By Lauren D'Ambra/Kristy Rivero, Special to BB&T Atlanta Open
A little rain couldn't put a damper on Tuesday at the BB&T Atlanta Open. An afternoon shower and some wind actually cooled the temperature, allowing for some great tennis action under the lights.
23-year-old American Bjorn Frantangelo drew first blood under the darkend skies with a convincing 6-1, 7-6(2) first round victory over Igor Sijsling of Netherlands.
Frantangelo pulled ahead early with three easy breaks and then held his service throughout the first set Sijsling managed to hold only once with a first serve percentage of 32%. In the second set, Sijsling found some magic as he traded breaks early on then both held serve to force a tiebreaker. Frantangelo’s cross court groundstrokes proved to be too powerful in the end he won the tiebreaker 7-2.
Frantangelo will face Taylor Fritz in a second round match Wednesday night on the Stadium Court.
Fritz arrived in the second round with a win over wildcard Austin Smith. Tuesday was College Night at the BB&T and that allowed Smith a chance to compete on a big stage with the best players in the world. The 6-2, 6-2 win may seem a bit lopsided, but Smith held his own and lost a couple key points that turned the tide in Fritz's favor.
“It was a good experience,” said Smith. “Obviously, I came up short and didn’t play as well as I wish I could have but overall it was a good experience and hope to be back on the ATP Tour again soon.”
Neither player served well, both below 63% on first serves, but the difference was taking advantage of the serves that went in. Fritz won 70% of those first-serve points while Smith managed just 50% .
“It’s tough when you’re playing a wildcard and the whole stadium is against you,” said Fritz. “It makes it tough, but I was really happy I was able to play within myself and do what I had to do to get the match done in straight sets.”
Players and coaches from seven local universities – Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Georgia Gwinnett College, Kennesaw State, Morehouse, Oglethorpe and UGA -- were recognized before the match and former UGA athletic director and football coach Vince Dooley handled the coin toss.
In his first Atlanta appearance, Spanish favorite, Fernando Verdasco took to the court after the rain and wind and took down Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 7-6(2), 6-4. After the two-hour rain delay, Verdasco traded service hold to get to a tiebreaker. Verdasco showed his experience and strong groundstrokes in the tiebreaker and cruised to the first set win.
Verdasco’s momentum carried him into the second set where he maintained his edge on his own serve while getting a better feel for Lajovic's skidding serves.