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Kratochvil keeps dream alive

Kratochvil salutes the Swiss crowd after Thursday's victory

(Keystone)

Bern's Michel Kratochvil has reached the quarter-finals of the Swiss Open tennis tournament in Gstaad, after comfortably beating Spanish clay court specialist Juan Balcells in Thursday's second round action.

Kratochvil needed just one hour and two minutes to ease past the 27-year-old Catalan, wrapping up victory in straight sets (6-3, 6-2).

"I think I managed to play my game pretty well today," Kratochil told swissinfo afterwards. "In the beginning I was obviously a little bit nervous, because I wanted to win so much in front of my home crowd. But after that things went well, although it wasn't as easy as it might have looked."

The unexpectedly assured win over a player ranked 11 places above Kratochvil has earned the Swiss number two his first ever quarter-final spot in Gstaad. It says something for his current confidence that he's not ruling out further upsets this week.

Dream

"The way the crowd have been pushing me up has been great, and I just hope I can fulfil my dream of playing well here, maybe even go all the way and give the people some good tennis matches."

Having grown up down the road from Gstaad in the Bernese suburb of Ostermundigen, the 22-year-old Kratochvil says it's an added thrill to be playing in a location which he still remembers from childhood skiing trips.

As well as his skills on skis, he can boast of some pretty impressive skating talents, having played ice hockey for the Swiss national junior side before finally opting for life on the professional tennis circuit.

In Federer's shadow

As Swiss number two, Kratochvil has spent most of this season in the shadow of high-flying Swiss ace Roger Federer. But he insists that the Basel teenager's performances have been a source of inspiration rather than envy.

"Having someone like Roger around is just great for Swiss tennis," Kratochvil told swissinfo. "I watched him beat Sampras (at Wimbledon) and I had goosebumps, even though it was only on television.

"That's why we play tennis - to win big matches like that, and I would love to do something like that one day as well. But on the other hand I just have to concentrate on my own tennis and believe in realising my dreams."

If Kratochvil is to turn his Gstaad dreams into reality this week, he must first overcome the Czech Republic's Jiri Novak (ATP 40) in Friday's quarter-finals. On Thursday Novak disposed of 1997 Swiss Open champion Felix Mantilla in straight sets (6-3, 6-2).

Defending champion

That scoreline seemed to be the flavour of the day on Thursday with Spanish defending champion Alex Corretja also winning 6-3, 6-2 against Austrian qualifier Werner Eschauer.

Corretja's attempted title defence will continue with a quarter-final tie against Ivan Ljublic. After accounting for Federer in the opening round, the Croatian world number 70 on Thursday overcame Argentina's Gaston Gaudio (7-6, 6-7, 6-1) to grab the last quarter-final spot.

by Mark Ledsom, Gstaad


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