Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Challengers: Week 18

Challengers Week 18:

Last week didn’t offer much variety as all 3 challenger tournaments happened to be played on red clay. As the French Open approaches this becomes the norm and even the token tournament in American soil adapted to the time of the year. It was an interesting week because every tournament was won by local, unseeded players.  Without any further ado, here’s a recap of the action.

*PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (€85,000): In an extremely bizarre final, unseeded Czech Lucas Rosol took the title over American Alex Bogomolov Jr by a score of 76 52 and retirement. The champion had a very lucky week, as he was only able to advance to the final when former top-10 Chilean Fernando Gonzalez (in his second tournament back after hip surgery) also retired due to injury in the SFs. Rosol did win tough 3-setters against Rui Machado and Julien Benneteau (both in the top 100), helping his luck by displaying incredible fitness. Bogomolov Jr. not only played multiple 3-setters en route to the final, but was also playing on the heels of another final appearance last week across the Atlantic (he lost the final of the Sarasota CH to James Blake). This challenger had many of the up and coming stars of world tennis, but they all failed to make any significant noise. ’93-born junior superstars Jiri Vesely (CZE) and Tiago Fernandes (BRA), the last 2 winners of Jr. Australian Open both received WCs into the main draw but were quickly eliminated in R1. German qualifier Denis Bloemke shocked former ITF No.1s and Jr. Grand Slam champions Uladzimir Ignatik (‘90/BLR/Roland Garros 2007) and Grigor Dimitrov (‘91/BUL/Wimbledon and US Open 2008) and prevented what would have been a R2 match between them.

*SAVANNAH, USA ($50,000): As mentioned before, another unseeded local took the home crown as Wayne Odesnik continued to get back to his old ways after a long injury by defeating Donald Young in the final by a score of 64 64. En route to the final, Odesnik had to battle and defeat powerful servers such as Amer Delic and Australians Marinko Matosevic and Chris Guccione. He also took out American darling Ryan Harrison in the semis before advancing to defeat Young. Seven out the 8 players in the QFs were American, and the remaining one was Delic, who is from Bosnia but played for the US and was a former NCAA champion at the University of Illinois. Although the tournament was played on clay, the members of the draw were the usual crowd for American challengers, with guys such as Robert Kendrick, Michael Russell (lost to Young in the semis), Bobby Reynolds and last week’s champion James Blake in the main draw. The ’92-born Americans present had different fortunes, as Harrison reached the semis, Denis Kudla (def. Izak Van der Merwe) advanced to R2 and Andrea Collarini was eliminated in R1.

*ROME, ITALY (€30,000 +H): In a clash between unseeded, yet former top-100 players, Italian Simone Bolelli made sure that the title stayed at home by defeating Argentine Eduardo Schwank, 26 61 63 in the final. Bolelli took out No.2 seed Julian Reister and then had a clear path to the final, defeating Italian WC Simone Vagnozzi in the semis. Schwank didn’t have to face any seeds all tournament, but took out Dustin Brown and fellow Argentine (and former top-20) Jose Acasuso on his way to the final. Acasuso had stopped Dutchman Thomas Schoorel’s 11-match winning streak that included 2 challenger titles also in Italian soil. No.1 seed Tobias Kamke of Germany was the only seeded player to make it to the QFs, but that’s as far as he went after losing to former Jamaican Dustin Brown. The QFs also had an appearance by rising Spaniard Pablo Carreno-Busta (’91), who was eliminated by Vagnozzi.

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