The prestigious ABN-AMRO Rotterdam Open is an ATP500 event that attracts top tennis stars every year. While this week is also studded with two other ATP250 events at Memphis and Sao Paulo, Rotterdam is the cake-stealer, where tennis fans are watching world no.2 Andy Murray, no.6 Milos Raonic, no.7 Tomas Berdych, no.8 Stan Wawrinka and no.9 Grigor Dimitrov in action. Murray is the top seed and he is already through to the second round by defeating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the opener. The Scot is drawn to face defending champion Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. If that happens the two stars will play again like they did in the semifinal of Australian Open, where Murray emerged as the winner. Other talented guys in the top half are Gilles Simon and French showman Gael Monfils, who is also capable of creating waves. The bottom half of the draw features a first timer in Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, who is playing at Rotterdam after a gap of 10 years. These two are joined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ernests Gulbis and Roberto Bautista Agut to round off the seeds. The field could have been richer if Jerzy Janowicz had not pulled out on injury issues. But Janowicz’s withdrawal proved fortuitous for Tobias Kamke, who came in as the lucky loser. However, Kamke has already lost his first round match against reigning champion Tomas Berdych. For Dutch spectators, Rotterdam Open is still devoid of any national player of high standing. After the 1974 inaugural tournament was won by Tom Okker, it was only in 1995 that another Dutchman Richard Krajicek took the title. In 1997 Krajicek won again and in 1998 too, a Dutchman Jan Siemerink took the title. But since then, no one from the host nation has come anywhere close to winning. The tournament history, however, includes such illustrious winners as; Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Goran Ivanisevic, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Murray. There is a piece of history that must be mentioned here. In 1984, singles final between Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors was interrupted mid-way because of an anonymous telephonic bomb threat. The police searched the venue but no bomb was found. The match could not be completed and therefore there was no official winner.
This year’s tournament began on Monday and the most shocking exit of the opening day was the Latvian sixth seed Ernests Gulbis, who lost 4-6, 2-6 in first round against Austria’s Dominic Thiem. In the second round, the Austrian will take on Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-2, 7-6. Playing for the first time at Rotterdam Open, Canadian Milos Raonic made a heavy weather of his debut before coming through 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 against world no.88 qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia. The two-hour match saw 19 aces from the Canadian, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. In the second round, Raonic takes on Italian Simone Bolelli, who defeated Czech Republic’s world no.29 Lukas Rosol in his first round match. Also progressing to the second round was Frenchman Gilles Simon, who got past Portugal’s Joao Sousa 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. Simon will now face compatriot Jeremy Chardy, who cruised to the second round as his opponent, another Frenchman Julien Benneteau retired hurt. Canada’s Vasek Pospisil defeated Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-2 to meet top seed Andy Murray in the second round. Murray had a relatively easy first-round match against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. Defending champion Tomas Berdych brushed aside a challenge from Germany’s lucky loser Tobias Kamke with a 6-1, 7-5 win.
In other first-round matches until Wednesday, no.5 seed Grigor Dimitrov was forced to save two match-points against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu before notching up a 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 win. In 2013, Dimitrov had made it to the semifinal before losing to the eventual champion del Potro. The Latvian now faces Frenchman Gilles Muller, who defeated world no. 20 David Goffin of Belgium 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in a hard-fought match. 7th seed Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut played strongly by beating German wild-card Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-1. Next up for Bautista Agut is Gael Monfils, who overcame the first-round challenge from compatriot Roger-Vasselin Edouard with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
In doubles, no.1 seed Julien Benneteau/Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Mahut/Pospisil 6-4, 6-4; Qureshi/Zimonjic beat Galong/Smitts 6-3, 6-1; Bopanna/Nestor beat Klaasen/Paes 6-2, 6-3; Granollers/Lopez beat Kohlschreiber/Melzer 6-4, 6-2; Inglot/Mergea beat Marray/Fleming 6-2, 7-6 and Rojer/Tecau beat Lindstedt.Matkowski 6-2, 7-5.