Top Estonian tennis player Mark Lajal is out of the ATP250-level tournament in Antwerp, Belgium, after losing a very closely-fought, hard-serving round two match with world number 38 and tournament fourth seed Arthur Fils (France), 6.7 (4), 6:7 (2).
Lajal, 20, is ranked 229th in the world and was taking part in his first ever ATP tournament; he had beaten convincingly Jaume Munar (Spain) in round one.
Fils, 19, who defeated Norway's Casper Ruud, ranked eighth in the world, in a match earlier this year, said post match of Lajal that: "He's a very, very good player."
"I know him from youth level, we know each other very well and I was sure that this would be a tough game. It was not easy, but I am very happy that I won. He played well to earn break points, I again played well to block them," Fils continued in the on-court interview.
The first set alone lasted just over an hour, and Lajal served strongly as well as reaching three break points against Fils, though the latter rescued all of them.
With the score in games at 5:5, it was Lajal's time to save a break point, which he not only did but went on to take Fils to a break point, and also set point. However, the Frenchman rescued the situation with a powerful service, and Fils went on to win the tie-break 7:4 in a fast-moving final game.
The second set was similarly even. Lajal found his way to two break points in the opening game, but again, Fils headed these off. In the ensuing nine games, neither player conceded more than one point when they were serving.
Again, the score in games got to 5:5 and again, Lajal was up, 40:15 and with three break points in hand since Fils was serving. However, the Frenchman pulled four consecutive points out of the game, to take the set to a tie-break also.
Fils strung together seven consecutive points to take the tie-break and with it the match; the entire encounter took almost two hours.
The stats too show how close things were; Fils won 86 of all points played, Lajal just three fewer at 83.
The Estonian pulled off a whopping 22 aces and committed just four unforced errors, and won 80 percent of the points played on his first serve, to Fils' 87 percent.
Neither player broke the other's service; Lajal fought off the single break point Fils got to, while the latter had eight chances, though didn't manage to convert any of these. Had he done so, the final outcome may have been different.
Fils next faces Juan Pablo Varillas (ATP 69th, Peru) in the quarter-finals.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: ERR Sport