2015 ATP Szczecin, Istanbul, Banja Luka, Nanchang, Cary and Kenitra Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
A painful tournament for second seed Robin Haase, as he skipped the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland to try and build up his ranking, only to crash out against world #407 Artem Smirnov in the second round, 6-3 4-6 6-4. Smirnov showed it wasn’t a fluke, as he beat fifth seed Inigo Cervantes in the next round, 3-6 6-1 7-5. Then Smirnov got a lucky break in the semi-final, as fourth seed Marco Cecchinato withdrew with a stomach injury.
The top half saw sixth seed Nicolas Almagro’s excellent run end, he won the Genova Challenger last week, as seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff beat him 6-3 4-6 7-5 in the semi-final. Struff ousted top seed Pablo Carreno Busta a round earlier, 6-1 7-6(1). The final against Smirnov turned out to be a comfortable affair for Struff, as he took his second career Challenger title. A very welcome one, as he was only 1-9 in Challenger finals prior to this tournament. Struff rose eleven ranking spots to #137, while 27-year-old Smirnov made a monster jump of 142 spots to #265, only three places shy of his career high ranking of 262. His ATP profile is currently completely devoid of any information, perhaps another result like this one will take care of that.
It took a while for top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky to find his rhythm. In the first round he scraped by qualifier Ilya Ivashka, 3-6 6-1 6-4, with a similar scenario unfolding against Nils Langer in the second round, 2-6 7-5 7-5. After that things changed drastically, only dropping four games against Marius Copil and five against fourth seed Andrey Kuznetsov to book a place in the final. In the bottom half the seeds fell like flies. Second seed Marsel Ilhan fell to Aslan Karatsev in the first round, 6-7(4) 6-3 6-1, while third seed Radu Albot lost 6-0 7-6(3) to Yannick Mertens in the second round.
Fifth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov fell 6-7(7) 7-6(7) 6-3 to Karen Khachanov, which turned out to be a monumental victory for the 19-year-old, as he went on to comfortably find his way to the final without dropping a set. There he also beat world #53 Stakhovsky to claim his first ever Challenger title, 4-6 6-4 6-3. The nineteen ranking spots he rose means a new career high ranking for the young Russian, #164. Stakhovsky moved into the top 50, rising three spots.
Top seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver struggled past Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in the first round, 6-7(8) 6-1 7-6(4), after which he got upset by wildcard Flavio Cipolla in the next round, 6-4 7-6(5). Victor Hanescu was the one to profit, beating Cipolla 6-1 6-2 in the quarterfinal and surprising semi-finalist Miljan Zekic a round later, 7-5 6-7(6) 6-4, to reach the final. In the bottom half second seed Marcel Granollers withdrew citing personal reasons, leaving a lucky loser to fill his spot. Adrian Ungur came out as the winner in that section, beating Jozef Kovalik 6-3 6-1 in the quarterfinal. Third seed Dusan Lajovic was too much in the semi-final, however, notching up a 6-3 6-4 victory to advance to the final without dropping a set. He kept it up in the final against Hanescu, although it was a very tight affair, 7-6(5) 7-6(5). It meant a return into the top 100 for the Serb, rising six spots to #96. Hanescu rose thirty-six spots to #188.
Top seed Yen-Hsun Lu withdrew citing a lower back injury, leaving seventh seed Thomas Fabbiano to profit and take control of the section, reaching the semi-final by beating Alexander Sarkissian 6-1 6-4. In the other section Peter Gojowczyk comfortably reached the semi-final without dropping a set, but faced stiff competition in Fabbiano, barely beating him 3-6 7-6(4) 7-6(2). In the bottom half second seed Go Soeda continued his slump, getting trashed 6-2 6-1 by Amir Weintraub in the first round. Weintraub marched onto the semi-final, where he beat eighth seed Jordan Thompson 6-3 6-4. Gojowczyk was way too strong in the final, however, beating Weintraub 6-2 6-1 to claim his fourth Challenger title. He landed on a new ranking of #140, rising thirty spots. Weintraub rose a massive ninety-seven spots to #279.
The seeds held up well here, with six of them reaching the quarterfinals. There, top seed Bjorn Fratangelo fell 6-1 3-6 6-3 to sixth seed Brydan Klein, while second seed Austin Krajicek fell 7-5 7-6(2) to fifth seed Ryan Harrison. Klein fell in the semi-final to seventh seed Dennis Novikov, 1-6 7-5 7-5. while Harrison beat fourth seed Blaz Rola 4-6 7-5 6-2 for a place in the final. There 21-year-old Novikov pulled off a career best achievement, winning his first ever Challenger title by beating Harrison 6-4 7-5. Naturally he also reached a new career high ranking of #163, rising forty-five spots. Harrison rose thirteen spots to #116.
Top seed and new member of the top 100 Daniel Munoz-De La Nava got upset by Maximilian Marterer in the quarterfinal, 7-5 6-4. Fourth seed Roberto Carballes Baena took advantage in the semi-final, beating Marterer comfortably, 6-3 6-2. The bottom half delivered a surprising finalist. Second seed Damir Dzumhur lost to Javier Marti in the second round, 6-2 7-6(6). Third seed Facundo Arguello lost in the quarterfinal to Oriol Roca Batalla, 6-7(4) 6-0 6-2. Roca Batalla went on to reach the final after a 4-6 7-5 6-4 victory over Marti, but his titanic efforts caught up with him in the final, having to retire with an adductor injury while Carballes Baena was leading 6-1 5-1. Nevertheless, he rose forty-six ranking spots to #204. Carballes Baena rose fifteen spots to a career high #135 after winning his first Challenger.