Photo: Rien HokkenYannick Mertens
This month we take a look at 20-year old Belgian player, Yannick Mertens.
Yannick competed in three tournaments during May. All three tournaments were held on clay courts in Bulgaria and Yannick played in the singles and doubles events at each tournament.
His first port of call in Bulgaria was the city of Rousse, the fifth largest city in Bulgaria. Situated in the northeastern part of the country, on the right bank of the Danube, Rousse was hosting an ITF Men’s Circuit tournament for the second successive year.
Seeded 3, Yannick opened the tournament with a 63 63 victory over Bulgaria’s Vasil Mladenov. Russian, Ivan Nedelko, was then swept aside in the second round for the loss of just 4 games. The quarterfinal saw Yannick up against another player from Bulgaria, Simeon Ivanov. A 64 61 result took Yannick into the semi finals and a meeting with the top seed, Ivaylo Traykov. A close match was anticipated but Yannick maintained his form of previous rounds and made it through to the final following a 63 61 victory. This was Yannick’s 2nd singles final of his career and like his only other ITF Men’s Circuit final (in April 2008) it ended in defeat as fifth seed, Maxime Authom, won an all-Belgian final in straight sets 76(4) 63. Yannick also finished as runner-up in the doubles event with his Serbian partner Miljan Zekic. As 4th seeds, they lost the final in straight sets to the 3rd seeded pair, Bogdan-Victor Leonte & Mikhail Vasiliev.
Yannick next moved onto the city of Pleven for the second stage of his three-match tour of Bulgaria. The seventh most populous city in Bulgaria, Pleven is also the third largest city in Northern Bulgaria and like Rousse; it was hosting an ITF Men’s Circuit tournament for the second year running. In his first round match, Yannick, seeded 6, defeated Macedonian qualifier, Ilija Martinoski, 63 75. This win set Yannick up with a second round encounter with Simeon Ivanov, the player Yannick defeated in the quarterfinal in Rousse the previous week. The first set proved a close affair with Yannick edging it on a tiebreak before he secured his place in the quarterfinal by taking the second set 64. Bulgarian wildcard entrant, Valentin Dimov was then beaten in straight sets in the quarterfinal and Yannick made it into a second successive singles final when his Swedish opponent, Tim Goransson, was forced to retire from the match with the score at 61 11 in Yannick’s favour. Unseeded Frenchman, Xavier Pujo provided the opposition in the final. With the scores level at one set all, Yannick powered his way to a first career singles title, taking the deciding set 62 to wrap up a 75 36 62 victory. Doubles success also came Yannick’s way in Pleven. Once again, Yannick and Miljan Zekic, reached the final and this time took the title by defeating unseeded Macedonian pairing, Ilija Martinoski & Predrag Rusevski, 64 36 [10-1].
After leaving Pleven, Yannick made a 170km trip to western Bulgaria and the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. Located at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain, Sofia has held numerous ITF Men’s Circuit tournaments since 2006. This change in venue also brought about a change in doubles partner as Yannick teamed up with fellow Belgian Maxime Authom. Unseeded, they were knocked out in the first round 62 62. In the singles event, Yannick, seeded 5th, took on John Millman from Australia in the opening round. In what proved to be a closely fought match, Yannick survived to make the second round, winning 75 64. In the second round, Yannick looked to be heading for an early exit as Swiss player Mathieu Guenat won the first set 63. Yannick then reversed this score to level the match before taking the deciding set 62. The quarterfinal saw Yannick record an emphatic victory over the 4th seed, Todor Enev from Bulgaria, 61 61. The semi final had Yannick take on his doubles partner and 6th seed, Maxime Authom. Maxime, who also defeated Yannick in the singles final earlier in the month in Rousse, proved to be a tough singles opponent once again but, unlike in the final in Rousse, it was Yannick who came out on top, winning 75 64, to make it into a singles final for the third tournament running. Bulgaria’s Tihomir Grozdanov, who was unseeded, was promptly defeated in straight sets, 61 63, to give Yannick his 2nd successive singles title.
Following these three tournaments in Bulgaria, Yannick has now appeared in four singles finals during his career. All four titles came in 2008 in the space of a month and a half. From these four finals, Yannick succeeded in winning the title twice. His career doubles record now shows he has made it into a doubles final on five occasions and has won two titles.
Throughout the three tournaments played in May, Yannick only lost four sets, winning twenty-seven sets and with one set finishing level at one game all due to the retirement of his opponent. The ATP rankings released on June 9th showed that Yannick had broken into the top 500 for the first time. His new career high ranking of 435 is an increase of 201 ranking positions since the first released rankings of 2008.