Jozef Kovalik eliminated qualifier Johan Nikles 6-3 6-4 in the opening round of the BNP Paribas Polish Cup. The second seed suffered a brief injury scare when he hurt his right hand at 6-3 0-1.”I didn’t feel the pain after two, three games after the incident,” said the Slovakian, who quickly regrouped to keep the match under control.
Nikles broke back late in the second set, but Kovalik managed to stay on top with his very accurate groundstrokes. “It was tough conditions, slow and heavy. Besides, it’s the first round which is always tough.”
Kovalik is missing the US Open for the first time since 2014. While he’s never done particularly well in New York, he tried his luck in the last six editions of the US Open. “There were some personal things, I had to stay. Also the travel to the USA is not easy now, everything about COVID-19 and all these restrictions. There [are] many reasons not to go so I decided to stay in Europe.”
The top two seeds, Daniel Altmaier and Jozef Kovalik, are significantly higher-ranked than the rest of the field and the only two who would have been directly accepted into the US Open qualifying. “I try not to think about it. A lot of guys [ranked] 400 are playing really good, so I do not think about the ranking, I try to play my good tennis and just focus on my performance.” The 28-year-old said, asked whether he feels any additional pressure coming from his higher position on the ranking list.
Kovalik has now won his last seven matches in Poland. Two years ago, he captured the title at the 2019 Pekao Szczecin Open, which to this day remains his last professional title. In the second round at Warsaw, he will face Evan Furness. The Frenchman survived a very high-quality opening round against Orlando Luz and should prove provide the second seed a tough challenge.
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