2015 Noumea and Happy Valley Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Jarmere Jenkins started off the tournament by upsetting second seed Kenny De Schepper in the first round with a solid 6-4 6-4 victory. Unfortunately for him he was unable to build on that win, losing to Chase Buchanan in the next round. The player who profited most from De Schepper bombing out was #7 seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, who easily beat Buchanan 6-1 6-2 in the quarterfinal before winning a marathon semi-final against #4 seed Jimmy Wang, 5-7 6-4 7-6(2).
In the top half #3 seed Horacio Zeballos lost 6-2 6-3 in the second round, but it wasn’t an upset. Steve Darcis, despite not even being seeded, was a firm favorite and he didn’t disappoint. The only weapon that Zeballos managed to pull off was the most casual racquet toss of the week.
Prior to the tournament I predicted Darcis to beat top seed Adrian Mannarino, which he did relatively comfortably in the semi-final, 6-4 7-5. The final was an even more one-sided affair, with Darcis prevailing 6-3 6-2 over Menendez-Maceiras. Funny enough the result made them end up next to each other on the ranking, with Darcis rising twenty-seven spots to #131 and Menendez-Maceiras landing at #130, an improvement of sixteen.
Will 2015 become the year of Ryan Harrison, I asked in my preview. He certainly went off to an excellent start here, taking out top seed Blaz Rola in the second round in an interestingly scored match, 1-6 6-1 7-5. In the second section home player Alex Bolt was sweeping up the competition. Bolt, playing on a wild card, took out #8 seed Marton Fucsovics in the second round, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-1, after which he went on to take out #4 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in the quarterfinal, 7-5 7-5. There he was stopped by Harrison, who faced no problems in a 6-3 6-3 victory.
In the bottom half, self-proclaimed future top 10 player Marcos Baghdatis was the big favorite to reach the final and he didn’t disappoint. He dropped a set in the quarterfinal against #5 seed Alexander Nedovyesov, 3-6 6-2 6-2, and dismissed qualifier Andrew Harris in the semi-final, 6-4 6-4. He went into the final against Harrison as the favorite, but Harrison quickly took control of the match and won 7-6(6) 6-4. This marked his best result since Atlanta in 2013, when he reached the semi-final. Perhaps this is the first step towards finally fulfilling his potential. It is going to be a long road, however, as he only sits at #160 on the ranking. Baghdatis creeps a little bit closer towards his top 50 goal for this year, rising five spots to #77.