2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals, Lima, Montevideo, Toyota & Andria Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
Challenger Tour Finals
A lot of people, including myself, expected wild card Guilherme Clezar to finish fourth in his group without a lot of fuzz. He clearly had other plans. The world #331 beat countryman Joao Souza in a thrilling three set match, 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(7), and pulled off another big upset when he beat Blaz Rola 6-4 6-3. What made it even more satisfying is that Rola only needed to win a set to advance, but now saw Clezar advance as second player of the group behind the already qualified Diego Schwartzman. Clezar had only reached one semi-final at Challenger level this year, so his second one coming at the Challenger Tour Finals by beating two top 100 players was a huge surprise.
In Group A the two players who were expected to advance, Simone Bolelli and Victor Estrella Burgos, both lost a match. Bolelli lost to Estrella Burgos while he was already qualified, while Estrella Burgos lost his opening match 6-3 6-4 to Maximo Gonzalez. In the semi-final Estrella Burgos faced Clezar, which saw the two men engage in a titanic battle, with Clezar eventually coming out on top in a ridiculous scoreline: 7-6(4) 6-7(0) 7-6(12), saving three match points. The other semi-final saw an upset as well, with Schwartzman taking out top seed Bolelli 7-5 6-4. Unfortunately, Clezar was unable to fully recover from his marathon match, making the final an one-sided affair in Schwartzman’s favor 6-2 6-3. The result meant a jump of sixteen ranking spots for Schwartzman, giving him a new career high of #61. Clezar jumped considerably as well, of course, improving 75 spots to #256.
Top seed Paolo Lorenzi crashed out in the first against Jose Hernandez, but that wasn’t entirely surprising given his walk-over against Pablo Cuevas in the final of Guayaquil a couple of days earlier. In the next round, Hernandez advanced after Muñoz-De La Nava retired at 1-6 2-5 40-40, a very unclassy move considering there was no direct medical emergency. Hernandez eventually lost in the semifinal to third seed Jason Kubler, 6-3 6-2. In the bottom half, #8 seed Guido Pella was making a name for himself, overcoming marathon matches in the first round, quarterfinal and semi-final to set up a meeting with Kubler. Despite his tiring path to the final, Pella showed no signs of slowing down, as he beat Kubler 6-2 6-4 to claim his first Challenger title since Sao Paolo in early October of last year. He is now on the verge of entering the top 150, jumping 45 spots to #156. Kubler finishes his great year at #136, having started off the year outside of the top 400.
World #35 Pablo Cuevas is back after his Challenger victory last week, in a clever effort to snatch a seeding at the Australian Open. He started off as #35, last week’s victory got him up to #32 and if he wins this tournament as well, he finishes at #30. The competition won’t be stern, with #117 Pere Riba as the second highest ranked player in the field. And the tournament lost Riba very quickly as he retired from his first match with a right leg injury. Hugo Dellien profited from that and made sure he got full value, as he went all the way to the final after beating third seed Facundo Arguello in the semi-final, 1-6 6-0 6-4. As expected, he met Cuevas there, who beat the talented Argentinian Pedro Cachin in the semi-final, and met his Waterloo there 6-2 6-4. With that, Cuevas managed to almost certainly secure his seeding at the Australian Open in a clever late season campaign. Dellien ended the season on a high as well, reaching a new career high at #287, jumping 69 spots.
A Japanese winner was in line with expectations, as five of the seeds were from Japan. They prospered under the home advantage, as only #6 Hiroki Moriya lost before the quarterfinal. Yuichi Sugita took out youngster Yoshihito Nishikoki in the quarterfinal to set up a semifinal line-up with #1 seed Tatsuma Ito, #2 seed Go Soeda and surprise semi-finalist Ti Chen. The two top seeds didn’t disappoint, as they both went through to the final, setting up their tenth meeting. Soeda led 6-3 and increased the difference, as he beat Ito 6-4 7-5 to take down the title. It was a very important tournament for both men, as the result put them both back into the top 100 for the first time since 2013. Ito jumped nine spots to #94, while Soeda follows him closely at #100, improving seventeen spots.
#1 seed Igor Sijsling ended a poor season with an opening round loss against Uladzimir Ignatik 6-4 6-4. This tournament turned out to be a horrendous one for the seeds, as only one of them was still in it after the second round: #3 seed Ricardas Berankis. This was partially due to #2 seed Dustin Brown and #7 seed Dudi Sela withdrawing, leaving the entire bottom section seedless. Veteran Michael Berrer profited from that, making the semi-final and losing to Berankis 7-6(3) 6-3. In the top half, surprising semi-finalists Nikoloz Basilashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk battled it out, resulting in a 6-3 6-4 victory for Basilashvili, who reached his second career Challenger final. However, after a set in the final, he retired due to a left groin injury, leaving Berankis as the anti-climactic winner. Nevertheless, Basilashvili enters the top 200 for the first time, coming in at #192. Berankis enters the top 100 again, jumping 21 places to #86.