Thursday, 1 June, 2017
I had played Malek Jaziri four times before heading into Tuesday’s match. I won the first three, but lost 7-6 in the third set the last time we played in 2016. The Tunisian is a tricky and talented player, especially because he has improved his game over the last few years.
Most noticeably, Malek has improved his backhand. While he always used to slice, he is now mixing it up well by hitting both spin and slice. The first set of our match on court 16 was a little up and down. Malek got off to an early break, but fortunately I broke back right away.
The rest of the set was pretty closely-fought. I had a couple of set points at 5-4, 15-40, which I frustratingly failed to convert. And my efforts weren’t helped by the fact that we needed to replay one of the break points after an errant ball flew onto our court from the one next to us. Sometimes tennis results can change based on pure luck. Heading into the tie-break, he took an early lead at 4-2, but I played some good points to rally and claim the breaker 7-4.
During the second set, I felt as though I dominated. I broke him twice and at two sets to love up I had all the momentum, even though he was largely the fan favourite. Malek stuck with it and used the crowd’s support to bolster him in the big moments. Throughout the third set I created opportunities, however, I couldn’t break through on his serve. We found ourselves in another tie-break. It ended up being a repeat of the first – I was down 2-4 and won it 7-4.
After a tough first-round loss in Paris last year it feels great to get through my first match. I have my work cut out for me in round two, but as always my mantra is one match at a time.
My next match is against a very different type of opponent. Nick Kyrgios is one of the young up-and-comers on tour. The 22-year-old is very talented and has a big game. The Australian can prove unpredictable at times, however, I believe he tends to use that to his advantage.
I am going to approach the match like any other – my tactics and objectives won’t change much. There are a few nuances when playing against Nick, but the trick is to stay patient throughout. I practiced for an hour yesterday with my coach Neville Godwin and we went over a few basics. Our focus was on recovery, so we tried to keep it easy and nothing too intense. I play the second match on court three today and look forward to a good clash.
Many thanks to everyone who wished me luck and congratulations for round one!