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CHALLENGER TOUR

Friday's results in Challenger Tour: Harrison and Fritz reach the final. Mannarino and Rublev march on

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by Jovica Ilic

Tennis - In Burnie, Aussie youngsters Blake Mott and Omar Jasika will play in the title match

Dallas, USA, $125,000 (Indoor Hard) : 

The crowd in Dallas will have a chance to see all-American final tomorrow, as both Ryan Harrison and Taylor Fritz advanced in their semi-final matches to set up a clash between the first and the second seed. Ryan reached his 7th Challenger final and the first since Columbus in September 2015 after a one-sided 6-3 6-0 triumph over Tatsuma Ito. The match lasted 66 minutes and it was all about Harrison who fired 9 aces and saved both break points to keep his serve intact. Ito could never follow that pace, scoring 5 double faults and losing 54% of the points on his serve, getting broken 4 times from 9 opportunities that Ryan created. Both players held their serve in the opening 5 games and it was Harrison who stepped in that moment, winning 10 out of the final 11 games to race towards the finish line. Ito lost his serve at love in the 6th game of the opening set and that was the turning point of the match. In set number 2 Ryan was all over his rival, breaking him 3 times to bagel him and book the place in the final, playing some very solid tennis on both serve, return and from the field. 

In his first tournament since he became a father, Taylor Fritz edged fellow American Denis Kudla 6-4 2-6 7-6 in 2 hours and 6 minutes for his 5th Challenger final and the first since Happy Valley, more than a year ago. It wasn't the best match overall, Fritz hit just 3 aces and both had problems on serve, but at least it was an entertaining one that went to the distance. Kudla scored 5 breaks and saved 4 out of 8 break points but it wasn't enough to bring him the win, despite the fact he served for the match in the 10th game of the final set. The match kicked off with 7 easy holds before they closed the set with 3 straight breaks, Taylor scored 2 to grab it by 6-4 (Kudla had 3 game points in that final game). Denis recovered in the second set, breaking his rival twice to clinch it by 6-2, and with the momentum on his side, he was now the favorite to seal the victory. Nevertheless, Fritz was the one who opened the decider better, moving 4-2 up with a break in that 6th game, only to lose the next 3 games and find himself 5-4 down. Kudla broke him twice in a row and he served for the match in game 10, only to get broken as well, as the match reached the final tie break (Denis saved 2 match points in game 12). Fritz held his nerves better, delivering his game when he needed it most, to win the breaker by 7-2 and propel his way to the final. 

Semi-final results:

[1]Ryan Harrison (USA) vs Tatsuma Ito (JPN) 6-3 6-0 [1:06]
[2]Taylor Fritz (USA) vs [6]Denis Kudla (USA) 6-4 2-6 7-6(2) [2:06]


Burnie, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : 

Similar to Dallas, we have two young Aussies fighting for the title in Burnie, after both Blake Mott and Omar Jasika successfully passed their semi-final rivals. Blake Mott lost the last 6 Challenger matches so this is a great result for him, coming exactly a year after he won his maiden trophy in Launceston. Blake needed 2 hours and 26 minutes to dismiss the Japanese Akira Santillan 7-6 5-7 6-4, ending the match with 3 points less than his rival! Both players scored 4 breaks but it was Mott who held his serve better, playing against only 5 break points while Santillan had to face 13, saving 9 of those to stay in contention until the end. Mott had a 4-2 advantage in the opening set before Akira broke back at love in game 8 to set up a tie break which home player won by 8-6. Japanese jumped in front early in the second set to open up a 5-3 lead and to serve for the set in game 10, only to broken at love! Mott's efforts were in vain, though, as he dropped his serve again in game 11 and this time Santillan did everything right on own serve to take the set by 7-5 and force a decider. There, the result stayed with serve until game 8 when Mott took the lead, and he had to break again in game 10 to finally bring the match home for his second Challenger final.

19-year-old Omar Jasika is enjoying a very solid start of the season, as he advanced to his second consecutive Challenger final, losing in Happy Valley to Gojowczyk in the first week of 2017. Now, he will have a chance to fight for his first title at this level after he bested Dmitry Popko 6-1 1-6 6-3 in an hour and 49 minutes. A Tall player from Kazakhstan fired 13 aces but that wasn't good enough for victory, as Omar saved 9 out of 11 break points he faced, keeping the coolness in the most important moments. Popko played against only 6 break points but he got broken 3 times, including one crucial break that Jasika scored at the start of the final set. Omar was off to a flying start, breaking Popko twice to notch the opener by 6-1 but Dmitry responded in the same manner in set number 2 to force the deciding set. There were some close games in set number 3 and Omar made all the difference with an early break in game 2, which he managed to keep until the end, saving all 4 break points in this part of the match. 

Semi-final results: 

Blake Mott (AUS) vs [8]Akira Santillan (JPN) 7-6(6) 5-7 6-4 [2:26]
Omar Jasika (AUS) vs Dmitry Popko (KAZ) 6-1 1-6 6-3 [1:49]

 

More results are on the next page..

ALSO READ: Roundup of this week's Challenger finals: Ruben Bemelmans grabs his 5th crown in Koblenz




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