ATP Challengers: Julien Benneteau into Mouilleron final, Norbert Gombos performs well on home soil - UBITENNIS
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ATP Challengers: Julien Benneteau into Mouilleron final, Norbert Gombos performs well on home soil

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Alex De Minaur is one of the most promising teenagers from Australia at present, along with Oliver Anderson. He produced a good quarter-final showing in Mouilleron this week (Zimbio.com)

The semi-final stages of this week’s Challenger tournaments have now been completed in some events, and with finals now set, we can look back on the results and runs of the week so far.

 

Bratislava: The Slovakian fans will be delighted to see that a home player has reached the final of this year’s event. Because Bratislava does not feature a main ATP event, this challenger marks the country’s single biggest ATP event of the year. Norbert Gombos overcame two tough three-set battles against eighth seed Jozef Kovalik and then Cedrik-Marcel Stebe before growing into the tournament by dispatching Vasek Pospisil in a handy straight sets victory in the quarter-finals. His 6-4, 7-6 win today in the semi-finals against Sergiy Stakhovsky continues his rich vein of form at Challenger level since the US Open.

His opponent will be Marius Copil who is also enjoying a run of good form recently. Copil benefited from a number of high profile exits in the top half of the draw including top seed Florian Mayer’s defeat to Uladzimir Ignatik, and Lukas Rosol’s early exit. Copil accounted for Egor Gerasimov, Lukas Klein and Alexander Kudryavtsev before defeating Daniil Medvedev in today’s semi-final 7-6, 7-6.

Final: Hard to call. Both men are tall servers in good form though Copil wins more free points than his counterpart. Gombos will have the home crowd behind him. Prediction: Gombos in three sets including at least one tie-break.

Mouilleron le Captif: When the draw came out a featured highlight of the first round was the match-up between second seed Mikhail Youzhny and the unseeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau. Benneteau won a close three-set batle and has gone from strength to strength since then, defeating the likes of Alexey Vatutin and Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets. Alex de Minaur’s sepcial exemption has been well earned, as the seventeen year old Australian defeated wildcard Corentin Moutet and fifth seed Radu Albot before losing in the quarter-finals, a promising run for the Australian though.

Benneteau faces the winner of the semi-final between top seed Benoit Paire, who has shown his fluctuating form by dropping sets against Enrique Lopez-Perez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. At the time of writing he was down a set too Russian youngster Andrey Rublev, who marked a good week regardless of his result against Paire by defeating Calvin Hemery and Constant Lestienne, both of whom knocked out seeds in Nikoloz Basilashvili and Paul-Henri Mathieu before succumbing to Rublev.

Final: I would make Benneteau the favourite against either Paire or Rublev. Paire has shown his form to be consistently inconsistent so far this week against significantly easier opposition than Benneteau. A good week for Rublev but Benneteau is perhaps a step too far at this stage.

ATP Challenger

Dominic Thiem To Return At Marbella Challenger, Joins Wawrinka In Stacked Field

Dominic Thiem will be joining Stan Wawrinka in making his return to action at the Marbella challenger next week.

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Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem (@SK_Tennis - Twitter)

Dominic Thiem will finally make his return to the ATP tour at the Marbella challenger next week.

 

The Austrian hasn’t played a tennis match since retiring at the grass court event in Mallorca last June due to a wrist injury.

Despite being scheduled to play at the Australian Open and at the Indian Wells-Miami swing, Thiem had to postpone his return as he wasn’t quite ready to compete in matches.

However now Thiem has decided to return as he will begin his clay court swing next week at the Marbella Challenger.

The former Roland Garros finalist took to Instagram to announce the news as he looks to climb back up the rankings.

The world number 50 will face tough competition with former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka also making his comeback at the event in Spain next week.

At the blockbuster event there will also be the likes of Holger Rune, Pablo Cuevas, Jaume Munar and Lucas Pouille competing.

The winner of the event will receive 125 ranking points but much more importantly for Thiem and Wawrinka much needed match practice ahead of a busy European clay-court swing.

Thiem will be the top seed while Wawrinka will be unseeded with their being a possibility of the two heavyweights meeting in the opening round.

Play will start on Monday with Jaume Munar being the defending champion.

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ATP Challenger

Roberto Bautista Agut reaches his second career final in Doha

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Roberto Bautista Agut reached the second final of his career at the Qatar Exxon Mobil with a 6-3 6-3 win over defending champion Andrey Rublev. 

 

Bautista Agut broke serve in the fourth game with a forehand winner to open up a 3-1 lead and held on his next service games to close out the first set 6-3 after 29 minutes. 

The Spaniard started the second set with an early break. Rublev broke straight back in the second game and won his next two service games to take a 3-2 lead. Bautista Agut saved two break points to hold serve before getting two consecutive breaks to claim the second set 6-3. 

Rublev was playing his first match this week after two walkovers. The Russian player claimed the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last week. 

“It was very difficult to play tennis today, with the windy conditions, but I put a lot of pressure on his second serve and played really good tennis. I played a long match yesterday against Dominic Thiem, but I felt fresh and I had a lot of power on the court. This is one of my favourite tournaments. I played one of my best matches here in Qatar two years ago, and I hope I can win one more match tomorrow”, said Bautista Agut.

Bautista Agut set up a final against Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-3) 6-1. 

Basilashvili, who beat Roger Federer in the quarter final, rallied from one break down to win the tie-break of the first set 7-3. The Georgian player broke twice in the second and sixth games to close out the second set 6-1.  “To reach the final means a lot. I am playing well and I am relaxed. It’s great to play in front of a crowd and a nice atmosphere”, said Basilshvili. 

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ATP Challenger

Andy Murray defeated in the final of the Biella Challenger

The former world number was runner-up to the Ukrainian Ilya Marchenko. Both will feature in next week’s event in the same location

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Andy Murray - ATP Challenger Biella 2021 (Credit: Felice Calabrò)

Andy Murray suffered a surprising defeat in the final of this week’s tournament in Biella. Playing his second Challenger event in 16 years (the other one occurred in Mallorca in 2019 when, limping on a battered hip, he lost against Matteo Viola in the eighth of finals). Before today’s runner-up finish, he had played twice against his opponent, Illya Marchenko from Ukraine (N.212 in the ATP Rankings), both times at the Australian Open, in 2011 and 2017 respectively, winning both times.

 

But it was the Ukrainian who got off to a flying start, while the Scotsman looked a bit cumbersome and immediately lost his serve, giving a nice boost of confidence to his opponent, who broke his serve once more in the fifth game, taking a 4-1 lead. Murray couldn’t control his changes of pace, while Marchenko was pretty much spotless. The 6-2 score in his favour was the logical consequence, as confirmed by the numbers, which saw him win 83% of points on his first serve (against a meagre 53% for Murray), with no break points allowed.

In the first game of the second set, Marchenko immediately leapt ahead, breaking the Brit’s serve and even earning a chance for a 3-0 lead. Murray managed to stay close and started to play in a more conservative way, with great humility, in an attempt to reduce the number of unforced errors. Murray saved a match point at 3-5 with his second serve, exploiting Marchenko’s clumsiness with the backhand, but couldn’t do the same on the return, conceding defeat at the third match point. must defend with the second. Luckily for him, Marchenko is a bit clumsy in his preparation steps and puts up a not particularly difficult backhand. The former world number one will try to exact revenge in the same location starting tomorrow, as a Challenger 125 will take place once more in Biella, with players like Lorenzo Musetti (the seventh seed), Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ATP N.54) and Sebastian Korda (N.88).

Report by Massimo Gaiba; edited by Tommaso Villa

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