* Jinan, China, $150,000 (Outdoor Hard) : Following his opening round losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Yen-Hsun Lu went back to his beloved Challengers, and he won back-to-back titles in China to improve his ranking yet again.
In Jinan, Lu claimed his 29th Challenger trophy, moving 7 clear of Dudi Sela on the all-time list, after a commanding 6-3 6-1 triumph over the 6th seed Ricardas Berankis in an hour. Lu was the dominant figure on the court, losing just 12 points in 8 service games, and he saved a lone break point to keep his serve intact.
Berankis was unable to produce the similar numbers behind his serve and he got broken 4 times from 8 chances that Lu created, losing 46% of the points in his games. Ricardas was up there with Lu in the first 7 games, losing just 1 point in his first 3 service games, but Yen-Hsun found the way to break him in game 8, opening a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the set, Lu saved a break point in game 9 and he grabbed the set by 6-3, moving closer to yet another Challenger crown. In the second set, Berankis faded from the court and he won just 14 points in total, making too many errors and making no impact on the return what so ever.
Lu broke him 3 times to take the set in under 30 minutes, rattling off the last 6 games to win the title in style. * Aptos, USA, $100,000 (Outdoor Hard) : 20-year-old Alexander Bublik won the second Challenger title of the season, taking down the qualifier Liam Broady 6-2 6-3 in 62 minutes. This was only the second Challenger final for Broady, the first since Charlottesville 2014, and he was unable to stay in touch with the young Kazakh, who saved 2 out of 3 break points and stole rival's serve 4 times from 5 opportunities.
Bublik served at only 54%, also hitting 7 double faults, but he made the difference with his first serve and that gave him the win. Also, he won 48% of the return points, converting almost every break point and it turned out to be an easy day in the office for him.
After a solid start for both players, Alexander shifted into a higher gear to grab the last 4 games of the first set, taking it by 6-2 and gaining the necessary momentum. He carried it into the second set as well, racing into a 3-0 lead to rattle off 7 games in a row and to break rival's spirit.
Broady made one final push, breaking back at love in game 5, only to fall behind again in game 6 when he dropped serve again. Bublik had to save a break point in games 7 and 9 and he closed the match on his 3rd match point, celebrating another good result in his breakthrough season.
* Floridablanca, Colombia, $50,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The top seed Guido Pella won 12th Challenger final from just 14 finals, ousting fellow Argentine Facundo Arguello 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes. Guido was the favorite against the rival ranked 445th and he proved that on the court, dropping 13 points in 9 service games and losing serve just once.
On the other hand, his return worked well as well, winning 50% of the return points and creating 9 break points. 4 breaks of serve were more than enough for him to seal the win in straight sets and take 80 ATP points. Guido was untouchable on his serve in the opening set and he broke Arguello twice at the start of the match to open up a 3-0 gap, never looking back.
Better ranked player kicked off the second set in even stronger fashion, taking 12 out of the first 15 points, but his run came to an end when Facundo pulled one break back in game 4, reducing the deficit to 3-1. Serving to stay in the match, Arguello fought off 3 match points in game 9 but Pella stayed calm, finishing the job on own serve in the following game.
* Portoroz, Slovenia, €43,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : In by far the longest final of the week, Sergiy Stakhovsky prevailed against Matteo Berrettini by 6-7 7-6 6-3 in 2 hours and 32 minutes, winning his first title since Seoul 2016 and 6th overall. The youngster had a 7-6 3-0 lead and he was 2 points away from the win in the second set tie break, but he failed to bring the match home, having nothing left in the tank in the decider.
Both players had 10 break points and Stakhovsky broke his rival 6 times, twice in each set to emerge as a winner. Berrettini was off to a flying start, racing into a 5-1 lead with breaks in games 3 and 5, controlling the match completely.
Out of sudden, he lost 15 out of the next 17 points and more experienced player leveled the score at 5-5, with the momentum on his side (he scored both breaks without a point lost). Still, Matteo managed to recover and he got the tie break by 7-4, earning 2 mini-breaks and bringing set home much later than he should.
Italian opened the second with a break in game 2 and it seemed he will cruise towards the finish line. Stakohovsky bounced back with a break in game 5, and he took the lead with another one in game 7, winning 4 straight games to get himself back into the match.
Berrettini pulled the break back immediately, leveling the score at 4-4 and they both served well in the next 4 games to set up another tie break. There, Stakhovsky led 6-2, only to lose the next 4 points, wasting all set points, but he got another mini-break in the 15th point, sealing the set on own serve to force a decider.
He was now the favorite and he earned a 5-1 lead with breaks in games 4 and 6. Berrettini prolonged the match with a break in game 7 but Sergiy crossed the finish line with a hold at love in game 9.