Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Majchrzak Finds Resurgence on Clay

The series of Challenger events in the Czech Republic is over, Aslan Karatsev pulled out this time around and some other players got a chance to shine. Meanwhile, Aix en Provence Challenger was delayed by lots of rain throughout the week and ultimately, both the quarterfinals and semifinals had to be played on the same day. Next week, there’ll be just one ATP Challenger Tour event taking place as the tour heads to Romania for two consecutive events in Iasi and Sibiu.

Prostejov

Kamil Majchrzak won his third Challenger Tour title (St. Brieuc and Ostrava 2019), following a brilliant 6-2 7-6 win over top-seeded Pablo Andujar. The Pole was injured just before the pandemic break and as it coincided with a worse period in his career, it was the first time he won consecutive matches in a professional event since Antwerp 2019. In the summer, Majchrzak played three Lotos PZT Polish Tour events on clay, winning two of them. The only game he dropped was at the Polish National Championships to Daniel Michalski (ATP 434). The return to clay following a failed campaign at the Western & Southern Open and the US Open turned out to be a remedy for his struggles.

In the semifinals, he went against Jiri Lehecka, an 18-year-old Czech wildcard, who was once the eleventh junior in the world. The Czech’s hyper-aggressive game was good enough to take a set off Majchrzak, which turned out to be the only one he lost all week. The aforementioned Andujar was going really strong as well, pulling out beatdowns against class opponents like Jozef Kovalik or Stefano Travaglia. The veteran never really seemed in control in the final though, as Majchrzak mixed up the game off the ground nicely and did well at choosing the right moment to go for a big shot. Staying for the weekend in Prostejov forced Majchrzak to pull out of qualifying for the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome. Picking up his third Challenger Tour title sees him come back to the top 100 of the ATP Rankings on Monday.

Aix en Provence

It was a great run for the 20-year-old Thiago Seyboth Wild, the 2018 US Open juniors champion. Just before the pandemic, the Brazilian captured his maiden ATP title in Santiago and was expected to be one of the most exciting prospects in the upcoming clay-court season. It didn’t work out because of reasons not dependent on him, but Seyboth Wild is back in great shape. On the way to the final, the Brazilian upset third seed Gianluca Mager and lost just one set.

His championship match opponent was Oscar Otte, who has been one of the most dangerous players of the Challenger Tour after the restart. Arriving in Aix en Provence with a 7-3 win/loss record and a runner-up finish in Ostrava, Otte added four more wins to that tally, including one over former world No.21 Leonardo Mayer, before coming up against Seyboth Wild.

The German is an owner of a dreadful record in ATP Challenger Tour finals, winning just one in six previous tries (Lisbon 2017). But with his blistering serve firing from the very beginning of the match, Otte was able to get into Seyboth Wild’s head early and take the opening set 6-2. The Brazilian was a nervous wreck, arguing with the umpire and constantly taking it out on his racket. But as he soon regained composure, he was able to come back from 2-6 2-4 down and start moving the German around. His forehand is a great tool to dictate the play on clay and he was able to dominate the second set tie-break by focusing more on precision than power.

A very lackluster service game saw Seyboth Wild fall behind in the decider and it was always going to be hard to come back against someone serving as well Oscar Otte. The German made sure not to lose this advantage this time and took the match 6-2 6-7 6-4. The crowd was roaring with big groups supporting both players but it was of no help to Seyboth Wild as errors crept up into his game again. Otte’s victory will see him back to the top 150 of the ATP Rankings, which is quite an achievement given how out of form he was in the first two months of the year. The German is yet another example that playing exhibition events during the pandemic break could be used as a gateway to lots of success on the tour afterwards. Seyboth Wild will make it to a new career-high on the verge of the top hundred of the ATP Rankings.

The top seeds Pablo Cuevas and Gilles Simon failed to fulfill the expectations as Simon lost his opener to Federico Gaio and Cuevas went out in the quarterfinals to Daniel Altmaier.

Challenger Tour magic:

Djokosmash Altmasmash? Anyway, it’s a beauty:

Only on Challenger streams (watch with sound on!):

It’s wintertime!

Thiago Seyboth Wild was not quite happy with the standard of the umpiring in the final:

Events played next week:

  • Iasi Open (Challenger 100)

Just one top 100 player will be in action at the Iasi Open. Pablo Andujar received special exempt to join the main draw as the top-seed following his runner-up run in Prostejov.

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