Twenty-year-old Mark Lajal will not soon forget what he accomplished on Monday in Antwerp. The #NextGenATP Estonian earned his first ATP Tour win with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Jaume Munar at the European Open.
The wild card had never played in qualifying or the main draw at an ATP Tour event, but he showed few nerves in Antwerp. The Estonian won 85 per cent of his first-serve points and saved the two break points he faced to advance after 69 minutes.
“This is my first time playing in an ATP, any ATP and main draw, so obviously I was really ready for it,” Lajal said in his on-court interview. “I wanted to do well and that for sure gave me the extra motivation.”
Lajal became the first Estonian to win an ATP Tour match since Jurgen Zopp reached the Gstaad semi-finals in 2018. The No. 229 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is the only player from his country in the Top 500.
Lajal owns a 19-17 record on the ATP Challenger Tour this year, including a run to the Little Rock title in June. It will not get easier for the 20-year-old, who will next play fellow #NextGenATP star Arthur Fils, the fourth seed.
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Former World No. 7 David Goffin began his question to triumph in Antwerp for the first time with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Frenchman Quentin Halys. The Belgian lost the first three games, but dropped just two games the rest of the match.
“You're never under control when you play a guy very aggressive, big serve. So you have to stay really focussed on every shot,” Goffin said in his on-court interview. “Every point is important, so I had to stay really focussed. But it's true that after I came back in the first set with two good games, good service games to come back at 3-all, then I started to feel more comfortable in the rallies, especially in the return because his serve is his best weapon.
“So as soon as I found my return, I felt that I was more comfortable. But I had to stay calm until the end.”
Into the next round ????
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In other action, two Frenchmen also advanced to the second round. Hugo Gaston eliminated countryman Arthur Rinderknech and Gregoire Barrere ousted Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 6-1, 7-6(5).
Gaston will next challenge second seed Jan-Lennard Struff and Barrere will try to hold off the big serving and tricky game of third seed Alexander Bublik.