Launceston Challenger gets underway, Sam Groth forced to withdraw with right abductor injury
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.
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.
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.
Roberto Bautista Agut reaches his second career final in Doha
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.
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
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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