyrin had 3 matchpoints in 10th game during his opponent's serve, but did not convert any of them, as Molcan made a huge hold after 5 deuces. It was a crucial moment of this match, as the Slovakian managed to gain a break advantage in following game and served for the victory, winning with score 7-6(4) 4-6 7-5.