Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Alex Molcan Destroys the Field in Liberec

Alex Molcan ATP Belgrade

Alex Molcan was barely losing games this week in Liberec, claiming his maiden Challenger Tour title. Meanwhile, three Argentinians got to the semifinals at Cordenons and managed to take the title home. Read back on this week’s action:

Liberec

Alex Molcan dropped just eighteen games on the way to the final, half of them against Kamil Majchrzak in the quarterfinals. The 23-year-old was still seeking his maiden Challenger Tour title, having finished runner-up at Seville 2018 and Prostejov 2021. Molcan is having a fantastic season, highlighted by the brilliant run at a tour-level event in Belgrade where he took out Federico Delbonis and Fernando Verdasco to play a very solid match against Novak Djokovic in the final, losing 3-6 4-6.

Tomas Machac captured a Challenger title at Nur-Sultan earlier in the year, but got injured soon after and had a bit of a weaker period. It seems to be behind him though as after dropping the opening set to Enzo Couacaud in the opening round, the 20-year-old found another gear and won the next eight sets to progress to the final. He defeated a quality opponent in Botic van de Zandschulp in the final four in just 77 minutes.

Molcan’s counter-punching is really difficult to hit through and Machac felt it from the very beginning of the match. To blast a winner past his opponent, he had to take massive risks, and more often than not, it didn’t quite work out. The Czech grew increasingly frustrated and while he had the right idea in trying to mix up patterns and introduce tactics like netplay or dropshots, his head just wasn’t in the right place. Molcan put up an almost perfect performance to win his maiden Challenger title in just 58 minutes.

Having started the year outside the top 300 of the ATP Rankings, Molcan will find himself at the 136th spot on Monday, 23 points ahead of Machac. Both players are scheduled to appear in Meerbusch next week, before heading to New York for the US Open qualifying.

Cordenons

Tomas Martin Etcheverry has been in superb form since Wimbledon, scoring seventeen wins across four Italian Challengers. This run included his first two titles at this level (Perugia and Trieste). The Argentinian seemed gassed from the beginning of the week, but he kept fighting despite being down a break in the second and third sets against Renzo Olivo. That three hours and thirty minutes marathon must have taken a lot out of the 22-year-old, but Etcheverry’s mental toughness and deadly forehand allowed him to somehow scrape by players such as Juan Pablo Varillas or Marc-Andrea Huesler. He also took revenge on the only player who managed to defeat him in the past month, Federico Gaio.

It hadn’t been such a great period for Francisco Cerundolo, who had a massive dip in form after reaching the finals at Concepcion Challenger and the tour-level event in Buenos Aires early in the season. His struggles seemed more mental than anything else though and by taking advantage of a favorable draw, the 22-year-old got his confidence back up. His matches this week really felt like they were on his racket and both against Giulio Zeppieri and Andrea Collarini, Cerundolo managed to overcome the disappointment of losing the second set to play much better in the decider.

Etcheverry played most of his matches in the evening and with the final starting quite early and not much energy left, he was at a pretty big disadvantage in Sunday’s final. Both through his exhaustion and Cerundolo’s rock-solid performance, he was unable to create threats and impose his playstyle onto the opponent. Etcheverry lost the slightly underwhelming final 1-6 2-6, fighting back a bit in the last game as Cerundolo got nervous near the finish line.

It was Cerundolo’s fourth Challenger title, first this year. He is now about 50 points away from debuting in the top 100, while Etcheverry has also made a massive leap in the rankings following the seventeen wins across the past month. The 22-year-old is restless though and signed up to play in San Marino next week, before heading to the States for the US Open. Cerundolo will take a break before trying to qualify for the last Grand Slam event of the season.

Events held next week:

  • Internazionali di Tennis San Marino Open (Challenger 90, clay)
  • Rhein Asset Open (Meerbusch, Challenger 80, clay)
  • TK Sparta Prague Open (Challenger 50, clay)

Marco Cecchinato (San Marino) will be the only top 100 player in action.

First-round matches to watch:

San Marino

  • (1) Marco Cecchinato vs Paolo Lorenzi
  • Gian Marco Moroni vs (6) Tomas Martin Etcheverry
  • (8) Blaz Rola vs Zdenek Kolar

Meerbusch

  • (1) Daniel Altmaier vs Alejandro Tabilo
  • Mats Moraing vs (6) Tomas Machac
  • (5) Juan Manuel Cerundolo vs Kimmer Coppejans

Prague

  • Jonas Forejtek vs (5) Nicolas Jarry
  • Timofey Skatov vs (WC) Dalibor Svrcina

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