Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Maxime Cressy Getting Closer to a Top 100 Debut

Maxime Cressy Indian Wells 2021
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Maxime Cressy is eyeing a top 100 debut and an Australian Open main draw spot, but it’s going to take a lot of effort to still grab it this year. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Ficovich and Nuno Borges were able to secure their first Challenger titles in Sao Paulo and Antalya, respectively.

Sao Paulo

19-year-old Luciano Darderi is just starting his Challenger Tour journey, but the Italian has already amassed a couple of great results, including a quarterfinal at Seville three months ago. Starting his campaign from the qualifying draw, the youngster dropped a set to Martin Cuevas in his second match, but got much sharper as the week went on, straight setting Nicolas Alvarez Varona and Facundo Diaz Acosta. Darderi was expected to have a tough time against home crowd favorite Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves in the semifinals, but he was given a walkover after the Brazilian tested positive for coronavirus.

Juan Pablo Ficovich started his season in June, first testing positive for COVID-19, then suffering from myocarditis. Back in May, he had to play with a pulsometer and instantly stop whenever it hit 150 beats, which usually meant after less than 10 balls. The Argentinian had his only good results in 2021 on altitude clay in Ambato and Quito and while Sao Paulo is not as extreme, it’s situated about 700m above sea level as well. Ficovich was a set and a break down to Roberto Cid Subervi in the opening round but regrouped well, later stopping a great run from Brazil’s own Gustavo Heide. In the semifinals, the Argentinian managed to put enough returns in play to watch Nicolas Jarry’s baseline game fall apart completely.

Darderi hadn’t even been broken in the main draw before the final, but Ficovich quickly made it happen after going down 0-2. The Argentinian remained solid despite the youngster’s very consistent depth and soon enough, he started reaping rewards. Set two included some massive games – a 17-minute hold for Ficovich at 3-3 and then a 12-minute one for Darderi, where he saved four match points. The youngster was slowly running out of gas though and that marathon hold turned out to be the last game he won in this match.

Ficovich clinched his maiden Challenger title in his third attempt, winning the final 6-3 7-5. Both finalists are scheduled to play in Florianopolis and Rio de Janeiro.

Forli

Maxime Cressy kicked off the week with a ridiculous serving performance to beat last week’s Manama runner-up Evgenyi Karlovskiy (12 aces, 26/26 first serve points won) and while that’s impossible to keep up, he came very close to getting these numbers all week. Saving just three breakpoints, the serve-and-volleying American held all his service games on the way to the final. His return tends to be a bit of a hit-or-miss affair but he was able to get there without requiring a single tie-break.

The veteran Matthias Bachinger is declining quite rapidly at the moment, but you can always count on the German to produce a good result indoors every once in a while. The 34-year-old benefitted from Oscar Otte’s retirement in the second round, before winning a tight straight-setter over Altug Celikbilek. He was down early to Jurij Rodionov, but managed to find a way to fight back and clinch his 2nd final this year (Biella back in March).

Bachinger broke Cressy to lead 3-1 in the opening set after the American double-faulted and netted a backhand half-volley. However, it wasn’t long until the American got back on the right track. As during the whole week, his returning was better than usual and despite some sensational backhand passing shots from Bachinger, Cressy was able to chip and charge well to break his opponent a total of four times.

Winning the final 6-4 6-2, the American grabbed his first Challenger title in 21 months. It takes him just 84 points away from the top 100 and it looks like his intention is to try and get it this season. That plan includes another event in Forli and then a flight to Rio de Janeiro (which is a peculiar choice, given there’s another tournament in Maia, Portugal, but Cressy really wants to prioritize hard courts at the moment). Bachinger finished his season on the runner-up appearance.

Antalya

Nuno Borges reached the final at a Challenger 50 event in Oeiras earlier in the year, but got sidetracked when he first twisted one ankle, then the other one in just his second tournament back. The Portuguese was slowly regaining form though with three consecutive quarterfinals and completely dismantled the field on his way to the final here, dropping just 23 games and not more than four in a set.

Ryan Peniston was also a Challenger 50 runner-up earlier in the season (Prague), but the 26-year-old has made a lot of impact in the higher categories as well, entering the tournament on three consecutive quarterfinals just like Borges. The Brit had a much rockier path to the championship match, coming back from a set down in his first two matches, which included 1-3 down in the decider to Nerman Fatic and 2-6 1-4 down to Dalibor Svrcina. He would then fail to close out a match himself and took out Duje Ajdukovic in a third set tie-break despite having led 6-2 5-3. As the semifinals and the final were both played on Sunday, closing out Javier Barranco Cosano in straights allowed him to avoid further issues and have enough energy to still have a shot in the final.

The Brit opened up with a 4-1 lead before Borges managed to start using his power more effectively, taking the next five games in a row. Peniston was putting up a good fight though and wasn’t just stuck counter-punching behind the baseline. The key moment came in the third game of the second as despite leading 40-0, the Brit lost his serve after a series of uncharacteristic errors, trying to take the ball very early and rushing a bit too much.

Borges broke once more to take the final 6-4 6-3. His games lost tally in the whole event stopped at a mere 30 (average three per set). The Portuguese has now practically secured his Australian Open qualifying spot, which will be his Grand Slam debut. He is scheduled to play two more events in Maia, while Peniston stays in Antalya for one more week.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Dove Men+Care – La Legion (Florianopolis, Challenger 80, clay)
  • Internazionali di Tennis di Citta di Forli 3 (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Maia Open (Challenger 80, indoor clay)
  • MTA Open (Antalya, Challenger 50, clay)

Pablo Cuevas will be the only top 100 player in action (Florianopolis).

First-round matches to watch:

Florianopolis

  • (1) Pablo Cuevas vs Nicolas Alvarez Varona
  • (4) Juan Ignacio Londero vs Gustavo Heide
  • (ALT) Luciano Darderi vs (5) Nicolas Kicker
  • Mathias Pucinelli de Almeida vs (3) Thiago Seyboth Wild

Forli

  • (4) Zizou Bergs vs Pavel Kotov
  • (7) Andrea Vavassori vs (WC) Luca Nardi

Maia

  • Eduard Esteve Lobato vs (3) Gastao Elias
  • Paul Jubb vs (2) Kimmer Coppejans

Antalya

  • (5) Riccardo Bonadio vs Oliver Crawford
  • Nick Hardt vs Oleksii Krutykh
  • Filip Misolic vs (6) Javier Barranco Cosano

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