2015 Prostejov, Gimcheon, Fürth, Manchester and Mestre Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
This was undoubtedly the week of world #247 Laslo Djere. In an amazing run to the final, he managed to beat #36 Martin Klizan (7-5 2-6 6-2), #67 Dusan Lajovic (4-6 6-4 6-2) and #78 Joao Souza (6-7(3) 7-6(4) 7-5), making it even more impressive by doing it in three sets every time. Also noteworthy is that Klizan saved 8 MP in his first round match against Norbert Gombos, winning 4-6 6-0 7-6(12). In the bottom half defending champion Jiri Vesely ruled the field, not dropping a set on his way to the semi-final, where it ironically took a qualifier to break that spell, with Vesely beating Uladmizir Ignatik 6-7(1) 6-2 6-2. Djere couldn’t keep up his dream run, with Vesely beating him 6-4 6-2 in the final to defend his title. Nevertheless a spectacular run for the 20-year-old Serb, of course, which saw him rise sixty-five ranking spots to #182, entering the top 200 for the first time. Vesely, as he didn’t gain any points here and failed to defend his second round at Roland Garros, dropped five spots to #46.
A tournament full of upsets, as the favorites for the title all bombed out in the early rounds. Especially shocking was the loss of top seed Go Soeda, who was the clear favorite being the only top 200 player in the draw (at #92 even). Soeda lost in the second round to Cheong-Eui Kim, 6-7(4) 7-5 6-2. Kim managed to win his next round, but then fell to the revelation of the tournament, American Alexander Sarkissian, 6-1 5-7 6-4. In the bottom half a similar scenario fell upon the seeds, as #4 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan lost 3-6 6-2 6-3 to Ji Sung Nam in the second round, while #2 seed Ti Chen got upset by Philip Bester in the first round, 6-4 6-2. #5 seed Connor Smith took advantage by reaching the final, beating Hiroyasu Ehara 6-3 6-4 in the semi-final. Here Sarkissian was too strong, however, taking down his first ever Challenger title with a 7-6(5) 6-4 scoreline. It meant a big improvement in the rankings for him, rising 102 spots to #210. Smith is nearby, rising sixty-three spots to #203.
Despite dropping down the rankings, 34-year-old Albert Montanes showed that he still has plenty of fight left in him. After trashing his first two opponents, Florian Mayer and Christian Lindell, 6-3 6-1 and 6-2 6-0, he saved a match point against 19-year-old Elias Ymer before prevailing 6-4 1-6 7-6(5). Then came his biggest win of the tournament, leaving world #63 Albert Ramos-Vinolas no chance in their 6-2 6-3 encounter. In the bottom half Taro Daniel continued his excellent run of form on clay, comfortably going through the draw and eventually humiliating second seed Blaz Rola 6-4 6-0 in the semi-final, after a shaky start where he went down 3-1. Daniel continued his excellent form in the final, beating Montanes with almost the same scoreline, 6-3 6-0. It meant his second Challenger title of the year, having won against Vercelli in April, and a new career high ranking of #125, improving forty-three spots. Montanes rose nineteen spots to #136.
Top seed Marcos Baghdatis experienced a shocking loss in the second round, falling 6-3 6-7(4) 7-6(5) to Brydan Klein. In the same section Alejandro had perhaps an even more shocking loss, going up 6-0 3-0* 40-30 before falling 0-6 7-6(2) 6-3 to Luke Saville in the second round. The other seeds in this half, Malek Jaziri and Tatsuma Ito, fell in the first round, making this a golden opportunity for a lot of players to seriously improve their rankings. Saville went through to the semi-finals and faced the man who took out Ito, Konstantin Kravchuk. After a close encounter Saville went through to the final, 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-3. In the bottom half second seed Sam Groth comfortably cruised through the draw until the semi-final, when he got a bit lucky after Rajeev Ram went up a set and a break and eventually was forced to retire after losing the second set in a tiebreak. In the final Groth was clearly too strong for Saville, taking down his third Challenger title 7-5 6-1. It also meant a new career high ranking for Groth, rising six spots to #66. Saville went up thirty-seven spots to #183.
After a solid start to the tournament disaster struck for top seed Paolo Lorenzi, having to retire in the semi-final while 1-0 up against Jozef Kovalik due to a left leg injury. Second seed Facundo Bagnis fell in the first round to Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, the eventual surprising semi-finalist, who came into the tournament as an alternate. Hernandez-Fernandez fell to Maximo Gonzalez, however, being left no chance in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. Gonzalez continued his dominance in the final, beating Kovalik 6-1 6-3 to claim his fifteenth Challenger title and reclaim a spot in the top 100, rising nineteen spots to #95. Kovalik rose fourteen spots to a career high ranking of #190.