It’s Saturday at the Sao Paulo Challenger, and somehow we are mostly on schedule in this rain-plagued tournament. How about that? As such, there will be two semifinals today. As opposed to, say, four.

The first contest is the decidedly non-marquee matchup between 20-year-old Brazilian qualifier Rafael Camilo and heretofore (and possibly still) anonymous 25-year-old Spaniard Adrian Menendez-Maceiras. But just because this is the semi with the lesser known (if known at all) names in it doesn’t mean this is an insignificant match. Quite the contrary, in fact.

As this is a $100,000 event (near the cream of the crop for the Challenger Tour), to say that this first meeting between the two unseeded semifinalists is a big opportunity would be a huge understatement. Nevermind the extra $3,460 the winner of this match can add to the $5,020 he’s already won this week (although they probably mind it very much); a finalist’s points at this event would see Camilo’s ranking jump from #448 to around #306 (his career high was #433 about a month ago), or send Menendez from #283 to around #238 (his career high was #174 in May of 2008).  Suffice it to say: a lot on the line.  Don’t even need Hawkeye to make that call.

If you’ll recall, Camilo was the guy who withstood second seed Horacio Zeballos’ 21 aces and 2 match points in the 2nd round.  I got to see him in yesterday’s 6-4 6-2 quarterfinal drubbing of Thomas Fabbiano, and I was suitably impressed. Camilo’s got game, y’all.  He’s also got a good bit of a gut (and not the Roberto Busto kind) too. So gutty is he, in fact, his shirt was riding up over the top of it at various intervals during his match.

Bust A Gut

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, he also possesses a very substantial weight of shot; large-and-in-charge serve, hefty forehand, and a backhand that looks shockingly like Robin Soderling’s (if not in quality than certainly in trajectory). I haven’t had a chance to see Menendez play this week (or ever), so I’ll just run with that ignorance and blissfully predict Camilo will score the upset here. After all, the guy’s already 6-0 on the year and has beaten two players even more highly ranked than Menendez-Maceiras this week. And if he wins this match, maybe they’ll even spell his name right during the post-match interview.

The second match is the title fight. The one that sees 7th seed Federico Delbonis try to become the first person to ever beat two-time defending champ and top seed Ricardo Mello at this event. The two have never met before, but I got to see both of their quarterfinal matches yesterday and Mello was by far the more impressive of the two (but if you haven’t yet read about Delbo’s insane win over third seed Joao Souza, do have a read as it was highly entertaining).

Mello just brutally destroyed poor Juan-Pablo Brzezicki in a way that would’ve probably made Rafael Nadal feel better about his match against Nikolay Davydenko yesterday. That is, of course, were he to ever learn of it.

The 20 year-old Argie’s gonna hafta play much better tennis than he did against Souza if he has any chance to unseat Mello, who is very much looking the part of three-peat champion at this event. 

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