Sumit Nagal wins first title. 30th Challenger final for Carlos Berlocq


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Sumit Nagal wins first title. 30th Challenger final for Carlos Berlocq

* Hua Hin, Thailand, $150,000 (Outdoor Hard) : It will be an all-Australian final in Hua Hin after both Andre Whittington and John Millman scored the semi-final wins over the rivals from Japan.

Whittington took down the 6th seed Go Soeda by 6-3 6-3 in 66 minutes, advancing to his second Challenger final after Gimcheon in 2016. Andrew served at 55% but his initial shot worked well, losing 15 points in 9 service games and facing 2 break points, dropping serve once.

Soeda struggled to keep that pace in his games, he lost 46% of the points on serve and had to offer 9 break points to the Aussie, getting broken 4 times to end on the losing side in straight sets. Whittington broke in game 2 to create a 4-1 gap before Soeda pulled the break back in game 7, reducing the deficit to 4-3.

He couldn't stay in touch for too long, though, losing serve again in game 8 and Andrew brought the opener home with a hold at love in game 9. Whittington sailed through his service games in set number 2 and he broke his rival in games 5 and 9 to bring the match home and advance to the final.

John Millman will compete in his 15th Challenger final after a solid 7-6 6-2 win over the 4th seed Tatsuma Ito in an hour and 23 minutes. Millman made a lot of damage with his first serve and Ito managed to compensate that with the second serve performance, but he ran out of fuel in the second set to end on the losing side.

Aussie saved 2 out of 3 break points and he took rival's serve 3 times to reach the title match, looking to win the first title of the season after losing the previous 2 finals. He was off to a better start, breaking in game 2 to move 3-0 in front but Ito broke at love in game 5 to get back on the scoreboard.

Japanese had a chance to make a complete turnaround and steal the opener in the closing stages, but he wasted a break point in game 11, and the winner of the set was to be decided in the tie break. John claimed it by 7-2 and this gave him a boost to fight even stronger in set number 2.

There, he had 4 easy service games, dropping just 4 points to keep the pressure on Ito, and he broke him in games 5 and 7 to grab the last 5 games of the match, rattling off 20 out of the last 25 points to move to the final in style.


* Bangalore, India, $100,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : In the battle of the young guns, both chasing first Challenger crown, Sumit Nagal defeated Jay Clarke by 6-3 3-6 6-2 in just under 2 hours. 20-year-old Indian never played in the quarter-final on Challenger level before but he went all the way here in Bangalore in front of the home crowd, saving 5 out of 8 break points and scoring 5 breaks to leave the Briton behind him.

Clarke played in the quarters last week in Pune and he went 2 steps further this time, fighting well until Nagal outplayed him in the last 30 minutes of the match. Jay opened the match with a break of serve and he stayed in front until game 6 when Sumit got the break back to level the score at 3-3.

Indian didn't stop there and he broke again in game 8, closing the set on own serve a few minutes later, conquering the final 5 games of the set. Both players missed their chances on the return at the start of the second set and it was Clarke who saved something extra for the closing stages, winning 12 out of the last 15 points and breaking in game 8 to take the set by 6-3 and force a decider.

There, he gained the lead with a break in the first set, but just when it looked he is close to winning his first Challenger title he lost the ground, as Nagal started to dominate and control the scoreboard. Indian broke back in the very next game and again in game 4 to pull a gap, and he sealed the deal with his third break in game 8 to secure his biggest title in a career so far after lifting 9 trophies from Futures.

* Andria, Italy, €43,000+H (Indoor Carpet) : Uladzimir Ignatik, former junior world number 1, won the indoor tournament in Rennes in February as a qualifier, and he will have a chance to fight for his 5th Challenger title after a hard fought 6-7 7-6 7-6 win over Filippo Baldi in 2 hours and 34 minutes. Fast indoor carpet court was the perfect ground for 3-tie break match and we saw just 2 breaks in the entire match.

Ignatik defended his second serve better and he saved 2 out of 3 break points, while Baldi stayed in touch after fending off 7 break points from 8 he offered to Ignatik, being 2 points away from the triumph in the final set tie break.

The first set saw 11 commanding holds and a loose one from Filippo, who fends off 3 break points in game 9 to set up a tie break which he won by 9-7, saving a set point at 5-6. Similar scenario was seen in set number 2, but this time Italian had his moments as well, wasting 2 break points in game 7.

He played against 2 set points in game 10 and he came out of jail nicely, setting up another tie break, a must-win one for Ignatik. He won it by 7-5 after scoring 4 mini-breaks, and they pushed each other to the limits in set number 3 as well.

Well, that was the case in the first 10 games, with Baldi losing his serve in game 11 to give a chance to Uladzimiri to serve out for the win. Instead of that, Belarus missed a match point and he got broken, having to pursue the win in the deciding tie break.

Just like the entire match, it was a very close one, with players being locked up at 5-5 and 6-6. Baldi saved the second match point at 5-6 but he couldn't do the same on third, as Ignatik closed the match by 8-6, propelling himself into his 7th Challenger final.

24-year-old Belgian Christopher Heyman qualified for his first Challenger tournament here in Andria, and he got the most from it, booking a place in his maiden final after a 6-3 5-7 7-5 win over the 3rd seed Mirza Basic in an hour and 53 minutes. It was another fast floating and close match, with just 3 breaks in total, one in each set, and it was Heyman who opened the match in a better fashion, serving well and breaking in game 8 to clinch the opener by 6-3.

The second set was wrapped up in under 40 minutes and it was Basic who earned a late break in game 12 to steal it by 7-5 and force a decider. There, they both had chances on the return in the middle of the set but the result remained on serve, moving towards a deciding tie break.

Instead of that, Christopher scored a crucial break in game 11 and he converted his 4th match point in game 12, saving 1 break point in between to stay on the title track in his first tournament at this level.
Saturday's results:

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