Troicki sets Kubler qualifying clash

 - Dan Imhoff

Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki casts aside a torrid 12 months to post a first-round qualifying victory on Monday.

Viktor Troicki in first-round qualifying at Roland-Garros © Julien Crosnier / FFTViktor Troicki in first-round qualifying at Roland-Garros © Julien Crosnier / FFT

Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki is easily recognised as a steady sprinkling of fans approach on a cold and overcast opening day of qualifying at Roland-Garros.

The Serbian – three times having reached the fourth round in Paris – has cause for celebration after his 6-4, 6-3 victory over lowly-ranked German Kevin Krawietz. 

It has been a rough 12 months for the 33-year-old, who endured six months out due to a lower back injury and subsequent struggles for confidence since.

He is relaxed and jovial as he debriefs with his Aussie coach, Jack Reader, in the thoroughfare outside Court 9, even joking with the last of the young fans to approach him.

“Can I get a photo, please?” one asks, before his young friend requests the same. “Would you like me to take it?” Troicki quips, as Reader chuckles in the background.

For a player now ranked outside the top 250, Troicki’s mood reflects the significance of this one small victory in what is proving a far more drawn-out road back than anticipated.

“Oh yeah, it’s much slower than I thought,” Troicki said. “Last time I was coming back I basically didn’t have a ranking and came back to the top 100 really fast – in three months – but it’s much tougher coming back from an injury when I’m a bit older now and my body is responding differently.

“I have had to adapt to the injuries I had. I had to change my game a little bit. I first had to feel it again on the court and I need to get the confidence in that part.

“It wasn’t looking good maybe a month or two ago but right now I feel it’s better. I’m looking forward to the next few months.”

The lone highlight in a relatively barren 2019 came at the Australian Open in January where he strung together three qualifying wins and a five-set first-round triumph.

Viktor Troicki in first-round qualifying at Roland-Garros © Julien Crosnier / FFT

He had not won four straight matches at any level since claiming the Sydney title over Grigor Dimitrov more than three years ago.

“I haven’t been playing really great this last five months since I started back from the injury,” Troicki said.

“Australian Open, I can say, was decent. I qualified, won a first round, lost to [Stefanos] Tsitsipas but after that I’ve been struggling. I feel like the last few weeks I’m playing much better tennis.”

Kubler advances

Another player battling recurrent injuries and form struggles, Australian Jason Kubler, awaits next.

Reader happily mingled among his countrymen – Kubler’s supporting entourage, no less – out on Court 15 as he cast an eye of over his charge’s next opponent.

Kubler posted a 6-4, 6-4 result over India’s No.28 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan to book his passage.

“I’m very happy because my expectation was almost a bit too high [in recent months] so I had to re-evaluate where I am and how much tennis I’ve been playing since the US Open,” the 26-year-old from Brisbane said.

“I rolled my ankle at the US Open, then I’ve sort of had that lingering knee injury and that of came back so I haven’t played too much tennis.

“It’s funny because when I was younger – probably 16 to 23 – I just played all clay … I was saying to the coaches I’ve been hitting on clay now for a couple of months now but it’s only last week I started feeling good on it so I’ve probably timed it pretty well.” 

Dustin Brown (R) and Denis Istomin meet at net after Brown won their first-round qualifying match at Roland-Garros 2019. © Cedric Lecocq / FFT

In other opening-round qualifying results on Monday, No.2 seed Denis Istomin fell in straight sets to German Dustin Brown. The Uzbek former world No.33 went down 7-6(5), 6-1.

Former world No.5 and five-time Roland-Garros quarter-finalist Tommy Robredo also fell at the first hurdle, going down 7-6(5), 6-3 to German 18-year-old and world No.177 Rudolf Molleker.

American 21-year-old Michael Mmoh, the 22nd seed, was no match for home hope Corentin Denolly, while Spanish 19-year-old Alejandro Davidovich Fokina bounced back from an early scare to see off Briton Jay Clarke in three sets.

Swedish No.10 seed Elias Ymer fell in three sets to local Matteo Martineau, however his 20-year-old brother Mikael Ymer emerged triumphant from his three-set tussle with Italian Roberto Marcora.