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CHALLENGER TOUR

Maiden title for Munar. Krajinovic shines again, Mmoh wins crown number 2

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by Jovica Ilic

* Chengdu, China, $125,000 (Outdoor Hard) : The final of Chengdu brought the clash between the top seeds, and it was Yan-Hsun Lu who won his 28th Challenger title, moving even further from the other players on the all-time list.

Yen-Hsun beat Evgeny Donskoy 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes, losing just 12 points in 10 service games and never facing a break point. 33-year-old played well on rival's serve as well, creating 6 break points and converting 1 in each set to seal the deal.

He was the more efficient player from the baseline as well, making fewer errors and keeping the pressure on his rival all the time. Donskoy wasted a game point in game 4 and he lost his serve in the end, falling 3-1 behind and he never got a chance to pull the break back.

That was the only break point he faced in the opening set and Lu will have more chances in the second, where he had 5 opportunities to steal rival's game. Just like in the first set, Evgeny missed 3 game points in game 5 to lose his serve and he had to save another 3 break chances in game 7 to keep at least a slim chance for a turnaround.

Nevertheless, Lu continued to serve well until the finish and he emerged as a deserved winner.
* Biella, Italy, €106,500+H (Outdoor Clay) : Talented Serb Filip Krajinovic, who had to deal with many injuries over the last 6 or 7 years, has found the right drive in 2017 and he won his 3rd title of the year and 7th overall, defeating Salvatore Caruso 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 29 minutes.

Filip served at only 52% but he did a good job behind his initial shot, keeping the second serve safe and fending off 6 out of 7 break points to limit the damage. On the other hand, he won 50% of the return points and broke Caruso 4 times from 9 chances, which was enough for a commanding win that moved him just outside the Top 100.

Krajinovic had to save 2 break points in his opening service game and he broke Caruso at 15 in the following game to build an early lead. Italian responded with much better tennis in the middle of the set, winning 12 out of 14 points to break back in game 5 and level the score at 3-3.

He had 2 game points for a 4-4 but he missed both and Filip broke him to move 5-3 in front, serving for the set in the next game. He did it after a few troubles, saving 1 break point, and after 40 minutes he had the first set in the bag by 6-3.

The first 2 games of the second set were very tight and they both saved 3 break points to avoid losing serve at such early stage. Still, Krajinovic broke his rival at 15 in game 3, serving well after that to extend the lead to 4-2.

He broke again in game 7 to move closer to the finish line, and he crossed it with another good hold in game 8, taking 12 out o the final 15 points.
* Segovia, Spain, €85,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : On the outdoor hard courts in Segovia, 20-year-old Spaniard Jaume Munar ousted teenager from Australia Alex De Minaur 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 10 minutes to lift his first Challenger title.

This is a great result for Jaume, who never reached semi-final before, and he entered the Top 200 for the first time today. Talented Aussie competed in his second Challenger final but he left empty handed again, being a little bit tired after very tight encounters he had to pass to reach the title match.

He served at only 53% and had to play against 10 break points, which was just too much to handle, despite saving 7 of those. Jaume kept his serve well and he offered only 2 break points to his rival, outplaying him with solid groundstrokes and good movement.

Munar grabbed the lead after just a few minutes, breaking De Minaur in the second game, and Spaniard saved a break point in game 5 to remain in front, even though he had 3 game points to close the game earlier. Alex fends off 3 set points on his serve in game 8 but that was all he could do, as Jaume converted his 6th set point in game 9.

Aussie was the better player at the start of the second set, breaking in game 4 to earn a 3-1 lead, only to lose the advantage after the following game, when Munar broke back. This sent the momentum to the side of the Spaniard and he won 4 games in a row to be 5-3 in front, taking 16 of the last 20 points.

He sealed the deal in game 10 with a service winner, starting a huge celebration even before the ball landed out, showing how much this title means to him.
* Lexington, USA, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : 19-year-old Michael Mmoh was also victorious, lifting the title at Lexington, his second in a career.

The tournament is staged at the University of Kentucky Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center, but the final has to be played indoor due to bad weather (his first title also came on the indoor court, at Knoxville last fall), and Michael prevailed against John Millman by 4-6 7-6 6-3 in 2 hours and 21 minutes. As the result suggests, there was nothing to separate the rivals, with Mmoh winning just 1 point more than his opponent, and they both scored 3 breaks of serve, even though it has to be said that Millman had twice as more break points.

Michael fends off 9 out of 12 to keep himself in contention and he was rewarded for that after all, scoring a crucial break in the 8th game of the final set. Young American faced first problems on serve in game 6, when he had to save 3 break points, and they exchanged breaks at 15 in the following games to stayed locked at 4-4.

John held at love in game 9 and he converted his 4th break point in game 10 to break Mmoh for the second time and take the set by 6-4. They were back on serve at the start of the second set, with 8 easy holds, and this time Michael had a chance to close the set, breaking Millman in game 9.

His lead was short-lived, though, as Millman broke back to level the score at 5-5, and it was a tie break to decide the winner of the set. With the pressure on his back, Michael raced into a 6-0 lead and he grabbed the breaker by 7-3, sending the match into a decider.

There, he fought off 3 break points in the opening game, which increased his boost, and he never faced a break point again until the end of the match, keeping the pressure on John. Aussie couldn't survive until yet another tie break, he got broken in game 8 and Michael served the match out a few minutes later.


* Liberec, Czech Republic, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : 29-year-old Pedro Sousa won only his second Challenger crown of a career in Liberec, beating Guilherme Clezar 6-4 5-7 6-2 in 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Sousa is now on a career-high ranking position thanks to this crown and the previous one he won in Francavilla in April (prior to 2017, he played only 1 Challenger final). The final was entertaining, with 25 break points in total, and Sousa saved 7 out of 13.

He scored 8 breaks and that made the difference in the final outcome. Portuguese saved 2 break points in the first game of the match and he broke in game 3 to move in front. He had 3 game points to open up a 5-3 gap but Clezar hung in there, converting his 3rd break point to level the score at 4-4.

His efforts were in vain, as Sousa grabbed 8 out of the last 9 games to take the set by 6-4, breaking his rival at 15 in game 9. The second set was a feast of breaks, as they broke each other 7 times in 12 games in total.

Sousa took rival's serve in the opening 3 games but instead of a comfortable lead, he was just 1 break in front, as he got broken twice as well. Clezar erased that one as well, pulling it back in game 8 to make the score even at 4-4, and he played well on the return in game 12 too, scoring his 4th break of the set to steal it by 7-5 and force a decider.

They traded breaks at the start of the final set but it was all about Sousa after the 3rd game, as he won the last 5 games to close the match in style, breaking Brazilian in games 5 and 7, rattling off 20 out of the final 25 points.


Final results:

↓ SHOW RESULTS ↓


ALSO READ: Munar and De Minaur set the final in Segovia. Millman to face Mmoh

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