Cobolli Sinks Stricker In Jeddah
Flavio Cobolli made a winning start on debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM on Tuesday, when he overcame 2022 semi-finalist Dominic Stricker 4-2, 3-4(7), 4-1, 4-2.
Stricker is the only player at this year’s event to have competed at the innovative tournament before, but Cobolli was not fazed by the Swiss’ prior experience. The Italian made a fast start as he adjusted to the no warm-up rule, while he won the majority of the No-Ad points to take control.
With his one-hour, 39-minute win, Cobolli improved to 1-0 in Green Group play. Arthur Fils also earned victory on Day 1 of the first ATP Tour sanctioned event in Saudi Arabia, defeating Luca Nardi.
“I warmed up for a lot of time today, so I was really hot on the court,” Cobolli told ATPTour.com. “I started the match really well. The courts are so fast, but I was faster [than Stricker]. I played a really good match and I’m really happy.”
Cobolli, who struck 25 winners in his first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting against Stricker, has enjoyed an impressive year, winning an ATP Challenger Tour title in Lisbon. He also cracked the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time in October.
“I think the match didn’t feel quicker, but with these new rules, anything can happen," Cobolli added. "This was the first match, so let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”
Stricker competed at the innovative event before, playing under the first-to-four games, best-of-five-set format. The 21-year-old has also earned strong results on indoor hard this year, advancing to the quarter-finals at the ATP 500 in Basel, where he earned a Top 10 win against Casper Ruud.
He was unable to deal with Cobolli's intensity and tempo on Tuesday, though, falling to defeat in the round-robin stage at the 21-and-under event for the first time.
“It’s great to be here. A great arena, great to play today," Stricker said. "I had my chances in the first set. Of course, I didn’t use them. It was very tough; he was very solid from the baseline, and he really played a good match.
“I think it’s the toughest rule actually [no warm up], because the other ones you get used to pretty quick. If you can’t warm up and then you have to serve, you really have to be ready from the shoulder and also from the back. We warmed up at 1pm and then did some short hitting before the match and some physical warm-up.”
Stricker believes some players may choose to return first due to the rule.
“It is not easy after walking on court and standing there for four or five minutes and then you have to serve. It wasn’t easy for me today, but I did it quite well.”