Most of the world’s elite have just competed in the first week of the Australian Open, but the slightly lower-ranked could take part in Challenger events in Forli and Concepcion. Pavel Kotov won his second title at the same venue in just over a month, while Daniel Elahi Galan enjoyed a much-needed return to form. Here’s a look back on last week’s action:
Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Pavel Kotov won his maiden Challenger title in Forli in December and came back to the same venue this year, looking to build upon that success. His first tournament of 2022 finished with an opening-round loss to Marius Copil, but this week was a completely different story. The Russian dropped just 22 games on the way to the final, never allowing his opponents more than four per set. Kotov also lost his serve just twice (once each to Lukas Rosol and Frederico Ferreira Silva).
Quentin Halys had a less straightforward path, which seems very natural for the Frenchman who’s so often involved in nerve-racking thrillers (four of his last seven losses came after wasting match points). Contrary to his opponent, the 23-year-old played the Australian swing, adding two more heartbreaks like that to his account (vs Enzo Couacaud in Bendigo and vs Alessandro Giannessi in the qualifying for the Australian Open). Manuel Guinard and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe took opening sets against him, but he never truly lost control over the matches, dominating the next two in both encounters.
It was a pretty epic final encounter as Halys played his favorite brand of first-strike tennis, using the net a lot to try to keep Kotov on the back foot. The Russian came up with some stunning defensive shot-making though and took the opening set 7-5. Halys couldn’t find a break as his opponent was clutch on every breakpoint opportunity but managed to level the score by taking the second set tie-break. His level dropped for a moment at the beginning of the decider and that was all Kotov needed to get ahead. Even though the Frenchman created one more chance to break back at 3-5 down, the 23-year-old served it out 7-5 6-7 6-3.
Kotov broke into the top 200 for the very first time (will be 180th on Monday). Halys is next to play the ATP 250 in Pune in two weeks’ time, while the Russian’s plans remain unclear as he’s on the alternate list for multiple ATP Tour qualifying events in the near future.
Santiago Rodriguez Taverna came to Chile on a ten-match win streak, having captured the titles at a 25K in Rio Cuarto and the Challenger 50 event in Buenos Aires. The competition here was significantly tougher, especially in the case of the top seeds. Rodriguez Taverna impressed in a quarterfinal win over Fransisco Cerundolo, which he completely dominated with his powerful forehand. The 22-year-old reached seventeen straight sets won in a row by the time he reached the final.
Daniel Elahi Galan kicked off his year by failing to qualify for Adelaide and the Australian Open, but found some form instantly after coming back to South America. While the Colombian dropped a set against Nicolas Moreno de Alboran in the second round, he went through the tournament rather comfortably before almost blowing a 5-1 lead in the deciding set with Hugo Dellien in the final four. He failed to serve out the match three times, but was able to secure his first final since May 2021 in the tie-breaker.
Galan had a fantastic start to the match, dominating the early exchanges and not allowing Rodriguez Taverna to dominate with the forehand. The Argentinian never lost faith in his favorite shot though and started changing the dynamics of the match by the beginning of the second set. Galan seemed a little low on energy but managed to save some for the decider where he once again broke early. While not usually comfortable in the forecourt, he came forward effectively by approaching the Rodriguez Taverna’s weaker wing. He was able to maintain the advantage and close out the match 6-1 3-6 6-3.
The Colombian took his third Challenger title (San Benedetto 2018, Lima 2020). He will next try to qualify for an ATP 250 in Cordoba in two weeks’ time. Rodriguez Taverna, meanwhile, is in the draw in Santa Cruz this week, facing top seed Hugo Dellien in the opening round.
Events held next week:
- Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
- Tennis Ohio Championships (Columbus, Challenger 80, indoor hard)
- Dove Men+Care Challenger Bolivia (Santa Cruz, Challenger 80, clay)
Top 100 players in action:
- Henri Laaksonen (Quimper)
- Jenson Brooksby, Tennys Sandgren (Columbus)
Having missed the Australian Open due to contracting COVID-19, Jenson Brooksby grabs a wildcard to start off his season in the Tennis Ohio Championships.
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Henri Laaksonen vs Damir Dzumhur
- Gregoire Barrere vs (7) Jiri Lehecka
- (3) Dennis Novak vs Zizou Bergs
- Kacper Zuk vs (4/WC) Gilles Simon
- Marc-Andrea Huesler vs (WC) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- (1/WC) Jenson Brooksby vs Mitchell Krueger
- Mikael Torpegaard vs Michael Mmoh
- (7) Jack Sock vs Christopher Eubanks
- Dominic Stricker vs (2) Tennys Sandgren
- (1) Hugo Dellien vs Santiago Rodriguez Taverna
- (3) Fransisco Cerundolo vs Facundo Diaz Acosta
- (6) Fernando Verdasco vs Mathias Pucinelli de Almeida
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