Swiss misfire in Gstaad
Michel Kratochvil and Ivo Heuberger have both suffered first round defeats on day one of the Swiss Open tennis tournament in Gstaad.
Despite threatening a late fightback, Kratochvil was a clear second best in his match against Russia's Mikhail Youzhny on Monday - losing the encounter 2-6, 4-6.
Kratochvil's day had begun brightly with the 23-year-old from Bern landing his highest ever spot in the world rankings. Benefiting from his impressive march to the fourth round at Wimbledon, the Swiss player leapt ten places to 35th.
In front of his home crowd, however, the Swiss number two was unable to rediscover the form that served him so well at the Grand Slam event.
"I'm a little bit down after losing at my home tournament," Kratochvil told swissinfo afterwards, "but I gave my best and Mikhail was just more solid than me on the important points."
"The last few weeks have been very positive for me, though," the Swiss star added. "I'm progressing every month and climbing up the rankings slowly but surely - so that's the important thing."
Frequently forced onto the back foot by his hard-hitting opponent, Kratochvil was broken three times during a one-sided opening set.
Two more breaks in the second set then saw Youzhny serving for the match at 5-2.
Urged on by his supporters, Kratochvil then produced his most belligerent tennis, breaking back and then holding his own serve to claw his way back to 4-5.
The next game was to prove the longest and most thrilling with both players pushing themselves to the limit. After missing three break-point opportunities, and fending off three match-points, Kratochvil was finally beaten by a Youzhny ace.
Heuberger falls to Kucera
Following Kratochvil onto centre court on Monday was fellow Swiss hopeful Ivo Heuberger. But after briefly threatening an upset against Slovakia's Karol Kucera, Heuberger found himself joining Kratochvil on the early casualty list.
After winning the first set 6-4, the Swiss number five encountered a resilient Kucera in the second, with the Slovakian storming to a quick 6-2 reply.
The deciding set looked like going down to the wire, with neither player offering his opponent a single break point during the first nine games.
It was Heuberger who cracked first, though. After doing well to defend two break points in the tenth game, the Swiss came undone just two games later.
Having impressed with his trademark net play throughout Monday's match, Heuberger ran in one time too many with the scoreline at 5-6 and 30-40. A deft shot from Kucera over the Swiss player's outstretched racket was enough to wrap up a disappointing day for the home crowd.
Fifth seed tumbles
The day was no less disappointing for Spanish fifth seed Juan Ignacio Chela who became the first seeded player to be knocked out of this year's tournament.
Chela was beaten in three sets (6-7, 6-3, 4-6) by Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic.
At an event where Spaniards have frequently flourished, some of Chela's compatriots were enjoying much better fortunes with Felix Mantilla and David Sanchez both enjoying straight sets wins over Romania's Adrian Voinea and France's Anthony Dupuis respectively.
Eighth seed and two-time Gstaad winner Alex Corretja then completed a generally strong day for the Spanish contingent with a further straight sets win (6-1, 6-4) over Brazil's Fernando Meligeni.
Three Swiss remaining
Tuesday's schedule is set to see the remaining three Swiss stars enter the fray, with at least one guaranteed to progress.
Davis Cup team-mates Marc Rosset and George Bastl are set to face each other in the opening round, ensuring Swiss representation in the second round. Swiss number one Roger Federer is due to take on Morocco's Hicham Arazi, the player who knocked Federer out in the first round of this year's French Open.
by Mark Ledsom, Gstaad
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