* Marburg, Germany, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : Cedric-Marcel Stebe and Filip Krajinovic will fight for the title in Marburg after they both scored straight sets wins in the semi-final. 26-year-old German who almost reached the Top 70 back in 2012 but he has been struggling with injuries ever since, barely keeping himself in the rankings in 2015 and 2016.
Nevertheless, Stebe started to win some Challenger matches in the second part of the last season and 2017 brought more good results, as he played in the quarter-final of the ATP 250 event in Geneva. German was also rock solid in the last 3 Challenger tournaments, advancing to the semis in Caltanissetta, the final in Poprad-Tatry and now in Marburg as well.
He defeated the 3rd seed Arthur De Greef by 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 36 minutes for his 9th final at this level. It was a close match, with a similar number of break chances, but it was Stebe who fought off 6 out of 7 break points to limit the damage on his serve, and he broke the Belgian 3 times from 8 chances to pick up a straight sets victory.
The only break in the first set came in the 5th game when Cedric-Marcel moved 3-2 in front, and he saved 4 break points in the 10th game to wrap up the opener by 6-4. The second set was decided by 3 back-to-back breaks in the early stages, German scored 2 of these to gain the lead, and he closed the match with a love service game for another 6-4 scoreline and the place in the final.
Filip Krajinovic is another player with great talent who was plagued by injuries, never being able to fulfill his full potential. Just like with Stebe, there are signs of improvement for the Serb, he won the title in Heilbronn, his first on Challengers since 2015, and he will now have a chance to fight for another one, reaching his 12th Challenger final after a 7-5 6-4 win against experienced Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in just under 2 hours.
In a close contest, Filip saved all 7 break points he faced to keep his serve intact, and he found the way to break Garcia-Lopez once in each set, converting two out of 12 break points he had. Guillermo was the better player in the first part of the opening set, he missed 5 break points that could give him the advantage, and in the last few games, it was up to him to battle against numerous break chances, as Krajinovic started to push more on return.
Serb wasted no less than 10 chances (7 set points in game 10) before he finally converted his 11th in the last game of the set, to take it by 7-5. They both served better in the second set, Filip fends off 2 break points in game 3 and he sealed the deal in game 10 when he converted his lone break point to cross the finish line. Semi-final results:
* Recanati, Italy, €43,000+H (Outdoor Hard) :
Mirza Basic and Luca Vanni played an amazing match in Recanati semi-final, one of the closest on the Challenger Tour in 2017! After 3 hours and 3 minutes, Basic prevailed by 6-7 7-6 7-6, saving 2 match points on serve in the 10th game of the second set, advancing to his 6th Challenger final. 2015 Recanati winner survived 22 aces from Vanni but it has to be said that almost nothing could separate them on the court, taking 130 points each, with 2 breaks for both players. Basic had an early lead in the first set but Vanni pulled the break back to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, and Italian saved a set point in the final game before he won the tie break by 7-3.
Luca kicked off the second set with a break but Mirza did well to break back immediately, avoiding to chase the result while already a set down. The 10th game could prove to be crucial, Vanni wasted 2 match points on return and that gave Basic a huge boost, as he won the tie break by 7-4 to force a decider. They both served well in the first 9 games before Vanni was forced to fend off 2 match points in game 10 to prolong the match and his chances. Nevertheless, Mirza proved to be stronger in the tie break, scoring 2 mini-breaks to grab the breaker by 7-2 and book a spot in the final.
Croatian qualifier, Viktor Galovic, currently ranked 491st, came to Recanati with only 6 Challenger wins, but he will now play for his biggest title in a career, after ousting Salvatore Caruso 6-3 6-3 in just 77 minutes. Galovic reached the semis in his first ever Challenger in Bergamo, back in 2013, but he failed to repeat that ever again until this week, losing mainly in the qualifying rounds and earning his points and money on the ITF Futures circuit. Viktor used the fast hard court to impose his serve, firing 11 aces and facing just 1 break point, while he broke Caruso 3 times for a commanding win.
Italian struggled to find his first serve (53%) and that allowed Galovic to push stronger on return and earn these 3 breaks that sent him over the finish line. Caruso made a slip already in his first service game, missing 4 game points before he got broken, and he didn't get a chance to pull the break back in the remaining return games. Croatian made a crucial move when he broke in the 5th game of the second set, and he saved a break point in game 8 to create a 5-3 gap. That was the last chance for Caruso to get back on the scoreboard, as he suffered another break in game 9 to hand the triumph to his rival.