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6th title for Albot and Smyczek. Marterer shine on fast indoor court again

6th title for Albot and Smyczek. Marterer shine on fast indoor court again

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by Jovica Ilic

* Shenzhen 2, China, $75,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : Radu Albot claimed his 6th Challenger final, the first since Poznan in 2016. Last week, he was defeated by Miomir Kecmanovic in the title match at Suzhou but this time he went all the way, prevailing against qualifier Hubert Hurkacz by 7-6 6-7 6-4 in 2 hours and 50 minutes! Albot was more efficient on his second serve, facing 7 break points and losing serve 3 times, and he broke Pole 4 times from 10 opportunities to bring the win home and celebrate the title.

Moldavian broke in the 5th game to gain the lead and he served for the opening set in game 10. 2 set points were not enough, as Hurkacz broke back to level the score at 5-5, and they traded breaks in the last 2 games of the set as well to set up a tie break.

There, they had 6 mini-breaks in the first 10 points and it was Albot who made the crucial one in the 13th point, closing the breaker by 8-6. The second set was more fluid, Albot again moved in front with an early break in game 2, and he served for the match in game 9.

Hubert broke back to stay in contention and the set went into a tie break, and young Pole won it by 7-3, with 4 mini-breaks under his belt. The match was decided in the opening game of the final set when Albot claimed the crucial break, serving well until the end of the set to wrap up a win.

* Canberra 2, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : Matthew Ebden was sidelined with injuries in the last couple of years, unable to find the right rhythm and consolidate himself in the Top 100, where he belongs.

It seems that the better days are in front of Durban native, as he claimed his 7th Challenger crown to return inside the Top 100 for the first time since September 2014. Ebden defeated the second seed Taro Daniel by 7-6 6-4 to lift his first trophy since Traralgon in 2015, in a hard-fought battle with just 3 break points. Daniel got broken twice and he couldn't send the match into a decider, although he won just 5 points less than his rival.

Both players struggled on the second serve but they did well to avoid the break points, staying neck and neck all the time. Matthew was 5-2 in front in the opening set after an early lead but Daniel climbed back with a break in game 9 when the Aussie served for the set.

Still, Ebden kept his composure and he grabbed the tie break by 7-4, moving a set away from the title. Set number 2 was fast and fluid and it all came down to one break that Ebden scored in game 7, sailing through his service games to clinch the much-needed triumph that will give him the boost for the start of 2018.

* Charlottesville, USA, $75,000 (Indoor Hard) : It was an all-American final in Charlottesville and Tim Smyczek went all the way, overcoming a deficit to beat the top seed Tennys Sandgren by 6-7 6-3 6-2 in just under 2 hours. Tim played better and better as the match progressed to clinch his 6th Challenger crown and the first since Tiburon 2 years ago, earning 31 positions in the ATP rankings with these 80 points.

Smyczek served at 69% and he fends off 3 out of 4 break points to limit the damage in his games and keep the pressure on Tennys. Better-ranked player failed to deliver his best tennis in the pivotal moments, losing serve 4 times from 5 chances he gave to Tim and that wasn't enough for an overall triumph.

Smyczek saved 2 set points in the 10th game of the opening set to reach the tie break, but he lost it 7-5, despite coming back from 6-1 down. Sandgren was in a full control when he broke at the start of the second set, only to lose 6 out of the last 7 games, as Tim took charge on both serve and return.

He lost 3 points in the last 4 service games and broke Tennys in games 4 and 6 to take the set by 6-3 and force a decider. The momentum was now on his side and the match was firmly in his hands after he opened a 4-0 lead with additional 2 breaks of serve that left Sandgren without a chance to make a comeback.

Smyczek controlled his service games without any troubles since that break he suffered in the second set and he brought the match home with another good hold in game 8 to celebrate the title. * Guayaquil, Ecuador, $50,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The shortest final was reserved for the only clay event of the week, as Gerald Melzer toppled Facundo Bagnis by 6-3 6-1 in 54 minutes to conquer his 7th Challenger title and the second in 2 weeks. He completely outplayed Bagnis, losing 7 points on serve and never facing a break point.

On the other hand, the Argentine failed to keep that pace, struggling to make an impression with his second serve and dropping serve 4 times from 8 opportunities he gave to Melzer. Gerald won the opening set with breaks in games 3 and 9 and he continued in the same rhythm in set number 2, staying untouchable in his service games and breaking Facundo in games 2 and 6 to seal the deal in under an hour.

* Eckental, Germany, €43,000+H (Indoor Carpet) : 22-year-old Maximilian Marterer is yet to score an ATP win, losing all 14 matches he played at that level, but his Challenger results are better and better, winning his 5th title in a career and the third of the season at home in Eckental.

Tall German ousted the 7th seed Jerzy Janowicz by 7-6 3-6 6-3 in an hour and 57 minutes, winning 7 points more than his rival. As was expected from two good servers on the fast indoor carpet surface, there were only 9 break points in total and 4 breaks of serve and Marterer managed to overcome a slow start in the final set to wrap up a win that moved him into the Top 90 for the first time in his career.

The opening set was fast and fluid, with short points and easy holds, and Jerzy saved a set point in game 10, facing the only break point in the entire set. Pole wasted 2 set points in the tie break, at 6-5 and 8-7, and Marterer clinched it with the first and only mini-break in the 18th point.

Jerzy d just 30 minutes to claim the second set by 6-3, with a break in the second game, and his victory became more and more likely to happen when he broke at the start of the final set as well. Instead of that, Maximilian broke twice, in games 2 and 6, opening a 4-2 lead and playing a little bit better than his rival in the part of the match when the serve let them both down.

Young German crossed the finish line with a hold at love in game 9 to share his joy with the local fans. Final results:

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