Defending champion Ivo Karlovic eased into the second round of the Slazenger Open but second seed Paul-Henri Mathieu’s challenge ended on the opening day in Nottingham.
The Frenchman looked set to continue his winning streak against Croatia’s Marin Cilic when he took the first set comfortably but the teenager hit back to win 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
This was the fourth meeting this year between the pair with Mathieu having won the previous three, including a second-round clash at the Artois Championships last week.
And it looked as though that pattern would continue when world No 16 Mathieu won the opening set 6-1. But the 19-year-old stayed with his opponent in the second set and took it thanks to a poor game from Mathieu. Serving at 4-5, the second seed hit two double faults and a backhand into the tramlines allowed Cilic to level.
Mathieu, becoming increasingly frustrated, netted a backhand at 30-40 in the sixth game of the decider, Cilic had the crucial break.
The Croatian’s serve was working very well now and he easily served out the match. Cilic is guaranteed to play a Briton next with James Ward facing Alex Bogdanovic on Tuesday.
Fourth seed Karlovic won a battle of the former champions against Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman, the winner in 1998 and 2002. The 6ft 10in Croatian, who beat Arnaud Clement in the final 12 months ago, broke Bjorkman once in each set for a 6-3, 6-4 triumph.
Karlovic fired down 15 aces, denying Bjorkman even a sniff of a break. It was another impressive performance from the 29-year-old after he took Rafael Nadal to a deciding tie-break in the third round at Queen’s last week.
Seventh seed Andreas Seppi recovered from a set down to beat Israel’s Dudi Sela 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 while Julien Benneteau, Sam Querrey and Bobby Reynolds also reached the second round.
Sixth seed Dmitry Tursunov completed the day’s play with a straight-sets victory over Yen-Hsun Lu, the Russian winning 7-5 6-4.
At Eastbourne, Katie O’Brien’s hopes of going to Wimbledon next week with a top 100 ranking collided with Australian comeback girl Samantha Stosur’s return to form and fitness after nearly nine months out as she suffered a 6-4 6-3 defeat in the first round of the International Women’s Open, writes Bill Pierce.
Yorkshire’s O’Brien, 22, had risen to 104 ahead of her wildcard entry to the event which provides players with vital grass-court preparation for the All England Championships.
But after a year of much improvement on her global travels Britain’s No 2 had no answer to the powerful, if sometimes erratic, Stosur serve and the all-court mobility of an opponent who once feared her own career might be over after contracting the potentially deadly Lyme Disease and viral meningitis last year.
Florida-based Stosur, once the world’s No 27 and a top doubles player in partnership with American Lisa Raymond, is ranked below O’Brien at 162 but used a special dispensation clause in WTA regulations for entry to Eastbourne after returning to the women’s tour only last month in Rome.