2014 Genova, Medellin, Shanghai, Alphen, St. Remy & Brasov Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
The much anticipated first round clash between Viktor Troicki and second seed Dustin Brown, the defending champion, resulted in a victory for the Serb, 6-1 7-6(4). Brown had a 5-2 lead in the second set, but couldn’t build on it. The loss means he lost his top 100 spot and now sits at the 119th ranking position. Troicki, surprisingly, fell in the quarterfinal to Mate Delic in a dramatic encounter, 7-6(6) 1-6 7-6(8). Delic barely made it into the main draw, entering as an alt, but he made it all the way to the final, where he lost, 6-1 7-5 to top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Only his first round match against qualifier Adelchi Virgili was challenging, as it was the only one in which he dropped a set. The victory means a significant rise in the rankings for the Spaniard, going from #95 to #75. Delic lands at a new career high ranking of #154, rising 24 places.
This tournament turned out to be a really surprising one, as American Austin Krajicek stunned a lot of accomplished clay court players en route to the title. Sure, he was seeded (#8), but Krajicek’s clay court résumé is pretty much non-existent and no one saw him making a dent this tournament. He fought really hard and survived three three set matches, against Giovanni Lapentti in the second round, top seed Alejandro Gonzalez in the quarterfinal and Andre Ghem in the semi-final. In the final he beat third seed Joao Souza, 7-5 6-3 to claim his first ever Challenger title, with his ranking rising to #164.
The seeds held up nicely in Shanghai, as six of them made it to the quarterfinals. Fourth seed James Duckworth lost to Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round. Nishioka, who qualified for the US Open and fell to Paolo Lorenzi in the first round, suffering from problems with the heat, clearly recovered from those physical problems as he went all the way to the final. There, he faced second seed Somdev Devvarman, with whom he fought out a marathon match. Eventually Nishioka prevailed, winning 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3) after saving a match point at 5-6 in the third set with a clean forehand winner. It’s the first Challenger title for the 18 year old, who rises 78 ranking spots to #167. Devvarman’s ranking remains the same, as he defended secound round points from the US Open.
My prediction considering top seed Robin Haase’s performance here came through, just like at the Sport1 Open a month and a half ago. Jesse Huta Galung was too much for him, 6-4 1-6 6-4. Huta Galung withdrew from his previous two tournaments with injury and was about to withdraw from this one as well, but his girlfriend convinced the three time Alphen winner to play. It just goes to show how important it is to have a strong woman by your side, as Huta Galung didn’t drop another set en route to his fourth Alphen title. A remarkable achievement considering his horrific year, in which he dropped from #92 to outside of the top 200. Ironically, Huta Galung will not be playing the Davis Cup tie against Croatia this week, while the players who will had a terrible week.
Haase’s faith is known. Second seed Igor Sijsling got absolutely hammered by Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, the eventual runner-up, in the quarterfinal, 6-3 6-2. Fourth seed Thiemo de Bakker lost 6-3 6-7(4) 6-4 to Kimmer Coppejans in the first round after having an absolutely shocking break point conversion of 0/17.
The performance of young Frenchman Tristan Lamasine deserves a notion as well, as he defeated #3 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the second Challenger semi-final of his career. He started the year outside of the top 600, but currently is on the verge of breaking the top 200 at #216. Huta Galung re-enters the top 200 at #190, an improvement of 39 spots, while Munoz-De La Nava makes a big jump from #309 to #255.
Huta Galung stated that he wants to get back into the top 100, with the top 150 being his goal for the remainder of this season.
The tournament started off with the end of Alexander Zverev’s downswing, as he had hit a rough patch after his breakthrough semi-final at Hamburg. He eliminated top seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round, another top 100 scalp for the 17 year old, 6-4 6-2. Zverev eventually fell in the quarterfinal against #7 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 7-5 4-6 6-2. Vincent Millot was the surprise of the tournament. The unseeded Frenchman eliminated second seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in the semi-final and Nicolas Mahut was needed to stop him in the final, as the third seed beat him 6-7(3) 6-4 6-3 to claim the title. The result saw Mahut back into the top 100 at #95, rising eight spots.
A tournament to quickly forget for second seed Pere Riba, who got upset by Roberto Marcora in the first round, 4-6 6-1 6-2. Not only Riba disappointed, but every seed in this half did, as the quarterfinal spots were solely occupied by unseeded players. #3 Facundo Arguello fell in the first round as well, while #5 Gerald Melzer and #7 Marius Copil fell in the second round. Melzer fell to qualifier Guillaume Rufin, who profited from the draw opening up and made it all the way to the final. There, top seed Andreas Haider-Maurer was simply too strong, 6-3 6-2. Surprisingly enough, neither of the finalists saw their ranking improve. Haider-Maurer was defending the title, while Rufin was defending a second round performance at the US Open.