2014 Aptos, San Marino and Prague Challenger Recaps
ATP Challenger Tour
The expected final between top seeds Mikhail Kukushkin and Marcos Baghdatis did indeed take place, resulting in a 7-6(7) 6-4 victory for Baghdatis. This marked his second Challenger title in just as many weeks, and along with it a long awaited return into the top 100. He dropped out of the all-important top 100 for the first time since 2009 in the first week of this year, but now rises 24 spots to #82 to reclaim his position as a top 100 player. Baghdatis did not drop a set all tournament, even against Ruben Bemelmans in the quarterfinals, against whom he had to save two match points in their match last week, also in the quarterfinals.
San Marino had a lot of surprises, with the top four seeds all being out before the semi-final. Top seed Simone Bolelli got upset in the quarterfinal by wild card Alessandro Giannessi, who is ranked outside of the top 300: 4-6 6-4 6-3. The number two was prevalent as second seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver fell against Viktor Troicki for the second week in a row, after missing two match points: 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(6). Troicki couldn’t keep up his run, as he fell to qualifier Antonio Veic in the next round, Veic marched all the way to the final after beating Guilherme Clezar, the conqueror of third seed Maximo Gonzalez in the first round.
Veic met Adrian Ungur in the final, who took out fourth seed Albert Montanes in a grueling three set match earlier in the tournament. It turned out to be an unpleasant final for the undoubtedly tired Veic, as Ungur absolutely hammered him 6-1 6-0 to take home the title. Nevertheless this obviously still meant a huge jump in the rankings for Veic, as he rose 77 positions to #236. Ungur won 21 spots re-entered the top 150 at #136.
Prague also resulted in a lot of surprises, except for one, the winner. After the second rounds only two seeds still remained, #3 Michal Przysiezny and #1 Diego Schwartzman. As I wrote in my preview I thought that #2 seed Andrey Kuznetsov might struggle against qualifier Thiago Monteiro, but Monteiro’s straight set victory still came as a surprise. Veteran Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo profited from the opening in the draw, as he marched on to the semi-final in that section. There he lost to Andre Ghem, who would fall to Schwartzman in the final: 6-4 7-5. This meant a new career high for the Argentinian, as he rose 17 spots to #81. Ghem jumped 41 spots to #210, but it is yet to be seen if he, at 32, can catch up with his career high ranking of #181.
2014 Aptos, San Marino and Prague Challenger Previews Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast
This week three Challengers will take place, one in the States and two in Europe. The Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos will be played on hardcourt, the other two (San Marino Go&Fun Open and Advantage Cars Prague Open) on clay.
The Comerica Bank Challenger
ATP Challenger Tour and USTA Pro Circuit
Aptos, CA, USA
August 2 – August 10
Prize Money: $100,000
The last direct acceptance is Emilio Gomez, ranked 217th. A wild card has been awarded to 19 year old Mackenzie McDonald, who made a name for himself last month by reaching the semi-final of the Winnetka Challenger as a qualifier.
First round match-ups to watch
(8) Marton Fucsovics vs. (WC) Mackenzie McDonald
Like I said, McDonald already showed that he can hang on this level. Not only in the recent Winnetka Challenger, but last year he surprised everyone by beating Mahut and Johnson to qualify for the Masters event in Cincinnati, where he lost to Goffin in the first round. He faces eighth seed Fucsovics, who hasn’t been convincing on hardcourt yet this year, with five losses against players outside of the top 200 in the eight tournaments he has played on the surface. So despite their ranking difference this has the potential to be a hard fought battle, with a great chance for the young American to advance.
Taro Daniel vs. Ruben Bemelmans
Even though Daniel primarily plays on clay, he has shown that he can be very dangerous on hardcourt. Rosol knows a thing or two about that after being taken to five sets by Daniel during their Davis Cup tie in April. He had a decent showing at the Vancouver Challenger last week, losing in the quarter final to the eventual winner Baghdatis. Bemelmans lost to Baghdatis as well, in the next round. He has a reputation for being a choker, which he showed against Baghdatis by missing two match points, netting a fairly easy shot on one of them.
Rankings-wise, Kukushkin clearly stands out. He is the only top 100 player in the draw and the difference between him and #2 seed Baghdatis are a massive 51 ranking spots. However, he is far from a certainty to reach the final. Former world number 61 Devvarman is a threat and beat him in three sets the only time they met in 2011. Kukushkin also isn’t going into this tournament with a lot of confidence, losing to world number 228 Gerasimov in a third set tiebreak two weeks ago in the quarter final of the Astana Challenger.
In the second quarter Donskoy and Dustov are well capable of beating him. Granted, Donskoy isn’t in great form, so the danger will probably come from Dustov. Dustov reached the final of the Vancouver Challenger last week and will be feeling confident coming into this tournament.
It’s hard to look past Baghdatis here, I can’t see anyone threatening him and in my eyes he is the favorite to win the tournament, especially coming into this tournament on a high after winning the Vancouver Challenger last week. If Bemelmans gets to the quarter final he might be a threat, considering how close he got last week. But Bemelmans is well capable of losing to Daniel or Pavic.
The third quarter is the most interesting in my eyes, with Fucsovics, McDonald, Marchenko, Kuznetsov and Soeda all being qualified to reach the semi-final. It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen here, other than the winner most probably losing against Baghdatis.
Dustov def. Kukushkin
Baghdatis def. Soeda
I think Dustov’s good form will prevail over Kukushkin’s lack of it, despite the huge gap in their rankings. Like I said, the third quarter is extremely difficult to predict, so I took the safe route here and picked the highest seed.
Baghdatis def. Dustov
A repeat of last week’s final, ending in the same fashion. But back to back finals would be a very good result for Dustov and there is no shame in losing to Baghdatis, so if this happens it should give him a tremendous confidence boost as he gets closer to the top 100. As for Baghdatis, reaching the quarter final here would probably already enough for him to get back into the top 100.
San Marino Challenger
San Marino Go&Fun Open
ATP Challenger Tour
August 2 – August 10
Prize Money: €64,000
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Simone Bolelli (89)
2: Daniel Gimeno-Traver (93)
3: Maximo Gonzalez (104)
4: Albert Montanes (119)
5: Julian Reister (125)
6: Peter Gojowczyk (127)
7: Filip Krajinovic (134)
8: Filippo Volandri (136)
The last direct acceptance is Aldin Setkic, ranked 267th. A couple of really interesting players have come through the qualification draw, Christian Garin, Giovanni Lapentti and Antonio Veic. Comeback Kid Viktor Troicki has received a wild card and will surely be one of the most dangerous players in the draw.
First round match-ups to watch
(4) Albert Montanes vs. Potito Starace
An interesting meeting between two 33 year old veterans with singlehanded backhands. The decline of Montanes has been apparent as he failed to make a dent on the main tour, dropping to a ranking spot of 141 after starting the year inside of the top 60. This will be his first Challenger tournament of the year. Montanes leads their head to head 5-3, with their first meeting dating all the way back to 2002.
(5) Julian Reister vs. Victor Hanescu
Reister is another player who failed to make an impression on the main tour, racking up a 1-10 record this year. Hanescu followed a similar ranking path as Montanes this year, starting inside the top 80 and dropping to his current ranking of 151. Their head to head is 1-1 and this will surely become a tight match, where the winner will be difficult to predict.
Bolelli is the clear favorite to make the final here. The other seeds are Gojowczyk, Montanes and Volandri, who haven’t been convincing in the slightest lately, while Bolelli comes off a Challenger win in Oberstaufen, which resulted in him entering the top 100 again after starting the year outside of the top 300.
In the second quarter I’d mark Montanes as the favorite to reach the semi-final. Of course, he hasn’t been impressive this year, but this will be his first Challenger event and he might well still be too good for this level. He doesn’t have an easy draw however, he likely has to face three Italians to get there, Starace, Cecchinato and Volandri. If I had to pick one of them to upset Montanes I would go for Cecchinato, who reached a Challenger final in Mestre last month, where he almost managed to beat Cuevas. He also is the defending champion, so he will feel confident playing here.
Second seed Gimeno-Traver is hating his draw, as he is projected to play wild card Troicki in the second round, who beat him in straight sets last week. Troicki should be able to repeat this feat and notch a place in the semi-final after comfortably beating Reister or Hanescu.
The third quarter is a really interesting one, especially if we get to see the blockbuster quarter final between Krajinovic and Gonzalez. Krajinovic is on a roll lately, reaching the third round of the ATP 500 event in Hamburg and winning last week’s Challenger in Cortina. Gonzalez is on a run of his own, coming through the qualification draw in Kitzbühel to reach the semi-final, in which he lost in three sets to the eventual winner Goffin. This will surely be a cracker.
Bolelli def. Montanes
Troicki def. Gonzalez
Troicki will get a lucky break and avoids Krajinovic, the man who beat him last week. Bolelli will be too much for Montanes, who is seeking form.
Bolelli def. Troicki
Bolelli has the fire power to hit through Troicki and in his current form he is well capable of doing that. He leads the head to head 2-1, but they have never met before on clay.
Advantage Cars Prague Open
ATP Challenger Tour
Prague, Czech Republic
August 2 – August 10
Prize Money: €42,500
The last direct acceptance is Jan Hernych, ranked 264th. Tsung-Hua Yang, the man who beat Cuevas last week, has entered this tournament as a special exempt.
First round match-ups to watch
(2) Andrey Kuznetsov vs. (Q) Thiago Monteiro
Kuznetsov has only played one tournament since beating Ferrer at Wimbledon, losing in the second qualifying round of Hamburg, so he might be a bit rusty. 20 year old Brazilian Monteiro hasn’t dropped a set in the qualifications and might be able to trouble his much higher ranked opponent.
For me, top seed Schwartzman is the clear cut favorite here, I can’t see anyone troubling him all the way to the final. Sorensen might have gotten a bit of confidence after taking a set off Bautista Agut in the second round of Stuttgart, but he is way too inconsistent and probably won’t be able to trouble Schwartzman, who absolutely hammered Alexander Zverev last week in Kitzbühel: 6-1 6-0.
The other seeds here are Przysiezny and Burquier, who are even less likely to pose a threat. Przysiezny is going through an enormous form crisis, while Burquier only won one of his last seven matches. In that section there is a good chance for one of the unseeded players to snatch a semi-final spot, which Yang might be able to do.
If he finds his rhythm, I can’t see how Kuznetsov doesn’t reach the final, as he is clearly the best player in this half. He will most likely have to play #4 seed Gerald Melzer in the semi-final, which won’t be a problem for him. For me this is one of those tournaments where it’s very likely that the top seeds will end up in the final, I just can’t see any of the outsiders threatening them.
Schwartzman def. Yang
Kuznetsov def. Melzer
Yang builds on his confidence booster against Cuevas and makes another good run, but he is clearly outclassed in this match-up, as is Melzer.
Schwartzman def. Kuznetsov
Clearly the match of the tournament and I can see this become really, really close. But, since I have to pick someone I went with Schwartzman, who has a lot of rhythm on clay, unlike Kuznetsov, who has only played two matches on the surface since May.
August 2013 ATP Challenger Tour Recap: Carreno-Busta Continues Winning Ways
Rio De Janeiro Challenger (August 5-August 11, 2013)
Agustin Velotti took out the up and coming Blaz Rola for this clay court title. Velotti beat Eduardo Schwank in the semis, while Rola beat Emilio Gomez, who notably beat the tournament top seed Thiemo De Bakker.
San Marino Challenger (August 5-August 11, 2013)
Wild card Marco Cecchinato shocked a lot of people when he took care of Filippo Volandri in the final to take this challenger title on clay. Cecchinato took care of seeded players Jesse Huta Galung and Jiri Vesely before beating Jan-Lennard Struff in the semis. Volandri beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the semis.
Cordenons Challenger (August 12-August 18, 2013)
Pablo Carreno-Busta won yet another clay court challenger title, topping Gregoire Burquier in the final after defeating Pablo Lorenzi in the semis. Burquier beat Potito Starace in the semis.
Kazan Challenger (August 12-August 18, 2013)
Sergiy Stakhovsky found his game again after a post-Wimbledon hangover and won this hard court Russian challenger over Valery Rudnev after beating Alex Kudryavtsev in the semis. Rudnev reached the final by defeating Konstantin Kravchuk.
Meerbusch Challenger (August 12-August 18, 2013)
The Maserati challenger on clay was won by Jan Hajek in straights over Jesse Huta Galung, who continues his solid showing on the challenger tour this year. Hajek beat Miloslav Mecir in the semis while Huta Galung dispatched Pere Riba.
Bangkok Challenger (August 26-September 1, 2013)
Top seed Blaz Kavcic got back in the winner’s circle taking the title on hardcourts in Bangkok easily over Suk-Young Jeong. Kavcic beat Jimmy Wang in the semis while Jeong took care of Matt Ebden.
Como Challenger (August 26-September 1, 2013)
Pablo Carreno-Busta won his second title of the month, again on clay over the young Austrian Dominic Thiem. PCB beat Marco Crugnola, while Thiem beat Lorenzo Giustino.