March 2014 ATP Challenger Tour Recap: Former Top 50 players Muller and Cuevas Claim Titles

March 2014 ATP Challenger Tour Recap: Former Top 50 players Muller and Cuevas Claim Titles
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

Kyoto Challenger (March 3-March 10, 2014)
Martin Fischer won a 3 set final on indoor hard in Japan against Japanese player Tatsuma Ito to capture the Kyoto challenger title. The 27 year old Austrian journeyman beat Marco Chiudinelli in the semis, while Ito beat his countryman Go Soeda, who was the top seed.

Irving Challenger (March 10-March 16, 2014)
Lukas Rosol won the stacked Irving challenger on outdoor hard in Texas, one of those super challenger events where top 50 players are allowed to compete without penalty. He crushed Steve Johnson in a rain soaked straight sets victory, and before that beat Sergiy Stakhovsky in the semis. Johnson beat Tobias Kamke in the semis.

Kazan Challenger (March 10-March 16, 2014)
Marsel Ilhan won an indoor hard court title in Russia over veteran German Michael Berrer. Berrer beat Farrukh Dustov in the semis while the Turk Ilhan beat Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia.

Panama City Challenger (March 17-March 24, 2014)
Pere Riba won the Central American clay court challenger in Panama in a tight 3 setter over the rising Blaz Rola, who is now up to a career high ranking of 118. Riba beat Gerald Melzer in the semis while Rola beat top seed Albert Ramos. Rola also upset 3 seed Andreas Haider-Maurer along the way, and 2 seed Martin Klizan fell in an upset to Guido Andreozzi.

Rimouski Challenger (March 17-March 24, 2014)
Big serving Aussie Sam Groth won the hard court challenger in Rimouski, Canada over Ante Pavic. American Austin Krajicek and Japanese Yuichi Sugita were their semifinal opponents respectively.

Guadalajara Challenger (March 24-March 30, 2014)
Former top 50 player Gilles Muller continued his comeback from injury, and has returned to the top 200 with a title in Guadalajara Mexico on hard courts. The qualifier upset top seed Kenny De Schepper in round 1, and also beat the seeded Dustin Brown before defeating Rajeev Ram in the semifinals and Denis Kudla in the final. Kudla beat JL Struff in the semis, and the seeded but struggling Lukas Lacko earlier in the tournament. 2 seed Matt Ebden was upset by Mexican wild card Cesar Ramirez, and 8 seed Peter Gojowczyk was upset by qualifier Takanyi Garanganga, both in round 1.

Barranquilla Challenger (March 24-March 30, 2014)
Another veteran player on the comeback trail, Pablo Cuevas won on clay in Colombia over Martin Klizan. He upset Alejandro Falla, the top seed in the quarterfinals, and knocked off Adrian Ungur in the semis. Klizan beat 2 seed Albert Ramos in the semis.

About these ads

The Practice Post #FCC2014

Players practiced today, as they do every day of the year.

Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard, Jelena Jankovic and Daniela Hantuchova were among the many players who picked up a racket today and hit a ball in non-competitive play at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina.

Since the only thing most of us amateurs ever really do is practice our tennis, we feel a keen bond with you. Thank you for getting out there on court and hitting balls without being directly paid for your time today.

You’re just like us!

Seriously, practice sessions are a very affordable way to see marquee players up close during qualifying weekend. In my opinion, Family Circle Cup has the best fan-friendly and photo-friendly open practice viewing on the East Coast.


The Michelle Larcher de Brito Post

There’s this one guy on twitter who bugs the hell out of me to follow Michelle Larcher de Brito around every time he discovers I’m at the same place at the same time as LdB. I think he’s gone through a few accounts.

Look, LdB is a very interesting and charming player. I have enjoyed watching her matches and meeting her family.

But this is the last time I worry about pleasing a single twitter follower with an agenda.

I’m sick of it.

You don’t always need to see. It would be good for you to just imagine a match once in a while.

This is your last fix, bro.

You won’t have me to boss around the twittersphere anymore.

And I should just tell you now. As for that Grace Min and LdB matchup tomorrow night? I’d love to see it. But you, my friend, can catch it on ESPN3 or some stolen feed. You’re on your own.

Michelle Larcher de Brito







fcc ldb

8 Qualifiers Set @FamilyCircleCup Main Draw

Grace Min, the sole US qualifier

Grace Min, the sole US qualifier

Quick and dirty. That’s how those who qualified for Charleston’s main draw in the early part of the day did it. With 35 mph wind gusts, these players may have broken a Family Circle Cup record for most service-ball-toss do-overs. Ever.

They also got a lot of clay dust in the face in the process of earning a ticket to play on with the big dogs.

Unlike yesterday, today’s early matches moved with relative speed.

Grace Min raced to a 6-1 first set, and Zarina Diyas never saw it coming, as Min qualifies 1 and 2 in 63 minutes.

Shortly before that, Saisai Zheng became the first to qualify in Charleston when Estrella Cabeza Candela retired down 2-6, 0-1.

Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko scored a routine 6-3, 6-3 win over an outmatched Aliaksandra Sasnovich, in a game with lots of drop shots and lobs by Tsurenko.

Then, things got a bit more complicated.

Michelle Larcher de Brito  won a contentious match against Madison Brengle in a third set tiebreak, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(3). Both players had many chances to close this one out, and Brengle lost her composure in the tiebreak. She was distracted by Larcher de Brito’s grunting, and finally complained to the Chair Umpire about it during the tiebreak changeover. Brengle was down 5-1 at that point. Too little, too late.

“She’s doing it when I haven’t even finished my shot.”, Brengle grumbled.  She added, “I try and be nice. She’s my friend. I don’t want to sound like, rude.”

Alla Kudryavtseva also survived a marathon, taking out Sesil Karatantcheva 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Belinda Bencic got the better of Mathilde Johansson in the final set, winning 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Taylor Townsend took Jarmila Gajdosova to a third set before the veteran clamped down to advance back to the main draw 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.

Victoria Duval also gave Kiki Bertens a fight, but Bertens was slightly better in a competitive match. Bertens advanced, 6-4, 7-5.

Tomorrow’s main draw matches begin at 10:00 a.m.

—S. Fogleman

Sunday Results, Monday Order of Play @FamilyCircleCup #FCC2014

Madison Keys

Madison Keys


Qualifying Singles – Second Round

Qualifying – G Min (USA) d Z Diyas (KAZ) 61 62
Qualifying – S Zheng (CHN) d E Cabeza Candela (ESP) 62 10 Retired
Qualifying – A Kudryavtseva (RUS) d S Karatantcheva (KAZ) 57 63 62
Qualifying – M Larcher de Brito (POR) d M Brengle (USA) 75 57 76(3)
Qualifying – L Tsurenko (UKR) d A Sasnovich (BLR) 63 63
Qualifying – K Bertens (NED) d V Duval (USA) 64 75
Qualifying – B Bencic (SUI) d M Johansson (FRA) 75 26 64
Qualifying – J Gajdosova (AUS) d [WC] T Townsend (USA) 64 67(5) 63

BILLIE JEAN KING start 10:00 am
A Riske (USA) vs C Scheepers (RSA)
M Lucic-Baroni (CRO) vs [15] M Keys (USA)
[10] M Kirilenko (RUS) vs [Q] B Bencic (SUI)
[WC] M Oudin (USA) vs J Cepelova (SVK)

ALTHEA GIBSON start 10:00 am
D Pfizenmaier (GER) vs L Davis (USA)
J Larsson (SWE) vs [9] L Safarova (CZE)
V Lepchenko (USA) vs P Cetkovska (CZE)
C Mchale (USA) vs [Q] A Kudryavtseva (RUS)
[Q] G Min (USA) vs [Q] M Larcher de Brito (POR)

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
P Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) vs T Pereira (BRA)
J Goerges (GER) vs V Razzano (FRA)
S Voegele (SUI) vs A Tomljanovic (CRO)
E Svitolina (UKR) vs [Q] J Gajdosova (AUS)

COURT 4 start 12:00 noon
[Q] S Zheng (CHN) vs Y Shvedova (KAZ)

Not Before 2:00 pm
P Ormaechea (ARG) vs [Q] K Bertens (NED)

Laughing the Rain Away @FamilyCircleCup: @PaulaOrmaechea, @SaraErrani

Laughing the Rain Away @FamilyCircleCup: @PaulaOrmaechea, @SaraErrani

DSCN0748 DSCN0749 DSCN0750 DSCN0751 DSCN0752 Paula Ormaechea

The gray skies couldn’t dampen the spirits of Paula Ormaechea at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston this afternoon. The Argentine signed autographs for a small group of kids and each one seemed to crack her up in their own little way.

She laughed for five straight minutes.

Afterward, she was so giddy she insisted on driving the getaway vehicle and WTA consigliere @DannyKendall relented.


Ormaechea plays a qualifier in the opener. The winner of that match awaits Sara Errani in the second round. Errani seemed to be in a very good mood herself today. I predict a very pleased player making the third round in this quarter.

Sara Errani, 2014 Charleston DSCN0808


—S. Fogleman

Day 1 Interviews @FamilyCircleCup: @ChristinaMcHale @Riske4Rewards @Shelby_Rogers_ #FCC2014

Day 1 Interviews @FamilyCircleCup: McHale, Riske, Rogers
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast

Christina McHale made her first-ever WTA final two months ago in Acapulco. Alison Riske is just off a career high of #45 three weeks ago. Shelby Rogers is at a career-high ranking of #110. These are players on a roll. And they were all at or near the draw ceremony, which was ‘co-hosted’ by Riske and McHale.

None of them want to admit to thinking about winning the event. As always, thank you, WTA Players Media School.

They all love Family Circle Cup, and it’s an extra special place for Riske and Rogers. They wore matching pink while practicing together earlier today.

McHale will face a qualifier in the first round, while Alison Riske will take on Chanelle Scheepers and Shelby Rogers will hope to upset 10 seed Daniela Hantuchova.

Christina McHale, Charleston 2014

Alison Riske, Charleston 2014



Raindrops and Dropshots: Day 1 Qualifying @FamilyCircleCup Goes Late

Raindrops and Dropshots: Day 1 Qualifying @FamilyCircleCup Goes Late
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast


CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 29, 2014)—Rain delayed the start of Family Circle Cup qualifying in Charleston today, pushing the 10:00 a.m. schedule to a 1:00 p.m. start. And wouldn’t you know it, six of the first eight matches after the delayed start went three sets.

Grace Min eased by a punchy Danka Kovinic, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2 in 2:23.



Alla Kudryatseva knocked out Arantxa Parra Santonja in 2:04, winning 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Sesil Karatantcheva beat American Sanaz Marand 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Taylor Townsend took a 5-1 3rd set lead, but almost didn’t close it out. She prevailed over Alize Lim, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, in 2:14.

Michelle Larcher de Brito was her usual expressive self, but faced an equally feisty and noisy Jennifer Elie. In a topsy-turvy match filled with momentous momentum swings, LDB didn’t let herself get in the way in the third as she found her way to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 match that lasted two hours.


Saisai Zheng outhustled Anastasia Rodionova in 2:26 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 marathon win.

Rampre is tough on herself: This was only the coin toss!

Rampre is tough on herself: This was only the coin toss!

Petra Rampre was beating herself up today, and she’d only lost the coin toss in the above photo. She must have known something, as she fell in straights to Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 7-5, 6-1.



In other non-three-setters, Madison Brengle played well in a 6-2, 7-6(3) win over Alicja Rosolska, 6-2, 7-6(3), Lesia Tsurenko dominated Alex Mueller 6-0, 6-2, Belinda Bencic rolled through Yung-Jan Chan, 6-3, 6-3, and Mathilde Johansson got off to an early start against Louisa Chirico and never looked back, 6-1, 6-4.

In the unscheduled ‘nightcaps’, Victoria Duval beat Charleston native Ellie Halbauer 2 & 2, Jarmila Gajdosova took out Tamira Paszek in a battle of veterans, 6-3, 7-6(5) and Kiki Bertens got the victory in the final match of the day at 8:05 p.m. against Olga Savchuk, 6-4, 6-2.

Oh, and Daniela Is All In On Daniel Island.

Daniela Is All In For Charleston

Daniela Is All In For Charleston

Day 2 Qualifying Order of Play @FamilyCircleCup



Family Circle Cup

Althea Gibson Court 11:00 a.m.

Zarina Dyas vs. Grace Min

Not Before Noon

Belinda Bencic vs. Mathilde Johansson

Taylor Townsend vs. Jarmila Gajdosova or Tamira Paszek

Court 3 11:00 a.m.

Estrella Cabeza Candela vs. Saisai Zheng

Michelle Larcher de Brito vs. Madison Brengle

Victoria Duval vs. Kiki Bertens or Olga Savchuk

Court 4 11:00 a.m.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs. Lesia Tsurenko

Alla Kudryavtseva vs. Sesil Karatantcheva

Good Morning from Charleston: @FamilyCircleCup Qualifying Day 1 #FCC2014

Good Morning from Charleston: @FamilyCircleCup Qualifying Day 1

Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast

Stosur after practice with Christina McHale @FCC 12

Stosur after practice with Christina McHale @FCC 12

CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 29, 2014)—It’s 64 and rainy on this Saturday morning, three hours from the scheduled start of first round qualifying matches. In my third year covering the Family Circle Cup, I am always impressed by the magical abilities of the green clay courts to take a soaking and be ready for play less than an hour later.

Nine Americans headline the qualifying draw here today, with play expected to start at 10:00 a.m.

It’s a mad dash for the finish line as eight players will qualify for the tournament’s main draw. Players need just two victories to get there, except for top qualifying seeds Zarina Diyas and Estrella Cabeza Candela, who, with byes in today’s opening round, need only a win tomorrow.

It seems odd to me that there is only a single Russian in qualifying (Alla Kudryatseva), yet there are two Kazakhs (Zarina Diyas and Sesil Karatantcheva), two French (Mathilde Johansson and Alize Lim), two Australians (Jarmila Gajdosova and Anastastia Rodionova), two Spaniards (Estrella Cabeza Candela and Arantxa Parra Santonja) and two Ukrainians (Lesia Tsurenko and Olga Savchuk). As Morrissey once said, “Has the World Changed or Have I Changed?”

One of the nine American players will be an American of first impression for me. Ellie Halbauer is a Charleston native who was granted a wild card by tournament organizers. That’s not really fair. The 16-year-old actually earned that wild card by winning the Dunlap Junior Championship, a pre-qualifying tournament here in Charleston. The Post and Courier’s James Beck spoke with her former coach yesterday.

The main draw selection ceremony begins at 3:00 p.m. and will be live-tweeted from @TennisEastCoast.

So, there you have it. 14 matches, 100% humidity.

It’s warm, it’s wet, it’s Charleston!


CLICK HERE for a Qualifying Singles Printable Draw

CLICK HERE for a Saturday Qualifying Singles Printable Order of Play

ALTHEA GIBSON start 10:00 am
Qualifying – G Min (USA) vs D Kovinic (MNE)
Qualifying – A Lim (FRA) vs [WC] T Townsend (USA)
Qualifying – V Duval (USA) vs [WC] E Halbauer (USA)
Qualifying – O Savchuk (UKR) vs K Bertens (NED)

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
Qualifying – A Sasnovich (BLR) vs P Rampre (SLO)
Qualifying – [WC] A Rosolska (POL) vs M Brengle (USA)
Qualifying – M Larcher de Brito (POR) vs [WC] J Elie (USA)
Qualifying – J Gajdosova (AUS) vs T Paszek (AUT)

COURT 4 start 12:00 noon
Qualifying – A Rodionova (AUS) vs S Zheng (CHN)

Not Before 2:00 pm
Qualifying – [WC] A Mueller (USA) vs L Tsurenko (UKR)
Qualifying – L Chirico (USA) vs M Johansson (FRA)

COURT 5 start 12:00 noon
Qualifying – A Kudryavtseva (RUS) vs A Parra Santonja (ESP)

Not Before 2:00 pm
Qualifying – S Marand (USA) vs S Karatantcheva (KAZ)
Qualifying – B Bencic (SUI) vs [WC] Y Chan (TPE)