* Chengdu, China, $125,000 (Outdoor Hard) : The most successful Challenger player of all time, Yen-Hsun Lu, carved the way towards his 44th final at this level, beating young Chinese Yibing Wu 6-1 3-6 6-4 in just under an hour and a half. Lu fired 13 aces and he saved 5 out of 6 break points to control the scoreboard, and he broke his inexperienced rival 3 times from 4 chances, which was enough to seal the win.
Lu saved a break point in the first game of the match and he took charge after that, taking the opener 6-1 after breaks in games 4 and 6. 17-year-old Wu, competing in his first Challenger semi-final, was on the same level with Yen-Hsun in the rest of the match, showing some high-quality tennis and making a name for himself.
Chinese lost just 5 points on serve in the second set and he earned the break in game 8, moving 5-3 in front and delivering a set a few minutes later on own serve (he took 12 out of the last 15 points). Nothing could separate the rivals in the first 8 games of the third set and Yibing had a massive chance to score a late break, missing two break chances in game 9.
Lu recovered just in time to avoid the setback and with the momentum on his side, he broke at love in game 10 to grab the set by 6-4 and book a place in the final. It will be a battle of the top seeds in the title match, as Evgeny Donskoy took down Nikola Milojevic by 7-6 6-3 in an hour and 27 minutes, advancing to his 17th Challenger final. Russian served at 76% and he was rock solid in his service games, dropping 13 points in 11 service games and allowing only 1 break.
On the other hand, he pushed Nikola to the limits on the second serve, taking more than 40% of the return points and creating 9 break chances, converting just 2, but even that was enough to get him through. Evgeny won the first 9 points of the match, building a nice 3-1 lead with 2 more break points in game 5.
Milojevic managed to end his fall and he got back on the track, pulling a break back in game 6 to level the score at 3-3. Young Serb saved 4 break points in the closing stages to set up a tie break, where he led 6-4. Donskoy, who never was a mentally strong player, somehow took the next 4 points stealing the tie break 8-6 and moving a set away from the final.
The second set saw good serving from both, Evgeny lost 5 points on serve and Nikola 7, but one loose service game cost the Serb the better result, as he got broken in game 4, without a chance to climb back.
* Biella, Italy, €106,500+H (Outdoor Clay) : Filip Krajinovic found some good form on Challengers in 2017, and he will play for the title in Biella after a 6-4 7-6 triumph over Joao Souza in an hour and 42 minutes. As the result suggests, it was a close match but Filip kept it on his racquet, hitting 9 aces and fending off 2 out of 4 break points.
Souza had more troubles with his second serve and he had to play against 6 break chances, dropping serve 3 times and wasting a set point in the second set tie break to suffer straight sets defeat. The players exchanged breaks at the start of the match and it was Filip who saved his best tennis for the closing stages, taking 12 out of the final 14 points and breaking Souza in game 9 to clinch the set by 6-4.
Serb got another break at the start of the second set and he served well to move a game away from the victory, leading 5-3. Brazilian saved 2 match points on serve in the following game and that gave him a new life, as he broke back in game 10 to set the score even at 5-5 and to reach a tie break.
There, we saw 10 consecutive points for the servers, and Filip missed another match point at 6-5. Two points later Joao had his lone set point but he couldn't deliver a good point on the return. Krajinovic finally got the desired mini-break in the 16th point, winning the breaker 9-7 and pushing himself over the finish line.
24-year-old Salvatore Caruso earned the place in his first Challenger final following a hard-fought 3-6 7-5 7-5 win over fellow Italian Andrea Arnaboldi in 2 hours and 43 minutes. Almost nothing could separate the rivals and Caruso won just 1 point more than his opponent in the end, and they both had 9 break chances.
Salvatore scored 6 breaks and he lost serve 5 times, but most importantly, he came back from a 5-3 down in the final set. Arnaboldi grabbed the first set with 2 breaks of serve and he was the better player in the first half of the second set as well, serving better and breaking in game 7 for a 4-3 lead.
Caruso had to change something fast and he broke back immediately to erase the deficit, and again in game 12 to secure the set by 7-5, moving the momentum to his side of the court. Despite this, Arnaboldi was charging at the start of the decider, rattling off 14 out of the first 15 points to create a 3-0 gap, and he looked good to bring the match home after another good hold for a 5-3.
Out of sudden, Salvatore shifted into a higher gear and he clinched the last 4 games of the match to emerge as a winner, breaking his rival in games 10 and 12 for one of his biggest results in a career so far. Saturday's results: