Shintaro Mochizuki is another one of these fantastic juniors who struggled to get to the highest level in the pros, but he’s now picked up his maiden Challenger title. Meanwhile, Matteo Arnaldi and Borna Gojo are both getting really close to the top 100 with excellent performances in Murcia. Dominik Koepfer was close to grabbing back-to-back titles on altitude clay, but he was stopped by Tomas Barrios Vera. Read back on last week’s action:
Out of form for a while, Santiago Rodriguez Taverna dropped down to the ITF level in March and picked up a couple of good runs (a final and a quarterfinal). It seemed to have helped as the Argentinian was back in top shape in his first European event on clay already. The only opponent who took a set off him on the way to the final was Benoit Paire, with whom he had already had a tense encounter in Tenerife earlier this year.
Shintaro Mochizuki won Wimbledon juniors back in 2019, but his transition to the pros wasn’t so smooth. Before Barletta, he had only made three Challenger quarterfinals, one of them this year in Waco. The Japanese was on fire this week though, taking out dangerous opponents like Juan Bautista Torres or Zsombor Piros in straight sets. He was taken to a decider by Franco Agamenone in the semifinals, but eventually prevailed 6-2 in the third (the last five games were played on Sunday due to rain delays).
As Mochizuki’s continuation of the match vs Agamenone wasn’t too long, he was quickly ready to contend his final vs Rodriguez Taverna. The Argentinian was a disaster in the opening set and it wasn’t until the second act of the match that he started putting some pressure on his opponent, although he was never really firing. When not getting overpowered, the former Wimbledon champion had a lot of time to show his great feel for the well and safely cruised to a win. Mochizuki claimed his 1st Challenger title 6-1 6-4. Both finalists will be in Split this week, the champion via a special exempt.
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Matteo Arnaldi arrived in Murcia on a four-match losing streak, but only one of these had been played on clay. Even when the draw was made, it seemed like the key encounter for him could be the second round with Kimmer Coppejans and that was exactly what happened. The Belgian led him 6-4 3-0 and ended up losing in three sets, not converting any of his nine break points in the decider. Other than that one, Arnaldi beat three seasoned veterans of the tour – Feliciano Lopez, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Marco Trungelliti.
Borna Gojo had only made one clay Challenger semifinal in his career before this week (Split 2020), but he did surprisingly well as the top seed in what was an extremely tricky draw. He dispatched Nicolas Alvarez Varona quite easily, before getting taken to a deciding tie-break against last week’s Girona champion, Ivan Gakhov. Jesper de Jong and Pablo Llamas Ruiz were also in extremely good shape, but Gojo beat them all in a couple more deciding sets.
The Italian had to dig himself out of a 0-40 hole early, but survived and went on to take the first set after a couple of untimely double faults from Gojo. It wasn’t that easy from there though as the Croat’s power gave him plenty of issues, but he eventually pulled back from 2-5 down with a double break in the second set and clinched the trophy in the tie-break. Arnaldi won his 3rd Challenger title 6-4 7-6 and finds himself just points away from a top 100 debut, while Gojo is also really close to that feat (29 points away). The runner-up will try to secure it in Madrid next week, while Arnaldi withdrew from Split and should return to action in Barcelona ATP 500 qualifying.
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San Luis Potosi
Having conquered Mexico City the week before, Dominik Koepfer was still in emphatic form in San Luis Potosi. Not having to play through the qualifying this time around, the German didn’t seem bothered by all the tennis he had played over that fortnight and only dropped one set on the way to the final. Koepfer’s only tough moment in four matches came against Maximilian Neuchrist as he went 1-3 down in the deciding set, but won it 6-4.
Tomas Barrios Vera was taken out by Koepfer himself in Mexico City (second round) and not long after, he got a chance to play him again in the San Luis Potosi final. The Chilean had to survive a deciding tie-breaker against Elmar Ejupovic, before having to withstand sixteen aces from the massive serve of Giovanni Mpetschi Perricard. To make his second final of the year (Piracicaba), Barrios Vera had to defeat qualifier Patrick Kypson in the final four.
Koepfer’s first serve was working extremely well early on and after saving a couple of set points at 4-5 and breaking at 5-5, it seemed like he just must clinch the opening set. That’s not what happened though and despite requiring six set points after all, Barrios Vera eventually took it. The rest of the match also didn’t follow the script – the German went up again (5-2), only for his opponent to reel off the next five games. Barrios Vera took his 2nd Challenger title 7-6 7-5, getting revenge for that loss in Mexico City. Both finalists were supposed to play Leon this week, but withdrew.
Challenger Tour magic:
Pablo Llamas Ruiz converts a break point in spectacular fashion and yet for 90% of the rally, we can't even see him on the screen😂
📷: @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/BuHWZ5Ay8q
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) April 8, 2023
Matteo Arnaldi wins the point with a tweener in Murcia!
Funnily enough I was actually watching the other court (Durasovic vs Trungelliti), but the loud applause told me to check what had happened.
📷: @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/Y4Qf5ooOmw
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) April 7, 2023
Events held this week:
- Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open (Challenger 125, clay)
- MexTenis Leon Open (Challenger 75, clay)
- Il Open Comunidad de Madrid (Challenger 75, clay)
- Split Open (Challenger 75, clay)
Top 100 players in action:
- Jason Kubler, Zhizhen Zhang, Daniel Elahi Galan, Emilio Gomez (Sarasota)
- Pedro Cachin (Madrid)
- Christopher O’Connell (Split)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Jason Kubler vs Tung-Lin Wu
- Tomas Machac vs (8) Gijs Brouwer
- (3) Daniel Elahi Galan vs Juncheng Shang
- Aleksandar Vukic vs (6) Hugo Dellien
- (7) Juan Manuel Cerundolo vs (WC) Bjorn Fratangelo
- (1) James Duckworth vs Skander Mansouri
- (WC) Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez vs Terence Atmane
- (1) Pedro Cachin vs Fernando Verdasco
- Emilio Nava vs (3) Francesco Passaro
- (4) Fabian Marozsan vs Zsombor Piros
- (5) Lukas Klein vs Mate Valkusz