* Newport Beach, USA, $150,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : Taylor Fritz entered the Top 100 in February 2016 by a storm but it wasn't easy for him to keep his place in the elite company ever since, struggling to find the form or to use his weapons properly against the rivals who are far below his level.
20-year-old American returned to Top 100 after reaching the final of Noumea Challenger in the first week of the season, and he will have a chance to lift his first Challenger trophy since Happy Valley more than two years ago after a 6-3 7-6 win over another young American Reilly Opelka in an hour and 25 minutes. Taylor had to earn his win from the baseline, serving at only 47% and hitting just two aces.
Still, Reilly managed to win just 15 points on the return, never facing a break point, and he wasted a set point in the second set tie break, ending his run in the semis. Opelka, one of the tallest players on the Tour, had 10 aces but also 8 double faults that plagued his game big time, and he failed to send the match into a decider despite the fact he came close in the tie break.
His second serve let him down and he was outplayed in the rallies by persistent and controlled shots from his opponent. Fritz earned the first break in game five when Reilly netted a backhand, and the giant server got broken again in game nine after a loose forehand that clinched the set for Taylor.
Carried by this momentum, Fritz continued to serve well in set number two and the pressure was on Opelka, who dealt with it nicely to set up a tie break. Reilly saved a break point in game eight and a match point with a booming ace in game number 12.
The tie break was an intense one and Opelka had a set point on the return at 6-5. Taylor fends it off with a service winner, and he hit another one for his second match point. He converted it after an entertaining point to book his place in the final, looking to wrap up the opening month of the season on a high note.
27-year-old Bradley Klahn will play in his 11th Challenger final and the first since Fairfield in October after beating Christian Garin 6-3 0-6 6-4 in an hour and 21 minutes. Klahn lost his serve three times from as many chances Garin created but all of those breaks came in set number two when the Chilean dominated.
The American scored a break in the first and the third sets and that led him towards the win in a fast and floating match with just six deuces. Bradley was off to a perfect start, serving at 83% in the opener and losing just four points in his games.
He broke Christian in the second game of the match and that was enough to give him the opener by 6-3. Tables turned in set number two and Garin was the one who held the strings of the match in his hands, dominating on both the serve and return to clinch the set by 6-0 and build the momentum before decider.
Klahn found his grip again and he performed well in set number three, never facing a break point. He took rival's serve in the opening game of the set and kept the lead until game 10 when he sealed the deal with a service winner to advance to the title match. Semi-final results: