2015 Dallas, Burnie and Glasgow Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
After the match fixing scandal featuring Denys Molchanov, which I already elaborated on in my preview, karma unfortunately didn’t strike down upon him. At the side of Andrey Rublev he managed to take down the doubles title. In the singles draw top seed Mikhail Kukushkin was out after the first round, getting ousted by Alex Kuznetsov, 6-2 4-6 6-3. Kuznetsov won another long match against Chase Buchanan in the second round, 6-4 3-6 7-6(0), before falling in his next match to the surprising semi-finalist Marco Trungelliti in yet another three set match, 1-6 6-3 6-4. Tim Smyczek gave the crowd plenty of entertainment as well, beating James McGee 3-6 6-4 7-5 in the first round after saving three match points, after which he went on to beat Ryan Harrison 6-2 3-6 6-1 in the second.
#5 seed Denis Kudla got easily beaten by John-Patrick Smith in the second round, falling 6-1 6-4. Smyczek in his turn beat both Smith and Trungelliti in straight sets to secure himself a place in the final. In the bottom half it became painfully clear that Ryan Sweeting isn’t ready for this level yet, falling 6-0 6-2 to Guido Andreozzi in the first round. The world number one in juniors, Andrey Rublev, made a great impression as he beat #3 seed Blaz Rola in the first round and played arguably the highest quality match of the tournament against Rajeev Ram, falling 3-6 6-2 7-5 in the quarterfinal. Ram beat #2 seed Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-7 6-4 6-3 to set up a place in the final against Smyczek, but that turned out to be a very anticlimactic one. Ram was forced to retire at 6-2 4-1 down due to illness, handing the title to Smyczek. It was nevertheless a big occasion for Smyczek, as he re-entered the top 100 at #80, nearing his career high ranking of #73. Ram jumped fourteen spots to #125.
This tournament turned out to be an absolutely brutal one for the seeded players, with only two of them making it out of the first round, of which one advanced further than that. The lucky one was #8 seed Hyeon Chung, who didn’t drop a set on his way to the semi-final. Benjamin Mitchell, who took out top seed James Duckworth 6-4 3-6 7-5 in the second round, reached the semi-final, where Alex Bolt took him out in a marathon match, 3-6 6-1 7-6(3). Chung faced all kinds of difficulties as well in his semi-final, as lucky loser Matthew Barton pushed him to the brink. Eventually Chung managed to prevail 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3 to set up a place in the final against Bolt. Here Chung’s convincing scorelines continued, as he beat Bolt 6-2 7-5 to take down his second Challenger title. Quite the feat for an eighteen year old! Naturally this result gave Chung a career high ranking, rising twenty-two spots to #129. Bolt also scooped up a career high ranking, jumping twenty-three spots to #168.
This was another tournament where the seeds struggled. Only top seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov and #3 seed Ruben Bemelmans managed to get through to the semi-finals. Especially the exit of #8 seed Matteo Viola was most brutal, losing 6-2 6-2 to qualifier Marcus Willis in the first round. In the same section #2 seed Michal Przysiezny fell in the first round as well, losing 5-7 6-4 6-2 to David Guez. Guez managed to reach the semi-final, where he lost 6-3 7-5 to Bemelmans. Niels Desein turned out to be the surprise of the tournament. Having already ousted #7 seed Tim Puetz 6-3 6-2 in the first round, he absolutely humiliated Nedovyesov in the semi-final, leaving him no chance in a 6-1 6-1 obliteration.
This set us up for an all Belgian encounter between Desein and Bemelmans, which seemed to go in Bemelmans’ direction when he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set. However, he failed to find a first serve, and Desein played some absolutely brilliant points to punish that. Bemelmans dropped serve and eventually capitulated in the tiebreak, with the match ending in a 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(4) victory for Desein. It meant his first Challenger title, coming at the ripe age of 27. It also resulted in a new career high ranking of #155, improving forty spots. Bemelmans landed at #141, an improvement of twenty-three.
For more in depth reports of this tournament, check out the recaps of our onsite reporter Niall Clarke, which were posted throughout last week. He also did an excellent interview with runner-up Bemelmans, which is definitely worth reading!