Canberra, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) :
Jan-Lennard Struff started his season in Doha, losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets even though he had a big lead in the opener, but he left that behind and reach his 17th Challenger final here in Canberra. In their second meetings in Challengers, Struff defeated the 6th seed Steve Darcis by 7-6 6-3 in an hour and 23 minutes, in what has been a tight match. German fired 14 aces and he won impressive 32 from 35 points on the first serve, facing just 3 break points and losing serve once. Darcis also fought well but he couldn't keep the same pace in his service games, playing against 5 break points and losing serve twice, which was enough for Struff to clinch the triupmh in straight sets.
Belgian lost his serve in the first game of the match, but he pulled it back in game 4, leveling the score at 2-2, and he saved 3 break points in game 9 to keep himself in contention for the opening set. Struff served great and after that break he suffered he really found a nice rhythm, but had to work hard in the tie break, coming back from 4-2 down to clinch it by 7-5. The momentum was on his side and he made a crucial move by breaking Darcis at the start of the second set, which was enough to bring the victory home (Struff had to save 2 break points in the final game but he did that to cross the finish line without further struggle).
Challenger legend Dudi Sela advanced to his 29th final at this level of competition after 6-4 2-6 6-1 win over Alejandro Falla, against whom he played 3 times on the ATP Tour and once on Challengers before, way back in 2005. Sela was in all kind of troubles on his second serve but he got broken just 3 times from 7 chances that Falla had, and on the other hand Colombian had to work really hard in the sets he lost, facing no lees than 17 break points in them! Dudi broke in game 4 to jump into a 3-1 lead, only to be caught in game 7 when Falla cut the deficit to 4-3. Nevertheless, Israeli played another good return game to break his rival at 15 in game 10, closing the opener by 6-4. Alejandro bounced back in set number 2, serving much better and creating an edge in the rallies. He lost just 3 points in his service games and broke Sela twice at the start of the set to secure it by 6-2, sending the match into a decider. The final set produced the biggest fight, with chances on the return for each player, and it was Sela who proved to be stronger, wrapping up the final 5 games of the match to book his place in the title match.
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) vs Steve Darcis (BEL) 7-6(5) 6-3 [1:23]
Dudi Sela (ISR) vs Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-4 2-6 6-1 [1:39]
Bangkok 2, Thailand, $50,000+H (Outdoor Hard) :
Following his title in Bangkok last week, Janko Tipsarevic decided to stay in Thailand and play Bangkok 2 instead of heading to Melbourne and play the qualifying draw for the Australian Open. Seems like he made a good move, as he progresses to his 17th final at this level, looking to take the 13th title. Former world number 8 ousted young German qualifier Daniel Altmaier 6-3 6-3, who played his first Challenger event in a career. There were 14 break points in total, as both players had their chances on return (we saw 40-30 or 30-40 score in 11 out of 18 games) but it was more experienced Serb who took the most from them, breaking Altmaier 6 times from 8 opportunities to cement his place in the final.
The match kicked off with back-to-back breaks in games 2 and 3, and Daniel wasted another 2 break points in game 5. He paid the price immediately, losing his serve in the next game to fall 4-2 behind and that was all that Janko needed to clinch the opener by 6-3. Altmaier's serve completely disappeared in set number 2, Tipsarevic broke him 3 times in a row to open up a huge 5-0 gap and it looked the match will be over soon. Still, German made the last final push, breaking Janko twice when this served for the match to come closer to 3-5, but his efforts proved to be in vain after another break for Tipsarevic in game 9 that gave him the win.
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) vs [Q]Daniel Altmaier (GER) 6-3 6-3 [1:45]
Christian Garin (CHI) vs Zhe LI (CHN) 2-6 7-6(6) 6-3 [2:18]
ALSO READ: Roundup of this week's Challenger finals: Mannarino, Tipsarevic and Gojowczyk are the first champions of the season