There was a number of shocks in the San Francisco Challenger first round on Tuesday, as a group of favoured players failed to make it out of the first round.
Taylor Fritz was undoubtedly the highest-profile casualty, as the second seed and NextGen star lost in three sets to Chinese qualifier Zhe Zhang 64 46 62.
It was a good day for qualifiers overall as three of the four won, with the only defeat coming in a valiant three set display.
Eric Quigley is a player built in a similar mould to Tim Smyczek, a supremely hard worker. Yet Smyczek is horribly out-of-form, and Quigley was able to secure a massive win 63 46 75 in one hour and forty-three minutes.
Young Canadian Bryden Schnur continued the trend, knocking out Elias Ymer 76 64. Raymond Sarmiento was the only unsuccessful qualifier in the first round, but he still gave a very creditable performance in a 67 61 64 defeat to Denis Kudla.
There was another disappointing defeat for an American seed, as Jared Donaldson went down 63 76 to John-Patrick Smith. Donaldson has really struggled this year, having lost in the first round of the Australian Open, and in Maui immediately after.
Top seed Frances Tiafoe managed to put his injuries woes from Dallas behind him, as he beat wildcard Bradley Klahn 64 64. There was a big win for former NCAA champion Ryan Shane, as the wildcard beat Salvatore Caruso in straight sets 76 64.
Marco Trungelliti failed to match his quarter-final run from Dallas, as the Argentinian fell to seventh seed Vasek Pospisil 76 36 64. It was an excellent effort from Pospisil, who was clearly hurt during Canada’s unsuccessful Davis Cup clash with Great Britain over the weekend. Pospisil will face a tough task in the second round, as he faces 6’11 American Reilly Opelka, who defeated Sekou Bangoura 63 64.
There were no problems for fifth seed Henri Laaksonen, as the Swiss cruised through 64 63 over Australian Matthew Barton. Sixth seed Peter Polansky was also successful after smashing the badly out-of-form Dennis Novikov 62 62.
Mackenzie McDonald might have been the last direct acceptance to this event, but the reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion proved he was worth his spot in the draw as he comfortably beat Kimmer Coppejans 62 62.
There was also wins for Michael Mmoh and Mikhail Kukushkin.
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
ATP announces five-week ATP Challenger calendar for 2021
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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