2015 Kolkata, Kyoto and Cherbourg Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Top seed James Duckworth finally looked to have overcome his fear of entering the top 100, as he won his first three matches, something he had not done in his previous three Challengers. Even worse, he failed to win back to back matches. In the bottom section of this half, #3 seed Ruben Bemelmans had a rough tournament, needing three sets in his three opening matches to advance to the semi-final for an encounter with Duckworth. In his quarterfinal match against qualifier Richard Becker he came the closest to defeat, edging him out 6-7(5) 7-6(8) 6-2. The encounter between Duckworth and Bemelmans went to three sets as well, but this time with Duckworth as the winner, 2-6 6-3 6-1.
In the bottom half last week’s New Delhi winner, Somdev Devvarman, couldn’t survive his tough opening round against countryman Ramkumar Ramanathan, which wasn’t too surprising. Amazingly enough the match ended exactly like their previous encounter in Chennai, with Ramanathan prevailing 4-6 6-3 6-4. Ramanathan won his next match as well, but then fell to Ti Chen in a very close match, 6-4 3-6 7-6(5). Chen in his turn fell to #6 seed Radu Albot, who had already impressed by beating Yuki Bhambri and #2 seed Alexander Kudryavtsev back to back in the second round and quarterfinal.
In the final Albot continued his remarkable run, beating Duckworth 7-6(0) 6-1 to claim his second Challenger title. This resulted in a new career high ranking for the Moldavian, rising twenty-one spots to #143. Duckworth is now coming really close to the top 100, going up seven spots to #104.
A remarkable incident occurred during the second round match between qualifier Hiroki Kondo and #8 seed Ben Mitchell, when Kondo tore his calf while he was leading 6-4 5-4 30-0. He won that point and took a lengthy medical time-out at 40-0, after which he still managed to win the match two points later. Naturally, he had to withdraw from his quarterfinal match against #4 seed John Millman.
Millman wasn’t bothered by the lack of rhythm that withdrawal, as he beat #2 seed Tatsuma Ito comfortably, 6-3 7-5, to secure himself a place in the final. In the top half #7 seed Michal Przysiezny was having a very good run, something that became rare during his drop from #57 of a year ago to his ranking of #185, with which he started this tournament. Przysiezny beat top seed Go Soeda 6-4 6-2 in the quarterfinal and took out countryman and surprising semi-finalist Andriej Kapas 7-6(5) 6-4. In a high level final, Przysiezny managed to take out Millman as well, claiming his eighth Challenger title. This also meant a return into the top 150 for the Pole, at #149. Millman is nearing his career high ranking of #126, obtained in 2013, with a 137th spot, a rise of eleven.
Benoit Paire immediately let his presence be known in the early stages of the tournament, hitting a remarkable smash while sitting on his knees.
Other than being merely flashy, he was effective as well, clinically taking out top seed Kenny De Schepper in the quarterfinal, 6-4 6-2. #4 seed Farrukh Dustov was unable to build on his title run in Wroclaw last week, falling 6-2 6-3 to Aldin Sektic in the first round. #5 seed Nicolas Mahut also had an early exit, painfully losing 6-3 6-1 to wild card Enzo Couacaud in the second round. It took Paire in the semi-final to stop the young Frenchman, with a convincing 6-4 6-1 scoreline.
#2 seed Steve Darcis had to retire with an abdominal injury during his second round match against Maxime Teixeira, while leading 4-2 in the second set after having lost the first 7-6(5). #7 seed Norbert Gombos took advantage by beating Teixeira in three sets in the quarterfinal, after which he took out Maxime Authom 6-4 6-1 for a place in the final. Here he faced Paire, who was marked the clear favorite, but things turned out differently, as Gombos won 6-1 7-6(4) to win his first Challenger title. Having lost his four previous finals, this must have been a relief. It also means a new career high ranking at #117, improving five spots. Paire is nearing the top 100, rising eleven spots to #107.