Gerasimov Halts Murray Comeback In Montpellier Opener
The big-serving Belarusian was the fitter player across both sets, outlasting Murray in a gruelling 71-minute opening set before cruising in the second en route to a one-hour, 44-minute victory.
"I just tried to be focussed on the match and not think about mistakes," Gerasimov said in his on-court interview. "I just wanted to try my best today because I was playing with a great champion. It was a big experience and I'm happy."
Murray was contesting his first ATP Tour match since October of last year. The No. 121 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Brit came to Montpellier looking to continue his return to form after undergoing right hip surgery following the 2019 Australian Open. Later that year, Murray won an ATP Tour title at the European Open in Antwerp, which like the Open Sud de France is an indoor hard-court event.
Making his Montpellier debut with a wild card, Murray ran up against an in-form Gerasimov in the first round. Neither player was able to create distance between them during the tough opening set. Gerasimov was the player with more chances, taking the first lead in the set at 4-3 and then again in the tie-break. But Murray showed flashes of his vintage form as he brought them back level each time, fighting through lengthy exchanges to extend his stay in the match.
Murray held off two set points in the tie-break and earned one of his own with a powerful delivery at 6/6. But he couldn’t maintain that level as Gerasimov later claimed the set on his fourth opportunity.
"I just tried to make good shots, that's it," Gerasimov said. "I wasn't thinking about winning the tie-break or losing the tie-break. I was thinking about the court, about the game."
As Murray’s familiar grumbles grew in volume, Gerasimov kept his cool and raced through the second set. The Brit seemed to run out of energy as Gerasimov kept him on the run, winning the first five games in a row. Murray saved two match points, but Gerasimov sealed his third with his 12th ace.
Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk pulled off an upset in his first tour-level meeting with eighth-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff, No. 37 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Gojowczyk, ranked No. 144, broke his countryman's serve four times across two sets to close out a 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 15 minutes.
Hopes for another home champion in Montpellier took a hit as two French players bowed out on Tuesday. Austria’s Dennis Novak weathered a mid-match dip to see off Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-3 after a marathon two-and-a-half hours. He earned a second-round clash with No. 3 seed Dusan Lajovic in his next match.
French wild card Benjamin Bonzi carried positive momentum after strong ATP Challenger Tour results into his clash with former champion and countryman Lucas Pouille. Pouille was contesting his first tour-level match since the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters after battling an elbow injury, and couldn’t bounce back after dropping a tight opening set against the in-form Bonzi, who prevailed 7-6(6), 6-2. Bonzi will face Jiri Vesely next after the Czech player cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory against Mikael Ymer in just 50 minutes.
Dutch player Tallon Griekspoor is also through after defeating American Marcos Giron in three sets, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3. The Haarlem native served up 10 aces to seal his victory after two hours and eight minutes, setting up a second-round clash with sixth seed Ugo Humbert.
Did You Know?
Murray played his first tournament of the year at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Biella, Italy, earlier this month. The former World No. 1 reached the final.