Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Tennis: Open exits expose Kiwi weakness

Kiwi Michael Venus went down 6-2, 6-2 to Slovakian Lukas Lacko, but he is confident he will do better in the doubles. Photo / Richard Robinson
Kiwi Michael Venus went down 6-2, 6-2 to Slovakian Lukas Lacko, but he is confident he will do better in the doubles. Photo / Richard Robinson

The parlous state of New Zealand tennis was laid bare on the opening day of the Heineken Open, with all three Kiwi hopes outclassed in the qualifying rounds.

Artem Sitak, Michael Venus and French-based Sebastian Lavie were all ousted yesterday, leaving wildcard Rubin Statham the sole New Zealander in the main draw.

The only player to offer any resistance was Sitak, who took the second set off American Donald Young. Sitak, playing on the outside court, looked headed for a swift exit after dropping the first set 1-6, before rallying to win the second 6-3. That proved all the fight he had, as he fell 1-6 in the third.

The other two were bundled out in less than a hour after being dismissed in straight sets by their respective opponents. Lavie fell 6-2, 6-2 to Spain's Daniel Gimeno-Traver, ranked 80th in the world. Despite the pairing being an obvious mismatch, Lavie was clearly frustrated by his inability to compete with the Spaniard, his anger spilling over early in the second set when he kicked the ball on to the roof of the Robinson Stand after dropping his first service game of the set.

The next match on centre court was virtually identical to the first, with Venus also dispatched 6-2, 6-2 by Slovakian Lukas Lacko.

While disappointing to see the local competition look so despairingly out of their depth, the results were to be expected when you consider the experience they were up against. Venus, who has an ATP ranking of 399, said he was realistic that he needed to be at his absolute best to challenge Lacko (90).

"I didn't play well today. That's why he's a top 100 player - he took care of business pretty quickly," said Venus.

"It's disappointing because you don't get to play [tournaments in NZ] much so when you do you want to play well. Maybe I had too many expectations on myself, maybe I should aim to go out there and enjoy myself and just have fun."

Venus will still feature in the main draw of the doubles this week, pairing up with Statham as he prepares for next week's Australian Open.

The 26-year-old Kiwi said he was confident he and Statham could give the local crowd something to cheer about in the doubles. "I feel completely comfortable with these guys in the doubles ... so I'm really looking forward to getting out there again."

With the top four seeds handed a first-round bye, the day delivered little in the way of top-flight action.

Columbia's Santiago Giraldo was the first player to win his way through to the second round, defeating Spain's Albert Montanes, a player ranked seven spots above him, 6-1, 7-6(3) and American Jack Sock beat France's Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-4.

Two seeds will be in action today, Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber (playing Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta) and fifth seed Benoit Paire of France against Poland's Michal Przysiezny.

Heineken Open - Day 2

Centre court 12pm
Lukas Lacko (SVK) v [WC] Rubin Statham (NZL)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) [5] v Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
Benoit Paire (FRA) [6] v Michal Przysiezny (POL)
Not before 6.30pm
[Q] Bradley Klahn (USA) v Daniel Brands (GER) [9]
[WC] Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) v [LL] Steve Johnson (USA)

Court 4
Tommy Haas (GER)/ Andre Sa (BRA) v Julian Knowle (AUT)/ Marcelo Melo (BRA) [2]
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) v Robin Haase (NED) [8]
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) v Igor Sijsling (NED)
Daniele Bracciali (ITA)/ Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) v Tomasz Bednarek (POL)/ Nicholas Monroe (USA)

Court 2
Federico Delbonis (ARG) v [Q] Donald Young (USA)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v [Q] Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
[WC] Rubin Statham (NZL)/ Michael Venus (NZL) v Jamie Murray (GBR)/ John Peers (AUS) [3]

- NZ Herald

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