2016 Sarasota, Gwangju and Barletta Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Top seed Denis Kudla was upset by his countryman Noah Rubin in the first round, losing a marathon three-set match after missing a match point, 7-5 2-6 7-6(8). Rubin followed up with a win over Gonzalo Lama in the second round, after which he was convincingly beaten Guilherme Clezar, 6-3 6-0. Fifth seed Tim Smyczek lost to Frances Tiafoe in the first round, 6-4 6-3, although that wasn’t really an upset. Third seed Gerald Melzer was the only seed in the top half to move past the first round, eventually beating Clezar in the semi-final after the Brazilian was forced to retire down in the third set at 6-7(4) 6-4 3-2, because of a quad strain.
In the bottom half, second seed Diego Schwartzman couldn’t break his patch of bad form in recent times, losing to Henri Laaksonen in the second round, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4. Laaksonen lost to Mischa Zverev in the quarterfinal, 2-6 6-3 7-5, after which the older brother of Alexander also dispatched sixth seed Bjorn Fratangelo in the semi-final, 6-2 6-4. Zverev continued his great run in the final against Melzer, Jurgen’s younger brother, beating the Austrian 6-4 7-6(2) in this battle of lesser-known brothers. It meant the fifth career title for Zverev, rising thirty-one spots to #131 in the rankings. Melzer rose ten spots to #112, a career high ranking.
Judging by top seed Ricardas Berankis’ scorelines in this tournament, you would think he played a Futures event. The skill gap between the world #80 and his opponents, all ranked outside of the top 150, was simply too high. Little can be said. Berankis dropped only fourteen games on his way to the semi-final and not a lot was added to that count when he faced two seeded players in Di Wu (#4) and Grega Zemlja (#6, beat #2 seed Tatsuma Ito 6-4 6-3 in the semi-final), respectively beating them 6-4 6-1 and 6-3 6-2 to win his sixth title. He rose eighteen ranking spots, landing at a career high #62. Zemlja rose twenty-eight spots to #161.
The top two seeds were far from upholding their seeding in this event. Rogerio Dutra Silva, the top seed, lost 7-6(5) 6-4 to Jurgen Zopp in the quarterfinal, while second seed Roberto Carballes Baena lost 5-7 6-4 6-4 to Alessandro Giannessi in the second round. Zopp lost his semi-final to eighth seed Elias Ymer, who turned twenty last week, 6-2 6-4. Third seed Adam Pavlasek recovered well from his tough victory over Marton Fucsovics in the second round, 5-7 6-4 6-3, beating qualifiers Lorenzo Sonego and Enrique Lopez-Perez respectively 6-2 6-0 and 6-1 6-3 to reach the final. There Ymer was too strong, however, with the Swede winning 7-5 6-4 to take down his second title. He rose nineteen spots to a career high ranking of #123, while Pavlasek rose twelve spots to #108, a career high ranking as well.