Not many instances in tennis involve two players playing against each other in two consecutive days, but exactly that just happened in the opening round of the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, where Great Britain’s Aljaz Bedene came up against Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. The British player beat Istomin in the final round of qualifying, but Istomin qualified as a lucky loser and subsequently drew the Brit in the next round.
Bedene started off very slowly in this contest. This was an extremely difficult task when you take into account the change in circumstances that this match offered him. So much more was at stake in comparison to their previous meeting the day before. The Brit now had to come to terms with the realisation that he had heightened expectations and one could argue he was the favourite for that very reason. The Uzbek played with virtually no real fear or acknowledgement of the great opportunity this tournament had given him. He really played with freedom and it showed in the first set where he comfortably extinguished Bedene’s chances of taking an early lead.
I think the reason why Istomin is a tough player to overcome on the ATP tour is because of his willingness to go for shots that go hand-in-hand with additional risk. He is not afraid to penetrate a backhand down the line in order to gain the upper-hand in a rally and that is one of the factors in his career-best win over World No.2 Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open this year.
With most players they play with much more margin and play the percentages by going crosscourt with their normal rally ball, but Istomin gives his opponent something different to think about all the time. Bedene struggled continuously throughout the match to deal with the firepower of Istomin, but the Brit did find himself a break up in the second set. He served for the set, but could not find his best tennis in the moments that mattered most.
Bedene will feel disappointed with the way this tournament ended for him. He showed glimpses of positive output on the court, especially when he stepped inside the baseline and attacked the forehand side. The main issue for Bedene is his inability to create enough of those opportunities, because more players on tour possess more power and start off as dictator in the majority of the rallies against him. Tactically, Bedene has to become much more positive and aggressive in order to move back into the Top 100 and to reassert himself as a consistent fixture inside that ranking bracket.
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