Fifth seed Frances Tiafoe dodged a major challenge at the Chile Dove Men+Care Open as he needed three tie-breaks to put away wild card Nicolas Jarry 7-6(7), 6-7(9), 7-6(7) in the first round on Monday.
In an early test that clocked in at nearly three hours (2 hr, 52 min), Tiafoe and Jarry combined for 42 aces in a high-quality server’s battle. The American improved to 2-2 in deciding sets for 2021 as he claimed his second-ever main draw victory on South American clay.
“Obviously due to crazy times, [we weren’t] able to have the big crowd here tonight [supporting Jarry], but I hope everyone who was here enjoyed it,” Tiafoe said in an on-court interview. “Me and Nico are great friends. I like him a lot, and I’m happy to see him back.
“With performances like this, the way he served and everything, I can see him getting back to where he was…”
There were no breaks of serve in the opening two sets of Tiafoe and Jarry’s second ATP Head2Head clash, and only one break point on offer during that stretch. Tiafoe couldn’t put distance between him and his opponent, a former World No. 38 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
The American had to deal with every shot in the big-serving Chilean’s arsenal, including a punishing body serve that clipped him in the shoulder at 5-5 in the first set. Jarry saved four match points in the second set with bold deliveries, including a kick-serve on second serve at 3/6 and a powerful body serve that left the American swinging at 5/6.
With the players deadlocked in the third set at a break apiece and emotions running high, it was Tiafoe who was able to refocus as he converted his seventh match point to seal the match. Tiafoe tallied 13 aces and won 80 per cent of points behind his first serve on his way to victory.
“That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t get more up and down than this match tonight,” Tiafoe said. “The ups and downs were crazy. I was up 6/4 in both breakers. I could have won six and six and I could have been out of here about an hour ago, but Nico played some good points. I’ve got to give it to him. Nico played well tonight, served great when he needed to. He’s a hell of a player.”
Tiafoe will get his second clash with Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis in as many weeks in the second round. Bagnis fought back from a set down against Marco Cecchinato 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3 to book his shot at avenging his straight-sets defeat to the American in Buenos Aires.
Also in action, Roberto Carballes Baena needed nearly two hours to topple No. 6 seed Salvatore Caruso 6-4, 7-6(5) and reach the second round. He awaits the winner of local wild card Gonzalo Lama and 19-year-old Juan Manuel Cerundolo, who turned heads by winning his first ATP Tour title last month at the Cordoba Open.
Elsewhere, Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan withstood 14 aces from big-serving German Daniel Altmaier, and broke him two times en route to a 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-5 victory. Pedro Sousa cruised past qualifier Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 6-4. Galan will face third seed Pablo Andujar while Sousa will face fourth seed Laslo Djere in the next round.