Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Jack Draper King of Forli

Jack Draper London 2021
Spread the love

Jack Draper has already clinched his third Challenger title of the season, all in the Italian city of Forli. Meanwhile, Quentin Halys snapped a finals losing streak to triumph over Vasek Pospisil in Pau. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, next week’s Moscow Challenger won’t take place as scheduled. Read back on this week’s action:

Pau

Vasek Pospisil is definitely having a resurgence early in 2022, reaching the quarterfinals in all five tournaments played so far, including a title at Quimper Challenger and a quarterfinal at the ATP 250 in Dallas. The Canadian looked extremely comfortable in Pau, dispatching four Frenchmen in a row in straight sets to reach his second final of the year. Pospisil was especially dominant on serve, getting broken just three times in the first four matches. As luck would have it, his final opponent would turn out to be French too.

Quentin Halys also had already reached a Challenger final this year, but lost it to Pavel Kotov in Forli. The Italian city is also where he played last before Pau, bowing out to Jack Draper in the second round. Just like Pospisil, Halys shined on serve this week, hitting 59 aces on the way to the final (against Nino Serdarusic, he dropped just two points on serve). The Frenchman still dropped two sets before the championship match, both via tie-breakers (to Gregoire Barrere and Roman Safiullin).

Pospisil’s return was the most important shot in the early exchanges, creating enough depth that he was even able to go up a double break in the opening set. The Canadian struggled with some untimely double faults and was generally unclean on his serve+1 play, allowing Halys to level the match. Pospisil looked quite gassed at times as the match went on with the Frenchman now much more effective at turning defense into offense on return. While he made a bit of a mess of serving it out, Halys clinched his 4th Challenger title 4-6 6-4 6-3.

It’s an important victory for Halys for multiple reasons – he snaps his five-match losing streak in finals at this level and claims his first title since April 2018, plus he’s now only 116 points away from a top 100 debut (his career-high ranking is 102). The next few months could be crucial in regards to his chances of recording that milestone. Both finalists aim to play in Turin next week, where the Frenchman is the top seed.

Forli

Jack Draper has been the unquestionable king of Forli this year, taking two titles and reaching a final in back-to-back weeks here. The physicality of this feat took its toll on the Brit, who looked tired even at the very beginning of his run, barely pulling through Jesper de Jong. While he only won one of his first four matches in straight sets, Draper would go on impressing with his much better rally tolerance and control over his groundstrokes.

Alexander Ritschard¬†reached his maiden Challenger final in Naples last year, losing to the unbeatable Tallon Griekspoor. The American (formerly representing Switzerland, soon to change to the Swiss flag again) has made some massive improvement over the past six months or so and it wouldn’t take too long before he had a shot at a title at this level again. The 27-year-old had to qualify to make the main draw and only dropped one set in six matches before the final (to Gastao Elias).

Draper’s fitness was still suspicious and he couldn’t do any damage on Ritschard’s serve early on, leaving himself very vulnerable to the American’s devastating FH, which for a good portion of the match he was just painting lines with. The Brit made an effort to shorten the rallies and put more pressure on Ritschard in set 2 though, finally beginning to break through. Draper led by a break twice in the deciding set, but really lacked the explosiveness when it mattered.

The American managed to take this match to a deciding tie-break and played some fabulous points to go up 5-0. Draper kept on fighting though and produced an unbelievable comeback from 3-6 down, saving four match points and ultimately taking the match 3-6 6-3 7-6. At 8-8 in the tie-break, he produced a stunning forehand pass off Ritschard’s low-skidding slice to gain the crucial mini-break.

The youngster will debut in the top 150 on Monday, while Ritschard also makes a career-high ranking (232). Draper is now 17-2 for the year, including 15-1 at Forli, becoming the first player since 2016 to clinch three Challenger titles by the end of February (Mikhail Youzhny and Gerald Melzer). The 20-year-old might be expecting a wildcard for the Miami Open (he’s signed by IMG). The American is going to make a Davis Cup debut for Switzerland (he’s switching back to his home country), after that his plans remain unclear.

Events held next week:

  • Gran Canaria Challenger (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Torino Challenger (Challenger 80, clay)

Roberto Carballes Baena will be the only top 100 player in action (Gran Canaria). One more event was scheduled in Moscow this week but was postponed indefinitely due to concerns over the safety of players.

First-round matches to watch:

Gran Canaria

  • (1/WC) Roberto Carballes Baena vs Luciano Darderi
  • Carlos Gimeno Valero vs Timofey Skatov

Torino

  • (1) Quentin Halys vs Andrea Vavassori
  • Manuel Guinard vs (2) Mats Moraing

Main Photo from Getty Images