Swiss number two Michel Kratochvil has made a winning start to the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel, beating Spanish world number 24 Albert Portas in three sets.
In a high quality opening set, the 22-year-old from Bern was forced to rely on his pace around the court and an impressive combination of shots in an effort to counter the Spaniard's awesome drives from the baseline.
For a while, Kratochvil's technical ability looked like being enough to cause an upset. After holding his own in the early stages of the first set, the young Swiss was rewarded for his perserverance when Portas double-faulted on a break point to gift Kratochvil a 3-1 lead.
But as the set wore on, Portas began to find his rhythm and his range. After breaking back to 4-4 with a perfectly judged shot down the line, the clay court specialist was soon showing himself to be no mean player on carpet - spraying the ball with apparent ease to break Kratochvil once more and clinch the first set.
Second set tie-break
The second set saw both players struggling for consistency and with each man breaking the other three times a tie-break was needed to separate them.
Given the closeness of the match until then, the tie-break itself was surprisingly one-sided Kratochvil combining a rediscovered strength in his serve with some fantastic shots at the net to win through 7-1.
The deciding set began with both players once again failing to hold serve but from that point on it was Kratochvil who emerged as the likely winner.
Portas was showing signs of tiring, with the Spaniard's groundstrokes lacking the depth and power of the previous sets. Kratochvil, on the other hand, seemed to have been reenergized by the tie-break.
Outplaying his opponent both in the serve and in his general play around the court, Kratochvil seemed to up his performance to a higher level in the games that followed, breaking Portas a further three times to clinch the set 6-1 and win relieved applause from the long-suffering Swiss crowd.
by Mark Ledsom, Basel
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