2015 Casablanca Challenger Recap
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Where the tournaments on the main tour last week had a lot of surprises and qualifiers making a deep run, the Casablanca Challenger followed a similar pattern. After the second round only one seed was left in the tournament, #3 Adrian Ungur. And that also didn’t last long, as he got blasted off the court by wild card Lamine Ouahab, 6-2 6-2. Ouahab can pretty much be described by the video below, where he hits an extremely casual half volley. As a really talented juniors player he was #4 in the world and beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Wimbledon, but after that he became an out of shape journeyman, leaving people to wonder what could have been.
#1 seed Albert Montanes lost 6-3 7-5 to qualifier Guillaume Rufin, while #2 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver didn’t even get that far, losing 6-4 6-7(4) 6-4 in the first round to another qualifier, Laslo Djere. This set us up for a very special semi-final line-up, featuring the two qualifiers Rufin and Djere, wild card Ouahab and a player who entered the tournament on a protected ranking, Javier Marti. Rufin managed to push Ouahab around for one set before running out of steam, with Ouahab eventually prevailing 3-6 6-2 6-1. Marti easily beat Djere 6-1 6-3 in the other semi-final.
In the final Ouahab went off to an incredible start, going up 6-0 3-0*. After that, Marti was able to play himself into the match, violently pumping himself up with a lot of screaming after his won points. Ouahab went up 4-3 40-15*, 5-4* and eventually 6-3* in the tiebreak, but he couldn’t seem to close it out, with Marti getting back to six all. However, Ouahab squeezed out two spectacular points to close out the match and claim his first Challenger title since 2006! We can only hope this marks the beginning of a late career revival for the 30 year old, as he jumps 241 spots on the ranking, landing at #345. Marti improved 291 spots, rising to #498. The 23 year old has been struggling with injury for a long time, let’s hope he can stay healthy this time around.