2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals, Lima, Montevideo, Toyota & Andria Challenger Recaps

2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals, Lima, Montevideo, Toyota & Andria Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

Challenger Tour Finals

ATP

A lot of people, including myself, expected wild card Guilherme Clezar to finish fourth in his group without a lot of fuzz. He clearly had other plans. The world #331 beat countryman Joao Souza in a thrilling three set match, 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(7), and pulled off another big upset when he beat Blaz Rola 6-4 6-3. What made it even more satisfying is that Rola only needed to win a set to advance, but now saw Clezar advance as second player of the group behind the already qualified Diego Schwartzman. Clezar had only reached one semi-final at Challenger level this year, so his second one coming at the Challenger Tour Finals by beating two top 100 players was a huge surprise.

In Group A the two players who were expected to advance, Simone Bolelli and Victor Estrella Burgos, both lost a match. Bolelli lost to Estrella Burgos while he was already qualified, while Estrella Burgos lost his opening match 6-3 6-4 to Maximo Gonzalez. In the semi-final Estrella Burgos faced Clezar, which saw the two men engage in a titanic battle, with Clezar eventually coming out on top in a ridiculous scoreline: 7-6(4) 6-7(0) 7-6(12), saving three match points. The other semi-final saw an upset as well, with Schwartzman taking out top seed Bolelli 7-5 6-4. Unfortunately, Clezar was unable to fully recover from his marathon match, making the final an one-sided affair in Schwartzman’s favor 6-2 6-3. The result meant a jump of sixteen ranking spots for Schwartzman, giving him a new career high of #61. Clezar jumped considerably as well, of course, improving 75 spots to #256.

Lima

Top seed Paolo Lorenzi crashed out in the first against Jose Hernandez, but that wasn’t entirely surprising given his walk-over against Pablo Cuevas in the final of Guayaquil a couple of days earlier. In the next round, Hernandez advanced after Muñoz-De La Nava retired at 1-6 2-5 40-40, a very unclassy move considering there was no direct medical emergency. Hernandez eventually lost in the semifinal to third seed Jason Kubler, 6-3 6-2. In the bottom half, #8 seed Guido Pella was making a name for himself, overcoming marathon matches in the first round, quarterfinal and semi-final to set up a meeting with Kubler. Despite his tiring path to the final, Pella showed no signs of slowing down, as he beat Kubler 6-2 6-4 to claim his first Challenger title since Sao Paolo in early October of last year. He is now on the verge of entering the top 150, jumping 45 spots to #156. Kubler finishes his great year at #136, having started off the year outside of the top 400.

Montevideo

World #35 Pablo Cuevas is back after his Challenger victory last week, in a clever effort to snatch a seeding at the Australian Open. He started off as #35, last week’s victory got him up to #32 and if he wins this tournament as well, he finishes at #30. The competition won’t be stern, with #117 Pere Riba as the second highest ranked player in the field. And the tournament lost Riba very quickly as he retired from his first match with a right leg injury. Hugo Dellien profited from that and made sure he got full value, as he went all the way to the final after beating third seed Facundo Arguello in the semi-final, 1-6 6-0 6-4. As expected, he met Cuevas there, who beat the talented Argentinian Pedro Cachin in the semi-final, and met his Waterloo there 6-2 6-4. With that, Cuevas managed to almost certainly secure his seeding at the Australian Open in a clever late season campaign. Dellien ended the season on a high as well, reaching a new career high at #287, jumping 69 spots.

Toyota

A Japanese winner was in line with expectations, as five of the seeds were from Japan. They prospered under the home advantage, as only #6 Hiroki Moriya lost before the quarterfinal. Yuichi Sugita took out youngster Yoshihito Nishikoki in the quarterfinal to set up a semifinal line-up with #1 seed Tatsuma Ito, #2 seed Go Soeda and surprise semi-finalist Ti Chen. The two top seeds didn’t disappoint, as they both went through to the final, setting up their tenth meeting. Soeda led 6-3 and increased the difference, as he beat Ito 6-4 7-5 to take down the title. It was a very important tournament for both men, as the result put them both back into the top 100 for the first time since 2013. Ito jumped nine spots to #94, while Soeda follows him closely at #100, improving seventeen spots.

Andria

#1 seed Igor Sijsling ended a poor season with an opening round loss against Uladzimir Ignatik 6-4 6-4. This tournament turned out to be a horrendous one for the seeds, as only one of them was still in it after the second round: #3 seed Ricardas Berankis. This was partially due to #2 seed Dustin Brown and #7 seed Dudi Sela withdrawing, leaving the entire bottom section seedless. Veteran Michael Berrer profited from that, making the semi-final and losing to Berankis 7-6(3) 6-3. In the top half, surprising semi-finalists Nikoloz Basilashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk battled it out, resulting in a 6-3 6-4 victory for Basilashvili, who reached his second career Challenger final. However, after a set in the final, he retired due to a left groin injury, leaving Berankis as the anti-climactic winner. Nevertheless, Basilashvili enters the top 200 for the first time, coming in at #192. Berankis enters the top 100 again, jumping 21 places to #86.

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ICYMI: Djokovic Wins World Tour Finals, Swiss Take Davis Cup

ICYMI: Djokovic Wins World Tour Finals, Swiss Take Davis Cup Final
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

Djokovic

In case you missed it, here is a quick roundup of the last couple of non-exhibition events at the top level of Men’s professional tennis this year.

World Tour Finals
Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive and fourth overall year-end championships title in London at the O2 Arena, as a hobbled Roger Federer withdrew and gave the word number one a walkover victory. Besides Djokovic, only Ivan Lendl and Ilie Nastase have ever won three consecutive year-end championship tournaments.

Djokovic was the strongest player all week, not surrendering a set in round robin play against Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, and Tomas Berdych, as none of his opponents really put in much effort. In the semis, Kei Nishikori snatched a set, but Djokovic won the other two sets surrendering just one game combined.

Clearly, a deserving champion.

Federer also played well, as the World Number 2 was able to topple Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, two top players of the younger generation, without dropping a set, and then demolished Andy Murray in front of a home crowd for the UK number one. The match of the tournament was the semifinal between Federer and compatriot Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka had four match point chances and was up a set early, but Federer clawed his way back and eventually defeated a cramping Wawrinka in a third set tiebreak. In process of winning the match, Federer injured his back and had to pull out for the final.

The Bryans beat Ivan Dodig and Marcel Melo to win yet another World Tour Finals, as they continue to dominate the game even more than Djokovic.

Davis Cup Official Site

Davis Cup Final
The top five Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka led their nation to its first ever Davis Cup title. The golden era of Swiss tennis was confirmed as the duo defeated a talented French team 3-1 for the title.

Wawrinka started proceedings by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets. Tsonga played one quality set but was pedestrian in the three others that were played. Gael Monfils fought back and beat Federer in straights for the French, leaving the tie at an even 1-1 after Friday singles.

Fed and Stan beat Richard Gasquet and Julian Benneteau in straight sets to take the doubles rubber, and Federer would clinch the tie on Sunday, easing past Gasquet in 3 sets. Though the tie was played in France, there were nearly as many Swiss fans in attendance, and they basked in the glory of their first ever Davis Cup triumph.

This is yet another achievement in the illustrious career of Roger Federer, one of the greatest players of all time.

2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals Preview and Picks

2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals Preview and Picks
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour
Sao Paulo, Brazil
19-23 November
Prize Money: $220,000

Entrants (ATP/Challenger ranking in parentheses)

1: Simone Bolelli (60/7)
2: Diego Schwartzman (77/7)
3: Victor Estrella Burgos (80/3)
4: Blaz Rola (81/11)
5: Andreas Haider-Maurer (84/9)
6: Joao Souza (90/4)
7: Maximon Gonzalez (105/14)
8: Guilherme Clezar (331/116)

As you can see some of the higher ranked players are missing, but a lot of those absences aren’t surprising. #1 Gilles Muller and #5 Go Soeda are far from admirers of clay, while #6 David Goffin hasn’t played the mandatory ten events to be eligible for this event. He is also ranked 22nd at the moment, of course, so he probably wouldn’t have entered anyway. #8 Albert Ramos-Vinolas and #10 Jan-Lennard Struff not competing might be a surprise, but then again, the schedule isn’t very convenient with both of them having played their last match in QR1 of the Paris Masters three weeks ago.

Groups

Group A

Simone Bolelli
Victor Estrella Burgos
Andreas Haider-Maurer
Maximo Gonzalez

Group B

Diego Schwartzman
Blaz Rola
Joao Souza
Guilherme Clezar

Round-robin match-ups to watch

Simone Bolelli – Victor Estrella Burgos
This is a heavyweight match-up between the two favorites to take down the title, there is a good chance we will see them face off in the final again. However, if they tire each other out too much, Schwartzman, who has an easier group, might take advantage. Estrella Burgos and Bolelli have never met each other, but you have to give Bolelli an edge here. Especially when they get entangled in backhand rallies I expect Bolelli to put a lot of pressure on Estrella Burgos’ defensive slices. Bolelli hasn’t played on clay since the first week of August, but he has time to find his rhythm since it will be the final encounter of the group.

Diego Schwartzman – Joao Souza

Schwartzman has had a great year, reaching six Challenger finals and winning four of them and climbing up to a career high ranking of #76. Souza has been less fortunate in finals, racking up a 1-3 record. However, he clearly had a great year, climbing fifty ranking spots to #90. They faced off once this year, in the final of the San Juan Challenger, with Schwartzman winning 7-6(5) 6-3. However, this tournament is played at the club where Souza grew up, so that might inspire him to make it a closer encounter this time around.

Group A

I have mentioned that Bolelli and Estrella are the favorites, but the competition isn’t too shabby. The last match Haider-Maurer played was in QR2 in Basel against Bolelli, with the Italian only barely scraping through: 3-6 6-4 6-3. Both players are very well-rounded, so a similar close encounter on clay wouldn’t be surprising. The wild card in this group is Gonzalez. It’s hard to predict what he is going to do. When is he on, he is as good as any of these guys, but he can just as easily have a bad day and become a walk-over. This happened at the Guayaquil Challenger last week, where he got hammered by Facundo Arguello: 6-4 6-0.

Group B

This group is likely to be unbalanced, with Brazilian wild card Clezar being ranked significantly lower than the other three. I expect Schwartzman to come through as the group winner, but the battle between Rola and Souza for the second spot is going to be really interesting. They met once this year, on clay, with Rola winning 3-6 7-6(2) 6-3. No doubt their match here will be just as close. Perhaps Souza’s home advantage can get him through this time.

Predictions

Group A:

1. Bolelli
2. Estrella Burgos
3. Haider-Maurer
4. Gonzalez

Group B:

1. Schwartzman
2. Souza
3. Rola
4. Clezar

Semis:

Bolelli > Souza
Estrella Burgos > Schwartzman

Final:

Bolelli > Estrella Burgos

Djokovic Wins 3rd ATP Paris Title, Becomes 1st Player to Retain ATP Paris Title in Modern History

ATP Paris
Novak Djokovic won his third career ATP Paris crown with a decisive 6-2 6-3 dismantling of Milos Raonic in the final, which was rather uncompetitive. Raonic falls to 1-2 in ATP finals this season and is now 0-2 in his career in Masters level finals. Djokovic all but secures the year-end number one ranking by virtue of retaining his Paris title and he notched his sixth title of the season. He finishes 4-0 in ATP Masters level finals this year.

Djokovic’s path to the final emerged by defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber, Gael Monfils, Andy Murray, and Kei Nishikori without dropping a set, as he was dominant in Paris all week long.

Raonic secured his place in the World Tour finals, alongside Djokovic, Federer, Wawrinka, Murray, Nishikori, Cilic, and Berdych. The Canadian number one beat Jack Sock in 3 sets, Roberto Bautista Agut in straights, Roger Federer in a straight set upset, and Tomas Berdych in 3 sets to reach the final. His serving was impeccable this week even on a rather slow surface.

The Bryans beat Marcin Matkowski and Jurgen Melzer for the doubles title as both the world number one singles player and the world’s number one doubles team capped the ATP World Tour Season off in style by lifting tournament trophies in Paris.

—Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

Super Saturday Set @CVilleTennis: Doubles Championship and Semifinals

Super Saturday Set @CVilleTennis: Doubles Championship and Semifinals
Charlottesville

Only four competitors remain alive in singles play after Friday’s intense action. When all was said and done, Denis Kudla, James Duckworth, Alex Kuznetsov and Liam Broady emerged as this year’s semifinalists. They will battle it out Saturday for a spot in Sunday’s championship match.

Kudla’s opponent, Tennys Sandgren, won Friday night’s first set convincingly, but the No. 3 seed forced a third set in which he cruised to a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win.

Duckworth, the No. 6 seed, won his first five games en route to a 6-1, 6-2 rout of Japan’s Taro Daniel on Friday.

Kuznetsov ended the run of French qualifier Laurent Lokoli, who upset No. 1 seed Sam Groth in the opening round of the Main Draw, with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win in just under two hours.

Broady outlasted Ryan Harrison in a back-and-forth affair that lasted over two and a half hours, 6-7(2), 7-6(4), 6-3.

The doubles title is set for Saturday afternoon, as top seeds Treat Huey and Frederik Nielsen defeated Sekou Bangoura and Evan King, 6-3, 7-6(2). Huey and Nielsen will go up against the British tandem of Lewis Burton and Marcus Willis in Saturday’s doubles final at 1 p.m. Burton and Willis got past Gastao Elias and Sean Thornley in Friday’s opening match in a thriller, 7-6(9), 6-7(2), 10-6.

Huey will look to become the tournament’s first repeat doubles champion after winning the title with former University of Virginia teammate Dominic Inglot in 2011.

After Saturday’s doubles awards ceremony, the singles semifinals will begin (not before 3 p.m.) with Duckworth squaring off against Kuznetsov. The final match on Saturday pits Kudla against Broady.

—Scott Radcliffe

One Minute Post Match @CVilleTennis: The Return of @TennysSandgren

One Minute Post Match @CVilleTennis: The Return of @TennysSandgren
Steve Fogleman, Tennis East Coast

Former University of Tennessee standout Tennys Sandgren looked like a man on a mission in a 61 minute 6-3, 6-1 win over James McGee in the first round of the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger today.

Having spent most of the year sidelined due to a hip injury, Sandgren is determined to finish the year strongly.

Sandgren briefly discussed returning to top physical form and his preference for the Australian Open Wild Card being decided over three challengers rather than a weekend playoff.

“I feel really good. Today was a good day for me. This is one of my best days since coming back”, he said.

He continued, “It’s just finding that match energy for a whole match. A tennis match is generally pretty long. It’s a marathon. Finding that right intensity for a whole match is tough and I feel like I’m starting to get that under my belt”.

On the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge: “I’m excited at these three events instead of the tourney in Atlanta. That was a heart breaker for me last year. I put in a good tournament and I didn’t have a lot to show for it. At least here, if I come in second, I probably get a lot of points under my belt. I’m excited to be playing well and I’m looking forward to these three weeks”.

Sandgren is a Tennis East Coast fave. He’ll face 5 seed Gastao Elias next in Charlottesville for a berth in the quarterfinals.

Main Draw Begins @CVilleTennis: Results, Tuesday OOP

Laurent Lokoli

Edward Corrie

Edward Corrie

Taro Daniel

Taro Daniel

RESULTS – OCTOBER 27, 2014
Men’s
Singles – First Round
[6] J Duckworth (AUS) d [WC] E Escobedo (USA) 16 63 64
A Kuznetsov (USA) d R Ginepri (USA) 76(3) 64
T Daniel (JPN) d [WC] M Styslinger (USA) 63 60
E Corrie (GBR) d D King (BAR) 64 66 Defaulted

Men’s
Doubles – First Round
[1] T Huey (PHI) / F Nielsen (DEN) d [WC] S Kozlov (USA) / R Ram (USA) 62 75
S Bangoura (USA) / E King (USA) d [WC] L Corinteli (USA) / D Kudla (USA) 36 63 13-11
F Dancevic (CAN) / M Reyes-Varela (MEX) d W Odesnik (USA) / P Torebko (GER) 62 61

Mens
Qualifying Singles – Third Round
Qualifying – L Lokoli (FRA) d S Bangoura (USA) 63 61
Qualifying – K King (USA) d M Giron (USA) 62 16 64
Qualifying – D Nguyen (USA) d E King (USA) 76(1) 62
Qualifying – F Nielsen (DEN) d M Willis (GBR) 62 62

Mens
Qualifying Doubles – Second Round
Qualifying – [1] C Ball (AUS) / R Harrison (USA) d [WC] J Shane (USA) / R Shane (USA) 57 76(3) 10-8

ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014
COURT 7 start 10:00
G Mina (FRA) vs C Buchanan (USA)
W Odesnik (USA) vs [3] D Kudla (USA)

Not Before 12:30
R Williams (USA) vs [8] F Dancevic (CAN)

Not Before 14:30
[1] S Groth (AUS) vs [Q] L Lokoli (FRA)

Not Before 17:00
L Broady (GBR) vs [2] T Smyczek (USA)
R Harrison (USA) vs [WC] M Frank (USA)

COURT 9 start 10:00
T Sandgren (USA) vs J McGee (IRL)
[5] G Elias (POR) vs [Q] K King (USA)

Not Before 12:00
[4] M Russell (USA) vs M Arevalo (ESA)
H Cunha (BRA) vs [Q] F Nielsen (DEN)
[7] R Ram (USA) vs [Q] D Nguyen (USA)
P Torebko (GER) vs [WC] S Kozlov (USA)