San Francisco preview: City by the Bay hosts its first Challenger event - UBITENNIS
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San Francisco preview: City by the Bay hosts its first Challenger event

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Young American Frances Tiafoe is the top seed, and is just one of a number of NextGen talents in San Francisco (Zimbio.com)

The third American Challenger of 2017 is underway in San Francisco, and we preview the tournament that features a number of NextGen stars hoping to qualify for the inaugural NextGen finals in Milan at the end of the season.

 

The San Francisco Challenger is a new addition to the circuit, making it’s first appearance in the tennis calendar.

Frances Tiafoe is the top seed, and he faces wildcard Bradley Klahn. Klahn is a wildcard in every sense of the word, having impressed since making his comeback after nearly two years away from the game in October 2016. Some tough wins, and a respectable display in Australian Open qualifying suggest the former Top 100 player is not someone to be dismissed lightly in the draw.

Tiafoe is joined by fellow NextGen hopeful Taylor Fritz. The nineteen year-old had a rather indifferent start to the year, with a first round exit at the Australian Open to Sydney winner Gilles Muller. He rebounded well though to make it to the final of the Dallas Challenger last week, where he fell to top seed Ryan Harrison. Harrison, who moved up to No.62 in the ATP rankings, does not feature in San Francisco.

Elias Ymer, fourth seed Jared Donaldson, and Reilly Opelka are all other players in the draw who could be credited with an interest in NextGen stakes this season.

San Francisco preview (Picks in bold):

(1) Frances Tiafoe vs Bradley Klahn

(WC) Ryan Shane vs Salvatore Caruso

Sekou Bangoura vs Reilly Opelka

Marco Trungelliti vs (7) Vasek Pospisil

(3) Mikhail Kukushkin vs Nikola Milojevic

Michael Mmoh vs Tennys Sandgren

Mackenzie McDonald vs Kimmer Coppejans

Qualifier vs (8) Denis Kudla

(6) Henri Laaksonen vs Matthew Barton

(WC) Ramkumar Ramanathan vs (WC) Marcos Giron

Tim Smyczek vs Qualifier

John-Patrick Smith vs (4) Jared Donaldson

(6) Peter Polansky vs Dennis Novikov

Tatsuma Ito vs Darian King

Elias Ymer vs Qualifier

Qualifier vs (2) Taylor Fritz

  • Matches where qualifiers are yet to be determined have not been selected.
  • My pick of Bradley Klahn to edge top seed Frances Tiafoe stems largely from Tiafoe’s injury last week. He injured his arm during his match with Denis Kudla in the Dallas quarter-finals, and subsequently retired from the doubles where he was due to play with Ryan Harrison. The question remains as to just how much that might trouble him in San Francisco.
  • The same applies to Vasek Pospisil, who was obviously troubled by a knee injury in the Davis Cup. Despite winning two rubbers in a valiant defeat, the Canadian might struggle with the knee in San Francisco, though I have a feeling that he might well retire ahead of the match with Marco Trungelliti.
  • Third seed Mikhail Kukushkin continues to struggle in 2017, so I have selected Nikola Milojevic as my pick for that match-up.

 

 

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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