2015 Vancouver, Cordenons and Meerbusch Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Strange times on the Challenger circuit. Last week I wrote about how all the seeds in Aptos made it to the quarterfinals. This time it was the exact opposite in Vancouver, with none of the seeds managing to get there. The top half only started with two of them to begin with, as #5 Go Soeda and #6 Kyle Edmund withdrew before their first round matches. Third seed Ernests Gulbis pulled off what perhaps is the biggest contrast ever in back to back weeks. After reaching the quarterfinal of the Montreal 1000 tournament, missing two match points against world number one Novak Djokovic, he lost in the first round here to Iliya Marchenko, 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(2).
Dudi Sela came out as the winner in the top half, although it didn’t come easy. He survived his first three matches 6-4 7-6(3), 6-7(4) 7-5 1-0 ret. and 6-4 6-7(4) 6-4. His semi-final against Yuki Bhambri was a lot more convincing, 6-2 6-4. In the bottom half qualifier Daniel Evans, who slipped to #417 in the rankings, showed he might be on the way back to his old form, which saw him reach the top 125 in early 2014. He beat Radek Stepanek 6-4 6-1 in the first round, after which he saved five match points in a remarkable comeback against seventh seed Taro Daniel, coming back from *0-5 down in the third set to win 4-6 6-3 7-6(6). An equally remarkable win followed in the quarterfinal against Brydan Klein, 7-6(1) 6-7(7) 6-0. John-Patrick Smith was too strong in the semi-final, however, beating Klein 4-6 6-2 6-3.
Sela just edged out the final in two tight sets, 6-4 7-5. It meant his fourth Vancouver title and eighteenth Challenger titles, which are incredible numbers. Not only that, the victory put him back inside of the top 100 at exactly #100, rising thirty spots. Smith rose to a career high ranking of #121, rising fifteen spots.
There were little results that can be marked as shocking. Perhaps one in the quarterfinal, where top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas lost to sixth seed Roberto Carballes Baena, 4-6 6-2 6-3. His semi-final opponent was Adrian Ungur, who beat fourth seed Kenny De Schepper 6-4 7-6(7) in the quarterfinal. Ungur also beat Carballes Baena in the semi-final, 4-6 6-4 6-2. Perhaps I should retract my earlier statement, because the bottom half had two results that were pretty shocking. Second seed Paolo Lorenzi double bageled Pedja Krstin in the first round, with Filip Krajinovic doing the same against Erik Crepaldi in the second round. They faced each other in the semi-final, with Krajinovic winning 7-6(5) 6-4.
The final was a high quality affair and turned out to be an entertaining fight. Unfortunately it ended on a down note, with Krajinovic winning after retirement in the third set, 5-7 6-4 4-1, claiming his second title of the year and fourth overall. The problem lay in Ungur’s upper right leg. There was one absolutely spectacular rally in the second set which is a must watch, see the video attached below. Krajinovic rose twenty-two spots to #98, while Ungur rose eighty-one spots to #246.
Top seed Andreas Haider-Maurer started the tournament rusty, needing three sets against qualifier Philipp Davydenko, but after that he started to get into his groove, not dropping another set on his way to the final. In the semi-final he dispatched third seed Facundo Arguello 6-4 6-4. In the bottom half the ever erratic second seed Dustin Brown got upset by Marek Michalicka in the second round, 2-6 6-3 6-1. Pere Riba took advantage, beating Michalicka 7-5 6-3 for a place in the semi-final. There he met Carlos Berlocq, who was having his first good run in ages, having struggled with injury for a good part of the year. Berlocq was clearly too strong for Riba, 6-3 6-3. In the final Haider-Maurer continued his great run of form, however, once again not dropping a set to win the match 6-2 6-4, claiming the ninth Challenger title of his career. He also rose to #52 in the rankings, an improvement of nine spots. Berlocq rose ten spots to #141. And as if the ATP felt Haider-Maurer’s title coming, they released their ATP World Tour Uncovered video about him a couple of days prior to his victory.