* San Francisco, USA, $100,000 (Indoor Hard) : Dominik Koepfer had a very successful Collegiate career, standing as one of the best players in Tulane Green Wave history and receiving the ITA National Men's Senior Player of the Year award in 2016.
The German lives and trains in the States and he had a great run in Dallas last week, qualifying for the main draw before losing to eventual champion Kei Nishikori. Dominik hit an even better form this week in San Francisco, ousting Dennis Novikov 6-3 6-1 in just 52 minutes to reach his maiden Challenger final. He served at 74% and stayed unbroken throughout the match, saving all three break points he offered to Dennis to keep the pressure on the other side of the net.
The American was unable to follow that pace on his serve, losing almost 50% of the points and getting broken four times from six opportunities to hit the exit door after less than an hour. Koepfer made the best possible start, breaking in the opening game of the match and settling in the right rhythm on serve to lose just six points in four service games.
German left-hander broke again in game nine to clinch the set 6-3 after a double fault from Novikov, who had to raise his level significantly if he wanted to bounce back in set number two. Instead of that, he lost his serve at the start of the second set and squandered three break points in game three, the only he would create in the match.
Koepfer scored another break in game six to move 5-1 in front and he held in the following game to reach the final after another backhand error from his rival. Jason Jung will be Koepfer's rival in the final, advancing to his fifth Challenger title match and the first since Zhangjiagang in September.
Like Dominik, Jason was halted by Nishikori in Dallas a week ago in the semis and he defeated Miomir Kecmanovic for the second week in a row to book his place in the final. It was 6-1 6-1 for Jung in Dallas but the young Serb fought much better today before he fell 7-6 4-6 6-2 in just under 2 hours. Jung played well in his service games, firing 11 aces and constructing the points nicely to face just one break point.
Miomir managed to convert it and it brought him the second set but he couldn't do much in the decider, getting broken twice and winning just three points on the return. Jason found his range on serve instantly and he didn't have to play against break points in the opening set, keeping the pressure on the youngster.
Kecmanovic saved three set points on serve in game 10 to set up the tie break and he led 5-3 before Jung grabbed the last four points to seal the breaker 7-5. The second set was also very close and this time it was Kecmanovic who was more focused in the closing stages, seizing a break point in game 10 to take the set 6-4 and extend his chances of reaching the final.
Nonetheless, Jung raised his level again and he was untouchable on serve when it mattered the most. Besides that, he broke Miomir twice in a tow to race into a 4-0 lead and he brought the match home from there with ease, earning a chance to play for his third Challenger crown.
* Launceston, Australia, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : * Budapest, Hungary, €64,000 (Indoor Hard) : 17-year-old Nicola Kuhn advanced to his second Challenger final after a 6-3 7-6 win over the top seed and home favorite Marton Fucsovics in an hour and 37 minutes. Talented Spaniard served at 71% and he saved both break points he faced to keep his serve intact and he prevailed with one break in the opening set and a solid performance in the second set tie break.
Nicola saved a break point in game three and he moved in front with a break in game six when Marton netted a backhand. Fucsovics saved a set point on own serve in game eight but Kuhn completed the set in the following game when Marton sent a forehand wide.
The second set was very close and Kuhn saved the only break point in game five to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard and the set went into a tie break. Nicola grabbed a late mini-break in the 12th point after another forehand error from Marton to seal the deal and book the place in the second final in only his eight Challenger event in a career. Semi-final results: