A LOOK BACK
Mouratoglou Open (Sophia Antipolis, France): Dustin Brown is back with a vengeance! After an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, the 34-year-old German surged to the title at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Sophia Antipolis.
Brown survived a murderers’ row of opponents, downing Robin Haase 6-4, 6-3 and rallying past both 15th seed Kimmer Coppejans and 14th seed Rudolf Molleker from a set down. In Sunday’s championship, he would sprint to the title, defeating Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 31 minutes.
The German is on the mend after a back injury derailed the majority of his 2018 season. Brown would find his form in a flash on the clay courts of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, using his vast arsenal of shots and spins to constantly rattle his opponents. He was a Hot Shot machine all week, endearing himself to the French faithful from the start.
It was Brown’s eighth Challenger crown in total and first since 2016, when he prevailed on the grass of Manchester. Having fallen outside the Top 250 of the ATP Rankings, he is projected to rise to No. 167 on Monday.
So, how excited is the man they call ‘Dreddy’?
“I’m going to have a couple beers, take a bath and stay up all night watching some TV series so that this day never ends.”
Ferrero Challenger Open (Villena, Spain): We’re running out of superlatives to describe Pablo Andujar’s sensational comeback campaign. The 33-year-old Spaniard entered the Challenger stop in Alicante on the heels of a title run in nearby Marbella, Spain, and he refused to take his foot off the gas. Andujar extended his win streak to 10 straight with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over countryman Pedro Martinez on Sunday, adding to his victory at last week’s Casino Admiral Trophy.
Located at former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero’s academy in the town of Villena, the tournament was celebrating its second edition this week. After also lifting the trophy in its inaugural edition a year ago, Andujar successfully defended his crown with aplomb. He dropped just one set all week, improving to 6-0 in finals since returning to action after undergoing three shoulder surgeries in 2017.
One year ago, Andujar entered Villena just inside the Top 600 of the ATP Rankings. Now, he leaves at No. 70 and will look to retain his crown at yet another tournament next week – the ATP 250 stop in Marrakesh.
“I’m very happy,” said Andujar. “It has been some difficult days for different reasons: it was rainy, windy, stop-and-go situations. The weather was very cold and I faced high-quality opponents. I take a lot of credit and value from this victory”.
In other news, a pair of teenagers stole the headlines earlier in the week. At the age of 15, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz Garfia earned his first Challenger match win, becoming the fourth-youngest to do so in 20 years. He is the first player born in 2003 to emerge victorious. One day earlier, in Sophia Antipolis, Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti became the first player born in 2002 to claim his first win. Both earn their first ATP Rankings points.
Abierto GNP Seguros (Monterrey, Mexico): Alexander Bublik and Emilio Gomez took centre stage at Club Sonoma in Monterrey on Sunday night, with the 21-year-old Kazakh taking the title 6-3, 6-2. Bublik claimed a tour-leading third title of the year, which secured his return to the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings at No. 99. One year ago, the Kazakh suffered a broken ankle at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, but an 18-5 record has seen him rediscover his form in a hurry in 2019.
Moreover, Bublik extends his perfect run in Challenger finals to 6-0. He has won a title in each of the past three months, also prevailing in Budapest in February and Pau, France in March.
Winner of Tournament of the Year in 2015, the Abierto GNP Seguros embarked on a new era this year. The event moved from October to April, becoming just the second combined ATP Challenger/WTA Tour tournament on the calendar (also Nottingham).
A LOOK AHEAD
Lloyd Harris is the top seed at the Santaizi ATP Challenger in Taipei City, Taiwan, with Evgeny Donskoy and Sergiy Stakhovsky also leading the charge. Last week, Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak won his maiden title in Saint-Brieuc, France, and now he will vie for a second straight crown, seeded sixth in Taipei.
The Spanish swing concludes with the inaugural Murcia Open. Pedro Sousa is the top seed, with Roberto Carballes Baena leading the home charge. Former World No. 9 and 13-time ATP Tour champion Nicolas Almagro is set to conclude his storied career, appearing in his last professional tournament.
Meanwhile, in Barletta, Italy, players and fans are welcomed for the tournament’s 20th edition. Italians comprise seven of the Top 8 seeds, with Gianluigi Quinzi leading the way. Seeded 10th, Thanasi Kokkinakis will appear in his first tournament since retiring from the Australian Open with a shoulder injury.