2015 Orleans, Tiburon, Pereira, Agri, Rome and Porto Alegre Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Jan-Lennard Struff’s ranking has taken a big hit in the past year. Just a year ago he was ranked inside of the top 50, while at the start of this tournament he found himself at #136. However, he would take a big step towards the top 100 at Orleans. He started off by very nearly beating fifth seed Ivan Dodig in the second round, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2, after which he surprised by beating top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky without breaking a sweat, 6-4 6-2. Kenny De Schepper, who beat third seed Marsel Ilhan in the second round, couldn’t break Struff’s run either in the semi-final, 6-2 3-6 6-3.
In the bottom half the seeds held up better, with three of them making the quarterfinals. There eighth seed Iliya Marchenko beat fourth seed Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-4, while second seed Jerzy Janowicz beat Franko Skugor 6-1 2-6 6-4. The semi-final was a tight affair, but Janowicz overcame Marchenko in three sets, 6-1 2-6 6-4. In the final Janowicz was up a set and a break twice, but eventually couldn’t stop Struff’s dream run, who took down his second Challenger title of the year and third overall. He made a big jump in the rankings, rising thirty-one spots to #105, while Janowicz improved seven spots to #61.
Fourth seed Dustin Brown took a big hit in the first round, falling 6-2 7-5 to qualifier Sekou Bangoura. There was a little bit of controversy in the beginning of the match, with Bangoura hitting a winner off his chest, which wasn’t seen by the umpire.
Bangoura couldn’t take his run further, as he fell in a third set tiebreak to wildcard Mackenzie McDonald, who in his turn had a lucky break against sixth seed Bjorn Fratangelo in the next round, who had to retire after losing the first four games due to a lower back injury. In the semi-final top seed Denis Kudla was just too strong, despite McDonald hitting the shot of the tournament early in the third set, 6-2 6-1 6-4.
In the bottom half second seed Kyle Edmund had an early first round exit against fellow Brit Brydan Klein, 6-4 6-1. Fifth seed Ryan Harrison fell to Marek Michalicka in the second round, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3. In the following round third seed Tim Smyczek had no troubles with Michalicka, 6-3 6-1, after which he came up with the exact same scoreline to beat Quentin Halys for a place in the final. There an absolutely spectacular encounter between Smyczek and Kudla followed, with Smyczek saving four match points during his 1-6 6-1 7-6(7) triumph. Smyczek moved back into the top 100 with his second Challenger title of the year and his fifth overall, rising fourteen spots to #98. Kudla rose six spots to a career high ranking of #67.
Top seed Paolo Lorenzi was the only top 100 player in the draw and expected to win here, with second seed Joao Souza in a big slump and fourth seed Alejandro Falla uncomfortable on clay. Lorenzi cruised through the draw, beating fifth seed Guilherme Clezar 6-4 6-2 in the quarterfinal and Marcelo Arevalo, who beat Falla in the second round, 6-1 6-3 in the semi-final to reach the final without dropping a set.
In the bottom half Souza and Gonzalez managed to get through to the semi-final, although Souza showed the confidence in his game is still low, needing three sets on two occasions against much lower-ranked opponents. Gonzalez took advantage of his slump, beating him 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3 to reach the final. There another long match followed, but Lorenzi managed to come out on top this time, 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3. It’s the third Challenger title of the year and fifteenth overall for the 33-year-old Italian. The win saw him rise three ranking spots to #83, while Gonzalez rose twelve spots to #110.
Second seed Malek Jaziri withdrew citing an ankle injury, keeping up his acting performance from last week, when he retired alongside Denys Molchanov while 8-9 down in the supertiebreak of the Izmir Challenger final. The retirement was solely because they had a bet on themselves to win, which would be voided with a retirement. In Agri it resulted in a very ironic situation where Jaziri’s accomplice of last week, Molchanov, took advantage of the draw opening up because of the withdrawal, with him beating Dennis Novak 7-6(4) 6-2 for a place in the semi-final. There eighth seed Saketh Myneni was just too strong, 6-3 3-6 7-6(1).
In the top half fifth seed Konstantin Kravchuk managed to oust top seed Ruben Bemelmans in the quarterfinal, 6-3 6-4. In the semi-final sixth seed Farrukh Dustov was too strong, however, 7-6(4) 6-2, meaning Dustov reached the final without dropping a set. He kept it up in the final, beating Myneni 6-4 6-4 to win his second Challenger title of the year and fifth overall. He rose twenty-four ranking spots to #129, while Myneni rose thirty spots to a career high ranking of #168.
A strong line-up arrived in Rome, with five players ranked inside of the top 100 competing. Second seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver was the only one of them to lose before the quarterfinal, falling 6-3 5-7 6-3 to Thiemo de Bakker in the second round. Top seed Federico Delbonis beat eighth seed Albert Montanes 7-5 6-1 in the quarterfinal, after which he ousted third seed Dusan Lajovic as well in the following round, although it was a much harder encounter, 7-6(8) 7-6(5).
In the bottom half fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat De Bakker 6-1 6-3 for a place in the semi-final, where fourth seed Marco Cecchinato awaited, who beat sixth seed Inigo Cervantes 6-1 6-4. After a tight two-set encounter Krajinovic advanced to the final, beating Cecchinato 7-5 6-4. In the final Delbonis was too strong eventually, beating Krajinovic 1-6 6-3 6-4 to claim his third Challenger title of the year and his seventh overall, posting a perfect 3-0 record in finals this year. His ranking improved ten spots, landing at #57. Krajinovic rose eleven spots to #87, just one spot shy of his career high ranking of #86.
Top seed Diego Schwartzman managed to reach the final, but it was far from easy. In the quarterfinal eighth seed Maximo Gonzalez took him to 6-1 1-6 7-5, after which fourth seed Carlos Berlocq made it even closer in the semi-final, 3-6 6-3 7-6(0). In the bottom half Rogerio Dutra Silva kept up his remarkable run of form, beating third seed Kimmer Coppejans 6-2 6-4 in the second round, after which he followed it up with a win over fifth seed Facundo Arguello, 2-6 6-4 6-4. Second seed Guido Pella was too strong in the semi-final, however, beating the Brazilian 6-1 5-7 6-1.
The final was won by Pella as well, after an excellent 6-3 7-6(5) victory over Schwartzman. It’s Pella’s third Challenger title of the year, racking up a 3-1 record in finals this year and a very impressive 9-2 overall. He rose seventeen ranking spots to #77, just two shy of his career high ranking. Schwartzman rose five spots to #72.