2015 New Delhi, Wroclaw and Morelos Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
Top seed James Duckworth seems to be having a case of the top 100 jitters. After a great start on the year, reaching the quarterfinal of Brisbane and the second round at the Australian Open (which saw him rise to #108 in the rankings), he suffered his third bad week in a row here in New Delhi. Losing in the second round to wild card Sanam Singh, it’s clear that change is needed quickly after failing to win back to back Challenger matches in three consecutive tournaments. #5 seed and defending champion Somdev Devvarman took advantage, taking out Singh in the quarterfinal, 4-6 6-1 6-3. He had an early lucky break already, seeing his first round opponent Antonio Veic retire while Veic was leading by a set.
The second section fell apart as well seed wise, with #3 Yuichi Sugita and #8 Alex Bolt both losing in the first round. Kimmer Coppejans was responsible for the latter’s demise and he kept up the good work, not dropping a set on his way to the semi-final. There Devvarman was way too strong, however, taking the Belgian out 6-3 6-1. In the bottom half second seed Alexander Kudryavtsev lost in the first round, but that wasn’t an upset given his opponent, Yuki Bhambri. Bhambri is severely underranked because of injury struggles and will find himself back in the top 200 very soon.
His run here will help, as he reached the semi-final without dropping a set and dispatching of #4 seed Ruben Bemelmans there in three sets, 4-6 6-3 7-5. The final between Devvarman and Bhambri was almost a carbon copy of their first round match less than a month ago in Hong Kong. There Devvarman prevailed 2-6 6-4 6-3, and here it ended 3-6 6-4 6-0. Given Devvarman was the defending champion, it does nothing for his ranking, even dropping him two spots to #155. Bhambri makes a big jump of 117 spots to #297.
The tournament started with a hilarious moment between top seed Ricardas Berankis and Polish wild card Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz won a point playing an amazing dive volley, after which Berankis accidentally hit him in the face. Despite it being clearly unintentional, Berankis still received a warning from the umpire.
#5 seed Matthias Bachinger lost 6-1 6-7(5) 6-3 in the first round to Jesse Huta Galung, despite the Dutchman needing eight match points, which included this huge miss:
Huta Galung couldn’t keep up the good work, losing in the second round to Mirza Basic. Basic, on the other hand, went on a great run, going all the way to the semi-final, where he took out Berankis in straight sets, 7-6(4) 7-5. #4 seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov lost in a first round marathon to Jan Mertl, 6-7(3) 7-6(7) 7-6(1). In the bottom half, second seed Steve Darcis had to go deep in order to see off Michal Przysiezny in the first round, 7-6(4) 3-6 7-6(5). Darcis made it to the semi-final, where he faced #3 seed Farrukh Dustov, who took out #7 seed Michael Berrer 7-5 6-4 in the previous round.
Dustov surprisingly managed to see off Darcis as well, beating him 6-3 3-6 7-5 for a place in the final. There Basic was no match for him either, with the final ending 6-3 6-4 in Dustov’s favor. It was a monumental victory for Dustov, as his fourth Challenger title meant that he entered the top 100 for the first time in his career, rising twenty spots to #98. Basic finds himself at a career high ranking as well, cracking the top 200 at exactly #200, an improvement of seventy-seven.
I predicted top seed Victor Estrella Burgos to lose in a quarterfinal encounter with Matteo Viola, but that scenario quickly disappeared as Viola lost in the second round. However, my initial hunch of Estrella struggling was shown to be right, as he needed three sets in all of his first three match to advance to the semi-final. This was much to the displeasure of Nicolas Barrientos, who fell in a third set tiebreak in the second round.
#4 seed Jimmy Wang fell in the first round to Giovanni Lapentti under suspicious circumstances, raising the question if this was another fixed match, following Molchanov in Dallas earlier this year. Wang started as the 1.40 favorite, but Lapentti suddenly was the overwhelming favorite with the first set far from decided and no signs of injury from Wang. This wasn’t the first time for Wang, as a similar suspicious pattern surrounded his match against Jarmere Jenkins at the Maui Challenger last year.
Gerald Melzer was the other semi-finalist from the top half, but Estrella Burgos convincingly took care of him there, 6-4 6-2. In the bottom half, #7 seed Austin Krajicek disappointed after his great quarterfinal run at Memphis, pushing world #5 Kei Nishikori to three sets. Here he lost to #288 Jason Jung in the first round, 5-7 6-3 6-4. Jung went on to lose to #3 seed Damir Dzumhur in the quarterfinal, 6-4 6-1. Alejandro Falla struggled immensely with wild card Daniel Garza in the second round, scraping by in three sets, 4-6 6-4 6-4. In the quarterfinal #5 seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras took him out 7-5 6-3. Menendez-Maceiras fell in the semi-final to Dzumhur after an epic battle, 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(5).
However, Estrella Burgos was completely warmed up after struggling in the early stages and won the final 7-5 6-4. Another of many special moments for Estrella Burgos as of late, as it meant his entry into the top 50 (#48). At 34, Estrella Burgos becomes the second oldest player in the open era to crack the top 50 for the first time. Dzumhur reached a milestone as well, cracking the top 100 for the first time at #87.