* Noumea, New Caledonia, $75,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : In the all-American affair, Noah Rubin beat the second seed Taylor Fritz by 7-5 6-4 in an hour and 36 minutes to claim his 3rd Challenger title and the first since Launceston last year. It was a close match and Noah prevailed after playing better in the most important points, saving 7 out of 8 break points and breaking Taylor 3 times from 4 chances he earned.
Fritz was off to a nice start, serving well and controlling his service games with solid forehands, and he had 4 break points in the first half of the opener, including 3 in break 6. Like many times before, a player who wasted his opportunities had to pay the prize for that in the end and it was Rubin who scored the only break in the opener in game 11 after a poor forehand from the younger American.
Noah closed the set with a hold at 15 and he broke at the second set as well to open up a 3-1 lead. Fritz broke back in game 6 but he couldn't keep the same pace for too long, dropping serve again in the following game after another poor forehand.
Rubin had to dig deep on his serve in the last 2 games, fending off 4 deuces and 2 break points to wrap up an important triumph after a rough 2017 he has had.
* Playford, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : 24-year-old Jason Kubler was forced to play only on clay courts for years, dealing with knee injuries over and over again and staying away from the hard courts in order to prolong his career and avoid further difficulties with his health.
Back in October last year, Jason competed on the hard court Challenger event for the first time in his career, winning the title in Traralgon as a qualifier, and he repeated the same feat last week in Playford, notching all 16 sets he played and defeating Brayden Schnur in the title match by 6-4 6-2 in 65 minutes for his 3rd Challenger crown. Jason lost his serve twice in the opener and cruised through set number 2, keeping all the pressure on a former Collegiate player who competed in his first Challenger final.
Kubler won 50% of the return points, taming Brayden's serve with ease, and he broke him 5 times from 9 opportunities, staying in front from the middle of the opening set. Both players struggled to find the rhythm on serve in the first set, with 5 breaks of serve in the first 7 games, and it was Jason who claimed 3 breaks to move 4-3 in front.
The Aussie closed the set with 2 good holds, clinching the opener by 6-4 and gathering the momentum for the rest of the match. He dropped just 3 points on serve in set number 2 and Brayden was unable to keep that pace, getting broken in the 1st and 5th games, and Jason sealed the deal with a hold at love in game 8.
This was another big step towards the Top 100 for him and this could be his career-best season if he stays healthy, especially if he makes a good run in Melbourne next week.
* Bangkok, Thailand, $50,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : In the longest final of the week, the 6th seed Marcel Granollers took down German qualifier Mats Moraing by 4-6 6-3 7-5 in 2 hours and 34 minutes, lifting his 5th title at this level. Spaniard made the difference with his second serve, saving 4 out of 6 break points, and he was pushing Moraing to the limits on the return, creating 13 break chances.
German managed to save 10 and he had an early break in the decider before Marcel turned the scoreboard into his favor, serving well after losing his serve to pass Mats in the last moment and avoid the tie break. Performing in his first Challenger final, Moraing controlled his shots nicely to keep Marcel away from break points, and he stole Spaniard's serve in game 9 to grab the opener by 6-4.
That couldn't last for long, though, with 6 break points for Granollers in the 4th game of set number 2, starting to read rival's serve better and returning with more depth. Mats fends them off to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard but Marcel was in the better rhythm as the set went by, earning a break in game 8 and closing the set with a hold at love a few minutes later to send the match into a decider.
They traded breaks in games 2 and 3 to stay neck and neck and it was Granollers who got the pivotal break in game 11 to wrap up a win with a hold at love in the following game.