2014 Szczecin, Istanbul, Banja Luka, Biella & Seville Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
Only one seed in the bottom half survived the first two rounds, as #6 seed Pere Riba lost in the first round of a Challenger for the third week in a row, #4 seed Albert Montanes lost a third set tiebreak in the second round against Lucas Pouille and #5 seed Andreas Beck lost in the first round. Only Dustin Brown lived up to his seeding, going all the way to the final. There he went up against his doubles partner, Jan-Lennard Struff, who reached the final after a strange match against Facundo Arguello, 1-6 6-0 6-2. Brown won the final 6-4 6-3, which saw Struff’s record in Challenger finals drop to a very bad 1-9. For Brown this was a highly important win, as he dropped out of the top 100 last week all the way to #119. This win propels him back to the 96th spot. For Struff the result means a new career high ranking of #61, rising ten spots.
The highly anticipated second round match-up between Jimmy Wang and Alexander Zverev ended in a 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory for the veteran Wang. He couldn’t build on the win, however, as he lost in a third set tiebreak to Tatsuma Ito in the next round. Ito went on to the final after beating Philipp Petzschner in the semi-final. The final ended in an anti-climax, unfortunately, as Ito had to retire due to a left knee injury when the score was 6-0, 2-0 in Adrian Mannarino’s favor. Mannarino had an easy tournament, not dropping a single set en route to the title.
No shocking results at Banja Luka, with the top 4 players advancing to the semi-finals. Yes, Viktor Troicki was among them as an unseeded player, but we all know how good he is. Troicki beat #4 seed Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinal 6-4 7-6(5). He wasn’t done yet, as he also beat top seed Blaz Rola 6-2 6-4 to reach his second Challenger final of the year. There he faced Albert Ramos-Vinolas, against whom he fought an epic battle and eventually came out of it the victor 7-5 4-6 7-5. Of course this resulted in another big ranking jump, rising 68 positions to the 170th ranking spot.
With top seed Benoit Paire withdrawing because of a knee injury, an opportunity was created for some lower ranked players to make a deep run. Funny enough, the lucky loser who replaced Paire, Benjamin Balleret, made it all the way to the semi-final, where he missed a match point before losing to Matteo Viola 6-7(7) 7-6 6-3. Viola took on second seed Filippo Volandri in the final and won that match as well 7-5 6-1. A big result for Viola, winning his third Challenger title and rising 44 ranking spots to #182.
A second round match was the scene of a remarkable incident, when Lorenzo Giustino received a penalty of three games in his match against David Vega Hernandez, which ended 7-6(4) 6-7(7) 7-6(4) in Vega Hernandez’s favor. Giustino started cramping at 2-1 in the third set, went down, got back up and still broke Vega Hernandez. Giustino went down again and had to receive medical attention on the court, but as you officially can’t receive treatment for cramping he received a time penalty afterwards, which went up all the way to three games due to the lenghty lay-off of five minutes. Therefore, the score went from 3-1 in his favor to 3-4. A tricky matter and opinions vary widely if this was a correct decision from the umpire.
Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta survived two tricky three setters in his first three matches, but after that he cruised to the title after straight set victories against Inigo Cervantes in the semi-final and Taro Daniel in the final. Daniel beat Daniel Munoz-De La Nava in a lengthy match in the quarterfinal 2-6 7-5 7-5. Munoz-De La Nava absolutely hammered second seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the first round 6-0 6-3. The final meant a new career high ranking for Daniel, rising 13 spots to #159. Carreno Busta jumped to #63, an improvement of 11.