Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Vasek Pospisil’s Serving Masterclass

Vasek Pospisil Challenger Tour
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Former world #25 Vasek Pospisil took home his eighth ATP Challenger Tour title in Las Vegas. The Canadian had to go through herniated disc surgery in January and thus did not start his season until Wimbledon. But his comeback really kicked off in the Autumn as he beat ninth seed Karen Khachanov at the US Open before reaching the third round as a qualifier at the Shanghai Masters. An important aspect of his recent successes has been his serving. When the Canadian is able to maintain a high first-serve percentage and regularly bring his forehand into play early in the rally, he can be a real force.

The Canadian went unbroken through his first four matches in Shanghai, with some superb serving performances. In upsetting Diego Schwartzman, he won every point behind his first serve, whilst he dropped just three after landing his first delivery against Joao Sousa. Eventual champion Daniil Medvedev brought Pospisil back to earth, but the Russian has only lost to Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios since Wimbledon, and Pospisil gave him a real test.

What happens in Vegas…

His serve was once again in full flight in Las Vegas. Broken just once, in his second service game of the week against Michael Mmoh, Pospisil won his next three matches against Peter Polansky, Mitchell Krueger and Taro Daniel without facing a single breakpoint.

Aussies Christopher O’Connell and James Duckworth provided a much sterner challenge. The latter even managed to break back in both sets, taking the second to a tie-break. In fact, Pospisil nearly threw victory away in the final, blowing five match points including two on his own serve, allowing Duckworth to take it 13 points to 11 to send the match into a decider.

Pospisil’s forehand on-the-run pass on one of the match points landed just an inch out wide:

In the third, Pospisil, never known for his stamina, looked to be struggling physically and Duckworth was turning the screw. But in the seventh game of the decider, the Canadian was able to save a breakpoint, getting out of trouble with some more big serving. That proved to be the high water mark of Duckworth’s challenge, with Pospisil then breaking serve in a run of three-straight games won to claim a hard-fought 7-5 6-7 6-3 win.

The 29-year-old was a quarterfinalist in Antwerp last year and will thus only jump 23 ranking spots after his Las Vegas win. However, his recent performances suggest that if he can stay healthy, Pospisil can still do damage at the highest level. The 29-year-old isn’t signed up for any tournament in the next two weeks. But the versatile Pospisil, a former-Wimbledon doubles champion, should be able to get a spot on the Canadian team for the Davis Cup Finals, particularly as Milos Raonic continues to struggle.

Other Challenger Tour winners of the week:

Yasutaka Uchiyama turned out to be the best of the field in Ningbo. The Japanese defeated Canadian Steven Diez 6-1 6-3 in the championship match. That win will see the 27-year-old make his debut in the top 100 on Monday. Uchiyama won a Challenger event in Shanghai last month and recently had a great run to the quarterfinals of the Japan Open. He qualified for the event defeating Steve Johnson and Marcel Granollers, before upsetting Benoit Paire and Radu Albot in the main draw. On the way to the title in Ningbo, he surrendered just one set, to second seed Bradley Klahn.

In one of only three Challenger Tour events played on carpet, Lukas Lacko took down Maxime Cressy. It was the Slovakian’s 13th title at this level and first since he won last year’s Murray Trophy in Glasgow. Lacko survived a marathon semifinal against Julian Lenz, saving three match points in the deciding tie-break to win 6-3 3-6 7-6(10). But the final lasted only 50 minutes and ended with Lacko reeling off nine straight games. Cressy is a rare example of a serve-and-volley specialist, but his serve failed him in the final, with Lacko breaking to take a 5-3 lead in the first set and dominating thereafter.

The magic:

Davidovich Fokina reacting to the trendy tactics:

That’s some distraction at Las Vegas:

…stays in Vegas:

Events held next week (21 October – 27 October):

  • Brest Challenger (Challenger 100)
  • Latrobe City Traralgon ATP Challenger (Challenger 80)
  • Tennis Challenger Hamburg (Challenger 80)
  • Lima Challenger (Challenger 80)
  • Liuzhou Open (Challenger 80)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Ugo Humbert, Roberto Carballes Baena, Thomas Fabbiano, Corentin Moutet, Jaume Munar (Brest Challenger)
  • Yasutaka Uchiyama (Latrobe City Traralgon ATP Challenger)
  • Salvatore Caruso (Tennis Challenger Hamburg)
  • Marco Cecchinato, Leonardo Mayer, Thiago Monteiro (Lima Challenger)
  • Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Liuzhou Open)

Main photo:
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