While I was living the good life at the Tallahassee Challenger, the three Week Fourteen tourneys managed to come to a close without me. Let’s see how they did.

I see that Monza took the Teutonic mini-trend idea I floated in my midview and ran with it throughout quarterfinal Friday. All the Germans who played? Won. Ninth seed Simon Greul thrashed Meknes finalist Guillermo Olaso 6-2 6-1, Andreas Beck beat fourth seeded Marsel Ilhan 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1, and seventh seed Julian Reister ousted Casablanca champ Evgeny Donskoy 6-1 6-2.

The only spoiler in the semifinal lineup was Marrakech semifinalist Alessio di Mauro, who edged Martin Fischer 7-6(8) 4-6 6-4. But that’s OK – Fischer’s Austrian, so it wasn’t a true trend spoiler. Plus that’s di Mauro’s natural role anyway, that of the spoiler. He spoils every event he plays, simply by entering it, haha. (I kid because I love.)

In the semis, di Mauro (whose name is Italian for “The Spoiler”, I’m pretty sure) continued his spoiling ways, defeating Greul 6-4 2-6 6-2. Now, some might argue that this pleased the home crowd greatly, the Italian doing well in Monza. But I’m in no mood to argue. Reister squeaked past Beck 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1 in the other SF.

And so it was up to Reister to dash the Italian hopes and avenge his fallen Austrio-German comrades in the final. And dash and avenge he did, serving up a cold comeback win, 2-6 6-3 6-3 over the 33-year-old former Top 70 player. In doing so, the 25-year-old Reister arrives in the Top 100 for the very first time in his career, checking in at #100.

In the doubles final, third seeds Fred “The Perry” Nielsen and Johan “The Bruni” Brunstrom beat the fourth-seeded British pair of Jamie Delgado and Jonathan Marray 5-7 6-2 10-7. Freddie’s now at a career high #108 in dubs after floating around the Top 200 for a good four year or so.

Freddie and Bruni star in “The Italian Job”

In Recife, 18-year-old wild card Tiago Fernandes tried to extend the wave of homegrown Brazilian talent all the way through the final. In a battle of 18-year-old wild cards, he beat his friend and former junior dubs partner, Guilherme Clezar, 6-4 3-6 7-6(3) in what was, by all accounts, an epic encounter indeed. Clezar served for the match and a 2-0 H2H advantage. Instead, Fernandes’ victory evened up their head-to-head tally at one win apiece. “It was one of the best matches of my life,” said the winner (in Portuguese), “We both played at a very high level and a tie would be a fair result today.”

In the other quarterfinals, the three older Brazilians (two of them seeded) couldn’t do what Fernandes could. Seventh seed Caio Zampieri lost his quarterfinal 6-3 3-6 2-6 to fourth-seeded countryman Julio Silva, which set up a semifinal match with a 13.5 year age discrepancy vs. Tiago. 25-year-old fifth seed Ricardo Hocevar was beaten 4-6 6-1 6-1 by second seed Tatsuma Ito, while 28-year-old Andre Ghem was handed a 4&4 defeat by third seed Giovanni Lapentti.

That’s when things got weird. And rainy. But mostly weird. In the rain-delayed Fernandes v Silva semi, Silva won the first set 6-2, and Tiago was asking for a medical time out for back pain when the rains came again and moved play indoors to a different court surface!

Once they got on indoor clay instead of an outdoor hard court, the 18-year-old turned the match around, winning 2-6 7-5 7-6(2). In the other semi, Ito prevailed over Lapentti 7-6(7) 6-3.

And then, in another strange twist, Tiago withdrew from the final – the young man citing exhaustion after two lengthy battles – making Ito the Recife titlist via walkover. He tweeted his anticlimactic concession, and added (in Portuguese), “`Tiredness is too great and prefer not to run the risk of suffering a major injury going into court without being able to play. I regret, because I wanted to play my very first final, but I’m young and I believe I will have other opportunities to fight for titles.” A bit of a sad end to a great tournament for him, but he did jump from ATP #509 right into the Top 400 on the strength of his epic week. As for Ito, he not only moved up to a career high #135 on the strength of his third career Challenger title win, but also earned a place into the 2012 Brazil Open, should he desire to play there.

And though he may be currently stinking up the singles court of late, the formerly unbeatable Fernando Romboli was able to team up with Giovanni Lapentti and take the doubles crown here, unseating the second seeded Finns Juho Paukku and Timo Nieminen in the second round and romping over the top seeds Andre Ghem and Rodrigo Guidolin in the final, 6-2 6-1.

When last we checked in on Pereira, a massive attenuation of seeds #1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 through the first two rounds saw youngsters like Argies Facundo Bagnis and Marco Trungelliti, Colombian Eduardo Struvay and Spanish sensation Javier Marti poised to possibly pounce. So how did they fare?

Well, one fared well and the others just had to say “farewell.” Marti was the only young gun to not draw a blank in his quarterfinal, getting into the semis by virtue of a 6-3 6-3 win over Italian Riccardo Ghedin. Meanwhile, fifth seed Paolo Lorenzi bagged Bagnis 6-3 6-1, 24 year-old Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal clipped Trungelliti 3-6 6-4 6-4, and seventh seeded Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Da Silva – not playing Recife for reasons I do not know – stopped Struvay’s S&V show 6-4 6-2.

One of my Challenger Tennis Players to Watch this year, Marti (accent on the “i”) almost carried his momentum into the final, leading 5-3 in the third set against RDDS before losing the last four games and succumbing 6-1 2-6 5-7 to the only Brazilian not in Recife. On the other side of the draw, Lorenzi took out the last remaining home hope, clobbering Cabal 6-0 6-4.

All that was left for the 29-year-old Italian to do was win 6-2 7-5 in the final and hoist a glass thing over his head. Which he did.

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