Launceston Challenger gets underway, Sam Groth forced to withdraw with right abductor injury - UBITENNIS
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Launceston Challenger gets underway, Sam Groth forced to withdraw with right abductor injury

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Omar Jasika is already underway as he searches for consecutive Challenger titles after his win in Burnie last week (Zimbio.com)

The final Challenger of the Australian swing is under way in Launceston, and already there have been a few major stories to tell.

 

Omar Jasika picked up his maiden title last week in Burnie, and would have hope for a easy-ish first round draw. That was not the case, as he instead faced the man he beat in the Burnie semi-finals in Dmitry Popko. Fortunately for Jasika, the end result was the same, as he beat the Kazakh in straight sets 63 75, improving on the up-and-down performance he delivered in the Burnie semi-finals.

In other early matches, Mitchell Krueger scored a good win, knocking out eighth seed and Burnie semi-finalist Akira Santillan 64 75.The American was impressive when facing break points, saving nine from ten faced.

A blow for the draw occurred before Daniel Nguyen’s match, as his scheduled opponent fifth seed Sam Groth was forced to withdraw with a right abductor injury. Nathan Pasha was moved up as a lucky loser replacement. Nguyen took full advantage of his fortune, defeating Pasha 76 76.

Italian Riccardo Bellotti was another beneficiary of seeded misfortune, as second seed Jan Satral was forced to retire with Bellotti leading 62 31.

Satral, Santillan, and Groth continue the exodus of seeds in the first round, as they join third seed Jason Jung as early departures, with out-of-form top seed Go Soeda still yet to face young talent Alex de Minaur.

There were early wins for Alex Bolt, Christopher O’Connell, sixth seed Mohamed Safwat, Maverick Banes (over Jung), and Tsung-Hua Yang.

The early defeats for seeds have opened up the draw, in particular the bottom half, as no seed is still in the bottom quarter following the withdrawal of Groth and the retirement of Satral. It offers the likes of Daniel Nguyen and Max Purcell to perhaps make a run to the quarter-finals.

Third quarter seeds Noah Rubin and Andrew Whittington might fancy their chances of making the final after seeing the higher-ranked Satral fall so early.

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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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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