* Brest, France, €106,000+H (Indoor Hard) :
Promising youngsters Corentin Moutet and Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the final in Brest, in what will be the 6th youngest Challenger title match since 2000. An 18-year-old Moutet is one of the biggest prospects in France and he scored his first Challenger win here in Brest 12 months ago. He played in 3 semi-finals as well but this is his best result at this level, defeating Yannick Maden by 4-6 7-6 6-4 in 2 hours and 39 minutes for the place in the final. It was a grueling battle from start to finish and there were 23 break points in total, with 4 breaks for each player. In the end, Corentin kept his second serve safe and he scored the crucial break in the 9th game of the final set to reach the final. Maden was off to a flying start, breaking in games 1 and 3 to open up a 5-1 lead, and Moutet could only pull one break back, cutting the deficit to 5-4, but only after saving 3 set points in that 9th game.
German closed the set with a comfortable hold in game 10, moving just a set away from his second Challenger final, but Corentin had different plans. The Frenchman lifted his game in set number 2, dropping just 5 points on serve, and Maden could consider himself lucky to even reach the tie break, saving 5 break points to prolong the set as much as he could. The teenager won the tie break by 7-2, with 3 mini-breaks by his name, and he had the momentum before the deciding part of the match. There, he opened a 4-2 gap with 2 breaks, wasting the lead when Yannick broke back in game 8, leveling the score at 4-4. His efforts were in vain though, as Moutet broke again in game 9, at love, closing the match on own serve in the following game.
Pumped after reaching his first ATP semi-final in Antwerp last week and cracking the Top 100, Stefanos Tsitsipas carried the winning form to Brest as well, prevailing against the second seed Marius Copil by 7-6 7-6 in an hour and 38 minutes to earn the place in his 4th Challenger final. It was a fast and fluid match, with just 4 deuces and 3 break points, and we saw one break on each side in the second set. They wrapped up the first set in under 45 minutes, with good serving and short points, and Stefanos won the tie break by 7-2, with 3 mini-breaks.
Copil recovered in time to open the second set with a break, moving 3-0 ahead, but his lead was short-lived, as Tsitsipas found the way to break back in game 5 and settle into a nice rhythm again, winning 16 straight points on serve before the tie break. Marius saved a break point in game 7 to keep himself in contention, and they set up another tie break after just 2 points for the returners in the last 5 games. The Greek was again more focused, winning 4 return points to clinch the breaker by 7-3 and close the match in straight sets.
* Suzhou, China, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) :
Talented Serb Miomir Kecmanovic made the semi-final in the second Challenger he played in his career, and 8 tournaments later he will have a chance to play for the first title after a 7-6 6-3 triumph against the 8th seed Ze Zhang in an hour and 36 minutes. Belgrade native struggled on his second serve, the element he will have to improve in the next season if he wants to battle for the place in the Top 100, but he saved 8 out of 12 break points (he faced 7 in the first service game alone) to limit the damage as much as possible.
On the other hand, Zhang lost almost half of the points in his games and Miomir broke him 5 times from 6 chances to move forward in 2 sets. It was a slow start from both, with 4 consecutive breaks of serve, and the home player scored another break to gain a 5-3 lead. Kecmanovic broke back to stay in the set and that proved to be the pivotal moment, as he claimed the tie break by 7-1. Carried by this impulse, Miomir won 16 out of the opening 22 points of the second set to race into a 4-0 lead, and he brought the match safely home, despite Zhang pulled one break back.
The third seed Radu Albot moved to his 11th Challenger final and the first since Poznan in July 2016, ousting the second seed Blaz Kavcic by 4-6 6-3 6-0 in 2 hours and 23 minutes. Albot saved 6 out of 8 break points, playing better and better as the match progressed, and he kept the pressure on his rival in sets 2 and 3 for a comfortable triumph. Kavcic claimed the first set with 2 breaks but he lost the ground after that, losing serve in the 4th game of the second set and being forced to play a decider. There, Albot served at 39% but he lost just 5 points in his games and was the dominant figure on the return as well, breaking Blaz 3 times to sprint across the finish line and reach the final.
* Traralgon, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) :
Home players stole all the glory in Traralgon, with 4 Aussies fighting in the semis, with Alex Bolt and Jason Kubler propelling themselves to the final. This will be the 4th final for Bolt, who took down Maverick Banes by 6-3 6-3 in 63 minutes. The younger Aussie lost just 4 points behind his first serve and he never faced a break point, taking 43% of the return points to earn 3 breaks from 9 opportunities. Banes got broken in the opening game of the match and that set the tone for the rest of the encounter, as Bolt broke again in game 9 to grab the opener by 6-3. Banes was more competitive in set number 2 but one loose service game cost him the match. Bolt found the way to break him in the 4th game and that was all he needed to bring the match home, delivering one good hold after another.
Jason Kubler was the prominent junior and he was ranked inside the Top 150 3 years ago before a string of injuries plagued him away from the Tour. Despite some colossal problems with his knees, Jason kept fighting and he started all the way from the bottom again in 2017. He played Futures, losing 2 finals in the previous weeks, and Traralgon is his first Challenger event since Poznan in 2015! Ranked 615th, Jason managed to qualify for the main draw and he will compete for the title after a rock solid 6-2 6-2 win over the second seed Matthew Ebden in an hour and 13 minutes. Kubler was the much more efficient player both with his serve and from the baseline, playing against only one break point and winning more than 50% of the return points to create 11 break opportunities, converting 5 for a safe triumph.
Brisbane native opened the match in the best possible style, jumping into a 4-0 lead after he broke Ebden in the first and third games. He served well in the rest of the set to clinch it by 6-2, hoping for a similar outcome in set number 2 as well. Matthew grabbed 8 out of the first 10 points of the second set but that was pretty much all we saw from him, as Jason won the last 6 games of the match to cross the finish line without any problems, scoring 3 consecutive breaks and serving well to keep his rival away from the break points.