By Florian Heer
On a day of upsets, the two highest seeds of the Hamburg European Open have fallen in the first round of the WTA 250 event. Under mostly sunny conditions Tuesday in northern Germany, an Australian tempest swept over Center Court at the Rothenbaum Tennis Complex. That’s because Storm Hunter eliminated top seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, ranked 22nd, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The World No. 154 showed a great display of tennis as she broke her rival’s serve five times and won 53 per cent of the total points played to succeed in one hour and 54 minutes.
“I am really happy with my performance today. Donna is an amazing player,” Hunter told Barbara Schett in her on-court, post-match interview. “Obviously she came from the Hopman Cup in Nice and I was trying to use my advantage of being here a bit longer. This court is beautiful to play on. Thanks to everyone coming out supporting. It’s a beautiful event, I am enjoying my time here in Hamburg.
“It’s a bit weird, being Australian and enjoying the clay,” Hunter added. “I didn’t play on this surface until I was 17. I am a lefty and for me it’s fun to play a lot of drop shots and using the angles. I just enjoy my time here on the clay in this beautiful city. I am just glad to compete in another match.”
Hunter, a three-time champion on the ITF Pro Circuit, will face German wild card entry Noma Noha Akugue in the second round.
Lys shocks Sherif
Earlier, Eva Lys opened Center Court action, offering a match that was exactly to the taste of her Hamburg fans. The 21-year-old hometown hero knocked off No. 2 seed Mayar Sherif of Egypt, 6-1, 6-1. Sherif had won 13 of her last 14 clay-court matches before coming to northern Germany. Lys played aggressively right from the start and dictated most of the rallies throughout to secure victory in one hour and 29 minutes.
“I am really happy to be physically back again. I feel great on court. I had an amazing practice week with my team,” Lys said. In explaining her on-court tactics, she added: “It’s always easier to play as an underdog. She is a grinder, a clay-court player. The idea was to take the ball early. The risky way was the only one to win this match and I am really happy with the outcome.
“My goal was to enjoy the match. I am thankful for every single one, who was cheering for me. It’s really nice playing in Hamburg.”
Next, the 167th-ranked Lys will play Panna Udvardy of Hungary.
Defending champion Bernarda Pera remains the highest-ranked player left in the women’s draw. The World No. 56 reached the quarterfinals following a 7-6(6), 6-1 victory over Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi in one hour and 29 minutes on Court M1. Pera will next oppose Diana Shnaider, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 5 seed Julia Grabher from Austria.
Zverev cruises through Hamburg opener
On the men’s side, Alexander Zverev wasted little time in reaching the second round of his home tournament. The No. 4 seed of the ATP 500 event overpowered Alex Molcan of Slovakia 6-0, 6-3. Zverev set the tone early and remained untroubled throughout the encounter on Center Court. The 26-year-old Hamburg native didn’t face a break point and capitalized on six of his own eight break-point chances to advance in only 61 minutes.
“It’s special, I was born and raised here. I know these courts too well. I am happy to be back here playing in front of my home fans,” said Zverev, who needed to go the distance against Molcan in last week’s ATP 250 clay-court tournament in Bastad, Sweden.
“Today I felt the ball much better. I was much more aggressive as well. I was happy to see so many people in the stands. It was a great atmosphere for a first-round match. I just enjoy being here,” the Hamburg native said.
Zverev will continue his quest for a first Rothenbaum title – and first trophy of the season – when he takes on his compatriot Maximilian Marterer. The 28-year-old from Nuremberg won a battle of the local wild card entries with Rudolf Molleker 7-6(2), 6-2.
Marterer arrived in Hamburg fresh from his eighth ATP Challenger career title win in Amersfoort, Netherlands. It was his first triumph on the circuit since 2020.
“Lifting a trophy again felt amazing and I have gained a lot of confidence from this tournament. I also played Rudolf in the semis there, and during a rain delay, we both learned that we would play each other again in Hamburg. It was a bit strange but also funny,” said Marterer, who notched his first-ever Hamburg main draw win.
“I am looking forward to the match against Sascha and I am happy that I earned the opportunity to play against him. It will be our first meeting. Of course, I watched him playing a lot in the past. I am just excited that it will happen here in Germany.”
Musetti masters Ymer
Lorenzo Musetti started his title defence with a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victory over Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer. The third-seeded Italian, who defeated Carlos Alcaraz in last year’s final, sent down four aces and won 72 per cent of his first-service points to advance in one hour and 14 minutes.
“It took a little bit to get the momentum going. It was not easy, as my opponent played very well and was aggressive right from the beginning,” said Musetti. “In the end I think I found the right balance, the right rhythm. I have good memories from last year and I am really feeling good here. I hope that I can keep going like that.”
Last year’s Hamburg European Open took place in the midst of a European heat wave, but conditions this week are different with temperatures of about 18 degrees Celsius.
“The court was faster last year. This year, we have to fight a bit more, but we are here to fight. I will enjoy it for sure,” said Musetti, who meets Slovakian lucky loser Jozef Kovalik in the second round.