The fields were whittled* down to the quarterfinalists in this week’s three challenger events. Let’s take a look at who was able to pass muster (hint: it wasn’t Thomas).
Monza – It’s been hard for me to get a handle on any definitive general trends taking place at this event, other than the fact I get “The Monster Mash” stuck in my head every time I think about it – which is more annoying than it is trendy.
I mean, three Germans made the quarterfinals – does that count for anything? It may, but as general trends go, it’s lukewarm at best. I guess I’ll just have to examine results here on a more case-by-case basis. Which sounds awfully labor intensive, but whatever.
The top half of the draw features one of them Germans, ninth seed Simon Greul, who beat unseeded Italian Andrea Arnaboldi 76(2) 63 to advance. Greul is the only remaining seed in the top half, and he wasn’t even meant to be seeded in the first place (erstwhile fifth seed Andreas Haider-Maurer withdrew with a right knee problem, so the seeds were all re-jiggered). Which means: the top of this draw is mild sauce, y’all. But also means: a big opportunity for one of the four remaining topside. Let’s meet them! *cues Dating Game theme song*
Guillermo Olaso is a 23-year-old Spaniard who’s currently ranked #205, who – with a win against Gruel – could very close to his career high of #193 (which he achieved when he made the final of the Meknes Challenger in February). According to a friend of mind on the Twitter, Olaso plays exactly like Rafael Nadal, only right-handed. And lower-level. And more inconsistent. But, you know. He lost 1 and 2 to Greul in their only previous meeting, but that was three years ago.
Whoa, that tired me out. I don’t think I wanna do introductions like that for Italian 33-year-old Alessio di Mauro or 24-year-old Austrian Martin Fischer, save to say their ages, nationalities and that they’ve never played. I premise to do a better profile of the guy who comes out the victor in this one, OK? (my money’s on Crivoi)
The bottom half of the draw features players who need less of an introduction. Former 33rd-ranked player in the world Andreas Beck continues his comeback from a bad back, taking out sixth seed Lukasz Kubot 7-5 7-6(6) in very circuitous fashion, having led 3-0 in both sets and having served for the match at 5-1 and 5-3 in the 2nd set. But a win’s a win, and now he’ll face The Turkish Delight, 4th seed Marsel Ilhan – a 6-2 7-6(4) winner over Victor Crivoi – in the quarters. It will be their first meeting.
Andi Beck Does The Monza Mash
Federico Delbonis will be kicking himself that he’s not in the QF’s, as he led seventh seed Julian Reister a set and a break, and led 5-2* in the second set breaker before going down 6-4 6-7(7) 1-6, his spirit all but broken in that third set, for all the opportunities missed. Reister will play Casablanca Challenger champ Evgeny Donskoy, winner of 15 of his last 16 matches, thanks in part to the 20-year-old Russian’s 6-2 7-5 victory over big French lefty qualifier Kenny de Schepper in round two here. It will be their first meeting as well.
Recife – Now this is a tourney that has the common decency to provide me with a good general trend into which I can sink my narrative-demanding teeth. You see: a tournament that started very well for the home favorites continues through the second round; though Brazilians accounted for “only” just over half the main draw (17 of 32) spots, they comprise 6 of 8 quarterfinalists, upping their percentage considerably. Four of these six reside in the top half of the draw, meaning (I’m pretty sure) that a Brazilian finalist is guaranteed.
You may recall the Brazilian young guns, Guilherme Clezar, Tiago Fernandes, Bruno Sant’Anna, Jose Pereira, and Christian Lindell (via Sweden), making a big impact in round one. In the top quarter, at least, that success continued. The 18-year-old wildcard Clezar put a 6-1 6-3 beating on someone ranked 439 spots higher, Russia’s Ilya Belyaev. And 18-year-old Fernandes won a closer-than-I-anticipated battle against his friend, 17-year-old Sant’Anna 7-6(5) 6-4, in which “Bolinho” served for the first set but couldn’t close it out despite having two set points.
Smooth operator Sant’anna (photo credit: Nelson Oliveira)
So that sets up a battle of 18-year-old Brazilian wildcards, who – oh, by the way – got to quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the semis of the US Open (Boys, that is) playing doubles together last summer. They never met in the juniors, but Clezar holds a 1-0 edge in the “pros” (winning 6-3 6-2 at the ’09 Brazil F25 when they were both merely 17). One of them is now guaranteed a semifinal spot here – exciting!
For his part, Pereira put up a good fight against 3rd seed Giovanni Lapentti before losing 2-6 6-2 4-6. Lindell didn’t fare quite so well against friend and training partner, fifth seeded Ricardo Hocevar, succumbing 1-6 1-6.
Which leaves us with mostly crafty veterans, most of them seeded. And Brazilian, of course. Fourth seed Julio Silva (a 6-4 4-2 ret. winner over Gastao Elias, who slept wrong and woke up with a sore neck) meets 7th seed Caio Zampieri (6-2 6-4 over Timo Nieminen) in one all-Brazilian QF (H2H 1-0 Silva). Unseeded Brazilian Andre Ghem will play Lapentti (H2H 1-0 Ghem in ’06), and Hocevar meets second seed Tatsuma Ito (H2H 1-0 Ito).
Pereira – The second round saw a massive attenuation of seeded players, as Alejandro Falla, Eduardo Schwank, Joao Souza, Eric Prodon, and Diego Junqueira – the #1, 2, 3, 4 and 6th seeds, respectively – joined 8th seed Leonardo Mayer on the seeded sidelines by the time the quarters were set.
This seed hemorrhage leaves a number of young talents poised to possibly pounce. 21-year-old Barranquilla Challenger champ Facundo Bagnis was the Falla feller, and he’ll face fifth seed Paolo Lorenzi in the quarterfinals (the Italian was a 5-7 6-4 6-4 winner over Sebastian Decoud in a tidy three hours, seven minutes and 35 seconds). They’ve split their two previous meetings, with Facu winning their most recent encounter in the Barranquilla quarters. Bagnis already entered the tourney sitting on a career high ranking at #190, and – having no points to defend – any win he gets will send him ever closer to the Top 150.
Another 21-year-old Argie, qualifier Marco Trungelliti, will meet one of the two Colombians remaining in the draw, 24-year-old Juan Sebastian Cabal (the Souza slayer). Both are perilously close to their career high rankings as well, and likely have already via achieved new ones vis a vis their quarterfine showings here.
The other Colombian, 20-year-old Eduardo Struvay, was a surprise 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2 winner over Prodon, a finalist in the Santiago Challenger last month. He’ll meet Brazilian (wait, what? Why isn’t he in Recife?) seventh seed, Rogerio Dutra da Silva in their quarter. RDDS holds a 2-1 head-to-head edge, but Struvay took the most recent showdown, 6-2 7-6(0) in Bogota July 2010.
Finally, we have 19-year-old Spaniard Javier Marti, who won one of the strangest matches of the second round when Schwank just walked off the court with seemingly nothing wrong with him, at 3-all deuce, after Marti had smacked a backhand down-the-line winner. We to the eared. Marti will face Junqueira vanquisher, 25 year-old Italian Riccardo Ghedin. T’will be their first on-court scuffle.
*can one whittle fields? A: one can if they’re wooded! #rimshot