Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Seventh Time’s the Charm for Ramkumar Ramanathan

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Ramkumar Ramanathan entered the final in Manama with a 0-6 win/loss record in championship matches at Challenger level. The Indian played fearlessly though and was finally able to get that obstacle off his way. Oscar Otte is now just fifteen points away from getting to the top 100, following a title at Bari. Read back on this week’s action:

Bari

A quarterfinalist in Helsinki last week, Oscar Otte is playing a very busy schedule at the moment to make his way to the top 100 for the very first time. Even a title in Bari wouldn’t get him there, but he would be a mere fifteen points. The 28-year-old German survived a scare against his compatriot Sebastian Fanselow (7-5 in the third) in the second round, before going on to produce more comfortable victories over home favorites Flavio Cobolli and Thomas Fabbiano.

Both singles semifinals had to be finished on Sunday and Daniel Masur had a much tougher time dispatching his opponent, Andrea Vavassori. The 27-year-old has had a very peculiar year of mixing first-round exits (16 of them) with two Challenger titles. On his way to the more recent one, Masur defeated Otte in the opening round. His path to playing him again was filled with tight matches against Italians, but somehow, the German kept coming out on top of three deciding sets.

Being close to the top 100 has had a negative impact on Otte mentally in the past and perhaps some of that could be seen in a terrible service game early on, which saw him make numerous questionable shot selections. The 28-year-old recovered well though and was soon playing his usual mix of great serving and steady baselining. Masur’s longer semifinal definitely had an impact too as the younger of the Germans was a bit overeager to shorten the points. Otte took the final 7-5 7-5 to come just fifteen points away from the world’s best hundred.

It’s his 3rd Challenger title this year (4th overall). Both finalists have one more event scheduled, next week’s indoor Challenger at Forli.

Manama

Ramkumar Ramanathan reached six Challenger finals before, including in Cary this year, but never won a title at this level. The Indian was down 3-5 in the decider to Goncalo Oliveira in the quarterfinals, but breezed through the next four games to avoid elimination. He would then go a set down to Jay Clarke, but produced an impressive comeback, returning the Brit’s serve aggressively to secure himself a seventh Challenger title attempt.

It hadn’t been a good season for Evgeniy Karlovskiy at Challenger level, as the 27-year-old only made a couple of quarterfinals before coming to Manama. The Russian lost his previous match at Ortisei to Mirza Basic and as luck would have it, he had to face the Bosnian again in the opening round. Not only did he exact revenge though, but he also added three more wins including a very impressive one over Nuno Borges, and a wild comeback to beat Yanki Erel in the semifinals (two match points saved).

Despite having lost all his previous six Challenger finals, it looked like Ramanathan wasn’t under any pressure in this one. The Indian was extremely impressive on return and turned defense into offense well, which aren’t his usual trademarks. Coupled with blasting 14 aces and saving the only break point faced, it all resulted in a straightforward 6-1 6-4 victory as Ramanathan finally captured that title that had eluded him for so long.

Both finalists will play in Antalya next week as Karlovskiy got a special exempt to the main draw based on his run in Manama.

Puerto Vallarta

It was Alejandro Tabilo‘s second event since capturing his maiden Challenger title at Guayaquil. Regarded as a clay-court specialist in the past, the Chilean massively improved his game on other surfaces this year and proved it with a great run in Puerto Vallarta. On the way to the final, Tabilo lost only 19 games, not more than three per set.

Daniel Altmaier advanced to the draw in fairly comfortable fashion too, besides the quarterfinal win against Zachary Svajda. The American served for the match and held a match point in a thrilling second set tie-break before the 23-year-old found a way to level. Altmaier had a great hard court run in Knoxville two weeks earlier and just like in that event, defeated Michael Mmoh in the semifinals.

Both remaining contenders were mostly known for their efforts on clay, but have been able to find more and more success on hard courts in recent times. It was Altmaier who managed to adjust better in the final, playing all-court tennis and being all over Tabilo in the baseline rallies. The Chilean’s big lefty forehand was a little bit too hit or miss to be a consistent weapon, his rival was also getting a lot more out of his serve.

Altmaier looked fully in control up until leading 6-3 3-1, at which point Tabilo took the next five games in a row, getting more and more say from the ground. Despite the momentum shift, it was again the German who regrouped well and played a great decider, generating break points in every single return game. Altmaier ultimately clinched the title 6-3 3-6-3 and got to a career-high ranking of World No. 84. It was the last event of the season for both finalists.

Brasilia

Jaume Munar‘s South American swing hadn’t been too successful up until this point. The Spaniard made one semifinal in Montevideo and fell in the opening round of the other two events he played. That sort of unstable form left its mark on his route to the final in Brasilia. All his matches went to a deciding set, including one against Santiago Fa Rodriguez Taverna, who took him out the week before. Munar managed to improve on that result this time and make his fourth Challenger final of the season.

On the contrary, Federico Coria never lost a set on the way to the championship match. He owes that to performing really well in tight tie-breakers, taking one each in his first three appearances. The Argentinian then met Fransisco Cerundolo in the semifinals, but the blockbuster clash was cut short as his rival had to retire with a shoulder injury. Just like Munar, Coria was a semifinalist at Montevideo but lost in the opening round the week before, so this run also felt really needed.

As you could predict from these two, the match featured a lot of extended baseline rallies and even though straight sets, the whole affair lasted over two hours. Munar’s abilities to attack and construct points aggressively were properly tested, and for most of the match it didn’t really hold up. The Spaniard kept fighting though and managed to make it somewhat close, getting more comfortable as the match went on.

Coria was just too solid though and punished every little mistake that his opponent made to take the title 7-5 6-3, winning his 3rd Challenger title (2nd this year). Both finalists ended their season as the Argentinian withdrew from Sao Paulo, while Munar was never on the entry list to begin with.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Dove Men+Care Challenger Sao Paulo (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Internazionali di Tennis di Citta di Forli II (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Megasaray Hotels Open (Antalya, Challenger 50, clay)

The Challenger 50 format returns after three months (Prague in late August). Pablo Cuevas was supposed to be the only top 100 player in Sao Paulo, but he withdrew after the draw was made.

First-round matches to watch:

Sao Paulo

  • Nicolas Alvarez Varona vs (7) Nicolas Kicker
  • Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida vs (2) Hugo Dellien

Forli

  • Vitalyi Sachko vs (WC) Luca Nardi
  • Andrea Arnaboldi vs Flavio Cobolli
  • (SE) Evgeny Karlovskiy vs Maxime Cressy

Antalya

  • (1/WC) Cem Ilkel vs Yu Hsiou-Hsu
  • (6) Nuno Borges vs Ergi Kirkin

 

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