It is not very often that a player who would be seeded in a Grand Slam opts to take part in a Challenger, but that is the situation that France’s World No.30 Richard Gasquet has found himself in. The former Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist has been bereft of confidence, form, and fitness in 2017.
Having failed to win back-to-back matches since Eastbourne, and having lost in the first rounds of Wimbledon and the US Open, Gasquet has opted to move back to the Challenger circuit in the hopes that he can pick up some wins and much needed confidence. It is the first time that Gasquet has played a Challenger in more than seven years, since winning the Bordeaux event in 2010.
Gasquet got off to a good start in Szczecin by defeating local wildcard Marcel Gawron 6-3, 6-0 in just an hour and six minutes. He will face Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the second round after he beat qualifier Robin Stanek 6-2, 6-3.
Gasquet avoided an upset in a round where a whole host of seeds fell. Veteran Argentine was one such victim, with the 4th seed beaten by America’s Bjorn Fratangelo 6-4, 7-6. 5th seed Marco Cecchinato also failed to win his opener, going down 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to a resurgent Inigo Cervantes. Norway’s Casper Ruud made headlines this time last year by winning the Seville Challenger as a qualifier. The 7th seed made it two first round exits in a row as he lost to Jurgen Zopp. Ruud had retired in the first round of the Seville Challenger last week to Cervantes.
2nd seed Florian Mayer and 8th seed Renzo Olivo only just avoided upsets themselves. Mayer fought past Gleb Sakharov 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, whilst Olivo defeated Salvatore Caruson 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. 6th seed Jerzy Janowicz was the only seed to join Gasquet in a straight sets win, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over qualifier Guillermo Duran.
The Szczecin is amongst the elite of Challenger Tour tournaments, as the purse is worth more than £18,000 for the winner and 125 ATP points.
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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