2015 Fergana, Perugia, Poprad Tatry, Ilkley and Blois Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Going by the players who reached the semi-final stage, one would say that this has been a straight-forward tournament. However, this was far from the case. Top seed Teymuraz Gabashvili needed two long three-set matches to get there, beating seventh seed Karen Khachanov 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the quarterfinal. His semi-final against sixth seed Ti Chen was more comfortable, winning 6-2 6-4. Third seed Radu Albot had a lot of trouble against Franko Skugor in the second round, 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4, before beating Denys Molchanov 6-4 6-1 for a spot in the semi-final. There he met second seed Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, who won his last two matches in a third set tiebreak. Remarkably enough exactly the same scenario happened against Albot in the semi-final, with Kudryavtsev winning 7-6(3) 4-6 7-6(6). Unfortunately his efforts took a toll on him, having to retire in the final against Gabashvili while 6-2 1-0 down with a right hip injury. Gabashvili is now only one spot shy of his career high ranking of #52, rising five spots to #53. Kudryavtsev stays at exactly the same spot, #143, as he lost the final of another Challenger in this week last year.
Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta was the overwhelming favorite to take the title and he didn’t disappoint, not dropping a set on his way to the final, including a 6-2 7-6(5) victory over third seed Marco Cecchinato in the semi-final. Second seed Carlos Berlocq got upset by Matteo Viola in the first round, 2-6 6-3 6-2, who only posted his fifth win of the season by taking out Berlocq. The win inspired him, as he went all the way to the final, beating Filippo Volandri 5-7 6-1 6-4 in the semi-final. Carreno Busta clearly was too strong in the final, however, improving to a massive 10-0 in Challenger finals by beating Viola 6-2 6-2. Nevertheless, he dropped twelve ranking spots to #66, seeing more points drop off than he gained this week. Viola re-entered the top 200, rising fifty spots to #192.
The week started with a remarkable first round match between Djordje Djokovic and Peter Vajda. Djordje is Novak’s little brother, while Peter is the nephew of Novak’s coach, Marian Vajda. Vajda won 6-3 6-2, while Djokovic showed that difficulties with overheads might be hereditary.
The top three seeds all went out in the first round, with #1 Blaz Kavcic losing 6-3 6-4 to Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, #2 Aleksandr Nedovyesov retiring against Adam Pavlasek citing fatigue, and #3 Facundo Arguello losing 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 to Marek Michalicka. Funnily enough Podlipnik-Castillo and Pavlasek both immediately took the role of top seeds upon them, reaching the final. Podlipnik-Castillo beat fifth seed Norbert Gombos 6-4 1-6 6-2 in the semi-final, while Pavlasek beat fourth seed Andre Ghem 6-3 6-4. In a close final it was eventually Pavlasek who triumphed 6-2 3-6 6-3, winning his first Challenger title and reaching a career high ranking in the process, rising forty-six spots to #166. Podlipnik-Castillo reached a new career high ranking as well, rising twenty-four spots to #175.
Top seed Malek Jaziri fell early in the tournament, to last week’s Surbiton finalist Denis Kudla, 6-4 6-2. The man who beat Kudla in the final, Matthew Ebden, continued his run of great form as well, not dropping a set on his way to the semi-final, where he left seventh seed Ivan Dodig no chance in a 6-1 6-2 beatdown. Kudla continued his fine form as well, beating James McGee 6-3 6-4 in the semi-final to set up a repeat of last week’s final, a remarkable occurence. This time it was Kudla who triumphed 6-3 6-4 to win his fifth Challenger title. He rose twenty-six ranking spots to #105, while Ebden rose six spots to #148. Their great performances also persuaded Wimbledon to hand them both a wildcard into the main draw.
Wildcard Calvin Hemerey made a great run to the semi-final, beating seventh seed Guilherme Clezar 6-4 4-6 6-2 in the second round and fourth seed Horacio Zeballos 7-5 6-5(4) 6-3 in the quarterfinal, before losing to Mathias Bourgue in the semi-final, 6-2 6-3. In the bottom half last week’s Moscow winner, Daniel Munoz-De La Nava continued his good form, reaching the final after a 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory over second seed Alejandro Gonzalez. Winning the final as well would mean he enters the top 100 for the first time at the age of 33, an enormous achievement. However, Bourgue was too strong in the final, playing some special dropshots on the important points to win his first Challenger title, 2-6 6-4 6-2. Munoz-De La Nava is now ranked #108 and will still have plenty of chances to get that top 100 spot in the remainder of the season. Bourgue rose thirty-three spots to a career high ranking of #178.