December 7, 2018
Juan Carlos Ferrero thrilled the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 when he flew to the title in London. On Friday, he made a good start in pursuit of retaining that trophy.
Ferrero defeated big-serving Aussie Mark Philippoussis 7-6(4), 7-6 (9) in his first match of the event. The Spaniard is looking to bounce back after losing in the semi-finals of the Legends Cup in Mallorca. There, Ferrero fell just short in a Champions Tie-break against eventual champion and former World No. 2 Tommy Haas.
But while he could not pull through a nail-biter in Spain, he was able to navigate the tough moments to defeat 11-time tour-level champion Philippoussis in straight sets.
“It’s great playing Mark here at this amazing event,” Ferrero said. “It’s fun but very difficult with him having such a great serve. I hope the crowd enjoyed it as much as we did and I’m ready for tomorrow.”
One might not have expected Ferrero to break Philippoussis, who defeated Goran Ivanisevic on Thursday, right out of the gate. But the Spaniard set the tone in each set, and he would earn six break points in the match despite getting 18 aces hit past him. And while Ferrero was unable to hold onto his advantages, getting broken twice himself, he had just enough to get over the finish line.
“I thought it was very close, it was exactly what I thought it was going to be, a battle. He was up a break early in the first set, I got it back, then a tie-break, where he was solid,” Philippoussis said. “In the second set I was really pleased I came back from 0/40 at 5-5. That tie-break could have gone either way, but he was more solid on the day.”
In the evening singles match, Xavier Malisse beat home favourite Greg Rusedski 7-5, 6-3. The Belgian did well to recover from a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Haas on Thursday.
“I’m happy with the way I played today. There were good rallies and we played some good shots,” said Malisse, who saves both break points he faced. “It was so enjoyable with the crowd. Beautiful venue and I love playing here.”
Malisse won this year’s inaugural BNP Paribas Fortis Champions in Brussels. Rusedski will try to earn a victory on Saturday evening, when he faces Haas. If Haas defeats the left-hander, he will book his spot in Sunday’s final.
“It’s always fun to play at the Royal Albert Hall and Malisse is one of the most talented guys out there,” Rusedski said. “We had some fun, entertaining the crowd with various shots. But obviously Malisse is so strong and playing so well, so it was his night tonight.”
1 pm – Ferrero vs. Ivanisevic
Bahrami/Henman vs. Pernfors/Philippoussis
6 pm – Haas vs. Rusedski
Enqvist/Leconte vs. Henman/Malisse