2015 Aptos, Prague and Portoroz Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Aptos brought us something that is only very rarely achieved, on the Challenger tour as well as the main tour. Every single seed made it to the quarterfinal. There were some close calls, however. Fifth seed Taro Daniel beat Farrukh Dustov 6-7(5) 7-5 6-0 in the second round, sixth seed Matthew Ebden beat Tommy Haas 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in the same round and seventh seed Austin Krajicek beat Dennis Novikov 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(7) in the first round, to name the three closest encounters. Top seed John Millman was unbothered and barely dropped games in those rounds, continuing that trend against Daniel in the quarterfinal, 6-1 6-3. Millman was put to the test a round later, when he barely beat third seed Kyle Edmund 3-6 6-4 7-5.
You have probably seen it already since it went viral quickly, but of course I have to mention Yoshihito Nishioka’s spectacular behind the back shot during his second round victory over Jared Donaldson, which will easily go down as one of the shots of the year. Special thanks to @hotdog6969, without whom it probably wouldn’t have reached such a big audience.
In the bottom half fourth seed Bjorn Fratangelo dismissed Ebden relatively easily, 6-4 6-2, while Krajicek beat second seed Malek Jaziri with a similar scoreline, 6-3 6-4. Their semi-final encounter ended in two sets as well, with Krajicek prevailing 6-3 7-6(2). In the final Millman survived his second three-set match in a row, ousting Krajicek 7-5 2-6 6-3 to win back to back Challenger titles, having won Lexington two weeks earlier. It’s the seventh Challenger title of his career and propelled him to a new career high ranking of #71, rising fourteen spots. Krajicek gets closer to his own career high ranking of #61, rising four spots to #68.
There were four players in the draw who were far above the rest ranking wise, being the only players ranked inside of the top 70, with fifth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov following at #92. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (#54), Andreas Haider-Maurer (#58), Simone Bolelli (#60) and Steve Darcis (#65) all failed to live up to the expectations, however, with the top two seeds crashing out in the second round, while Bolelli and Darcis only lasted one round longer. Ramos-Vinolas fell 6-4 7-5 to Filip Krajinovic, Haider-Maurer 6-4 7-6(6) to qualifier Nikola Mektic, Bolelli 6-2 4-6 7-6(4) to qualifier Axel Michon and Darcis 6-2 6-7(0) 6-4 to Adam Pavlasek. Pavlasek already handed another seed an enormous beating in the first round, trashing eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff 6-0 6-1. Michon had a similar scalp, beating seventh seed Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-3 6-2 in the second round.
The player to profit the most was qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva. The 31-year-old is having a remarkable ressurection, having dropped out of the top 500 in June, but has since then reached a Challenger final and managed to qualify for two ATP events in Bastad and Kitzbühel. Here he beat Krajinovic 6-4 6-3 in the quarterfinal and Pavlasek 7-6(4) 6-4 in the following round. His opponent in the final would be sixth seed Radu Albot, who avoided the other seeds and beat Michon 7-5 7-5 in the semi-final. He couldn’t stop the Brazilian’s dream run, however, with Dutra Silva winning a hard-fought battle in the final, 6-2 6-7(5) 6-4, to win his sixth Challenger title and get back into the top 200 at #187, rising a hundred-and-one spots. Albot reached a new career high ranking of #86, rising seven spots.
Top seed Marcel Granollers got upset in the first round by Evgeny Donskoy, 7-6(4) 6-2. Third seed Kimmer Coppejans managed to do even worse, only winning three games against lucky loser Jonatan Eysseric, 6-1 6-2. Sixth seed Luca Vanni on the other hand was cruising through the draw, only dropping eleven games on his way to the semi-final, where he faced fifth seed Norbert Gombos. This was harder for the Italian late-bloomer, but he prevailed 5-7 6-4 6-3. His opponent from the bottom half was decided in a match between two unseeded players, Alexander Kudryavtsev and wild card Grega Zemlja. Kudryavtsev beat seventh seed Thiemo de Bakker in the second round and second seed Paolo Lorenzi in the quarterfinal, both in three sets. Zemlja trashed fourth seed Lukas Lacko in the second round, 6-0 6-2, and beat eighth seed Mirza Basic 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 in the next round.
Zemlja didn’t experience a lot of problems against Kudryavtsev, beating him 6-4 6-2 for a place in the final. Here Vanni was too strong and managed to win his first ever Challenger title at the age of thirty, although it didn’t come easy in the second set, 6-3 7-6(6). Vanni hit a rough patch after his breakthrough run at Sao Paulo in February, partially because of injury, but this title puts him in sight of the top 100 again, rising twenty-three spots to #118. Zemlja rises fifty-nine spots to #231.