Smith ends spirited fightback by Jaziri to reach main draw of STO
By Shaheed Alam
In the second round of the qualifying match of the Singapore Tennis Open, the OCBC Arena saw the likes of Australian John-Patrick Smith and Tunisia's Malek Jaziri face each other, as they eye for a spot in the main draw of the ATP 250 event. Smith and Jaziri reached the second round of qualifying after beating locals Roy Hobbs and Shaheed Alam, respectively.
Both players started out with holding their serves easily in the first two games. But in the third game of Smith’s serve, Jaziri played an incredible point that ended with a forehand winner to set himself up for his first break point of the match. He then further backed it up by playing another splendid point to convert the breakpoint opportunity to get the first break of serve.
Smith, who has previously reached the finals of the mixed doubles in the 2019 Australian Open, broke right back by playing some solid tennis from the baseline. The point of the match came at 2-3 when Jaziri was serving and both players were scrambling around the court, which subsequently ended with Jaziri hitting a forehand passing shot. Despite the empty arena, there was still appreciation for that brilliant point when applauds came from the match officials who were watching the match.
Once again, Jaziri broke the Australian’s serve at 3-3 and subsequently consolidated the break to lead 5-3 in the first set. Smith held his serve convincingly at 5-3 which questioned Jaziri to serve out the set to 5-4. Coupled by a few unforced errors by the Tunisian, who reached a career high ranking of 42 in 2019, he lost his serve at 5-4 which resulted in the set being 5 games a piece after 42 minutes on court.
The Australian, who currently holds an ATP ranking of 320, displayed his mental resistance to fight back from 3-5 down to lead 6-5 after a tough service hold which lasted 10 minutes while saving multiple breakpoints. Smith then broke the Tunisian’s serve to love, thanks to some excellent winners and closed out the set at 7-5 after 56 minutes on court.
The first part of the 2nd set was balanced as both players held their serve after 5 games. At 2-3, Smith hit some great winners to reach 0-40 on the Tunisian’s serve. To his disappointment, the Australian did not capitalize on the three break points. The 37-year-old Tunisian then showcased his on-court experience by clawing his way back to hold his serve after saving multiple break points.
After 47 minutes in the second set, the set was perfectly poised at 5 games a piece with Smith serving to get one step closer to qualifying for the main draw. However, it was the world No. 255 Tunisian who broke Smith’s serve to lead 6-5, and to serve for the set once again. While Jaziri was hoping to close out the set to take it to a decider, he once again came up short as the 32-year-old Australian broke right back to set up a second-set tie-break.
Smith started out the tie-break strongly, by taking the first three points of the tie-break. As they swap ends at 4-2 to the Australian, Jaziri was hanging by a thread. After three wonderful points, Jaziri edged out to lead 5-4 in the tie-break with two serves on his racket to serve out the set. Just like how the match has been playing out for the Tunisian, Jaziri once again handed over the opportunity to Smith by making two forehand unforced errors. At the 2-hour mark, Smith stepped up to the line to serve out the match. And he closed out the match with yet another forehand unforced error from Jaziri to win 7-5, 7-6.
The Australian’s win today means that he enters the main draw and awaits his next match, which is against Radu Albot. The Moldovan began 2021 with a pair of losses in Antalya and Melbourne 2. But he bounced back with victories at the Australian Open, before succumbing to defeat in the 3rd Round.
**In case you missed this exciting match, we've got you covered! Just click HERE to watch the full match (John-Patrick Smith vs Malek Jaziri)
Recap of results from Day 2 of the Singapore Tennis Open
Qualifying Singles -
Qualifying -  T. Kwiatkowski (USA) d [Alt] R. Galloway (USA) 6-2 6-3
Qualifying -  A. Celikbilek (TUR) d  M. Viola (ITA) 6-2 0-6 7-6(5)
Qualifying -  C. Eubanks (USA) d  A. Bega (ITA) 6-1 6-2
Qualifying -  J. Smith (AUS) d  M. Jaziri (TUN) 7-5 7-6(5)
(Edited by Raj Kumar)
Shaheed Alam is currently, Singapore's Number 1 Men's Tennis player. He became part of the national TeamSG setup at the age of 16 in 2014. And he's the first Singaporean Male ITF Junior Singles title winner. His playing resume includes 6 Davis Cup tournaments and 3 SEA Games campaigns. As the top-ranked Singaporean on the ATP Tour, he's the current holder of 12 National Titles. Shaheed's also a SportSG Ambassador and 20 Feb 2021, marked his debut at a ATP Pro Men's Tour event - the Singapore Tennis Open!
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