2014 Aptos, San Marino and Prague Challenger Recaps
The expected final between top seeds Mikhail Kukushkin and Marcos Baghdatis did indeed take place, resulting in a 7-6(7) 6-4 victory for Baghdatis. This marked his second Challenger title in just as many weeks, and along with it a long awaited return into the top 100. He dropped out of the all-important top 100 for the first time since 2009 in the first week of this year, but now rises 24 spots to #82 to reclaim his position as a top 100 player. Baghdatis did not drop a set all tournament, even against Ruben Bemelmans in the quarterfinals, against whom he had to save two match points in their match last week, also in the quarterfinals.
San Marino Challenger
San Marino had a lot of surprises, with the top four seeds all being out before the semi-final. Top seed Simone Bolelli got upset in the quarterfinal by wild card Alessandro Giannessi, who is ranked outside of the top 300: 4-6 6-4 6-3. The number two was prevalent as second seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver fell against Viktor Troicki for the second week in a row, after missing two match points: 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(6). Troicki couldn’t keep up his run, as he fell to qualifier Antonio Veic in the next round, Veic marched all the way to the final after beating Guilherme Clezar, the conqueror of third seed Maximo Gonzalez in the first round.
Veic met Adrian Ungur in the final, who took out fourth seed Albert Montanes in a grueling three set match earlier in the tournament. It turned out to be an unpleasant final for the undoubtedly tired Veic, as Ungur absolutely hammered him 6-1 6-0 to take home the title. Nevertheless this obviously still meant a huge jump in the rankings for Veic, as he rose 77 positions to #236. Ungur won 21 spots re-entered the top 150 at #136.
Prague also resulted in a lot of surprises, except for one, the winner. After the second rounds only two seeds still remained, #3 Michal Przysiezny and #1 Diego Schwartzman. As I wrote in my preview I thought that #2 seed Andrey Kuznetsov might struggle against qualifier Thiago Monteiro, but Monteiro’s straight set victory still came as a surprise. Veteran Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo profited from the opening in the draw, as he marched on to the semi-final in that section. There he lost to Andre Ghem, who would fall to Schwartzman in the final: 6-4 7-5. This meant a new career high for the Argentinian, as he rose 17 spots to #81. Ghem jumped 41 spots to #210, but it is yet to be seen if he, at 32, can catch up with his career high ranking of #181.
—Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast