Stan surges, Matteo leads Italian march in Marrakech

Cobolli, Fognini join Berrettini in second round at ATP 250
April 02, 2024
Grand Prix Hassan II
Stan Wawrinka eases past Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday at the Grand Prix Hassan II. By ATP Staff

Stan Wawrinka and Matteo Berrettini brought their best to their Marrekech debuts Tuesday at the Grand Prix Hassan II.

The former Top 10 stars breezed through their respective first-round matches in straight sets at the clay-court ATP 250. Wawrinka needed just 75 minutes to register a 6-1, 6-4 victory against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, whom the Swiss now leads 9-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

“I feel good after the match, happy to be here in Marrakech for the first time,” said Wawrinka, who won the Moroccan clay-court event in its former home of Casablanca in 2010. “I first played this tournament 14 years ago, so I’m super happy to be here. I’m looking forward to the next match.”

Wawrinka, who turned 39 last Thursday, became the oldest match winner in tournament history with his second tour-level triumph of the season. His second-round opponent in Marrakech will be Argentine seventh seed Mariano Navone.

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Berrettini earlier took another impressive step on his comeback from injury by racing past sixth seed Alexander Shevchenko 6-2, 6-1 for his first tour-level win of 2024. The former No. 6 in the PIF ATP Rankings struck the ball cleanly throughout and moved impressively to start just his fourth clay event since the 2021 edition of Roland Garros.

“It’s great to be back, I’m just really happy,” said Berrettini, who returned to competitive action last month after a long-term ankle injury. “I said it many times, but seven months without playing is a long time. I missed it, and that’s why I have so much energy right now. I’m just enjoying playing.”

The 27-year-old Berrettini won 84 per cent (21/25) of points behind his first serve, according to Infosys ATP Stats, and ultimately proved too powerful for his opponent in their maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. It was a positive start for Berrettini as he looks to back up his run to the final of the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Phoenix three weeks ago.

“Today I played really good,” said Berrettini. “In the comeback I didn’t expect to play so many matches in a row, but it’s good, it’s what I needed. It’s one of the reasons probably why I won this match as well. I feel good, and I’m really happy to be here in Morocco.”

Berrettini’s win came after his countryman Flavio Cobolli had also advanced to the second round in straight sets. The 21-year-old Cobolli downed his fellow 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF competitor Abdullah Shelbayh 6-1, 6-4 while a third Italian, Fabio Fognini, rallied to a 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-4 win against Hugo Gaston.

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“I think there are so many players right now,” said Berrettini when asked about the state of Italian tennis. “Obviously Jannik [Sinner] is doing unbelievable. He deserves what he’s doing, he’s been working really hard and he deserves it. We’ve been texting, and he’s amazing.

“I think he’s pushing us to be better. Before me there was obviously Fabio Fognini, Marco Cecchinato, many players. It’s been years that Italian tennis has been healthy, I would say, and so many young players like Flavio Cobolli, who played before me. So we are in good shape, and it’s going to be tough to play in Davis Cup I guess!”

The past two champions in Marrakech progressed to the second round. Defending champion Roberto Carballes Baena led Matteo Gigante 6-2, 2-0 when the Italian was forced to retire, and will next play third seed Daniel Evans. The 2022 titlist David Goffin overcame Arthur Rinderknech 6-4, 6-4 to set a clash with Nicolas Moreno De Alboran, who downed Facundo Diaz Acosta 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Aleksandar Vukic and Sumit Nagal were also first-round winners on Tuesday. Vukic beat Alexandre Muller 6-3, 7-6(5) to set a meeting with second seed Sebastian Ofner, while Nagal downed Corentin Moutet 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Indian will next take on fourth seed Lorenzo Sonego.

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