Three Week 10 challenger events came to a close on Sunday, each with its share of interesting/feelgood highlights.

First and foremost, Amer Delic made his first return to the challenger winner’s circle in almost 3 years, netting his 6th Challenger title overall when opponent Karol Beck had to retire in the warm-up before the Sarajevo Challenger final, citing a back injury.  Beck had defeated top-seed Grigor Dimitrov in the first round, fifth seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the quarters, and surprise semifinalist Mirza Basic to get the last stage, so it’s a shame that his run had to end so ingloriously.

Still, despite the anticlimactic final, it was a thrilling tournament overall – one that saw two Bosnians (Basic and Delic) reach the semis of their home tourney. And Delic’s thrilling semifinal victory over second seed Nicolas Mahut – saving three match points in a 6-4 1-6 7-6(8) win – provided enough excitement to mitigate the disappointment of a finale unrealized.  Delic’s win will likely land him back in the Top 300, after losing so much time to injury. 

Amer In Red

On a personal level, it’s great to see Amer – one of the game’s nice guys and a terrific ambassador for the sport – playing again at such a high and healthy level.  I know he reached the finals of the Champaign Challenger last year, but I wasn’t able to actually witness it.  So it was great to see (albeit on a stream of questionable quality) him playing great ball this week.

In Kyoto, play persisted despite the tragic events of the earthquake and the tsunami to the northeast.  And it turned out to be a total Teutonic tennistical takeover; six of the eight quarterfinalists, three of the four semifinalists, and three of the four doubles finalists were of the Germanic persuasion.  20-year-old upstart Cedrik-Marcel Stebe took out top-seeded Go Soeda 6-4 6-7(4) 7-6(0) in the semis, but then took his first loss of 2011 (17/0 with two Futures titles on the year up ’til then) at the hands of fifth-seeded compatriot Dominik Meffert, 4-6 6-4 6-2.  It was the 29-year-old’s third career challenger win.  He also teamed up with Landsmann Simon Stadler to take the dubs crown, 7-5 2-6 10-7, over Andre Begemann and James Lemke.  It was a good week to be a German in Kyoto, for sure, but it was an especially good week to be a Meffert.  A good effort.

Interestingly, Stebe and Basic are both former world junior #6’es (combined ranking), making their challenger breakthroughs on the very same week.  A good interview with Stebe can be found at the ITF website here.

Stebe Heat

At the Cachantun Cup in Santiago, things went more according to plan – three of the four top seeds made the semis (Italian Riccardo Ghedin was the unseeded party crasher).  And though fourth seed Eric Prodon temporarily turned the tourn upside down with a shockingly lopsided 6-0 6-1 win over top seed Horacio Zeballos, order was restored in the final when second seed Maximo Gonzalez beat Prodon 7-5 0-6 6-2 to win his 10th career challenger winner’s trophy.  He then partnered with Zeballos to take the doubles title too. 

So that’s Week 10 done then. Stay tuned for the belated and bare-bones five-challenger Week 11 preview – coming soon(ish) to a monitor near you!