Stefan Kozlov edges Tennys Sandgren for the Columbus title, Luca Vanni defeats young wildcard for Andria win - UBITENNIS
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Stefan Kozlov edges Tennys Sandgren for the Columbus title, Luca Vanni defeats young wildcard for Andria win

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Stefan Kozlov will finish 2016 ranked in the Top 150, and looks well placed for an assault on the Top 100 in 2017(Zimbio.com)

The young Macedonia-born American Stefan Kozlov edged compatriot Tennys Sandgren in the final Challenger of the American hard-court season. The eighteen-year old recovered from a slip in the second set to win 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.

 

Kozlov enjoyed a strong week, winning all of his matches en route to the final in straight sets. He defeated the likes of Jose Statham, Dominik Koepfer, Kevin King and Sam Barry with some ease. Kozlov’s run to the final was made easier as Barry enjoyed a shock quarter-final win over top seed Taylor Fritz. Seventh seed Austin Krajicek, who was in Kozlov’s quarter, lost in the first round to Christian Harrison. As a result, Barry was Kolzov’s toughest match-up in the top half,  though there was ranking gap of more than one hundred places between the two.

Tennys Sandgren also had some luck, as the second seed, Rajeev Ram, was instead replaced by the lucky loser Luke Bambride after Ram’s withdrawal due to tendinitis. Sandgren nevertheless survivied a tough match with Cameron Norrie in the quarters, before overcoming third seed and Champaign titlist Henri Laaksonen in three sets.

Kozlov allowed Sandgren into the final as his level dropped in the secon, surrendering two breaks of serve. The younger man regained his composure in the decider though, breaking twice himself to earn ninety ranking points that will aid his quest to feature in the main draw of the 2017 Australian Open. Sandgren may move into the Top 200 as a result of his runner-up display.

Andria: Luca Vanni took advantage of a number of shocks to win the title in Italy, though it was a close thing against twenty-year old wildcard Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 6-0, 6-3.

Berrettini had accounted for second seed Marco Chiudinelli, former World no. 5 Tommy Robredo and Egor Gerasimov on his way to the final. Vanni though, finally played himself into form, dispatching Aldin Setkic and top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in impressive fashion. Berrettini has this week announced himself as a big server. The twenty year-old  stands at 6’4, and uses his impressive size well, hitting double figures in aces in each of his matches this week, as well as posting a high first serve winning percentage.

Berrettini ran out of steam in the final. After securing a late break in the first set, the wildcard won just three more games as Vanni finished the match well on top

Player of the week: Matteo Berrettini: The Italian scored highly impressive wins on his way to the final, and duly paid back the Andria organisers for his wildcard, a great effort.

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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ATP announces five-week ATP Challenger calendar for 2021

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The ATP has issued a five-week schedule for the start of the 2021 ATP Challenger Tour, which is scheduled to launch on 18th January with a 125-event in Istanbul. The Turkish city celebrates its 31st consecutive year on the Challenger Tour.

 

Turkey will host three consecutive tournaments at the start of the season. Istanbul will host a hard court tournament from 18th January. The tour will move to the seaside town of Antalya, the venue of two clay tournaments on 25th January 2021 and 1st February 2021. 

The week of 25 Januray will be the first of back-to-back Challenger events in Antalya and an indoor hard-court tournament in the French town of Quimper. 

France will host two more indoor tournaments, the 125-level tournament in Orleans (1 February) and the 28th edition of Cherbourg (8 February). 

Cherbourg will be held in the same week as hard-court tournaments in Biella in Italy and Potchefstroom in South Africa. Biella will also host a 125-level tournament in the following week on 15 February. Potchefstroom will host a second consecutive tournament on 15 February. Challenger-level tournaments will feature 32 singles players and qualifying draws with 16 players. 

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