That’s right – I went a whole week without writing about Challengers. I severely underestimated the time it would take to get settled in my new dwelling, and even was without internet for two days. So sue me!

But before you do that, just remember: you get what you pay for (and this site is, I’m pretty sure, free). That said, since I’m feeling guilty/generous/ridiculous, if you’re not completely delighted with this article, just say so in the comments and I’ll give you a rebate of half your money back. Such a deal!

So here’s what happened in Challengertown this week:

Quimper

The big 23-year-old Frenchman, Kenny De Schepper, who’s name means (loosely) “Kenny the Schlepper” in English, schlepped his way all the way to the finals, but lost a close one to eighth-seeded David Guez, who’s now 8/1 after escaping from Reunion Island (as you may recall, he came back to his rain-delayed match against Mathieu Rodrigues and didn’t win any of the last 10 games, losing 7-5 0-6 0-6 in that ill-fated event).

And much as I want to exclaim, “He killed Kenny!” all South Park-style, the truth is the final was quite close; Guez didn’t kill him at all. The Schepper was broken in the not-very-crucial seventh game of the third set, but he broke back in the more-crucial eighth game. Guez was forced to hold from down 4-5 and 5-6 in the third set to force an eventual tiebreak, which he had to win from 6-5* after blowing two match points on his own serve.

It was Guez’s’z’s third career Challenger victory. With his win here, he’ll move back up to about #160 in the world rankings – up from his current 198 but still well off his career high of of 116 in July last year, following his triumph at the Arad Challenger.

Quimper Challenger Champion David Guez Speaks To The Media About His Harrowing Escape From Reunion Island

Also, it should be noted, it was de Schepper’s first Challenger main draw ever. And even though he didn’t have to face a seed until the semis (Ludovic Walter beat top seeded Nicolas Mahut in his eighth of the draw), Kenny did bust sixth seed Roberto Bautista-Agut’s gut 6-4 7-6(1) in said semis. As a reward for his heretofore unprecedented success, he’ll blow past his career high of #372 and move up into the Top 300 from his current 390 perch (just ahead of Juan Martin Del Potro, as a matter of fact). But let the record show: this site was one of the first to do a definitive de Schepper profile, as we were there for his first pro title win.

Speaking of Mathieu Rodgrigues, by the way (which I was doing in the opening paragraph): in the quarterfinals Kenny had to De Schlepp his way over the very pal (i.e. Rodrigues) who had made him laugh during the trophy ceremony of his UK F1 Glasgow victory. What a nasty business this tennis racket can be, eh?

Also worth noting:

Nice to see that new blogging superstar (although he’s no Harri Heliovaara yet) Amir Weintraub was back with a badly-needed win this week. I guess having a coach with him this week is making that little bit of a difference. And 28-year-old Canadian Brown grad Adil Shamasdin continues to have a ridiculous amount of success on the doubles court. The guy is seriously the most unheralded player, comparatively, to the amount of damage he does weekly on a tennis court.

In winning the Quimper dubs title with American partner James Cerretani, he’s now made 12 Challenger doubles finals in the last 15 months, with 6 different partners, winning 4 of them (finals, not partners). Not to mention he and Cerretani also won an ATP title last week in Jo’burg. I got to see him play with Vasek Pospisil at the Dallas Challenger last year, and I was seriously impressed. It genuinely bothers me that he doesn’t get more attention in the tennis world. Guess I’ll have to do my next “Spotlight On” profile about Adil…

Bergamo

Fun fact: you can’t spell the words “boring” or “Bergamo” without the letters “b”, “o”, “r” and “g”. That’s too much of a correlation to be mere coincidence. And the fact that they share the word “Borg” in common? Proof that there’s a god. (Please note: I have no idea what I’m talking about here.)

Everything happened at this tournament that was supposed to happen. The top seed, Italian wildcard Andreas Seppi (who is neither wild nor a card, discuss), won 3-6 6-3 6-4, beating Gilles Muller, who lost yet another final (his third of the young year). Simone Bolelli lost in the first round. *yawwwn* *zzzzzzz*

Muller wins!  Before he ultimately loses, that is.

Actually, I’m lying about the whole “boring” thing just so I’d have something else to write about besides “so-and-so beat so-and-so, 6-something 6-something.” (Yes, I am that shameless.) Some interesting things did happen this tourney. Such as (and certainly limited to):

Thomas “Pim Pim” Johansson winning a match over Andi Beck and then almost getting assaulted on court by the bugging-out Bergamo announcer guy after losing to Dieter Kindlmann in the second round (Crazy Announcer Man aka CAM wanted to give him a “welcome back to tennis” gift as poor Double Pim just wanted to get off court and thus pretended not to hear him as he tried to get away).

The Dominator Dominik Hrbaty, unretired for the 18th time, won a round before losing to the not-too-scary (per Dimi Kutrovsky) Uladzimir Ignatik. Esteemed Estonian Jurgen Zopp was unzoppable until he ran into Muller in the semis. And Alexander Kudryavtsev made the semis in both the singles and the dubs before retiring in the former and withdrawing in the latter. Dubs champ (with Ken Skupski) Freddie Nielsen seems to think Alex will be OK, though. And before you feel too sorry for him, know that Kudry will reach a WATCH List-worthy 141ish when the new rankings come out. Oh, and let the record show, Dr. Nielsen also enjoyed CAM’s antics this week. I think.

Caloundra

One of “my Slovens” (I’ve been a supporter of the Slovenian next wave, including Blaz Kavcic, Blaz Rola, Luka Gregorc and the Bedene twins for a while now), sixth seeded Grega Zemlja, went to Australialand and stole the title from one of its very favorite native sons, seventh seeded Bernard Tomic, 7-6(4) 6-3. In this respect, the 24-year-old was kind of like a sparrow stealing a nest from a poor martin bird, pushing the martin’s young to the ground. Will Tomic be reborn, phoenix-like, as a starling in Delray Beach and get some revenge on Grega? (Warning: mixed aviary metaphor.)  Hell if I know. I just like writing goofy opening paragraphs about Challenger tournaments.

What I do know: this is Zemlja’s second career Challenger crown (adding to his win at the Abierto Internacional Varonil Ciudad de Cancun (aka the Cancun Challenger) at the end of 2008) and his sixth Challenger final. With his victory, he’ll move back up to around #137 in the world, a bit of a ways off his high of 111; but he doesn’t have too many points to defend until Roland Garros in May, and with the way Grega’s been playing, expect him to possibly join Kavcic in the Top 100 later this year. I used to say Slovenia was the next Serbia. Not sure I’d go that far anymore, but I still wouldn’t want to play them in Davis Cup (their Group I R1 against Finland is an instant classic in the making).

Other quick shots from Caloundra. My favorite picture:

See If You Can Spot “The Real Australian”

My favorite article text about the above picture:

“Aussies Brydan Klein, Matt Ebden and Greg Jones also joined Ball on the first round winner’s list.  Klein beat Nick Lindahl 6-3 7-5…” (Leaves no doubt who the Real Australian is, does it?)

And finally, My favorite tweet from the event.

p.s. Singles semifinalist (l. Tomic) Matty Ebden and Sam Groth (l. R1 to Scrabble-and-thai enthusiast John Millman) won the doubles title, and then Qantas lost Samuel’s luggage. Ah well.

Oh yeah. Speaking of Thai, should I talk about Danai Udomchoke’s quarterfinal upset of top-seed Marinko Matosevic in this article? Nah – certain loyal readers wouldn’t like that too much….

Any questions?

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