In the grand tradition that I’ve taken great care to establish, I will be doing this week’s challenger tournament previews after all of the first rounds are completed. Hey – why mess with a winning formula? So herein follows your Week 14
Monza, Italy (Red Clay, 30K Euro + hospitality) – The top three seeds here? Czech Republic’s Jan Hajek, Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr and another Czech, Jaroslav Pospisil. But don’t get too excited about them, because they all lost in the first round. That’s right. It’s true. Alessio di Mauro beat Hajek 6-2 6-4, Kenny de Schepper knocked out Gremelmayr 6-2 7-5, and Guillermo Olaso popped Pospisil 2-6 6-2 6-4. Hello and goodbye. Sorry, but you got Monza mashed. So Turkish delight Marsel Ilhan is now the highest seed remaining (#4, in case you’ve lost count). And the highest seed left in the top half of the drawis ninth-seeded Simon Greul. Lord help us.
Not pictured: screaming local schoolchildren
43-year-old wildcard Thomas Muster made the latest in his series of possibly misguided attempts to rejoin the ATP tour, losing 5-7 2-6 to David Guez. The Austrian lefty is now 1/10 in his comeback venture (poor Borut Puc, who is the only one to suffer the ignominy of a loss), but bless him for trying. Really. While he’s out there fighting, I’m sitting on my ass writing – I have no grounds on which to criticize him. Other than that he’s old and hopeless, haha. (Kidding!) (Possibly.)
19-year-old Laurynas Grigelis Mustered up his own version of the Monza Mash, as another wild card got smashed – Challenger Tennis Player To Watch Evgeny Donskoy beat him 6-1 6-2. I’m not sure if Big Grig’s still carrying around remnants of the awful injury that saw him writhing on the court in Davis Cup, because that’s a surprisingly one-sided victory, I feel. That said, Donskoy has won 14 of his last 15 matches, having just won the Casablanca Challenger. So maybe he’s playing lights out. I dunno, I didn’t see it.
Anywho, the bottom half of the draw is as strong as the top half is weak. The second round matches are all very tasty-seeming: sixth seed Lukasz Kubot takes on un(der)seeded Andreas Beck, the former Top 40 player who’s still coming back from a bad back; Ilhan takes on Victor Crivoi, the former Top 75’er who still can be a bit of a tough out; seventh seed Julian Reister takes on the up-and-coming Argentinian 20-year-old Federico Delbonis; and Donskoy takes on De Schepper. All excellent entrees, in my estimation.
Recife, Brazil (Hard Courts, $35K + hospitality) – Nevermind the seeds, it’s the young Brazilian guns who are the story of this tournament thus far. 17-year-old wildcard Bruno Sant’Anna, the world junior #14, kicked things off by getting his first ever win as a pro over the formerly unbeatable sixth seed Fernando Romboli, who is now altogether too beatable – he’s lost his last three matches, dating back to the BUCARAMANGA final in January. Sant’Anna will play his friend and rival, the former #1-ranked junior Tiago Fernandes, in the second round. According to this article, the two have known each other since they were ten years old.
Tiago Fernandes During His First Round Win (photo: Nelson Oliveira)
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Guilherme Clezar – the former world junior #13 – took out top seed Marco Chiudinelli 6-4 2-2 ret. (or maybe Chiudinelli took himself out, is possibly a better way to put it). The 29-year-old Swiss was playing his first event since Heilbronn in January, but he couldn’t make it through. Clezar, incidentally, played junior dubs with none other than Tiago Fernandes; together, they made the quarters of Wimbledon and the semis of the US Open, back in the day (i.e. last summer).
Guilherme Clezar (photo credit: Marcelo Ruschel/Poa Press)
20-year-old Jose Pereira, the elder statesman of the bunch, made it through qualifying and defeated another 18-year-old Brazilian wildcard, Augusto Laranja, 6-1 7-5 to advance to the second round. Pereira was once the #4 junior in the world, and he too played junior dubs at Roland Garros with Tiago Fernandes. What a two-timing doubular gadabout that lad is. Pereira will play third seed Giovanni Lapentti in Round Two.
Lastly, 19-year-old Christian Lindell (yes, I know he’s still Swedish, but he’s still socially and culturally Brazilian in a lot of peoples’ minds, including probably his), came back from *2-4 down in the final set to beat countryman Andre Miele 6-2 6-7(4) 6-4. Lindell will play his friend and training partner, fifth seed Ricardo Hocevar in the second round.
So how excited would you be right now if you were the tournament director here? Wow. Talk about capturing lightning in a bottle. You can view it all for yourself here and here (the combo draw and the daily schedule of play – not lightning or even the bottle. Sorry to disappoint). Also disappointing: no streams.
And the final of the three challengers this week is…
Pereira, Colombia (Red Clay, $50,000 plus hospitality) – Pretty much all of the top seeds made it through the first two days of play (BORING!), with only two exceptions: 1) eighth seed Leonardo Mayer, who got beat 6-3 4-6 6-4 by qualifying Argie countryman Marco Trungelliti and 2) second seed Eduardo Schwank, who’s been pushed to Day Three (and set three) by Britain’s James Ward, after they split sets today and play was called due to darkness.
Alejandro Falla, Joao Souza, Eric Prodon, Paolo Lorenzi, Diego Junqueira, and Rogerio Dutra da Silva – aka the #1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 seeds, respectively – all remain. As does last week’s Barranquilla champ Facundo Bagnis (he plays top-seeded Falla in the second round) and Challenger Tennis Player To Watch Javier Marti, a 6-0 6-0 first round drubber of overmatched sixteen-year-old Argentinian wildcard Manuel Barros.