Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Beating Thiem Was Not a One-Time Thing

Challenger Tour Emil Ruusuvuori
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The whole tennis world heard about him last weekend, when in a Davis Cup tie between Finland and Austria, Emil Ruusuvuori defeated the World no. 5 Dominic Thiem. To avid followers of the ATP Challenger Tour, the Finn has been one to watch for at least a month or two.

The 20-year-old started his year with many great results on the ITF World Tennis Tour. Titles at Oslo and Sunderland allowed the Finn to look for his chances at the higher level of the competition, the ATP Challenger Tour.

Rising quickly

Ruusuvuori won just three matches in the first four Challengers he played this season. An event in Fergana, Uzbekistan, was the turning point. The Finn lost just two sets on the way to the title, although it has to be said that the quality of the opposition was not so good. He beat Roberto Cid Subervi in the final 6-3 6-2.

Another big result came over a month later, when Emil reached a clay Challenger final in Augsburg. That path was a lot tougher than in Fergana and contained quality players like Pedro Martinez or Henri Laaksonen. In the championship match, the Finn held three match points on Yannick Hanfmann’s serve but ultimately lost 5-7 in the deciding set.

He managed to produce another stunning run at the Rafa Nadal Open in Mallorca. He went through the week not dropping a single set to players like Yannick Maden, Pedro Martinez and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. In the final, he met Matteo Viola, who defeated Andy Murray earlier in the tournament. Ruusuvuori gave the Italian just one game and won in 51 minutes.

Another fantastic week

He seems to like the events named for Big 4 members, as he was just as good this week at the Murray Trophy in Glasgow. After getting through a nail-biter against Jonathan Mridha, the Finn lost just 16 games in his next four matches. The 6-3 6-1 final over Alexandre Muller lasted just over an hour.

Finland’s new hope

This magical run sees Ruusuvuori advance from the fifth hundred of the ATP ranking to no. 142 on Monday. Finland hasn’t ever had a top player other than Jarkko Nieminen and it’s suddenly looking like the 20-year-old Ruusuvuori might carry a lot of potential.

The Finn has a potent first serve and he’s capable of following it up with attacking play in the forecourt. His control of the ball in baseline rallies is hugely impressive. The backhand is really solid and for example, the way he handled Thiem’s slice, bending his knees really low and looping the forehand, says a lot of good things about his technique.

Ruusuvuori has already pulled out of Orleans Challenger next week. He’s on the entry list for Nur-Sultan in two weeks time, but we’ll see how his plans will shape now that his ranking might allow him to play qualifying in some ATP events.

Other Challenger Tour winners of the week:

Gianluca Mager captured his third Challenger title of the year in Biella, defeating countryman veteran Paolo Lorenzi. Mager beat Jaume Munar and Tommy Robredo on the way to the final. On Monday, he will clinch a career-high ranking of no. 120.

On the verge of dropping out of the top 100, John Millman won his 12th Challenger title in Kaohsiung. The Australian defeated Marc Polmans in the final. The 125 points should allow him to stay for plenty more weeks.

In the third Challenger event played in Columbus this year, Peter Polansky grabbed his fourth career title. The Canadian defeated local hero J.J. Wolf, a standout college player for the Ohio State University. Polansky saved two match points against Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in the quarterfinals.

Danilo Petrovic won his second ATP Challenger title in Sibiu. The 27-year-old Serbian will reach the top 200 in the ATP rankings for the very first time.

And as usual, some Challenger Tour magic:

Roberto Quiroz coming up with his usual hot shot of the week:

Pedro Sousa establishing a new Olympic competition, racquet throw:

And some Ramkumar Ramanathan doubles brilliance:

Next week, Florence and Buenos Aires will host Challenger 80 events on clay. The USA will hold a 100-pointer at Tiburon, while an event of the highest 125 points category will be played indoors at Orleans, France.

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