Louis Wessels created a good news story when as the world No. 347, he qualified for the main draw of an ATP tournament for the first time – the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle, Germany.
It’s also a Local Boy Made Good story. The 24 year old was born in Bielefeld, the closest big city to the village of Halle.
Currently living in nearby Detmold, Wessels declined the convenience of staying at the courtside hotel in Halle to commute daily and be able to sleep in his own bed.
A wild card began his qualifying journey in Halle. In the first round, he took on 56th ranked Zhizhen Zhang of China.
Zhang recently made it to the quarter finals of the Masters 1000 in Madrid, but Wessels won in straight sets, 6-4 6-2.
“I really didn’t expect much, but then I played great tennis,” Wessels said.
Later that day, he paired with fellow German Henri Squire in their attempt to qualify for a place in the doubles event.
Against the much higher ranked combination of Albano Olivetti and David Vega Hernandez, they couldn’t quite do it. At a set a piece, Wessels and Squire started slowly in the match tiebreak but fought their way back to 8-9, only to succumb the next point.
The following day, Wessels had to put aside that disappointment and their friendship to play the second round of singles against Squire. In a tight match, both players served well in the sets they won. In the third set, Wessels needed a medical time out after slipping on a ball and injuring his thigh. The treatment worked. Despite needing five match points, he secured his spot in the main draw, 6-3 3-6 6-3.
His only other ATP main draw appearance was in 2016, when he’d been able to skip qualifying after receiving a wild card directly into the Hamburg tournament.
So, after earning his way at Halle, he found himself facing another German qualifier in Round 1, Yannick Hanfmann, ranked 53.
Wessels had trained with Hanfmann many times but the two had never played an ATP match.
A break in the third game was enough to give Hanfmann the first set 6-4. Wessels turned it round to go up 4-1 in the second and held on to take it 6-3. But in the final set, Wessels lost his serve to love, handing the break to Hanfmann for 4-2, who then held for 5-2.
Wessels played a sharp game to hold his serve to love and had a break point in the next game but Hanfmann served it out, 6-3.
Afterwards, a disappointed Wessels said of the third set, “I actually thought I had the momentum on my side. But then one game turned everything around.”
Hanfmann acknowledged how close the contest had been. “It was a good match, Louis demanded absolutely everything from me.”
As one of several German men moving up in the rankings, Hanfmann summed up their competitiveness and camaraderie.
“We push each other forward. And we all want to continue to step on the gas. The road has definitely not come to an end.”
Wessels, with many injuries and setbacks now in the past, continues to believe he has a chance.
“In tennis these days, you have more time to get ahead. It would be nice if I still had many really good days ahead of me.”
Title photo by Vanessa Taylor