* Bratislava, Slovakia, €85,000+H (Indoor Hard): [Q]Egor Gerasimov vs Lukas Lacko 7-6 7-6 (1:25) Belarusian qualifier Egor Gerasimov was the big surprise in Bratislava, beating home player and two time champion Lukas Lacko 7-6 7-6, for his first Challenger title.
He is the third player from his country with a Challenger crown, after Vladimir Voltchkov and Uladzimir Ignatic. It was a very fast match and was finished in less than hour and 30 minutes, as both players fired 32 aces in total.
The favorite Lacko started better, breaking in the third game when Gerasimov sent his forehand long after a nice rally, but the Belarusian leveled the score in the eighth game, following a good return and Lukas's backhand errors.
Gerasimov dominated in the tie-break, winning it 7-1, playing very brave and going for the lines. Lacko had troubles on his second serve in first set, it was better in second as they both served well, with only one break point for home player in the sixth game.
Gerasimov saved it with a service and forehand combination and forced the tie-break. This time, it was much closer, Lacko led 5-4 and could have closed the set, but lost points in a row. Gerasimov had a match point when Lacko sent his forehand long, and realized the win after a great attack that forced Lacko's error.
* Mouilleron Le Captif, France, €64,000+H (Indoor Hard): [WC/1]Benoit Paire vs Lucas Pouille 6-4 1-6 7-6 (1:31) It was a strange final in Mouilleron Le Captif, but what else could have been expected when one of the players was Benoit Paire! This was the sixth Challenger title for the talented Frenchman and his third title in 2015, all on indoor surfaces.
Pouille fought bravely, he even won five points more than Paire in the entire match, but lost the close tie-break and refused to shake hand with his compatriot after the match. Pouille had match points in the tie-break but failed to convert it.
They both served well in first set, Paire saved break point in the sixth game with a service winner, and broke his young rival to love in the ninth game following a few amazing returns, to win the first set in the next game, on his serve.
Things changed in the second set, as Pouille lost only five points on serve and broke Paire twice, in the second and sixth game. He finished the set with two service winners, as Paire looked uninterested in what was going on on the court, sending returns as wide as possible.
The third set was the real deal, after both served great and gave no break points to each other. In the tie-break, it looked as if Pouille would win his maiden title, as he led 5-2 after a service winner. Paire won two points on his serve to stay in touch, and got the mini break back in the next point after a costly double fault from his less experienced rival.
Pouille won the next point with nice serve and volley combination for his match point, but Paire stayed focused and saved it with a nice backhand. Another backhand winner gave him his first match point, but he lost his chance.
Soon after that he got his second match point when Pouille netted his backhand. This time there was no mistake for Paire and he won the match after a great service followed by volley at the net. * Ortisei, Italy, €64,000 (Indoor Hard): Ricardas Berankis vs Rajeev Ram 7-6 6-4 (1:28) The talented Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis won his fifth Challenger title and first after one year (also on indoors, in Italy).
He had troubles in the first round against the powerful young German Marterer, but won all other matches in straight sets. It was a solid final, between the two players who like fast conditions, but Ram couldn't deal with his opponent on return, even though he had a couple of break chances.
In the first set both had one problematic service game, but it was Berankis who needed to save a break point, despite he lost only six points on serve. It happened in the seventh game and he saved it with a service winner, finally saving the serve after four deuces.
Berankis then raced to 6-3 lead in the tie-break and secured another mini break to win the set after Ram's double fault. Rajeev needed to save break point in very the first game of the second set, but got broken in the next after another costly double fault.
Ricardas kept his advantage until the end and even saved a break point in the eighth game firing another unreturned serve. Berankis has had very good season behind him, and maybe he will finally step up in 2016 and get some bigger ATP results. After these points, he is now ranked 69th in the world, just two spots behind his best ranking.