2014 Bucaramanga Challenger Preview
Ryan Harmer, Tennis East Coast
January 20-27, 2014
Prize money: $40,000
It wouldn’t be a challenger week without a clay court tournament in South America. This weeks tournament takes place in Colombia and sees arguably the weakest field of the Challenger week compete for the title and a share of a $40k prize pool.
Top 8 seeds:
1) Alejandro Gonzalez
2) Alejandro Falla
3) Guido Pella
4) Paolo Lorenzi
5) Joao Souza
6) Diego Sebastian Schwartzman
7) Facundo Arguello
8) Pere Riba
First round matchups to watch:
Guilherme Clezar v Guido Pella
The tie of the round pits the young Brazillian, Clezar, against a fellow youngster and third seed Pella. They faced off earlier in the year in Sao Paulo with Clezar throwing away a *4-0 lead in the first set only to level the match in the second before losing in a third set tie-breaker. However, that match was played on an outdoor hard court, whereas this is on a surface in which Clezar holds a 1-0 H2H lead. I cannot call the winner of this match with much confidence, but it will certainly be a close battle worth following.
Victor Estrella Burgos v Gastao Elias
An intriguing match up between a player enjoying the best run of his career (Burgos) against a young man who had a pretty poor year last year and really needs to get his career back on track. At their best, you expect Elias to have enough to win. However, nobody knows which Elias will turn up which makes this so interesting. Expect a lot of turns and twists in this match.
It seems obvious to back the top seed, but it is hard to see how Alejandro Gonzalez doesn’t at least make the final, let alone win the whole tournament. He has a straight forward match versus fellow countryman Carlos Salamanca in the first round before either Burgos/Elias in the second. In the bottom half of this mini section, Joao Souza would be the favourite to proceed. He faces Andre Ghem, who is poor on clay, before a possible second round match versus either David Souto or Emilio Gomez. Souza v Gonzalez would be a repeat of the Sao Paolo final which Souza won, but given this is on clay Gonzalez is my first semi finalist.
In the second half of the top section, it looks a straight forward fight between Paolo Lorenzi and Facundo Arguello to face Gonzalez. Lorenzi should beat Maximo Gonzalez before likely facing Martin Alund, who should beat Gerald Melzer. Arguello faces a qualifier and if he proceeds will face Juan-Carlos Spir or wildcard Felipe Mantilla.
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman is the marginal favourite in this section. He faces a qualifier in the first round before the winner of Nicolas Barrientos v Giovanni Lapentti. The other mini section is far more competitve and it is very difficult to call. Guido Andreozzi faces a qualifier with the winner to play Guilherme Clezar or Guido Pella. I cannot predict who goes through with any conviction but fancy it to be irrelevant as I expect Schwartzmann to triumph and reach the semi finals.
Second seed Alejandro Falla is the clear favourite in the bottom half. He faces American Chase Buchanan before a meeting with Renzo Olivo or Gonzalo Lama. Falla should stroll through and is likely to face Pere Riba in the quarter finals. Riba faces a qualifier with Jose Hernandez or Juan Litzarry unlikely to provide too much trouble in a second round clash.
All in all, this seems relatively straight forward for the seeds!
Alejandro Gonzalez d. Paolo Lorenzi
Gonalez will run out a comfortable winner here. Lorenzi is a fighter but Gonzalez had a really good 2013 on the clay and I expect that to continue.
Falla d. Schwartzman
Falla is a near certainty to make the final. It is hard to see who beats him, certainly not Schwartzman. Being at home always brings the best out of Falla and I predict another final for him.
Gonzalez d. Falla
This should be a coin flip with the bookmakers and I have thought hard before deciding that Gonzalez is my winner this week.
Two home favourites in the final will provide a great spectacle. The crowds tend to come out in force in South America, so we could potentially expect a great occasion should both of the top seeds make it.