* Bratislava, Slovakia, €85,000+H (Indoor Hard): Belarusian Egor Gerasimov will play in his first Challenger final, after a three sets win over Marius Copil. The first set was very close, with only one break point after Copil's huge miss of easy forehand at the net, but he saved it with much better serve and forehand combo.
Gerasimov had one mini-break in the tie break, enough to take it 7-4. The Romanian dominated in second set, as Gerasimov failed to win point on second serve, losing serve in the third and fifth game. The third set was close until the sixth game, when Copil lost his serve two times in a row, and the match after another big mistake at the net.
In a battle of two favorites, second seed Lacko prevailed over fourth seed Marchenko, in an expectedly close fight. They split the first two sets after sole break in each, and it looked Lacko will finish the match soon after he broke the in a marathon sixth game of third set to go 4-2 up.
Still, the Ukrainian broke back in very next game when Lacko netted his forehand, and they both held with no troubles until the tie-break, which was also very tight. Lacko had match point on his serve at 6-5 when Marchenko netted an easy backhand close to the net, but Illya saved it with great return.
Slovakian in the end realized the match on his third match point to take the tie-break 9-7 and book his place in his 20th Challenger final. Semi-final Results [Q]Egor Gerasimov vs Marius Copil 7-6 2-6 6-2 (1:31)
Lukas Lacko vs Illya Marchenko 6-4 3-6 7-6 (2:26) * Mouilleron Le Captif, France, €64,000+H (Indoor Hard): For the first time since Rennes in October 2013, four Frenchmen made the Challenger semi-final, all of them seeded.
Just like in Brest, world number 20 Benoit Paire entered with WC (as did Mannarino too) and will play in his 11th Challenger final, fifth in 2015. In a very weird result for an indoor match between two good players, he beat Mathieu 6-2 1-6 6-1 in just 74 minutes.
Benoit played much better in first set, giving his older compatriot no break point chances, and breaking him in the first and seventh game. Mathieu served better in the second set, saving all three break points and taking Paire's serve twice.
Benoit, ranked 78 places above his rival, consolidated in the third set, losing only four points on serve and breaking Mathieu in the second and fourth game. Second match of the day was also very quick, lasted 72 minutes, and result was funny too, consisted off bagel and tie break sets.
Lucas Pouille, youngest player of the last four, beat second seed Adrian Mannarino 6-0 7-6 for his second Challenger final (Meknes 2014). He completely dominated in first set, as Mannarino won only six points on serve and failed to win a game.
the left-handed Adrian, ranked 44th, looked uninterested, especially after the sixth game of first set, when he made four errors and rushed to his chair. The Second set was much closer, as both saved three break points to force the tie-break.
Mannarino led 5-4 and could have forced the third set, but Pouille won 27 shots rally and in the end won 7-5 with an ace. Semi-final Results [WC/1]Benoit Paire vs Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2 1-6 6-1 (1:14)
Lucas Pouille vs [WC/2]Adrian Mannarino 6-0 7-6 (1:12) * Ortisei, Italy, €64,000 (Indoor Hard): Just like in France, we had two fast semi-final matches in Ortisei too, on the quick indoor courts.
First seed Ricardas Berankis made his second Challenger final of the season and sixth in career after a routine win over tired Serb Laslo Djere. Just the day before, Djere played a crazy match against Setkic in three tie-breaks that lasted more than three hours, so there was no chance he could have recovered enough to possess a bigger threat to Berankis.
Both players served well in the start and finish of the set, with three consecutive breaks in between. Berankis broke at love in the first game of the second set and it was a one-way traffic until the end, as he broke again in the fifth game.
His rival in the title match will be Rajeev Ram, another player who likes to play on fast courts. The American will play in his 15th Challenger final (third in 2015) after a straight sets win over second seed Russian Evgeny Donskoy.
The match could have gone either way or at least to the third set, but Ram saved all six break points and broke his opponent's serve once in each set, enough for 6-4 6-3. Donskoy had three break points in the very first game but Rajeev held in the end, and the Russian missed another chance in the fifth game.
The Russian was broken in a decisive moment, after sending an easy forehand long in the 10th game. The second set started with three deuce games, but no one was able to break, and Ram finally did it in the eighth game, when Donskoy lost his focus again.
He made two double faults and two forehand errors, after which he couldn't find way back to the match, as Rajeev served out for the place in the final. Semi-final Results Ricardas Berankis vs Laslo Djere 6-3 6-2 (1:05)
Rajeev Ram vs Evgeny Donskoy 6-4 6-3 (1:12)