2014 Orleans, Napa, Kenitra, Sibiu, Pereira and Porto Alegre Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
World #24 Philipp Kohlschreiber took a wild card into the event after pulling out with injury in Metz the week before, which didn’t turn out well as he lost 7-6(3) 6-1 to Tim Puetz in the first round. Suspiciously enough, the last time he played a Challenger involved a similar scenario, when he took a wild card into Orleans ranked #18, losing in straight sets in the first round as well. Puetz went on to beat Dustin Brown and lose to #6 seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarterfinal, 6-7(3) 6-1 6-3. Stakhovsky won an interesting encounter with Jiri Vesely in the semi-final, 6-7(5) 7-5 6-0. There to meet Stakhovsky in the final was fifth seed Thomaz Bellucci, who took out #2 seed Igor Sijsling and #7 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets. The final went no further than straight sets as well, but this time it had Bellucci on the losing end, as Stakhovsky won the title after a 6-2 7-5 win over the Brazilian. This strengthened Stakhovsky’s top 100 position considerably, as he rose eighteen positions to #72. Bellucci is ranked just above him, rising eleven spots to #68.
#1 seed Sam Querrey survived a big scare in the second round against the young Swede Elias Ymer, going down a set and a break before winning 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-3. #3 seed Marcos Baghdatis hadn’t recovered from the ankle injury that made him pull out of the US Open. He won his first round match, but had to retire against John Millman in the following one. Millman lost in the quarterfinal to Alex Bolt, who took out #5 seed Peter Polansky in the first round. Another surprise semi-finalist was Jared Donaldson, who took advantage of both seeds in his section falling in the first round: #4 seed Bradley Klahn fell to Wayne Odesnik and #8 seed Frank Dancevic to qualifier Daniel Nguyen. In the semi-final, Donaldson almost managed to pull off the upset against #2 seed Tim Smyczek, but fell just short, 3-6 6-4 6-3. Querrey had no problems against Bolt, 6-2 6-3, and repeated that dominance in the final with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Smyczek. The victory meant a return into the top 100 at #47, improving seven spots. Smyczek stayed put at #99.
#6 seed Matteo Viola, who has been in great form as of late, got upset in the first round by Rui Machado, 7-6(3) 7-6(4). Outside of Viola, the seeds performed well, with three of the top four seeds reaching the semi-final. Only Roberto Carballes Baena squeezed himself in as an outsider, beating #8 seed Ramirez Hidalgo in the first round and beating #4 seed Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinal after saving a match point, 7-6(3) 2-6 7-6(5). He continued his good form against #1 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but came up just short, 4-6 6-4 6-3. In the bottom half, #3 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver was on a roll after slumping in his past couple of tournaments. He didn’t drop a set en route to the final, humiliating #2 seed Damir Dzumhur, 6-3 6-0.
In the final, Ramos-Vinolas also wasn’t given a chance, as Gimeno-Traver won 6-3 6-4. Gimeno-Traver inches closer to the top 100, rising sixteen spots to #113. Ramos-Vinolas had a minor improvement, rising four spots to #66.
The two top seeds didn’t last long, as #1 seed Blaz Rola lost 6-3 7-6(1) to Radu Albot in the first round and #2 seed Albert Montanes lost 6-3 6-1 to Jason Kubler in the second. Both wins turned out to be far from flukes, as both men made it all the way to the final.
Albot got through after #3 seed Pere Riba retired while being 7-6(3) 3-1 down, while Kubler barely scraped through against #7 seed Potito Starace, 2-6 7-6(3) 6-0. In the final, Kubler did no such thing, however, as he dominated Albot and won his first Challenger title, 6-4 6-1. This also meant a new career high ranking for the 21-year-old Australian, rising 39 spots to #155. Albot dropped fourteen spots to #186, as he was defending a Challenger win in Uzbekistan.
#1 seed Victor Estrella Burgos recovered nicely after his disappointing second round loss last week, marching all the way to the final without dropping a set. This includes victories against last week’s Quito runner-up Nicolas Jarry, Daniel Munoz-De La Nava and #7 seed Guido Pella. In the bottom half, the seeds fared less well. #2 seed Alejandro Falla fell in the first round to Agustin Velotti, 6-3 4-6 6-3. In reality, that’s not that big of a surprise considering Falla’s clay résumé. #3 seed Paolo Lorenzi’s loss was surprising, however, as he fell to Andres Molteni in the second round, 4-6 6-3 6-1. Last week’s Quito winner, #6 seed Horacio Zeballos, fell in the first round as well, 7-6(8) 4-6 6-3 to Christian Lindell. Velotti marched all the way to the semi-final, where he lost to #5 seed Joao Souza in a dramatic match, 3-6 6-4 7-6(4). Even more dramatic was the final, where Estrella Burgos prevailed over Souza in another thriller after saving a match point, 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(6). The result makes Estrella Burgos creep closer to his career high ranking of #69, as he rises ten spots to #71. Souza is comforted by the fact he entered the top 100 again, rising eight spots to #93.
The slump of #3 seed Facundo Bagnis continued as he lost 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 to Gianni Mina in the second round. Mina surprised by reaching the semi-final in Campinas last week and repeated that feat here. #1 seed Carlos Berlocq was way too strong, however, dismissing the French youngster 6-1 6-2. Berlocq took on #2 seed Diego Schwartzman in the final, who came off a Challenger win in Campinas the week before. In a strange, but high quality final, Berlocq eventually won 6-4 4-6 6-0. Schwartzman was up 40-0 at both 4-3 and 4-4 in the first set, but lost both games due to some spectacular points from Berlocq, but also a particularly easy volley miss at one of the break points. He then went on to produce a stunning tweener lob at 4-5 15-30, but he couldn’t save the set. After imitating Berlocq’s first set heroics and recovering from a 1-2 0-40 deficit in the second set, he clearly was too tired to put up a fight in the third. The victory meant a rise of ten ranking spots for Berlocq, landing at #59. Schwartzman improved six spots to #82, just shy of his career high ranking of #79.